Danny Wilson insists his Cardiff Blues will battle to the end in their quest for a Guinness Pro14 play-off place – despite a shattering late defeat in South Africa.
The Blues coach spoke of his pride in seeing his players almost defy the odds before a last gasp penalty try saw them slip to a 29-27 defeat to the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
It followed a nightmare 55-hour journey that followed numerous flight delays and cancellations.
The Blues’ hopes of making the Pro14 play-offs look slim but the losing bonus point keeps them on track to earn qualification for next season’s European Champions Cup, likely to be at the expense of the Ospreys.
Wilson said: “To be brutally honest I don’t think it was one of our better first half performances but it was very understanding considering what the players have gone through in the last three or four days.
“It’s extremely tough that we’ve come here and had to play the game after what we’ve had to deal with. We have had one training session this week and in the first half it looked like that.
“The boys haven’t been able to get out and even have the chance to run since travelling so I am extremely proud of the second-half performance, I thought they were outstanding and to find the energy, that level of work ethic after what they have gone through is a huge credit to them and I’m extremely proud to be involved.
“In the first-half we lacked a bit of energy, we looked heavy legged and we were losing races to contact areas on both sides of the ball, our line-out wasn’t functioning in the first-half which isn’t like us so we looked rusty and needed to get back our composure.
“We focused on the first three phases after set-piece both in attack and defence and when we got that right we looked far better.
“It’s a tough day, a tough loss but all I can say is I’m extremely proud of the effort.”
With two games remaining, the Blues are still eight points ahead of the Ospreys and face the Southern Kings next.
Wilson added: “We need to qualify for the champions Cup, there’s still games for us to win and there’s still games for the Cheetahs to possibly lose.
“We all knew the importance of today in terms of staying in touch with the play-offs but we still have a huge amount to play for and a semi-final in the European Challenge Cup, which is also extremely high on our agenda.”
The Blues put in a gutsy performance which very nearly yielded a famous victory. But a brace of tries each from Sibhale Maxane and Francois Venter and a last-minute penalty try was enough to secure the Cheetahs the win.
Danny Wilson’s side scored tries courtesy of Owen Lane, Willis Halaholo and Ray Lee-Lo in a spirited second-half fightback.