Cardiff Blues’ hopes of pushing top spot in the European conference of the Rainbow Cup came to an end on Friday night after defeat at the hands of Munster at Thomond Park.
Dai Young had named a strong side to finally secure a win in Limerick, but a tough 10-minute period before half-time and then some captain’s challenge controversy in the closing moments saw the Blue and Blacks fall just short.
There were plenty of positives to take for the Welsh side though, I’ve had a look at some of those key statistics underlining that.
Getting off the back foot
When Cardiff went to Thomond back in late October the 38-27 scoreline suggested a somewhat competitive game. In truth though the encounter was fairly one-sided. Barring a 10-minute spell mid-way through the second half, we were on the back foot throughout, enjoying only 43% of the possession and just 30% of the territory.
Making 156 tackles saw us putting our backs to the wall for large parts of proceedings, however things were different on Friday as we got hold of 53% of the ball and dominated with 55% of the territory. Particularly in the opening half-an-hour the game was largely played in the Munster half with the ball in Blue and Black hands.
There’s still an issue with our fitness not quite matching our desire to play a high tempo attacking game and a high pressure defence, both in terms of line speed and breakdown pressure, but there’s a noticeable improvement in that respect from the games against the Dragons and Scarlets. Stretch that high tempo game to half-time and we’ll be right in business.
The ultimate winger
It’s interesting when taking a spin through the predictions of those selecting their starting XV for the British and Irish Lions first test against South Africa next month and seeing very few, if any, mentions of Josh Adams, as the likes of Anthony Watson, Louis Rees-Zammit and Duhan van der Merwe get the nod ahead of him.
Yet during the Rainbow Cup the 25-year-old has provided a timely reminder about why he was considered one of the best wingers in the world after a 2019 Rugby World Cup campaign that saw him finish as the tournament’s top scorer, having already scored three tries to help Wales to the Grand Slam.
In three games he has made 24 carries, gained 121 metres, made two line breaks and scored a try as he has been an integral part of that changing Cardiff attack which gives him the freedom to appear right across the field as he sees fit, and we know how good he is at timing when to get his hands on the ball in midfield for the maximum effect. Don’t right him off to pull on a test jersey this summer.
The Blue Wall
For the second time in three games Cardiff did not concede a line break away at Munster on Friday night, having achieved the same feat in the home win over Dragons which had seen us go down to 13-men for a period in the second half.
At Thomond we made 100 tackles at a 93% success rate with James Botham topping the individual stats with 12, taking us to the fifth best defence in the European section of the competition, although in terms of tackle success and turnovers won we are in the top three.
There was also an improvement in terms of discipline, with the nine conceded the first time we have conceded less than 10 in a Rainbow Cup game, particularly impressive away in Ireland. As the side continues to get fitter and grow in confidence these stats will continue to head in the right direction.