With Cardiff Blues currently enjoying a well-earned break from on-field action after a long and taxing block of fixtures, it seems like the ideal time to look back on the season so far.
Although we’re actually over the halfway point of the season in terms of having played 16 games and with 11 left, we actually only reach the halfway point of the Guinness Pro14 campaign at half-time of the Connacht game which is up next.
That is due to the season starting later after the Rugby World Cup, and getting in all of the European Challenge Cup pool games before the end of January, which is a good starting point for reviewing the 2019/20 campaign to date.
Unfortunately progress to the knockout stages wasn’t to be this time round, and our time in pool five pretty much sums up the season as a whole in many respects, with the outcome being one that will be a disappointment to John Mulvihill after his pre-season comments.
Throughout the summer the head coach was talking about developing a consistency to our performances, rather than having to bounce back after a poor performance every few weeks, or failing to back up a good performance the week after.
That search for consistency continues though as Cardiff Blues finished with a record of three wins and three losses, with each set of two fixtures coughing up a win and a loss.
The campaign started in underwhelming fashion with a ground out bonus point win away to Italian semi-professionals Calvisano, but it was the loss at home to a Leicester Tigers second string that really cost us this season. Dropping points at the Arms Park was something we never recovered from.
Yes there was a reaction as we pummelled Pau at home two weeks later to get the December double header going in style, but that was once again followed up by a lacklustre outing as we failed to turn up for the first half out in France, shipping a bonus point before half-time.
In typical Cardiff Blues fashion there was still hope that we would qualify, with two losing bonus points secured in the second half at the Stade Hameau, but we were crushed by another below par showing against Leicester, this time at Welford Road, and the knockout stages slipped out of reach.
It’s been a similar story in the Pro14 as well, where an encouraging bonus point win away at the Southern Kings in round one was followed up by four straight losses during a World Cup period we thought we would be strong in courtesy of losing fewer players to Japan than our opposition.
Even more frustratingly the losses were all by 10 points or fewer, and in each game with probably the exception of the tie at home to Munster there was a real feeling that we could have taken something away from them but for 20-minute periods where we weren’t at the races, usually at the start of the games.
Eventually we returned to winning ways against Cheetahs and went on a run of four straight wins in the Pro14, including the terrific victory away at Benetton when we were without our Welsh internationals and finally winning away at the Ospreys for the first time in 14 years.
It wasn’t quite the perfect run as we fell to Scarlets in the final game of the festive period, but 18 points from a possible 25 have seen us move to fifth in Conference B, a point behind Connacht and six behind Munster in the final play-off place.
In the end the half-term rating is ‘average’. There were special moments and dreadful moments, cancelling each other out to leave us probably slightly below where we would have hoped to be, but within striking distance of the target of the play-offs and Heineken Champions Cup qualification.
If Mulvihill, his coaching staff and his squad were your child you would probably look at them and sigh disappointedly before exclaiming ‘but you could be so much better!’, and then ban them from the Playstation for a night.
Consistency, consistency, consistency…