One Giant stumbles as David emerges triumphant and one dragon emerges from a tough arm wrestle.
Cardiff Blues vs Ospreys
The Ospreys came to the Principality looking to continue their quest to get a top 2 spot in the Guinness Pro 12 to guarantee themselves a home semi final place. Cardiff Blues, treating the occasion as a home game (with Cardiff Arms Park next door to the Principality) were in search of a win to try and get themselves a top six position to play in the European Champions Cup competition next season. Injuries affected the starting line up for both sides as Dan Biggar had not recovered from his concussion incident against Leinster and Alan Wyn-Jones was acting as a water boy, still recovering from the shoulder injury he picked up against France in the 6 Nations. Sam Warburton was also not on the team sheet, as he was starting a six-week recovery programme due to a knee injury he gained during the 24 all draw to Ulster two weeks ago.
The match started brightly for the Cardiff Blues, after a driving maul from a line out six meters out, Kritian Dacey pulled off from the maul and scored in the corner. A moment of controversy happened as Gareth Anscombe kicked his penalty, the touch judges indicated to the referee Andrew Bracey that the conversion was successful. From my own sitting position and in video reviews of the kick, the conversion kick seemed to go across the posts and not through them, much to the disgruntlement of the Osprey fans. The Ospreys through Josh Matevesi and Keelan Giles had chances to score but the final pass did not come off for them on both occasions. However the pressure did eventually tell and the Ospreys scored a penalty through the boot of Sam Davies.
Cardiff Blues went to stun the Ospreys by scoring another two tries, firstly from Lloyd Williams darting around the fringes and Nick Williams crashing over, both tries saw good carrying work from Alex Cuthbert. Cuthbert was then sent to the sin bin for a clumsy tackle on Dan Evans, taking Evans out whilst he was still in the air trying to catch the ball. The Ospreys were not able to capitalize on the man advantage that they had and the
half time score was 21-3 to Cardiff Blues
The second half started with confirmation of the result of the game; Fao Filise powering over to score the Blues bonus point try. The game seemed to be up for the Ospreys and it was reaffirmed moments later. After a knock on from the Ospreys near the halfway line and quick hands from Kristian Dacey, Willis Halaholo then put a grubber kick through which was brilliantly gathered by Gareth Anscombe. The score seemed ominous for the Ospreys, being 35-3 to the Cardiff Blues.
The Ospreys hit back with two tries from Dan Evans and Paul James but it was too late. The Cardiff Blues won the game through the powerful carries by forwards such as Fao Filise, Josh Navidi and Jarred Hoaetta. The Ospreys never really got going, they made un-characteristic mistakes and were sluggish in their attack. Rhys Webb for instance, had moments were he could instigate a passage of play but was often guilty of not getting the ball out of the scrum quick enough. This defeat would prove costly for them as the Scarlets were eventually able to change the fates of both teams.
Cardiff Blues 35-17 Ospreys
Scarlets vs Newport Gwent Dragons
This game turned out to be a much closer affair, with the Dragons stealing a lot of Scarlets possession and the Scarlets constantly kicking the ball which was giving possession back to the Dragons. Newport Gwent Dragons were in the driving seat for the majority of the first half, fly half Angus O’Brien scoring two penalties. The Scarlets were very dangerous in attack with Steffan Evans causing a lot of problems for the Dragons defense. However, the Scarlets were only able to slot one penalty from Daniel Jones in the first half.
The second half started off with Daniel Jones making the scores level for the Scarlets before he was substituted for Hadley Parks, the talisman of the Scarlets. Eventually the Scarlets defense gave way and Jonathon Davies scored after the Scarlets took a scrum near to the posts. Liam Williams took over the kicking duties and the Scarlets started to pull away from the Dragons.
The Scarlets kept pilling the pressure onto the Dragons and eventually this was proven with Liam Williams scoring in the far corner. Williams couldn’t convert his own try and any chance of victory for the Dragons was lost. However, the Dragons did score a consolation score with Adam Hughes scoring underneath the posts in the final minute of the game. The Scarlets seemed to lack the fire power from Scott Williams and Johnathon Davies. The Scarlet forwards were also guilty of not protecting the ball in the ruck with many turnovers being made by the Dragons.
The Dragons will take heart from a gusty performance and the losing bonus point but will be disappointed not get to get a win which was within their grasp. The Scarlets leap-frogged the Ospreys into third place in the Guinness Pro 12. The final few weeks of the regular season shall prove a nervous time for Scarlets and Osprey fans as only 3 points separate themselves and Ulster, all three wanting to be in the top four, with Munster and Leinster pulling away.
Scarlets 21-16 Newport Gwent Dragons
Judgement Day V Overall
A great spectacle overall it had to be said, the Cardiff Blues and the Scarlets coming out as victors. The eager 60,000 fans of all four teams, made Cardiff a buzzing place to be and everyone was in an excitable mood for the matches that were about to take place. Warren Gatland was amongst the watching crowd, he would have been looking out for who will make it into his Lions Squad. These two games were also a chance to impress Robyn McBride as he will be in charge of Wales when they go to play Samoa and Tonga this summer. Players that impressed me were Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), Ollie Griffiths (Newport Gwent Dragons), Steffan Evans (Scarlets) and Justin Tipuric (Ospreys). I do think that this spectacle should continue and I wonder whether it should happen at the beginning of the season as well due to worries about crowd numbers at the regional grounds.