There was a third loss in a row for Cardiff Blues on Friday night as John Mulvihill’s men went down 23-14 away to Ulster at the Kingspan Stadium.
Another disappointing performance in wet conditions means it’s another depressing Stat Attack this week, but the weaknesses in the side are laid bare and will hopefully be worked on hard in training ahead of facing Munster this Saturday.
Turning up late
The general trend of Friday’s game from a Cardiff Blues perspective was almost identical to that which we saw against Glasgow Warriors in the most recent defeat beforehand.
A slow start saw the game effectively taken away from us, with the score showing 17-0 after 20 minutes, and although we managed to work our way back into proceedings we were left with too much to do.
It means that so far this season we have lost the first 20 minutes of games by an aggregate score of 17-43, before winning the final hour of games by an aggregate score of 52-43. Had we got going against both Ulster and Glasgow the likelihood is that we would have won both games.
Adding to the general trend between the two games is the fact that we failed to turn pressure into points for much of the game, particularly in the 15-20 minutes before half-time.
With around 60% possession and territory for the game as a whole in Belfast, Cardiff Blues only made it over the try line twice, meaning we have now scored just nine tries and 69 points in four rounds of action.
That leaves us 10th in terms of best attack in the Guinness Pro14, and with the worst attack in our Conference B. A noticeable step back from recent years.
The Rhondda Rocket
Perhaps the best moment of inspiration on Friday night came from Aled Summerhill, as he did brilliantly to capitalise on a break from Rory Thornton to pick-and-go from the base of the breakdown and bag himself a try.
That score sees him arrive in the top 10 of Cardiff Blues try scorers, tied with Nicky Robinson on 22. Considering it’s only from 55 games that is a very impressive scoring rate for the 24-year-old.
His 72 metres gained at the Kingspan was the highest of any player in the away side, and only topped by Marcell Coetzee in the Ulster team, as he stepped up to lead the back three in the absence of Owen Lane.
The tackle machine is back
Josh Turnbull slotted in at lock on Friday night, a move that many Cardiff Blues supporters have been calling for since the beginning of the season, especially since hearing of his bulking up during pre-season.
A powerful performance saw him carry 10 times and add his weight to a dominant scrum, but it was his tackle stats that stood out as he led the visitors with 15 tackles, matching that man Coetzee for the best tackler on the field.
After four rounds he is now fifth in the Guinness Pro14’s top tackler list with 52, just six behind Glasgow’s Callum Gibbins who leads the way.