Cardiff Blues crashed out of the European Challenge Cup in disappointing fashion last Friday night, blowing a 12-point lead with 10 minutes to go against 14-man London Irish.
As he prepares to sign a longer term deal at the Arms Park, Dai Young will have plenty to think about over the next few weeks and into the summer as he looks to take the club from mid-table mediocrity towards a brighter future.
Here are some key statistics from the Brentford Community Stadium…
All out attack
Starting with the positive note from the 80 minutes on Friday and it was probably one of the better Cardiff Blues attacking performances of the season, against all of 15, 14 and 13 men in the opposition.
Just 17 defenders beaten but 14 line breaks as we played into the space superbly, converting that into four tries to score four or more tries in three games in a row for the first time since November/December 2019. It should have been enough for a comfortable win.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the attacking showing was how involved the forwards were, with Kris Dacey, Seb Davies, Cory Hill, Josh Navidi and Josh Turnbull all making 20 or more metres, while Dacey, Davies, Hill and Navidi each got their hands on the ball at least 14 times during the proceedings.
That development of the forwards skillset and it subsequently being put into practice on the field is what has been missing from the Cardiff Blues attack for some time. Hopefully last Friday is the start of something rather than a one-off phenomenon.
Throughout the 2020/21 campaign the Cardiff Blues defence has been the bedrock of the squad, finishing the Pro14 season with the third best defence statistically, as our kicking out of hand game has struggled to clear our lines, and then struggled to manage proceedings last week.
During the league campaign we missed an average of 15.5 tackles per game as we enjoyed a tackle success rate of 90% for the season as whole, but against London Irish we missed a whopping 33 tackles with just an 80% tackle success rate, allowing the home side to beat 33 defenders, make 12 line breaks and ultimately score five tries.
Now missed tackles can be something of an anomaly statistically, as a defensive system may actually be designed to soak up missed tackles without any problem. Wales under Shaun Edwards, for example, would often employ a spot blitzer that would miss more tackles than they made, but the defensive line could cover that as the aim was to put pressure on the opposition rather than make tackles.
However, the way Cardiff Blues have defended this season has seen a concerted team effort to get out of the line quickly and apply maximum pressure to the opposition. When that is by-passed either through attacking variation, such as London Irish’s inside passes, or simply physicality causing tacklers to be shrugged off, it spells big problems.
When the home side managed to break a tackle their speed and support lines were very quickly turned into try scoring opportunities even with one or two players off the field. It’s just a shame that the defence chose the European knockout game to have it’s worst showing of the season.