Judgement Day V: Blues and Scarlets Victorious

Cardiff Blues recorded a first win over the Ospreys since 2010, before Scarlets battled to a narrow victory over Newport Gwent Dragons at the showpiece event in the Welsh capital on Saturday afternoon.

Five tries from the Blues rounded off a quite remarkable performance, in which the Ospreys were made to look second-rate in every facet of the game. It was a display that has, it seems, been a whole season in the making. A fast start to the 2016/17 campaign saw Blues’ early form utterly derailed by their trip to face Ospreys back in October – an encounter which demanded a huge response in this week’s return fixture.

The Blues certainly rose to the occasion. Their physicality was apparent from the outset, a catch-and-drive from a ten-metre lineout yielding a Kristian Dacey try in the first five minutes. Lloyd Williams claimed a second try before delivering a superb reverse-pass to Nick Williams to barge through Justin Tipuric and score a third for the hosts, all within the first thirty minutes.

The Blues continued strongly after the break, Alex Cuthbert running hard and fixing defenders, leading to a Tau’Fau Filise try that heaped further misery on the visitors.

Next came the try of the afternoon. Great pressure on Sam Davies in midfield saw the superb Dacey catch and spin through a tackle, feeding Willis Halaholo. The Kiwi centre chipped the ball ahead to Gareth Anscombe, who juggled the ball as he cantered across the line. At 35-3 up, the celebrations began in the stands. The Ospreys seemed a shadow of the team that has looked so dangerous, and scored so freely in the first six months of the season.

Dan Evans finally crossed the whitewash on the hour mark, with veteran Wales prop Paul James adding a second consolation try for the visitors on 67 minutes. It was far too little too late, however, and some determined and gutsy defending from the Blues saw them record a much deserved win.

The Blues have been superb in recent weeks, especially in the Pro12, where they ran leaders Leinster close in Dublin, before drawing with Ulster in Belfast last week. These are tough places to play, and really feels like the Blues are coming of age as a team. This was probably the most complete performance I’ve seen from Cardiff Blues since the European Challenge Cup win in 2010. Absolutely extraordinary stuff, outstanding rugby. It certainly hints at great things ahead for next season. Coach Danny Wilson understandably described it as the best performance of his tenure to date.

The Ospreys now lie in fourth spot, seemingly on the brink of losing out on a play-off spot. Top-four rivals Ulster are their next opponents, which now looks like an absolutely massive game.

Saturday’s second game saw the Dragons host the Scarlets. A cagey first half saw the sides tied at 6-6 during the break. Scarlets centre Jonathan Davies eventually broke the deadlock on 57 minutes, strolling over to score after a tap-and-go penalty from ten metres out. Liam Williams extended their lead beyond the Dragons’ reach, cutting a superb line to score a second Scarlets try in the 72nd minute.

The Dragons showed their resilience by scoring an excellent try in the final play of the game. Attacking from deep, great interplay following a turnover saw fly-half Angus O’Brien send winger Adam Hughes under the posts for a peach of a try, and it was no more than the Dragons deserved.

Scarlets now leapfrog the Ospreys into third place in the league table. Those two sides meet in the final round of the regular season, in what promises to be an explosive encounter.

Judgement Day V was another massive success, and I hope this format continues to go from strength to strength in future seasons.

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