View from the South Terrace: Glasgow

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Last week I finished the view on the Munster game with; “It’s the hope that kills you, but something does feel slightly different this time.”

Well, the hope killed us again.

It’s difficult to think of any redeeming features from Cardiff’s 52-24 loss at the hands of Glasgow on Friday, as the Blue and Blacks crumbled in a way that was too similar to the last two months of last season.

A whole pre-season of sound bites about putting 2021/22 behind us, and the coaching and playing group working harder than ever to ensure that doesn’t happen again, disappearing into the distance as Dai Young’s men put in another ill-disciplined, disorganised and low effort performance on the road to suffer another heavy defeat.

Since March of this year Cardiff have played nine times in competitive matches away from home conceding an average of 42.4 points. Even taking into account the nightmare schedule and subsequent lack of match fitness, as well as injuries, that is just not acceptable.

The Blue and Blacks have a clear defensive identity around winning turnovers at the breakdown, which worked well against Munster, but against Glasgow’s bigger pack and away from home where the refereeing rub of the green is not often received, that is a tough focus to have.

Once we lose that edge on the floor then the defence itself is shambolic at best. It tries to rely on individuals winning physical confrontations to halt the progress of the opposition, but when that invariably doesn’t happen a lack of organisation and intensity is exposed far too easily as we struggle to regroup any sort of shape and either concede metres, penalties, or both.

That’s obviously a coaching issue but it also exposes a culture issue as when trapped on the back foot, and often a man down as ill-discipline leads to cards, heads drop very quickly, effort levels disappear and there’s little sign of any leadership gathering the group together to re-invigorate things.

It’s exacerbated by a matchday squad that did not include the likes of Taulupe Faletau and Rey Lee-Lo with both being rested, and all links into how Cardiff need to change their approach to away games in order to ensure consistent competitiveness and stand the best chance of pushing for the play-offs and the top of the Welsh Shield.

To do that you have to target specific games, particularly home games and derbies, as the demands of the season on top international players make it simply impossible to pick your best XV week-in, week-out. There’s also the fact that away games are harder to win particularly due to the refereeing differences experienced on the road, just see the lack of a red card for Tom Jordan on Friday night as an example.

So rather than rocking up shorn of stars and trying to play a breakdown heavy defensive game, and an expansive attacking game, perhaps the focus should shift towards reduced-risk territorial rugby, take points when they are available and keep the game and scoreboard as tight as possible.

In the short-term though it’s three home games and two derbies for Cardiff to focus on, and the defence will have to improve as the senior players return against a physical Lions side to kick off that run to the Autumn Internationals on Friday. If it doesn’t then serious questions will need to be asked, and very soon.

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