Cardiff Blues ended the first block of Guinness Pro14 fixtures in disappointing fashion with a tired and error strewn defeat at the hands of Glasgow Warriors in Newport.
John Mulvihill had been able to welcome back the likes of Kris Dacey, Jarrod Evans and Rey Lee-Lo to the side that lost to Leinster the week before, and the attacking intent seemed present early on as Evans put Aled Summerhill through a half-gap before offloading to Lee-Lo who carried further ahead. When the away side didn’t roll away, Evans opened the scoring off the tee.
Over the next 10 minutes it was all Glasgow though, as a poor home kick chase and some high-tempo attack from the Scots contributed to them setting up camp in the 22 and knocking at the door until Brad Thyer was pinged for not rolling away. Peter Horne levelled the scores with his right boot.
The scores stayed lock together for much of the first half, but Cardiff Blues had two huge try scoring opportunities with one blow and the other chalked off.
First, Evans put Owen Lane through a gap in the Glasgow midfield, with the winger completing the line break and spotting Tomos Williams on his inside shoulder. Unfortunately Tom Gordon had recovered to get back into the path of the pass and the scrum-half fumbled the ball when a clean take would undoubtedly have resulted in a try.
Then the home side did get over the try line as Gwilym Bradley turned the ball over in midfield and Tomos’ kick into space as hunted down by Lane who claimed possession and beat a man to score. Unfortunately though, the TMO pulled play back as Bradley was adjudged to have knocked on while ripping the ball to win the initial turnover.
A few minutes later, with half-time approaching, a Bradley rip in the tackle once again caught the referee’s eye as the ball carrier was down before the rip complete, with Horne adding another three points off the tee and giving Glasgow the narrow lead at the break.
Eventually Cardiff did turn a try scoring opportunity into five points, and of course it came from a rip in the tackle that went backwards from Tomos Williams, with the scrum-half gathering the ball and offloading for Ben Thomas’ quick hands to put Owen Lane away. He kicked ahead and secured possession in the opposition 22 before the ball was spun left where Aled Summerhill headed for the corner and offloaded back inside for Kris Dacey to score, with Jarrod Evans converting.
Unfortunately the home side could not push on from there, with Glasgow dominating at the breakdown and the hosts operating a kicking game that neither put pressure on the opposition or prevented them from successfully running the ball back.
This resulted in the Warriors once again being able to dominate possession and territory, setting up camp in our half and earning themselves a shot at goal after Gwilym Bradley was adjudged to have deliberately knocked down a pass. It seemed he was moving his arms as part of a tackle, but referee Frank Murphy disagreed and yellow carded the young flanker, while Peter Horne cut the lead by three.
Another suspect refereeing decision just after the hour mark, with Keiron Assiratti being penalised for a no arms tackle when replays suggested he had indeed wrapped his arms, allowed Horne to give his side the lead.
From there Cardiff seemed a side operating without any level headed leadership on the field. Despite only being two points down with 10 minutes left, the attack became loose and, at times, desperate in it’s attempts to get down field. Playing from too deep this resulted in one offload too many to try and get the ball to the edge, and Huw Jones was able to read a telegraphed pass to go over for a crucial try.
Brandon Thomson converted and with a 10-19 lead going into the final stages of the encounter, the game was long gone for the home side. Too many handling errors and penalties conceded stunted any chance of attacking for long periods of time, and after two months of having little possession or territory, as well as having to make 150 tackles or more, the side seemed to just run out of steam.
Cardiff Blues finish the eight games of the first fixture block with three wins and five losses, sitting fourth in the Pro14’s Conference B put possibly slipping down to fifth when games in hand are completed. There is potential to be as much as seven points off the play-off places.
A bitterly disappointing way to end a run of games that has left us with a lot of work to do if this league season is going to be a success. For now, John Mulvihill’s men take a week off and look to re-focus on a European Challenge Cup campaign starting in Newcastle a week on Friday.