100 Club: Rollin’

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With rugby on hiatus while the United Kingdom deals with the Coronavirus pandemic it seems like a good time to have a look back at some individual players who have contributed to Cardiff Blues over the last years.

In particular those players who have become part of the 100 Club at the Arms Park before this blog got up and running, who I haven’t had a chance to honour for their achievement, with only a handful of players reaching the milestone since I started the 100 Club blogs.

One of the last players to bring up their century of appearances before that was a man who has been a lynch pin for the Cardiff Blues over the course of the last decade, with Kristian Dacey becoming a reliable and senior leader in the squad, and a popular player in the stands during that time.

This is the earliest clip I could find of Kris Dacey in action but all is not as it seems. If you’re looking at the quality of the throw you’re looking in the wrong place, instead you should be looking at the player jumping as this is blindside flanker Kris Dacey securing ball for Pontypridd away at Llanelli in October 2008.

Like a number of Welsh hookers in recent times, the Merthyr man came through the system as a back rower, featuring there for Abercynon at junior level, Cardiff Blues age grade sides, Merthyr Youth and even alongside Justin Tipuric for Wales U18.

That Merthyr Youth team was particularly successful, winning the treble of the League, District Cup and Welsh Cup in 2008, with Dacey a key component in the back row while future Merthyr first team captain James Howe packed down at hooker.

From there Dacey would go on to play for the Pontypridd first team, making 39 appearances between 2008 and 2011 alongside brother Gavin, and it was while at Sardis Road that the key change would be made as, in early 2010, the decision was taken to switch him from the back row to hooker.

That decision would prove to be a masterstroke as within nine months Kris Dacey was making his Cardiff Blues debut off the bench against Connacht in September 2010, as well as helping Pontypridd to Welsh Cup glory at the end of that season.

Progression was slow through 2011/12 but 2012/13 was a breakout campaign with a first start in the RaboDirect Pro12 as well as a Heineken Cup debut, before his first try in the clip above during the 17-13 win over Benetton in November 2013 and the floodgates began to open.

Dacey’s scoring record is quite remarkable with at least two tries in six straight seasons, finishing in the top five of Cardiff Blues try scorers for the season on three occasions and with 26 tries altogether he currently sits tied sixth on the post-2003 try scorer list alongside Dan Fish and Chris Czekaj.

That back row carrying prowess that Kris Dacey came through the ranks with is clear and evident as close to the line he can power over with the best of them, while further from the line, as above, he has the pace and mobility to score some eye catchers.

In an interview from a few years ago Dacey described himself as a back rower who throws in at the lineout and that’s exactly what he offers the team and what makes him so crucial at the moment, that extra carrying presence in a side that is often found wanting when it comes to carrying power.

Beyond that carrying he is also a presence on the other side of the ball, getting through a lot of defensive work as a tackler, but also regularly stepping in over the ball to complement the likes of Ellis Jenkins, Josh Navidi, Olly Robinson and Nick Williams as a jackal.

It’s that work rate that sets Kris Dacey apart as a player when it comes to how he’s seen in the squad, as a key player and a leader, but also how he’s seen in the stands, as an extremely popular Cardiff Blues player.

If there’s one trait that makes a player a fan favourite at the Arms Park it’s a battling attitude, someone who goes out and gives 100% every day he steps on the field, and the Merthyr man embodies that to perfection, with the added bonus of the long hair try scoring flair to just give him that bit extra.

Coming off the bench away at Zebre in September 2016 saw Dacey earn his way into the 100 club, and just six-and-a-half years after being a Pontypridd back-rower, he was now a Cardiff Blues centurion and an 8-cap Wales international.

At 31 it could be said that Dacey is just approaching the peak of his career in the front row, after a few months out with a shoulder injury before the Coronavirus enforced season suspension. When rugby does return he will be as important as ever to this team, hopefully rollin’ us onwards.

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