Cardiff slipped to a disappointing derby day defeat against the Ospreys at the Swansea.Com Stadium on Saturday as a lacklustre performance saw Dai Young’s side finish comfortably second best.
The Blue and Blacks had been boosted by the return to action of Josh Adams after his summer British & Irish Lions escapades, while Rhys Priestland was deemed to fit to play after his head injury in the previous week’s win against Connacht, but neither could do anything to stop the game starting as it would go on.
Cardiff’s pack conceded a penalty at the lineout within two minutes after an early push when defending a maul, and the familiar face of Gareth Anscombe promptly opened the scoring off the kicking tee. 10 minutes later he was doubling the lead after Seb Davies was penalised for an early tackle.
In the end it needed a slice of good fortune and some Lions quality for the away side to get on the scoreboard as a Rhys Priestland penalty stuck the upright and bounced back into play, and while the Ospreys players all looked at each other Josh Adams was alive to sprint and claim the loose ball before sliding over to score. Priestland was on target for the extras.
The home side tried to hit back as they kicked to the corner soon after, but while some good Cardiff maul defence kept them at bay it was undone quickly when Tomos Williams was shown a yellow card for a no-arms tackle on Luke Morgan, with Anscombe putting his team ahead again with three more points off the tee.
It became 14 v 14 when Michael Collins was sent to the sin bin for a deliberate knock on, but the Blue and Blacks continued to struggle more when playing without a scrum-half, and with a scrum that was under huge pressure and handling errors adding up, Anscombe was presented with and took the opportunity to make the score 12-7 at the break.
In the first 10 minutes of the second half it was all change for Cardiff though as Rhys Carre won a penalty at scrum time and from that we kicked to the corner and set about working in the red zone. Accuracy and speed returned to the attack, Josh Adams and then the forwards took the ball towards the try line, and then some lovely hands from Carre put Owen Lane over out wide, with Priestland converting brilliantly from the touchline.
Unfortunately that was the high point for the Blue and Blacks as normal service resumed with handling errors creeping back in and an increasing amount of penalties being conceded, allowing Anscombe to quickly re-take the lead for the Ospreys from the tee and then extend it with three more points on the 65 minute mark.
Cardiff had chances in the final quarter, but by now the team’s confidence had been struck down as the ball was spilled repeatedly, while the scrum was on the back foot again once the front row was changed. The lineout also wobbled at a key moment and players stopped taking the ball to the line as the home side did what they needed to do in order to maintain their 18-14 lead to the end.
A losing bonus point to take back to the capital for Dai Young’s men, as well as plenty of food for thought when it comes to adapting the attacking game plan to wet conditions and managing the game when it’s not going our way, as well as tightening up the discipline defensively.
It’s now a seven-day turnaround until the Bulls arrive at the Arms Park next Saturday and everyone will be aiming for a response in order to get back to winning ways.