Cardiff Blues returned to winning ways on Monday night with a battling performance against Benetton in grim weather at Rodney Parade.
After three straight losses it was a crucial 22-5 victory over the Italian side that made sure we returned to second in the Guinness Pro14’s Conference B. Here are some of the key stats from this week;
The Tackle Machine
It was an excellent team performance from Cardiff Blues on Monday night, but you will rarely see a more deserved man-of-the-match award than that picked up by Josh Turnbull at Rodney Parade, slotting in at number eight and producing a superb showing.
The 32-year-old made the most successful carries in the team against Benetton with three, and was a big part of the maul defence that largely nullified one of the serious threats that the Italian side bring to the table.
However it was in open play defence where Turnbull stood out, making 14 tackles, more than anyone on the field. That takes his season total to 59, the ninth most in the Pro14 as a whole. Even more impressive is that he’s only attempted 59 tackles. 100% success rate, the tackle machine lives on!
Possession and territory at last
A theme over the three losses that preceded Monday night was the lack of ball and field position that Cardiff Blues had. Against Munster, Ulster and Edinburgh we have averaged 39% possession and just 33% territory, and have attempted an average of 177 tackles per game.
Against Benetton though we were able to edge the possession and territory statistics, with 53% possession and 51% territory, as well as only have to attempt 103 tackles.
This resulted in us being able to dictate play at key points, like the 20 minutes before half-time, and ensured that we finished much the stronger side, scoring in the final 10 minutes which we had failed to do in any of the last three games.
For the first time since last December the 100 Club will open it’s doors again this week to welcome Garyn Smith after he brought up his century of appearances against Benetton on Monday night.
Almost six years to the day since he made his first appearance against Newcastle in the Anglo-Welsh Cup on 7th November 2014, the centre reached the landmark at just 25 years old and having overcome a difficult transition into the first team.
A breakthrough season in 2015/16 was followed by a disappointing 2016/17 campaign during which he only started two league or European games, but he bounced back to be a hero of Bilbao in 2017/18 and is now established as the safest pair of defensive hands in the Cardiff Blues midfield, and a man who can be turned to all year round. The key to a successful side in the Pro14.