There are always ups and downs in every rugby season. Some have more ups than downs, Leinster for example won’t have too many low points this season, while a team like Cardiff Quins at the foot of Division 3 East Central A might struggle to find ups, but we all both between September and May.
Cardiff RFC have certainly treated us to more of the Leinster lifestyle than the Cardiff Quins experience so far, with 12 wins from 13 games heading into last weekend seeing us lead the Indigo Group Premiership table by 15 points.
However, Friday night was definitely a low point of the season as on a cold, wet and windy night in Carmarthen the Blue and Blacks went down to a heavy 29-7 defeat at the hands of 14-man Carmarthen Quins, failing to score a point the entire second half and seeing captain Morgan Allen sent off for good measure, and reason.
On the back of it the title race seems wide open again. The West Wales side are still 10 points back but have a crucial game-in-hand, while Aberavon are 12 points back with a game-in-hand of their own and know that Cardiff must visit the Talbot Athletic Ground before the season is out.
They will now sniff blood, and with the Blue and Blacks likely to be without names such as Macauley Cook and Lewis Jones, as well as possibly Max Llewellyn and Dan Fish, with Cardiff Blues calling them up during the international windows, they may appear vulnerable to the chasing pack.
Friday’s performance was without passion, composure, confidence, fight, accuracy, creativity or direction. There was not a single redeeming feature to take from Carmarthen Park, but in a way all that could work in the favour of Steve Law’s squad.
With nothing specifically to look at and fix or build on the entire game can be left behind. There is no need for the squad to ponder or reflect. Just draw a line under a total implosion and build up again to the Cardiff RFC team we have seen over the last 12 months.
The culture within the squad is strong. This is a team that works hard for each other, drags each other through big games and builds confidence together. Talented individuals pull together to prove greater than the sum of their parts, a formidable force.
Tactically they are generally sound. They know their strengths, they also know their weaknesses, and they are able to stamp their mark on games in a way that doesn’t allow the opposition to breathe.
That didn’t happen last week but psychologically they are sound. Bouncing back from losing in Pontypridd and then conceding two quick tries against Llanelli the weekend was a big statement that this squad can cope when things aren’t going their own way.
Against Carmarthen it certainly did not go their way, and the fix won’t be quick. This weekend, once again against Llanelli, this time in the Cup, you wouldn’t expect to see the kind of form that saw the Blue and Blacks put almost 80 points on Ebbw Vale in the last round.
However, I don’t feel as if the wheels have come off. I remember that away game in S*le during Cardiff Blues’ 2017/18 campaign. A truly dreadful performance up in Manchester but the squad took their time, rebuilt slowly and grew in confidence to go on a lengthy winning streak and eventually lift the European Challenge Cup trophy.
There’s no reason this Cardiff RFC team can’t also go down in club history, but it will need some baby steps going forward to build back up for a big end of season push.