After the warm-ups were done and dusted, and we’d looked at the Cardiff players in action here, https://cardiffbluesblog.wordpress.com/2015/08/14/rugby-world-cup-2015-cardiff-blues-round-up/, the final 31 man squads were announced and the following Blues players made the cut;
Wales – Sam Warburton, Gethin Jenkins, Lloyd Williams, Alex Cuthbert, Cory Allen
USA – Cameron Dolan, Blaine Scully
Samoa – Rey Lee-Lo
So it was the excellent eight representing Cardiff, and first up was the overseas new boys, as Samoa took on the United States in Brighton. Rey Lee-Lo, signed from the Hurricans, lined up at inside centre for the South Sea Islanders, while American vice-captain Blaine Scully wore 15 for the Eagles, and Cam Dolan took a seat on the bench. Unfortunately, Lee-Lo’s participation in his World Cup debut was short lived and he left the field due to a head injury inside the first 10 minutes after being hit by his opposite number. On the other side, Scully had a solid 54 minutes before being replaced, while Dolan was equally steady for the last half hour at lock, but neither could stop the Eagles slipping to a 25-16 loss.
Rey Lee-Lo went on to recover successfully from that head knock and start Samoa’s next match against the mighty South Africa, which ended in a 46-6 loss it was difficult to impress in. After being rested in the embarrassing 26-5 defeat to World Cup surprise package Japan, Lee-Lo was back with a bang in Samoa’s final group game against Scotland. Against starting at inside centre, he scored one and had a direct hand in setting up two tries as he time and time again proved too much for the Scottish defence. Despite a close 36-33 loss, there was no need for Lee-Lo to be disappointed at all. If that’s an indicator of what’s to come on the Arms Park pitch, I’m very excited.
Back to Samoa’s pool rivals USA, and they took their turn against Scotland in Leeds, with Blaine Scully switching to the wing, and Cam Dolan sticking on the bench. Another solid Scully performance, without much special, was good enough for an hour on the field, but that could not prevent a 39-16 defeat, with Dolan restricted to the bench for the whole game. Scully returned to full-back as the Eagles took on the night of South Africa, with Dolan again a replacement. Unfortunately, all they could do was watch green shirts come passed them over and over in a heavy 64-0 loss, Scully playing 70 minutes and Dolan getting another half hour. That was Blaine Scully’s last World Cup action as he wasn’t involved in the Eagles’ last game against Japan, but Cam Dolan retained his seat on the bench, this time entering the fray after 30 minutes. However, he couldn’t stop a fourth US defeat, as they went down 28-18. So a disappointing World Cup for the team and the players, but hopefully both Scully and Dolan will arrive in Cardiff as richer for the experience.
Onto the Welsh quintet, led by captain Sam Warburton. First up was Uruguay, and Gethin Jenkins was rested for this one with the England game in mind a week later. Warburton, Cory Allen and Alex Cuthbert did start though, with Lloyd Williams on the bench, and it was Allen who really caught the eye. An all-round fantastic performance gained him a hat-trick and man-of-the-match. It would’ve been the perfect afternoon, had he not torn his hamstring not long before the end of the game. World Cup over, and worse, three months out of Cardiff action.
The next week was the big one, England at Twickenham. Sam Warburton retained his place, Gethin Jenkins returned to the starting line-up, but there was no place for Alex Cuthbert, who’s lack of form relegated him to the bench alongside Lloyd Williams. It was a tricky evening for Gethin as the scrum wasn’t refereed very well, although Sam fared better at the breakdown. The star of the show in terms of Cardiff players was out on the wing, however, and remarkably it wasn’t Alex Cuthbert. Lloyd Williams was filling in out wide as Wales suffered an injury crisis in the backs, and it was his grubber kick through that sent scrum-half Gareth Davies under the posts. It was an inspired moment, but Lloyd’s career as a makeshift winger didn’t last long, as Cuthbert was re-instated to the starting line-up for the Fiji game. Warburton and Jenkins were still there as Warren Gatland stuck with the majority of the team that beat England, although this game was a slightly more attritional affair. Gethin and Sam both battled well, and Cuthbert nearly grabbed himself a try, in a 23-13 win.
The final group game was a group winner decider against the mighty Australia, and a surprise Cardiff face was named in the Wales team. Gareth Anscombe returned to the squad in place of Hallam Amos as he recovered from the ankle injury that saw him miss the initial 31-man squad. Alex Cuthbert and Sam Warburton retained their places, but Gethin Jenkins missed out through injury, with Lloyd Williams still on the bench. In a tense affair, kicking was the winner and Australia came out 15-6 winners, but Anscombe did his standing with the wider Welsh public no harm, ahead of a big quarter-final with South Africa. He started, alongside Warburton, Cuthbert and the returning Jenkins, with Lloyd Williams taking his regular seat on the bench. Warburton and Jenkins won penalties at the breakdown in the first half, while Anscombe was solid at full-back. Gethin departed on the hour, while Lloyd played the last 10 minutes, but none of the five Cardiff Welshmen could do enough to prevent Wales crashing out 23-19.
So, the Cardiff representation at the 2015 Rugby World Cup is over, but a pretty successful tournament for our Welsh boys, and the foreign singings can be pleased with their individual performances. Now it’s up to Danny Wilson when we see them all back in Cardiff, except for Gareth Anscombe who unfortunately requires surgery on a recurrence of his original ankle injury and will miss two months. All the best to Chicken on his recovery, and looking forward to seeing the other lads in action soon!