James Davies is 24 years old. He has been a Cardiff RFC fan since he was 7 years old, and has held a Cardiff Blues season ticket since the inception of regional rugby in 2003. He goes to every home match with his Dad, and has been to several away games – most notably, he was at Twickenham in 2009 when the Blues smashed Gloucester in the EDF Cup Final. Cracking game. He runs his own PR agency based in Cardiff, Compass Media Relations, and represents a number of clients’ media portfolios and advertising budgets. He regularly posts about rugby and tweets any latest news and stories via his Twitter account. He contributes to Cardiff Blues’ unofficial site (thearmspark.co.uk).
Six games into the new season and Cardiff Blues’ fresh start needs refreshing. Three wins and three losses would suggest an indifferent start to the new campaign, but the cracks are beginning to show at the Arms Park.
An ugly first round victory away to gutsy Connacht was followed by a disappointing home defeat to Edinburgh. The defeat to the Scottish capital upon the return to the beloved Arms Parks was frustrating for the Cardiff faithful, and the game reflected the inconsistency of the opening six rounds of RaboDirect PRO12 action. The backline looked hungry, whilst the scrum buckled under minimal pressure. The Welsh internationals carried the team, whilst the reliance on youth and mediocre players highlighted the financial impact of the Blues’ move from the Cardiff City Stadium, and the pressure of the salary cap imposed after last season. Also, Alex Cuthbert looked to have handed off any suggestion of second season syndrome as if it were an ailing defender getting in his way to the try line.
An away day victory followed at closest rivals Newport Gwent Dragons. A fly half injury crisis handed debutant Rhys Patchell his first start at ten, and the 19 year old Prince Harry lookalike delivered with an astute display. The pack tightened up their performance and all seemed to be looking up for the Blues. They had unearthed a level headed pivot (something Cardiff rugby hasn’t had since Neil Jenkins and Paul Burke), and the backline were making breaks. Tom James needs to learn when to pass, and Alex Cuthbert continued to be a class above.
A fairly comfortable home win against Treviso followed, and with that the Blues’ first win at the Arms Park since 10th May 2009. The game was Jamie Roberts’ first start of the season and, 31 minutes in, his first try for the Blues in over two years; his last try coming in the Amlin Challenge Cup Final win in Toulon in May 2010.
Patchell shone again, and the Blues young side seemed to be grinding out decent wins; some ugly, some with a bonus point.
The tragic news of Nevin Spence and his family carried Ulster to the Arms Park, where the men in white destroyed the lacklustre Blues. Fire and passion (ironically Cardiff City F.C’s new motto) completely blew the Blues out cold. They suffered a huge defeat at home, but given the circumstances, Ulster were always going to win that one for Nev. Although I’m sure the Blues fans would have preferred their team to put up more of a fight.
A home tie against Glasgow gave the Blues a platform to launch themselves into Europe, although all they managed were three points and an embarrassing second home defeat on the trot.
With Rhys Patchell and Jason Tovey injured for the next few weeks, the Blues have the old head of Ceri Sweeney steering the ship. Two Romanian props have been called in to shore up the scrum, and Sam Warburton is being pushed all the way in Cardiff by the impressive Josh Navidi.
The Blues now sit in seventh, and a daunting away trip to the RDS to face Leinster awaits them after the European break. Let’s just hope they pick up form along the way.
Biggest surprise so far?
Rhys Patchell. The 19 year old started the campaign as fourth choice fly half. Once he returns
from injury, he should resume battle with Jason Tovey for the starting spot.
Most valuable player so far this season?
Alex Cuthbert. The try machine from rural Gloucestershire has carried on his rich form from
his breakout season last year.
Overall season prediction for your side?
Cardiff Blues will continue to have indifferent RaboDirect PRO12 form, and will get little change from Europe. A sixth place finish in the competition, with an early exit from Europe and the Anglo Welsh Cup. A period of transition for Phil Davies’ side.
Other predictions? (Top-points or try scorers or anything else you’d like to venture!)
Rhys Patchell to be first choice at the end of the season, with Josh Navidi pushing Sam