Match Page 2017-18 - Scoreboard WP ID: 132

Match Page 2017-18 - Last Time WP ID: 133

Match Page 2017-18 - Current Standing WP: 134

Match Page 2017-18 - H2H WP: 136

Match Page 2017-18 - Last 3 Matches WP: 142

Match Page 2017-18 - Season so Far WP:141

Preview: Cardiff Blues v Ulster Rugby

Daniel Barnes 23 Mar 2018

Two teams bidding to force their way into the Guinness PRO14 Final Series picture go head-to-head as Cardiff Blues and Ulster Rugby lock horns in Wales on Saturday.

The in-form Blues go looking to hand their supporters something to shout about as they play their final regular season home game of the season.

However, a victory would be every bit as vital for visitors Ulster.

What’s at stake?

Cardiff Blues are in hot pursuit of a place in the Guinness PRO14 Final Series and they have momentum on their side.

Danny Wilson’s troops have won their last four games on the spin and find themselves fourth in Conference A heading in to Round 18, five points off the Toyota Cheetahs in third.

Ulster are fourth themselves – in Conference B – and go looking to bounce back from successive defeats at the hands of Edinburgh Rugby and the Scarlets as they attempt to chip away at the nine-point gap between themselves and the former, who currently occupy the last qualification berth.

Team news (Cardiff Blues)

The Blues have rung the changes ahead of their final regular season home game of 2017-18, making seven alterations to the side that defeated Benetton Rugby 31-25 in Round 17.

Following the conclusion of the 2018 Six Nations, Wales internationals Seb Davies and Ellis Jenkins both come in to start while Dillon Lewis is named as a replacement.

Matthew Rees and Scott Andrews start in the front row while Tomos Williams has overcome a knock to partner Jarrod Evans, with United States captain Blaine Scully replacing Alex Summerhill.

Team news (Ulster Rugby)

Fresh from being named the Player of the Championship for the 2018 Six Nations following his superb try-scoring exploits, Jacob Stockdale starts on the left wing for Ulster.

A fellow Grand Slam winner with Ireland, Iain Henderson slots into the back row while Rob Herring, Clive Ross, Craig Gilroy and Charles Piutau all also come in.

Ireland Under-20 international Matthew Dalton is named on the bench.

Talking points:

Blues head coach Wilson said: “We knew at the beginning of the last block that if we won four games, we would give ourselves the chance to go and do something.

“We’ve done that and now we have to take that opportunity we have created.

“The first stage of that is trying to win against a good Ulster team at the Arms Park and if we do that, it keeps us right in the hunt.

“We desperately want to chase the Cheetahs down and get into that third spot.”

Key battle Blaine Scully v Jacob Stockdale

Blaine Scully missed the Blues’ Round 17 success over Benetton but is restored to Wilson’s starting XV against Ulster.

The California-born native will be looking to get back up to speed right away, while Ulster wing Jacob Stockdale will attempt to reproduce the form that saw him light up the 2018 Six Nations.

Stockdale scored a scorching seven tries in five appearances for Ireland and now switches focus to inspiring Ulster to Guinness PRO14 success.

Key fact: 

Cardiff Blues now won five Guinness PRO14 fixtures in a row in the same season since the end of the 2009/10 campaign.

Did you know?

Ulster have lost only one of their last six encounters with the Blues, a 13-23 defeat at Cardiff Arms Park in February 2016.

Cardiff Blues: Matthew Morgan; Blaine Scully, Rey Lee-Lo, Willis Halaholo, Owen Lane, Jarrod Evans, Tomos Williams; Gethin Jenkins (C), Matthew Rees, Scott Andrews, George Earle, Seb Davies, Josh Turnbull, Ellis Jenkins, Nick Williams.

Replacements: Kristian Dacey, Rhys Gill, Dillon Lewis, Ben Murphy, Macauley Cook, Lloyd Williams, Steve Shingler, Garyn Smith.

Ulster Rugby: Charles Piutau, Craig Gilroy, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale, Jonny McPhillips, John Cooney, Andrew Warwick, Rob Herring, Wiehann Herbst, Alan O’Connor (C), Kieran Treadwell, Iain Henderson, Clive Ross, Nick Timoney.

Replacements: John Andrew, Callum Black, Ross Kane, Matthew Dalton, Matthew Rea, David Shanahan, Peter Nelson, Louis Ludik.

Referee: Mike Adamson (SRU)

Assistant referees: Sam Grove-White, Dunx McClement (both SRU)

Citing Commissioner: John Charles (WRU) TMO: Andrew McMenemy (SRU)

TV: Live on Sky Sports

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start from just €35 for adults and €10 for children, and can be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie

Historical Lineup Pre Opta (sfms data) - Preview - v2

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Match Data WP: 140

Match Page 2017-18 - Timeline WP:139

Evans stars as Blues make it five in a row

Charlie Talbot-Smith 24 Mar 2018

Jarrod Evans scored a try and pulled the strings in impressive fashion as the in-form Cardiff Blues kept their Guinness PRO14 Final series aspirations alive and put a huge dent in Ulster’s at the same time.

Evans scored the first of the Blues’ four tries, Blaine Scully and Kristian Dacey also going over before Dillon Lewis’ last-gasp effort secured the bonus point as they closed the gap to the Cheetahs, third in Conference A, to only five points.

Meanwhile Ulster – who are fourth in Conference B – had John Cooney kick four penalties before a late Dave Shanahan consolation.

The Irish province are now 13 points behind Edinburgh in third and looking over their shoulder at Benetton just a point behind them in fifth.

The Blues meanwhile have won five in a row for the first time since the 2009/10 season and signed off in their final regular season home game in fine style before a crucial trip to Bloemfontein next up.

The visitors – with Iain Henderson and Jacob Stockdale both straight back into provincial action – have only lost one of their last six meetings with the Blues.

But they struggled from the outset against the in-form hosts, Evans ghosting over under the posts for the first try inside five minutes and adding the extras himself for a 7-0 lead.

Cooney replied with a penalty but the Blues attack was clicking and Matthew Morgan and Tomos Williams combined to release Scully down the right and the American stepped back inside to go over for their second.

Already chasing the game, Ulster then turned down two kickable penalties to go to the corner but the Blues held firm.

And things got worse for the visitors when Wiehan Herbst saw yellow for a swinging arm at a clearout before the half-hour mark and the Blues thought they had a third when Tomos Williams went over.

But the try was ruled out for a forward pass and before the interval Cooney slotted a second penalty to give Ulster hope.

However, the Irish province could not get the ball off the field before half time and the Blues won a penalty that Evans slotted to make it 17-6 at the break.

The Irish province needed the first score of the second period to get them back in the game and it was the right foot of Cooney that again provided it with a long-range penalty to trim the lead to eight points.

And another soon after from the unerring boot of Cooney made it 17-12 as the hour mark came and went.

But after 16 phases in the Ulster half, that man Evans released Dacey for their third try to put the game to bed.

Evans’ right boot extended the lead further before the Blues then turned their attention to a bonus point.

And while Ulster replacement Shanahan went over for the visitors, there was still time for the Blues to claim what could be a vital fourth when Evans fed replacement prop Lewis to crash over.

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start from just €35 for adults and €10 for children, and can be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie

Match Page 2017-18 - Summary WP:137

Match Page 2017-18 - Match Data WP: 140

Match Page 2017-18 - Timeline WP:139

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Performance WP:138