Looking back over the last 18 years of Cardiff Blues it’s fair to say that the league has not been the domain in which we have thrived. It’s mainly been a story of mediocrity.
Barring two runner-up finishes in 2006/07 and 2007/08, and a fourth place in 2005/06, it’s been relative mid-table obscurity for the men from the Welsh capital, as we have failed to qualify for any play-offs series since they were introduced in 2009.
Two narrow misses in 2009/10 and 2010/11 were followed by a decade of increasing tightening of the financial belt, and as the wage bill began to be dwarfed by others, the ability to compete during the length of the season was hit. A spine of overseas players left and with Welsh internationals away we were left to call on a squad that struggled to compete with the depth of particularly the Irish sides.
Instead Cardiff Blues focus has often been on the Welsh derbies, with the vast majority of those played outside international windows in front of packed crowds with away fans easily able to travel up and down the M4. Add in superb atmospheres and high quality rugby on show, especially around the festive period, and they’re certainly the calendar highlight.
It was a tricky start to the derbies in 2003/04, with just a single win over the Dragons going against seven defeats as Ospreys, Scarlets and Celtic Warriors did the double over us, but since then we have worked hard to try and balance the results.
The record now shows Cardiff Blues having won 52, lost 57 and drawn one of the 110 league derbies played over the last 18 years, with some memorable games taking place against our near rivals down the years that supporters will no doubt point to.
Within that record there are some streaks that we would rather forget, like the five straight seasons the Ospreys did the double over us from 2011/12 to 2015/16, but there are others that induce happier memories and are ongoing to this day, such as the 12-game winning run we are currently enjoying against the Dragons.
In latter years the derbies have also spawned the Judgement Day event at the Principality Stadium, which started well with a win over the Scarlets, before taking on the Ospreys losing streak until the superb 35-17 win in April 2017 was one to remember for many, including a Fa’ao Filise try!
Of course as we return to being properly Cardiff the derbies can properly evoke memories of clashes with Newport, Swansea and Llanelli, but let’s hope that rocky start of 2003/04 is not repeated in 2021/22!