Cardiff Blues returned to winning ways on Friday night, getting the European Challenge Cup campaign underway with a hard fought 20-33 victory over Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park.
Here are some of the key stats from the first away December win in Europe for the club since 2013, and the first win away at English opposition in the pool stage since January 2012.
Short hair, don’t care
Until rugby returned after the coronavirus lockdown it had been a tough time for Kris Dacey, who had been struck down by injury for much of the 2019/20 season before the pandemic hit and was facing a battle with Liam Belcher and Kirby Myhill for the Cardiff Blues number two jersey.
However, since coming into the team in the second week of this season he has not looked back, re-establishing himself as a key player both in terms of performances and leadership. Taking the field against Newcastle on Friday, the 31-year-old jumped above John Yapp to ninth in the post-2003 appearances list with 165.
Dacey marked that with a typically all-action performance, making 10 carries, six tackles and producing a solid showing at the lineout. It’s difficult to find a more in-form hooker in Wales at the moment.
The right side of the stats
Over the last two months or so we have seen Cardiff Blues on too many occasions on the wrong side of possession and territory statistics, as well as penalties and turnovers conceded statistics. All of this has led to games played on the back foot, sapping energy and giving us little opportunity to dominate proceedings.
Against Newcastle though we were able to properly get a foothold in the game. Conceding just eight turnovers and six penalties, as opposed to 16 and 14 from the home team, meant we took control of the ball more often than we lost it, and as a result we enjoyed 54% possession and 57% territory.
Although we struggled to carry in the tight, having more of the ball gave us more opportunities to attack and we were able to make nine line breaks and score three tries. Rugby is a simple game!
Usually Jarrod Evans is making the headlines for his attacking prowess, with some of his performances from fly-half being ridiculously creative so far this season, leaving many wondering why he was not involved in the Wales squad.
A noticeable aspect of his game that has maybe gone under the radar a touch is his much improved defence though, with his low chop tackling leading to a number of crucial turnovers during the campaign to date.
Although there were no turnovers on Friday, Evans’ tackle stats were impressive with eight tackles made. Only Cory Hill, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Josh Turnbull and Sam Moore topped that in the Cardiff Blues team, putting him in the top five in our team, and the top 10 on the field. Not bad for a fly-half!