View from the South Terrace: Leinster

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In a perverse way these pieces are easier to write after a loss like that suffered by Cardiff in Dublin on Saturday than they are after any other result.

You as supporters, the players, the coaches, basically anyone with eyes, don’t need me to tell you just how under-par that performance from the Blue and Blacks was. Poor skill execution compounded by errors compounded by a total departure of confidence and then capped off by being out-worked by the opposition.

Only the scrum and the maul retained any semblance of competitiveness as the Blue and Blacks were only able to get on the scoreboard in the final part of the game when replacements had added some impetus to proceedings and Leinster had taken their foot of the gas to cruise to a comfortable victory.

It was a showing that caused strong flashbacks to the end of last season when heavy defeats were all too common, along with that level of performance. It also brought the fixture block to a close in a disappointing manner, rounding off a tough few weeks where Cardiff have slowly started falling by the wayside in the race for the play-offs.

I maintain that was to be expected in some ways. I wrote ahead of this fixture block that the run of good results from the victory at Scarlets through to the home win over Stormers were increasingly positive outings, but the toughest tests were still to come and the focus should just be on improving week-to-week.

That improvement did continue through to the defeat against the Ospreys, but it is concerning how dramatically things have fallen apart since then. Toby Booth’s men found it relatively easily to bully us on New Year’s Day before the Blue and Blacks failed to turn up in the first half against Scarlets and Brive, culminating in being dissected by Leinster.

It’s difficult to avoid the questions cropping up again around the strength of the leadership and the culture within the group where confidence can be shaken so severely after just one poor performance or result and not look like returning no matter what soundbites are put out in the media.

In the end it’s four defeats from five games heading into the Six Nations with the play-off dreams looking like they’re disappearing into the distance, but Cardiff are just about clinging on to top spot in the Welsh Shield and with Heineken Champions Cup qualification on the line through that there is still plenty to play for this season.

As the players head into a week off perhaps a chance to recharge and re-focus will be a good thing, but the signs are worrying for Dai Young’s men with the senior internationals missing for two months and tough games against Benetton and Ulster on the horizon.

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