Match Preview: Cardiff Blues
After defeat in last weekend’s 2019/20 Guinness PRO14 home opener, Glasgow Warriors will be looking to bounce back in style on Saturday night as they welcome Cardiff Blues to Scotstoun.
A stirring late fightback eventually came up just short against the Scarlets, with tries from Stafford McDowall’s try and 16 points from Brandon Thomson ultimately in vain.
Dave Rennie’s men will now be focusing on securing the victory against their counterparts from the Welsh capital, who also slipped to a home defeat – against Edinburgh - last weekend.
Yet the Warriors are all too aware of the threats posed by the Blues, having squared off against John Mulvihill’s side on four occasions last season.
Here’s what to expect ahead of Saturday night’s encounter.
Cardiff Blues form guide
It’s been a mixed start to the season for the Blues, who sit fifth in Conference B with one win and one loss from their two matches so far this campaign.
A bonus-point 31-27 win over the Isuzu Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth saw them return from South Africa in the best possible form, with Harri Millard’s late try securing the result for the Blues.
However, they were left empty-handed upon their return to Cardiff Arms Park, as a Mark Bennett try and the boot of Jaco van der Walt saw Edinburgh emerge with a 19-11 victory over their hosts last weekend.
There were a few notable departures from the Arms Park upon the conclusion of the 2018/19 Guinness PRO14 season, including a quartet of Welsh internationals.
The recognisable figure of Matthew Rees hung up his boots for the final time as he retired from professional rugby, whilst Welsh fly-half Gareth Anscombe made the switch to regional rivals the Ospreys.
Experienced winger Tom James also switched to a cross-country foe by agreeing a deal with the Scarlets, with young prop Rhys Carre departing for Gallagher Premiership champions Saracens.
USA captain Blaine Scully was amongst a handful of further squad players to bid farewell to the Blues, along with second-row George Earle and scrum-half Dane Blacker.
The Blues certainly won’t be lacking in firepower this season, following the arrivals of two of Wales’ most potent finishers.
Josh Adams will arrive in Cardiff following the Rugby World Cup after agreeing a deal to join the club from Worcester Warriors, with Hallam Amos also winging his way to the club from Dragons.
Up front, added ball-carrying nous will be provided by Rory Thornton and Will Boyde, who made the switch from Ospreys and Scarlets respectively.
Ones to watch
One of the most exciting runners in the Guinness PRO14, Matthew Morgan is capable of springing an attack from anywhere on the pitch. Despite his diminutive stature, the full-back – who can also play at fly-half – has the pace and footwork to trouble the best defences in Europe.
Morgan’s back-three counterpart Owen Lane is fast developing into one of the most capable finishers in the competition. Averaging just under a try every other game in Blues colours, the winger made his senior Wales debut in the 2019 Rugby World Cup warm-up match against Ireland in August.
He might be one of the elder statesmen of a youthful Blues squad, but the ball-carrying prowess of Nick Williams shows no signs of abating with age. The 36-year-old, who has also enjoyed spells with Munster, Ulster and Aironi during his career, offers a major impact in both attack and defence.
The Warriors and the Blues got to know each other extremely well during the 2018/19 season, with four matches between the two sides in both domestic and European competition.
It was Rennie’s men that did the double over the Blues in the Guinness PRO14, including a Niko Matawalu-inspired 40-15 win at Scotstoun in round nine last season.
A ten-try thriller in the reverse fixture eventually saw Glasgow come out on top at the Arms Park in round 15, as Aled Summerhill’s hat-trick for the hosts came in vain thanks to Tevita Tameilau’s memorable score.
It was a similar story in the Heineken Champions Cup, as the Warriors emerged victorious from both meetings between the sides.
A lightning start from Glasgow laid the foundations for a 29-12 win in Cardiff, with Adam Hastings and DTH van der Merwe scoring within the first four minutes to set up a bonus-point win.
A sold-out Scotstoun then roared their side to victory in a pulsating match back in January, as George Horne’s late try secured a 33-24 victory for the home side.
Sean Gallagher will be the man in the middle this weekend, as the Irishman referees his 16th match in the competition.
Ben Blain and Johnny Erskine will be his assistants, with Brian MacNeice serving as TMO.
Tickets are still available for this weekend’s match – secure your seat at Scotstoun here.