In this weirdest of weird seasons, Cardiff Blues will play our final game of the 2020/21 Guinness Pro14 (which is actually a Pro12) campaign against Edinburgh on a Monday night in an empty Arms Park.
While it hasn’t been the year we thought it might have been, especially after two big wins in our opening two games raised our hopes, to reach this final round still with a chance of making third place in Conference B, considering where we were after the New Year’s Day loss to Ospreys, is still an achievement.
Now though we need to cement what would be a good season by winning the final game of the season to nail down at least fourth place in the table, putting us in the mix for a spot in next year’s Heineken Champions Cup.
At this point we don’t know exactly what fourth place would mean. There is some talk of the Heineken Cup staying at 24 teams, which would mean fourth place is an automatic qualifier, while if it reverted to 20 teams then there would be a play-off with fourth place from the other conference, or it could even drop to 18 teams and then we miss out altogether.
One thing is certain though, finishing fifth in our conference would give us no chance of reaching European rugby’s top table and be a disappointing end to the season, so beating Edinburgh is crucial.
The first permutation sees Cardiff still battling for third place as we currently sit three points behind the incumbents Scarlets. As a result we need a favour from Connacht, who travel to Llanelli at the same time as our game on Monday night, so that we can secure four more match points.
Alternatively we could secure three more match points than the Scarlets and finish level on points with them in the table, which would also see us finish third as we would have won more games than our Welsh rivals which is the first tie-breaker ahead of points difference.
The second permutation sees us looking to secure fourth place in the table ahead of our final round opponents Edinburgh, and relies on us securing three more match points than the Scottish side. Simply, if we win and ensure they don’t get two losing bonus points, we will finish fourth, as we will have more wins than them even with games in hand.
If we were to fail to win then the wait for our final league position would go on, as Edinburgh would still have to travel away to Dragons the following weekend and welcome Benetton to the Scottish capital on a yet to be arranged date.
For Dai Young’s men the task is simple though, control what you can control and do the business on the Arms Park on Monday night. Everything else will take care of itself.