Over the last two weeks Cardiff Blues have fallen to two defeats at the hands of Irish opposition as Connacht and Munster have secured wins against Dai Young’s men.
They may well have cost us a chance at the top three, and have certainly taken our fate out of our own hands in that respect, but the games have also been a chance for Young to cast his eye over the wider squad at the Arms Park with the internationals away.
Here are some stats from the last two weeks…
Breaks but not tries
Following on from the impressive showings against Scarlets in January, Cardiff Blues once again showed more attacking intent over the last few weeks, prepared to play a bit more from deep, hold on to the ball for longer periods and exert more pressure on the opposition.
Over the two games we managed to beat 41 Munster and Connacht defenders in total, and from that make 12 line breaks, but of course only scored three tries and two of them were close range push overs.
That is somewhat representative of Cardiff Blues in the Pro14 as a whole this season. Our 223 defenders beaten and 83 line breaks are third and fourth in the league, respectively, but when it comes to our 202 points scored and 22 tries scored we are ninth and tenth in the league, respectively. A clinical attack has to be the focus for Dai Young.
The comeback kid
What a few weeks it’s been for Ellis Jenkins as the flanker has returned to fitness some 800+ days after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament and somehow slotted back in to the Cardiff Blues side as if he has never been away.
After just 40 minutes against an Ospreys A side the week before, the 27-year-old started against Connacht and carried eight times for 22 metres, made 15 tackles and won two turnovers in a standout display.
Fast forward a week and Jenkins is backing that up by carrying six times for 17 metres, making a huge 22 tackles and winning two more turnovers, as well as taking home the man-of-the-match award. It’s like having a new signing in the Cardiff Blues squad, a huge boost.
Perhaps the most noticeable statistic from the last two weeks has been the 23 penalties conceded by Cardiff Blues, with many coming at crucial times of the game that allowed the opposition to get a hold on proceedings when we needed to be in charge.
Altogether we have conceded 164 penalties in the league this season, an average of 11.7 a game, over the golden number of 10 that teams aim to stay under. No team in the league has conceded more penalties than us this season.
Of course we are responsible for that, and too often Cardiff Blues give away cheap and unnecessary penalties, but you have to wonder how much we have a reputation as a high offending team among referees and the opposition? Are the opposition highlighting potential infringements on the field, or is the referee subconsciously looking for certain infractions?
It’s impossible to say, but something to think about for next season.