Cardiff Academy’s cheerful bunch of superstars, semi-pros and boys gave Welsh rugby something to smile about – Ben James
Two Champions Cup and Cardiff matches are based on zero points with a points difference of -58.
Had they lost the clashes to Toulouse and Harlequins, as they could easily have had with 42 players unavailable after their South African nightmare, they would actually have two points better in the point difference column.
That Cardiff, alone in the pool, would have been better off not showing up is a stark reminder that sport isn’t always fair.
Considering the work that goes into just taking a team out in a blue jersey on consecutive weekends, it’s almost inconceivable that, in the most basic terms, they’ll find themselves in a worse position than if they hadn’t put in the effort. in.
But, of course, they don’t. The rewards Cardiff has extracted over the course of a few remarkable weeks far exceed anything that could be quantified by a crude table.
Last week’s clash with Toulouse was largely a matter of emotion handling the debates, as captain Ellis Jenkins – one of the few internationals among the mix-and-match side of semi -pro and academic – while the trip to Twickenham Stoop to take on the Harlequins was to back up that initial adrenaline rush with something more.
Remarkably, they did, and then some, for the better part of an hour – facing off against the Premiership title holders in a performance that wasn’t hampered by the element of fear.
The end result was a performance that offered the Blues and Blacks so much beyond the final score – both in tangible and intangible terms.
When Cardiff dropped the Blues nickname this summer it seemed like the start of a new dawn for a club trying to regain the spirit of its past.
If so, then the past two weeks – when the club came together under the most difficult circumstances – could have done more for this new era than any name change – or whatever. other – could never have done it.
For all the points they finally conceded to the European Champions last week and then the English Champions this week, they more than won in defining exactly what culture should be like at Arms Park.
And two Saturday afternoon clashes live on terrestrial television helped spread that gospel to a wider audience as they became the second favorite team for rugby watchers across Europe. If they weren’t playing against your team, you wanted them to be successful.
By far, the Dan Fish Chapel has gained more followers in the past seven days or so than the parish previously boasted.
The man who can’t quite retire has made fans of everyone who has watched him.
Such was his performance at the opening, Fish was in the top 10 Twitter trends in the UK – which isn’t much of a bad achievement considering everything that’s happening on these islands right now – while David Flatman was one of many on social media to wonder if his decision to hang up the boots might have been a bit hasty.
It wasn’t the only performance that captured attention.
James Botham once again shone superlatively – with his dominant tackle over Alex Dombrandt Gifed and shared long before the final whistle, while Willis Halaholo and Rey Lee-Lo proved once again why they are a combination of irresistible center.
Sam Moore, who has been unlucky with injuries since moving to Cardiff, put in a remarkable performance after replacing unavailable Olly Robinson – the latest in a long line of players who stepped up when it mattered.
A word also for the front-line resources torn from their daily work.
Another day, Rowan Jenkins, Evan Yardley, and Geraint James can be found as a club gardener, grade school teacher, and quantity surveyor.
However, they didn’t seem out of place at the Stoop – another fairy tale stacked on top of the many others to warm the hulls even more.
Then there were the young gunmen who tried their luck with both hands.
Theo Cabango found it hard to believe the fine solo attempt he had scored. If anything, those watching were probably less surprised than the 19-year-old, that was how the academy product had embraced senior rugby in those two games.
Jacob Beetham impressed last week at the back, but when he missed the trip due to suspension, younger Cameron Winnett stepped in and narrowly missed a beat.
A few minutes after his senior debut, he was crossing for the first down. Those who caught him in action for the Under-18 squad against the Dragons in June might not have expected such a rapid rise in the first-team, but he didn’t seem at all impressed.
Finally, the way Cardiff performed – embracing the chaos, supporting their skills and putting on a show, was refreshing in itself.
When Young’s charges return, they may well find that, especially with the perennial issues they tend to have in terms of a chunky second row, it might be worth looking into those ideals.
Above all, the general feel-good factor, as casual and cliché as it might sound, was reward enough.
Welsh rugby is not often a place of joy.
For the regions, they have often had little reason to smile over the past two years.
More often than not, they must want to bang their heads against a brick wall.
The obstacles placed in front of them by the Welsh Rugby Union have limited what they have been able to accomplish in recent years.
During the pandemic, decisions by the Welsh Rugby Union to spend the £ 51million of CVC’s investment in Six Nations on investment projects such as the Westgate Street hotel did not go well.
While the decision to place the burden of repaying a £ 20million loan to cover their own payments for services to the four Welsh parties on the regions themselves remains baffling – effectively penalizing the regions for bragging about Welsh international.
Of course, these issues will still be there for the days, weeks and months to come. Goodwill alone, as much as Cardiff has amassed, will not solve them at all.
In fact, for everything they did under difficult circumstances, it would be even more of a slap in the face if the issues couldn’t be resolved.
However, for now at least, Cardiff and Welsh rugby as a whole may bring a bit of a smile to a remarkable few weeks.
For the second week in a row, the Arms Park team was the darling of European rugby. It is worth at least something.