If someone said to you as the 2016/17 season drew to a close that in the space of five months the Cardiff Blues would release our big summer signing, come under serious financial restrictions, lose our first three games of the season and then find out Danny Wilson was going to leave at the end of the season, I think you’d have quite rightly laughed in their face.
For surely such a ludicrous chain of events could never happen in the third year of the all conquering plan? Well, never underestimate Cardiff Blues’ ability to allow the hope to kill you.
We now sit at a point in the history of Cardiff Rugby whereby the crossroads have many paths most lead to the unthinkable outcomes of going to the wall or worse, going to Welsh Rugby Union ownership! However, there is one that sees the Arms Park lease negotiated and a prosperous future emerges from the depths of this financial darkness.
With that all going on in the background though, it’s easy to forget that there are matters in hand on the field, and this next block of fixtures are set to make or break the season.
Looking back at the first five games it’s been easy to paint the results into a bigger picture of despair at Cardiff Blues. Off-field turmoil leading to on-field disintegration. The stuff that Ross Harries and Delme Parfitt’s dreams are made of.
However, when you actually look at the fixtures we’ve had over the last few weeks you start to form an appreciation of just how tough that season opening has been for the side. Three trips to Ireland in four weeks, intersected by the visit of one of the pre-season league favourites? No thank you!
As I touched on in this week’s very first Cardiff Rugby Life podcast, it’s important to emphasise that this isn’t making an excuse for that first week defeat against Edinburgh. The performance levels throughout those 80 minutes were not acceptable and nobody, not least the players and coaches, has hidden away from that.
Since then though there has been marked improvement each week, with periods of leading against Leinster and Munster away, a kick to win the game against Glasgow and a win over Connacht.
Overall it shows a record of five points from a possible 25 which, on paper, probably isn’t far off where we actually should be against those teams. Performance levels have gradually increased, and there’s been moments for each part of our game where we’ve looked really competitive.
The challenge now is to bring all those elements together into full-game performances, and the next four league fixtures are the perfect time to do that as we enter the crucial fixture block leading into the festive period.
Setting aside Scarlets away, there are three home games where Cardiff Blues will play host to Dragons, Zebre and Connacht. If we are going to compete this season, that has to be three wins. No other way around it.
Sure, two wins wouldn’t be a disaster, but in terms of aiming to finish as high as we can then taking a minimum 12 points from the next four league games is a must.
There’s a feeling that reminds me of the Judgement Day hammering of Ospreys last season around the Cardiff Blues this week. Coming off the back of results similar to pushing Leinster all the way at the RDS, competing for 60 minutes at Gloucester and stealing a draw in Ireland against Ulster.
So close, yet so far games. The successful failures, then all of a sudden everything falls into place as the defence shuts down a side renowned for plenty of firepower and the attack is almost unplayable.
It was a superb performance at Judgement Day, and it’s about time that was replicated. Why not at the Arms Park on Friday?
Add a touch of confidence to this supremely talented group of youngsters and the sky is the limit. Come on Cardiff!!