Cardiff Blues got the European Challenge Cup campaign up and running with a bonus point win away at Calvisano on Saturday, returning home after a 16-38 scoreline at the Pata Stadium.
It wasn’t as easy going as might have been, with the score still 16-17 going into the final quarter of the game, but in the end the win was secured on what was actually a landmark game for John Mulvihill’s men.
Saturday saw the Cardiff Blues play the 500th game since the regional era began in 2003 and the current brand was created by Cardiff RFC, and at the same time win our 250th game, covering all competitions.
With 10 draws and 240 losses it’s a fairly balanced record over the last 16 and a bit years, with 10,925 points scored and 10,711 against. The majority of those points have been scored thanks to 1,161 tries, with 862 conversions as well as 1,085 penalties.
Most of the single match records came against Calvisano’s countrymen as we scored 16 tries and 12 conversions in a 104-12 hammering of Rovigo in January 2015, the most points we have scored in a game and the biggest win we have secured, while the worst defeat was a 0-57 loss to Newcastle in the Anglo-Welsh Cup in November 2017.
Top 10 Rey
The bonus point try on Saturday was secured by centre Rey Lee-Lo, with the Samoan taking his Cardiff Blues try scoring tally to 22 and jumping into the top 10 of the post-2003 top try scorers list.
After a slightly slow start in the try scoring stakes over his first two seasons at the Arms Park, Lee-Lo has bagged 15 tries over the last two-and-a-bit seasons, with 10 of those coming in 2018/19 alone as he had his best campaign to date.
Saturday was also his 97th Cardiff Blues appearance, with his entry into the 100 Club set to be confirmed against Pau at home in the Challenge Cup next month should he retain his place in the team.
Creating squad depth
As we know the budgetary situation isn’t ideal for Cardiff Blues at the moment, but with a well-functioning Academy we still have the ability to create a squad with enough depth to be competitive through the season and we saw a glimpse of that on the weekend.
The below players all featured in the matchday 23 despite having not been regularly involved, or involved at all in recent weeks or months;
Kirby Myhill – Made his first start since Saracens away in December 2018
Keiron Assiratti – Made his first start since Glasgow away in November 2018
Macauley Cook – Made his first start since Kings home in March this year.
James Botham – Made his first ever start for Cardiff Blues and his European debut.
Lewis Jones – Made his first start since Saracens home in December 2018.
Rhys Gill – Made his first appearance this season
Will Davies-King – Made his Cardiff Blues debut
James Ratti – Made his Cardiff Blues debut
Alun Lawrence – Made his European debut
Ben Thomas – Made his Cardiff Blues debut
Dan Fish – Made his first appearance since Edinburgh away in February this year.
With plenty of talented youngsters and some good quality and experience deeper in the squad, rotating the match day 23 can only be good for player welfare and form.