Free-scoring Blues look back across dramatic season

Joe Leavey
10 June 2019

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With three games to go, John Mulvihill’s men were primed and ready to make a late charge for a Guinness PRO14 Finals spot.

But a run of three consecutive losses put paid to any hopes of achieving that target and left a feeling of what might have been for the season as whole – finishing fifth in Conference A in the end.

A final-day defeat to Ospreys will be frustrating for Blues fans but a double over Scarlets and a statement win over Munster will stick out as some of the highlights over the course of the season.

Key strengths

Cardiff had absolutely no problem scoring tries this season running in 60 over the course of their Conference A campaign.

Owen Lane and Rey Lee-Lo turned in eight tries each with the latter finishing up high on the list for most defenders beaten – dancing his way past 57 players.

Meanwhile flanker Olly Robinson led the way in the Guinness PRO14 for both turnovers and consistency as an ever-present in the team alongside scrum-half Lloyd Williams.

In fact Cardiff were the champions of the turnover this season averaging more than any other team and giving away the fewest.

Areas to improve

For all of the hard work they put in at the breakdown, they gave the ball away from the lineout more than any other team in the Guinness PRO14.

The challenge for the likes of hooker Kristian Dacey and locks Rory Thornton and Seb Davies will be to improve that and iron out the kinks if they wish to retain possession from the lineout.

Cardiff’s average time spent with the ball in possession was also relatively low compared to the majority of the league, with 17.02 mins per game to score their points – 11th overall.

Star moment

The stand out moment for the Blues this season has to be their emphatic first win of the season over eventual semi-finalists Munster.

Mulvihill’s side welcomed the Irish outfit to Cardiff Arms Park off the back of three consecutive defeats to Leinster, Benetton and Zebre.

Nick Williams opened the scoring for the hosts before Munster bit back immediately through Andrew Conway but the Blues steadied the ship and surged back into the game.

A double from scrum-half Tomos Williams and another try from Willis Halaholo made sure of the bonus point while the boot of Gareth Anscombe pushed Cardiff into an unascertainable lead as they won 37-13.

The victory turned the Blues’ fortune completely on its head and saw them go on to win three games on the bounce earning wins over Cheetahs, Dragons and then Lyon in the Champions Cup.

Breakout player

It would be fair to say that Owen Lane was somewhat of a known quantity at the beginning of the season having featured in the previous campaign.

But the powerful winger’s performances this year have made everybody take stand up and take notice – including Wales head coach Warren Gatland.

His eight Guinness PRO14 tries have earned him a spot is Wales’ 42-man provisional training squad for the World Cup in Japan and Lane will be the only new face there – proving just how well he has done for Mulvihill’s side.

Key man

The departing Gareth Anscombe nailed 143 points this season including 24 penalties and three tries and was often the architect for Cardiff but there was one man who shone even brighter in the back-line.

Rey Lee-Lo enjoyed a fantastic season scoring eight tries in 19 appearances.

The 33-year-old was named at outside centre in the Guinness PRO14 Dream Team for his efforts fighting off the likes of Connacht’s Tom Farrell and Glasgow’s Nick Grigg for the prestigious spot.

His performances have also earned him call-up to the Samoa national team for the Pacific Nations Cup taking place over the summer ahead of the World Cup.

Who’s in?

Mulvihill will have the pleasure of adding the attacking talent of Josh Adams to his ranks as he joins from Worcester Warriors.

A Swansea boy originally, Adams has had his taste of playing for Wales and wants to hold onto his place in the future.

Meanwhile fellow Welsh international Hallam Amos joins after spending eight seasons with Dragons.

The 24-year-old winger can also operate at full-back and centre and should bolster an already strong back three with Lane and Aled Summerhill operating in the same department.

Elsewhere, Rory Thornton has made his loan move from the Ospreys permanent, while Will Boyde adds even greater depth to an already strong back row.

Who’s out?

There is no question the loss of Gareth Anscombe to the Ospreys will leave a big hole, although Jarrod Evans has progressed to become an international in his own right and will now take on greater responsibility.

Former Wales and Lions hooker Matthew Rees has called time on his career while at the other end of the experience spectrum, young prop Rhys Carre is heading to Saracens.

The club has also said goodbye to record try-scorer Tom James and USA winger Blaine Scully, who scored a try in the Challenge Cup final success in 2018.

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