Lots to talk about from a superb weekend of Welsh rugby action.
I suppose I’d better start by mentioning the Ospreys absolutely hammered Cardiff Blues on Friday night. Four of us made the trip down in the end, on what turned out to be an absolute horror show for the Blues. Handling errors, individual mistakes and poor/missed tackling were all contributing factors to a 42-24 humbling – a lop-sided result I couldn’t help feeling even the Ospreys fans didn’t see coming.
After a lively and promising start, the Blues led 10-3 until Dan Fish got yellow carded for a trip on the 20 minute mark. From that point, they absolutely crumbled. Three tries were conceded during the ten minutes Fish was off the field, two of those scored by the superb Eli Walker.
Cardiff Blues never recovered, and any brief glimpses of a fightback were thwarted either by some ferocious Ospreys defending, or through individual error. The Ospreys try at the very start of the second half seemed to really seal the deal, and from that point on it truly felt like a losing bonus point was the best we could hope for from this match.
Alas, even that was beyond Blues’ capabilities, with Josh Matavesi’s powerful burst one of several further tries for Ospreys.
There were conselation scores for Wales’ Capital region in the shape of a Tom James interception try, plus a typically superb step and touch down from Rey Lee-Lo, but a fourth try sadly never came, meaning the Blues left with nothing from the game.
A lot has to be said for Steve Tandy’s tactics for this game. His selection and game plan were spot-on. Sam Davies controlled the game quite masterfully, and has surely put his hand up for Wales selection in November, potentially at the expense of Gareth Anscombe, who it has to be said, had an evening to forget. The line speed of the Ospreys defence was so impressive. They were absolutely relentless and forced numerous errors in a Blues team that, sadly, could come up with no answers.
I do need to give one quick shout out to Tau’fau Filise, the Blues veteran tight-head prop, who produced an unbelievable tackle on Sam Davies in midfield, just when the young fly-half threatened to cut loose. Filise is approaching 40! The guy is an incredible athlete, a great player and an institution at the Blues.
Danny Wilson’s post-match appraisal was brutally honest. He, like the team, were shell-shocked by this result. They have vowed to put things right, and, based on what I’ve seen so far this season, I believe they can and they will. Let’s hope this was just a bad day at the office. The European Challenge Cup kicks off next weekend, with Blues visiting Wilson’s former team, and Aviva Premiership strugglers, Bristol. I am expecting a huge response from the Blues players, who will desperately want to get their season back on track.
In the other Pro12 Welsh derby, Scarlets played hosts to Dragons in a thrilling encounter in Llanelli. A total of eight tries were scored as the Dragons pushed the hosts all the way, and despite surrendering a healthy lead of 20-7 after 35 minutes, travelled home with two bonus points in the bag, by virtue of scoring four tries, and losing by less than seven points. Hallam Amos yet again impressed for the visitors, while Scarlets duo Liam Williams and man-of-the-match Scott Williams also showed their class.
Sloppy defending was again the Dragons downfall, but I feel they are showing signs of improvement. Meanwhile, Scarlets will need to sharpen their own defence if they are to overcome Sale at home, before taking on the defending champions Saracens at Allianz Park, in what is surely one of the most brutal groups in this year’s European Champions Cup (three-time winners Toulon being the fourth team in the group).
Closer to home, Nantymoel went down fighting in an aggressive contest against Bridgend Athletic, who dutifully book their place in the next round of the Swalec Plate. Four tries for the visitors – plus three conversions and two penalties from my workmate Dan – saw the visitors home and dry, although a vocal and passionate Nantymoel support had a try and coversion to celebrate. Both teams return to league action next week: Nantymoel with an away fixture against Aberavon Green Stars, Bridgend Athletic at home against Seven Sisters.
I’ll leave you with the only photograph I took on Friday night – my first trip to the Liberty Stadium in Swansea as the Ospreys hosted the Blues. I hope we are more successful on our next visit – although I reckon we’ll beat them in Cardiff later in the season!