Nottingham 19-10 Cardiff A

Cardiff A finished their British and Irish Cup campaign on a sour note with a loss away to Nottingham on a cold Friday night in the East Midlands. It was a disappointing end to an otherwise encouraging campaign for Richard Hodges’ men, but the overall experience will be a positive one in the long term.

With no TV highlights and the European game in Cardiff at the same time this is basically just stolen off the official website, so apologies for that.

While the first team couldn’t stop scoring in Cardiff, the A side played out a tense opening 20 minutes with their English counterparts. It wasn’t until 23 minutes that the deadlock was broken by Nottingham who scored a second try before half-time as they went in at the break 12-0 up.

Richard Smith prepares to put a tackle in

There was some pressure exerted by us towards the end of that first period which continued into the second half, resulting in Elis Wyn Benham grabbing his third try in a week. Jarrod Evans couldn’t convert, and soon Nottingham had extended their lead again with their third try of the night.

At 19-5 up even a Nottingham yellow card couldn’t prevent them from winning, and only a Nick Griffths try could be mustered by Cardiff during their numeric advantage time. A fairly dreadful game by the sounds of it, played on a not brilliant pitch. A pretty dead rubber in all senses!

So Cardiff A finished on a downer and only finished above Nottingham by three points, well behind London Welsh and Cornish Pirates. An experimental first season for the A side has been very successful in my eyes, look out for a blog post of its own explaining why.

Elis Wyn Benham scored his third try in two games

Cardiff A 30-32 London Welsh

Cardiff A’s British and Irish Cup campaign ended with a late defeat at home to London Welsh in an exciting encounter at the Cardiff Arms Park. Richard Hodges’ mix of experience and youth were not able to stop the Exiles knocking them out, despite leading into the 80th minute, as Olly Barkley’s late penalty took the win for the away side.

There was two late blows for Cardiff A before kick-off, Tommy Isaacs and Cam Dolan were both withdrawn from the squad, to travel to London with the first team for injury and illness cover as it turns out. To replace them, Gavin Dacey started at 12 with Harri Millard moving to 13, while Miles Normandale came in at lock. On the bench, Shane Lewis-Hughes and Callum Hall took their seats.

In un-Cardiff A style the game got off to quite a tense start, maybe the pressure of the occasion and the late changes knocking the home side somewhat. Eventually it was the away side through top scorer Guy Armitage who scored the first points of the game, finishing off some well structured London Welsh attacking through a number of phases.

LW try 1
Guy Armitage goes past Tomos Williams for the first try

 

This sparked Cardiff into life, well young winger Elis Wyn Benham at least. A loose Olly Barkley kick found it’s way to the academy player who picked his man, opposition hooker Nathan Morris, waltzed past him and wandered under the posts. A brilliant piece of kick returning. Gareth Davies and Olly Barkley had traded conversions to make it 7-7.

The fly-halves were at it again for the rest of the first half, first up Davies kicking a penalty, before Barkley matched him, Rhys Shellard being sin binned for his infringement on that occasion. Despite being a man short Cardiff A kept their noses in front through Davies and went in 13-10 up at half-time.

Benham London Welsh
Elis Wyn Benham scoring his very impressive try

 

It was the Cardiff fly-half again who increased the lead with his third penalty but then London Welsh turned the screw. Two tries in 10 minutes, firstly a good finish from centre James Lewis in the corner, and then a catch and drive from a lineout which flanker Darren Waters benfitted from, along with one Barkley conversion, put the away side in the driving seat with 25 minutes to go.

However, yet again Cardiff A got the kick up the backside and it was an inidvidual moment that got us back in it. Replacement scrum half Lewis Jones charged down his opposite number Josh Davies’ kick, collecting the ball himself and getting over the line. Replacement half-back partner Jarrod Evans’ conversion was successful and all of a sudden we regained the lead.

The pressure was really being piled on now as Richard Hodges’ men looked to put the game to bed. Newly converted hooker Scott Andrews put in a beautifully weighted kick in behind the London Welsh defence, pushing them back to their try line, and the kick chase turned the ball over. Quick delivery from Jones to Evans gave the young fly-half space and he put in an inch-perfect cross field kick over the head of Alan Awcock for Benham to score his second try of the afternoon. Evans followed up his assist with a tricky conversion, and Cardiff were eight points to the good with under 10 to go.

Benham London Welsh 2
Benham was in blistering form

 

Could London Welsh repeat their last-gasp comeback from Old Deer Park? Uh well yes, but not without the help of the referee. The Exiles went through their phases again and were soon in the redzone. Number 8 Kieran Murphy went for the carry but was brought down a yard short. However, a second later, the referee had his arm in the air and Barkley was teeing up for his conversion. How he missed Murphy’s double movement I don’t know.

Following Barkley’s successful conversion Welsh were just a point behind, and before long the referee was signalling for an away penalty following a ‘deliberate’ knock on. It was the former England fly-half to be the hero, and the hero he was. 32-20 with 20 seconds left. Well at least so the game clock showed, the referee had other ideas as he blew up early and went straight down Ladbrokes to collect his winnings.

Kieran Murphy London Welsh
The look on Jevon Groves’ face tells the story

 

A really disappointing way to end our hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages of the British and Irish Cup. Unfortunately I can’t find the referees name but he didn’t cover himself in glory in those last five minutes. The positives come in the discovery of Elis Wyn Benham and the impact of Jarrod Evans off the bench definitely.

In fact the whole A team role of giving game time and experience to young players has been a success this season. I will write a piece on whether the A team has functioned well or not for Cardiff upon completion of our BIC campaign, but before that we have our last game away in Nottingham next week. Come on Cardiff A!!

Olly Barkley London Welsh
Olly Barkley’s boot won it for Welsh

 

 

Cornish Pirates 15-18 Cardiff A

Cardiff A finally got their first win on their travels in Cornwall, and with it gave their British and Irish Cup campaign a burst of life as they came out on top in a very tight encounter. The result keeps the hopes of qualification alive, but still out of our hands as we go into the last two rounds after Christmas.

Richard Hodges made a number of changes to the starting XV after last week’s loss in the reserve fixtures, bringing in a number of senior players ahead of the Premiership players to add that bit of experience. I’m sure words were had in the week about gifting easy tries to the Pirates and also converting possession as Cardiff had much more of the ball or terrority at CAP, but little to show for it.

Cardiff A 10-22 Cornish Pirates:  https://cardiffbluesblog.wordpress.com/2015/12/15/cardiff-a-10-22-cornish-pirates/

With no television coverage and clearly very little internet connection in the deepest, darkest South-West, I don’t particularly have much match report at all. In fact, I’m not even sure whoever wrote the Cardiff website report went to the game, because there’s little to no information in that, but I’ll piece the little mathc events we have together.

The game got off to a flying start as the Pirates squandered a great chance for a first minute try, before inside five minutes Aled Summerhill re-discovered his scoring boots to touch down under the posts from outside centre, with Gareth Davies’ conversion making it a dream start. However, for the rest of the first half it was the Cornish Pirates, and referee Mr Gaffikin, show. Prop Brad Thyer went to the bin as the referee awarded the home side a penalty try, and then they capitalised on their numerical advantage went Max Bodilly collected his kick through. One missed Laurence May conversion was made up for with a penalty as Richard Smith joined Thyer in the bin, but we were back to full strength just before the break.

Aled Summerhill Cornwall
Aled Summerhill opened the scoring

 

Cardiff seemed to control the second half with the wind at their backs, and were the only points scorers. American international Cameron Dolan scored his first try for a Cardiff team with a rolling maul first up. With the teams level it wasn’t a great time for Davies to miss the conversion, but a late penalty wrapped up the first competitive A team win.

It’s good to see the A team following the senior side and grinding out victories, not giving up the ghost when the going gets tough, as they could’ve done when eight points down at the break. Having said that, it is slightly concerning that the lack of discipline seems to be a club wide problem, something the coaching team will be looking to stamp out I’m sure.

Cornish Pirates, centre Max Bodilly hands off Cardiff Blues Aled Summerhill.
The midfield of Summerhill, Adam Thomas and Owen Jenkins try to stop an attack

 

It won’t be easy to clinch qualification due to the very slow start to the BIC campaign, and there are a number of result permutations that could happen in the final rounds after Christmas. What is definite is that Cardiff A need to win both of their remaining games, against Nottingham away and London Welsh at CAP. Then either Cornish Pirates need to lose both their games, or beat London Welsh while we play Nottingham.

There’ll be plenty of crossed fingers, but I hope Richard Hodges realises from the last two weeks that the A team is much better utilised as a place for senior fringe players mixed with youngsters and some club players on the bench, than having the Premiership players in crucial roles. Unfortuantely they just aren’t good enough, that’s why we have the A team in the first place!

 

Cardiff A 10-22 Cornish Pirates

The A team could not make it a double Cardiff win weekend as they fell to pool leaders Cornish Pirates at the Arms Park, two days after a memorable win on a European Friday night under the lights in the capital. The visitors kept up their 100% record in the British and Irish Cup this season, and left us with a lot of work to do if we want to qualify for the knockout stages.

A fantastic CAP night, Cardiff 37-27 Montpellier:  https://cardiffbluesblog.wordpress.com/2015/12/15/cardiff-37-27-montpellier/ 

After an opening draw with Nottingham was followed by a disappointing loss to London Welsh, Richard Hodges made a number of changes to the A side, that saw Tom Isaacs start at outside centre and Tomos Williams return from injury at scrum-half, as well as Scott Andrews being utilised at hooker with Pontypridd’s Rhys Shellard at flanker.

The Cardiff A story so far:  https://cardiffbluesblog.wordpress.com/category/match-reports/a-team-match-reports/

The new-ish look Cardiff side got off to an absolute flyer, although not on the same scale as the first team, when Chris Dicomidis thought he’d got a try inside five minutes, but a forward pass scuppered his celebrations.. Nevertheless, it was just eight minutes in when Tomos Williams went down the blind side, Aled Summerhill made the break and fed Richard Smith, who got the opening try despite a quick forward roll on the way to the line.

A missed conversion from Cardiff RFC’s James Thomas mattered little though, as within 10 minutes we had conceded two tried from Pirates winger Jack Arnott. Summerhill may well be disappointed for both tries as they came from chips over the top, leaving his defensive positioning wanting somewhat.

Aled Summerhill Cornwall
Aled Summerhill makes a break for Richard Smith’s try

 

The home side did try and get back into the game, Summerhill again continuing his positive involvement in attack, but an overlap from a scrum worked by James Sheekey was squandered and then the ball lost forward. It was to be the last involvement from Summerhill as he, along with his fellow promising academy member Owen Lane, were forced off after half an hour, Garyn Smith and Callum Hall replacing them.

The changes stunted the Cardiff A attack, with plenty of possession never really going anywhere, and we were punished just on half-time, as Laurence May slotted a penalty to give Cornish Pirates a 5-15 lead at the break.

Dicomidis Cornwall
Chris Dicomidis on the charge

 

After some words at half-time, Cardiff A flew out of the traps again, Richard Smith looking for some deja vu as he battled up to a few metres from the line, before it was taken on by the forwards but lost in the redzone. Not such a bad thing, but from the turnover Cornish Pirates wound their way up the field. A penalty into the corner gave them the platform to set up the maul, and it was Aaron Carpenter who benefited.

May’s conversion gave the Pirates a 17 point margin, but it was short lived as another back line re-shuffle worked in Cardiff’s favour. The impressive Blue and Black, Will Rees-Hole, was the latest injury victim and with only Lewis Jones left on the bench it was his scrum-half colleague Tomos Williams that was forced onto the wing.

It was a wise move from coach Hodges as it turned out, with Garyn Smith now playing in his natural midfield role, he combined with Jones to send the substitute over. Another missed conversion didn’t help as the A team attempted a first XV-style comeback, but it wouldn’t have mattered as the visitor’s defence stood firm and 22-10 was how the scoreboard stayed.

Tommy Isaacs Cornwall
Tommy Isaacs couldn’t stop an A team defeat

 

A dour note to end the weekend on as the A team again failed to gel for a full 80 minutes. Individual performances haven’t been a problem, and this weekend was no different as Scott Andrews, James Sheekey, Jevon Groves and Will Rees-Hole impressed again. However, the overall team performance was a let down, and Richard Hodges will hope to be able to get the team out onto the training pitch as a unit this week, as well as praying injuries aren’t serious.

The return game next week in the deepest, darkest West Country is absolutely crucial. Win, and we stand a chance of seeing the knockout stages, lose and it’s bye-bye Cardiff A for this season. Come on Cardiff A!

London Welsh 32-29 Cardiff A

Two days after a rubbish defeat for the first team, it was up to the A team to save the weekend for Cardiff rugby, and to give some hope to us fans that the future is brighter than the present. A trip to Old Deer Park was the setting, the exiled Welsmen of London the only thing between a Cardiff team and that far off dream of a win.

Richard Hodges made a few changes to the team that drew with Nottingham in the wind the week before. Cardiff RFC’s Joe Tomlinson and Will Rees-Hole started alongside the professional team’s Aled Summerhill and Cam Dolan, who were returning from a ban and injury respectively. Meanwhile, Welsh named a pretty strong side, unlike Notts the week before. 

IMG_0753
Aled Summerhill returned to the side

The game got off to a dream start for our visiting side as, Cardiff-contracted, Pontypridd winger, Geraint Walsh, crossed after three minutes following a decent midfield break from props Scott Andrews and Thomas Davies. London Welsh responded well, hitting our line hard, but the defence held out and young back Owen Lane almost added to the lead before being stopped in the corner, Gareth Davies instead getting more points on the board with a penalty. It wasn’t until five minutes before the  break that the scoreboard was troubled again and the game tightened up, as Josh Davies’ kick put the home side on the front foot, Cardiff conceded a penalty and Davies was on hand to finish the job after a quick tap and go. Olly Barkley converted to make it 7-8 at half-time.

Owen Lane went close for Cardiff

The start of the second half was a carbon copy of the first as Cardiff A got off to a flyer, the forwards again providing a platform for Gareth Davies to put a nice chip into the corner, right winger Owen Lane gathering and scoring his first professional try this time. He was at it again a few minutes later as well, the home side spilling the ball while on the attack and Rees-Hole pounced. The Blue and Blacks centre couldn’t go the distance, so handed it off to Lane to pass the final man and double his try total. Davies converted both to put us 15 points to the good, and still we weren’t done! Half way through the second period, and Rees-Hole again the architect of a break as he hit the line at pace before feeding centre partner Garyn Smith this time to get the try bonus point. Another Davies conversion left us sitting pretty at 7-29 up. Then things deteriorated, as Cardiff’s defence stopped bothering. Josh McNally was allowed to waltz through the middle to score, before Koree Britton couldn’t be stopped on the wing. Two scores in five minutes and it was a ten point game. We tried to attack and Gareth Davies put a penalty into the corner, only for the ball to be turned over and Welsh could sense a chance. They worked the ball up the field, first Britton nearly getting his second try, but eventually Eddie Aholelei picked and crossed, Barkley’s conversion putting the home side just three points behind. Cardiff bums were squeaking and it showed, we couldn’t keep our discipline, Barkley put his on our line, and used all his class to put a grubber kick in behind to be pounced on by grateful centre James Lewis.

  

A quite farcical last 20 minutes from Cardiff A, and proof if you ever it was needed, that Danny Wilson’s task is transforming an entire club, rather than just a senior squad. Wilson, along with Richard Hodges, need to be taking a long, hard look at the players who really want to perform for the 80 minutes in blue, and then putting a boot into the backside of those who don’t. Far, far too often, there are periods of a game involving a Cardiff side where we almost entirely stop playing. It is just not acceptable for professional rugby players, and it’s not a great indicator for the future if the A side are just as susceptible to it as the senior team. The next outing for the A team is just before Christmas with a double header against probably the best opposition in the group, Cornish Pirates. It’ll have to be 180 minutes of concentration and top-level play, nothing less will do.

 

Cardiff A 20-20 Nottingham

While the senior team kicked off their European season in Italy, another cup campaign started at the Arms Park, with Cardiff A taking on Nottingham in their first ever British and Irish Cup match.

Calvisano 9-50 Cardiff – Match Report: https://cardiffbluesblog.wordpress.com/2015/11/16/calvisano-9-50-cardiff/

A team coach Richard Hodges stuck largely with the team that beat Ospreys A in a friendly the week before, just Jarrod Evans missing due to being with the senior team, to be replaced by Gareth Davies, Seb Davies out with injury, his place taken by Miles Normandale, and Geraint Walsh and Liam Belcher dropped for Richard Smith and Ethan Lewis, respectively. The team was a nice mix of youth and experience, just as the A team should be really, and it was sure to be a good test against a Nottingham team in 6th place in the English Championship.

Ethan Lewis started for Cardiff A

There was a decent chance of a win though, as the Green and Whites rested a few players to give some reserves a run out. Not only would Cardiff be playing the visitors, they would also be playing the conditions, as swirling wind and rain threatened to ruin any chance of a quality game, and certainly ended hopes of a large crowd.

The weather really was to create a game of two halves, as Cardiff A kicked off with the elements firmly at their backs. They started the dominant side, a sequence of penalties giving us territory, but it wasn’t until the 12th minute that Adam Thomas released Richard Smith to score in the corner, Gareth Davies nailing the conversion. It wasn’t until over halfway into the first period that Nottingham really had any possession, but a few minutes after that, they managed to spill the ball inside their own 22 and Owen Jenkins pounced to get himself a try. Gareth Davies notched the extras, and a further penalty to give the home side a 17-0 advantage at half-time. Not a bad scoreline at all normally, but in the weather conditions and after such a dominant 40 minutes, perhaps a slightly disappointing outcome.

Owen Jenkins scores for Cardiff

It looked as if that very much would be the case after just 10 minutes of the second half, after Pila Iongi had touched down, and Lawrence Rayner converted as well as landing two penalties to bring Nottingham within four. It was the visiting outside-half again who, five minutes later, finished off some well constructed attacking phases with a try right under the posts, and, with the weather firmly at their backs, the away side had taken the lead. It was only brief though, as Gareth Davies landed another penalty to bring the scores level. The conditions stayed firmly with Nottingham as the last 15 minutes were played out mainly in the Cardiff half, but the defence stood strong for a draw to kick-off the British and Irish Cup campaign.

Full time: Cardiff A 20-20 Nottingham

Lewis Jones on the attack

A fair result on the day as the conditions ended any hopes of a proper rugby match. I imagine both teams will be fairly happy with the outcome given everything, perhaps Nottingham more so as they travelled home. Certainly some positives to take for Richard Hodges, in the performance of the younger players in the squad, and also Owen Jenkins and Richard Smith matching their back three colleagues Dan Fish and Tom James in the try scoring department. A trip to Old Deer Park to face London Welsh, who lost 28-21 to Cornish Pirates in the other pool game, is next up for the A side after the senior team play Harlequins on Thursday night. Come on Cardiff!

Cardiff A 43-13 Ospreys A

Cardiff A kicked off their British and Irish Cup preparations with a comfortable win at home to their Ospreys counterparts. The team, made up of a mixture of youth and experienced fringed players, struggled early on, but moved through the gears and ended up running six tries over the line by the end.

Elite Performance Pathway manager Richard Hodges took charge of his first game as the official Cardiff A Head Coach, and had selected a well balanced starting XV, led by Jevon Groves and featuring senior players such as Scott Andrews and Adam Thomas, alongside younger stars in Jarrod Evans and Liam Belcher, that was complimented nicely by a bench full of academy talent and an average age of under 20. 

Jevon Groves led the Cardiff A team

In front of a decent crowd for a cold, wet Wednesday night, who had all paid a donation to #StayStrongForOws, Cardiff started slowly despite having more of the ball. There was no instant click with many of the players hardly having played together before, and ill discipline didn’t help, as the A side seemed to be following in the footsteps of the senior side. Successive infringement gave Joel Matavesi two shots at goal which he executed to give Ospreys a 6-0 lead. 

It took until the 24th minute for Cardiff to really join the game, and it was an opportune chance that was taken well by flanker Ben Roach. Ospreys had a line out in their own 22, that just went all wrong, and Roach was on hand to scoop up the ball and power over from close range. Jarrod Evans added the extras to give us a lead we would never give up. Next up was Chris Dicomidis to cross the line, after Ospreys gave up two penalties which were put into the corner, and the forwards rumbled over. The away side did briefly get back into the match, fairly against the run of play, as Lloyd Evans made an interception and fed Keelan Giles to make the hard yards before Martin Roberts got the easy run in. However, Cardiff were quick in restoring a comfortable lead just before the half with a wonderful move starting with the impressive Evans releasing Owen Jenkins, on a beautiful inside line, who drew the full back for Lewis Jones to touch down for a 21-13 half-time lead, after the conversion.

Chris Dicomidis in action – he scored the second try of the night

The second half was a Cardiff A masterclass. On the front foot from the first kick, Ospreys A defence held out for all of eight minutes until Jarrod Evans scored a penalty, and the floodgates opened for twenty minutes. First, Dillon Lewis got on a clean break, feeding Rhun Williams, but his pass to Jenkins was illegally slapped down by Giles, who had a yellow card for his trouble. Evans put the resulting penalty into the corner, and a catch and drive pushed Macauley Cook over. Fly-half Evans nudged his kick wide for the first time of the night, but it didn’t matter as the home side stayed composed while camped inside the redzone to work on overlap for Roach’s second try of the night. Callum Hall, on for Evans, added the extras before the scoring was completed with 10 minutes to go. Cardiff’s pack drove back their Ospreylian opposition to give captain Jevon Groves the easiest of easy jobs to touch down over the line, and Hall rounded off the evening.

Full time: Cardiff A 43-13 Ospreys A

The Arms Park returns to what it does best, hosting Cardiff winning!

A successful first outing for the new, official A team as they dominated the Ospreys for a good 60 minutes of the game. A number of senior players got valuable minutes under their belts, and more importantly, there was plenty of young players on show making their mark. While nobody had a bad game, I’d like to point out Liam Belcher, Ben Roach, Jevon Groves, Jarrod Evans, Garyn Smith and Owen Jenkins as particularly impressing. At the same time I’d like to wish lock Seb Davies a speedy recovery after dislocating his shoulder in th first half, the only real Cardiff sour point. All in all an extremely pleasing night for Richard Hodges and his team, and they will be hoping to carry this form into the British and Irish Cup campaign which starts with the visit of Nottingham to the Arms Park on Saturday 14th November, 2.30pm kick-off.