by James Lloyd
Alun-Wyn Davies praised his Cardiff men’s first team players after they returned to winning ways with a hard-fought 13-5 victory away against University of South Wales (USW) at Trefforest last Wednesday.
Harry Lang’s first-half try and eight points from the boot of fresher fly-half Conor Graney secured the win for Cardiff as they recovered from their 10-8 defeat to rivals Swansea on the 9th November.
And Davies was pleased that his side came out on top in a dogged affair marred by a typical Welsh downpour. He said: “It was tough conditions today, I think in the nature of the game and the strategy we went in with we executed quite well.
“We highlighted this game as a potential banana skin, but like the Swansea game defensively we were fantastic, scrums again we were dominant and again we should have had a lot of reward from that, it’s a step in the right direction in what we say in learning to win.”
The Head of Rugby gave his weekly metaphoric assessment of the team, adding: “A wounded animal is always a dangerous thing. That’s something we looked at today and wanted to emphasise, I think the guys reacted really well, I asked for a reaction and we got it with a win.
“I think the whole scrum was good. It was difficult for anyone to express themselves in those conditions. I thought Connor Graney for his first start back from the freshers’ played very well and controlled the game well with the territory. He kicked well and Harry Lang had a great finish in the corner. It was nice to score one of our tries through expansion and going wide, that’s a testament really to the players.”
After the disappointing loss to Swansea in their previous game, Davies highlighted the importance of the win. “I had a lot of peeved off players last week”, he said. “I’ve watched the game a few times and I still haven’t got any answers to it really. I think it was one of those things, but we put it behind us quite quickly in the review meeting and we concentrated on today, and the reaction we got, I couldn’t ask for much more, it’s a win in tough conditions away at USW. To me that’s fantastic.”
Cardiff started the game brightly and were able to steal three USW lineouts, courtesy of lock Ben Egan. But, when the Pontypool new-boy departed with concussion, penalties came thick and fast as the men in red conceded five in a ten-minute spell.
Graney soon began pulling the strings as Cardiff etched into UWE’s half 15 minutes into the game.
The young 10 saw a penalty skim off the uprights but minutes later his team made the breakthrough.
Owen Clement pounced on a loose ball after a scrum, as the ball quickly recycled its way through the backs, eventually finding Lang who crossed over in the corner. Graney impressively kicked the conversion from out wide and minutes later slotted a penalty to give Cardiff a 10-0 advantage.
A mix of mud and questionable refereeing decisions hampered the progress of both teams, as the game hit a lull.
USW scored a try in the corner for their only points of the afternoon, but after that it stayed cagey. Graney added another penalty midway through to put Cardiff ahead by two scores and that advantage was rarely in danger.
Cardiff did come knocking but were eventually halted by the referee’s whistle after an infringement at the scrum.
Replacement Josh Reed was sent to the bin ten minutes from time to set up a nervy finale, but USW met a red brick wall who valiantly held firm after a number of phases to close the game out.
CARDIFF PLAYER RATINGS:
Cardiff: O Williams 6; H Lang 7, H Griffiths 6, H Parks 6, S Jack 6, C Graney 7, O Clement 6; N Ibister 7, J Haines 6, A Rees 8, J McGrath (c) 6, B Egan 5, O Hitchings 8, A Hughes 6, C Williams 7
Man of the Match:
Aled Rees (Cardiff – Prop)