By James Skeldon
Cardiff Blues ended their era as regional originals with Dai Young admitting to the same feeling their fans have often suffered in the past 18 years – frustration.
Their last match of the season was also their final one under the identifiable banner as the Blues, a name they have worn with varying degrees of comfort since 2003.
From next season, the Blues will be no more and the team in the capital will be rebranded as Cardiff Rugby – name that is as much a wistful look back to the past as it is a bold stride into the future.
They finished their Rainbow Cup campaign with a convincing 37-12 win against an ill-disciplined Zebre team.
Tries from Gwilym Bradley, James Botham, Dan Fish and Harri Millard secured the win. Whilst the score is more indicative of a fast, free-flowing encounter, the match lacked momentum with the TMO being used on a various occasions.
Zebre’s poor discipline cost them three yellow cards for repeated infringements as well as a red card for a dangerous shoulder to the head from replacement lock, Cristian Stoian.
Head coach Young, was pleased but also frustrated with his team’s performance.
Game, season and name done!
We say goodbye to Cardiff Blues and come back next year as @Cardiff_Rugby
Thanks to all the players who turned out to represent our Cardiff Blues this season
You did us proud, as always
See you in 🔵⚫ @ArmsParkCardiff next season#strengthinunity
— Cardiff Rugby SC (@CardiffBluesSC) June 5, 2021
“It was a messy game,” he said.
“I think before the game you would have settled for that score, but very messy, very stop start and lacked momentum.
“There were some good things from us.”
The controversial Captain’s Challenge – a trial laws introduced in the Pro14 Rainbow Cup – was used regularly throughout the game and Young is not a fan.
“It’s not for me,” said the former Wales and Lions prop.
“It’s only a personal opinion but I don’t see what it’s bringing to the game. It’s just slowing the game down and it gets very tit-for-tat. It’s not something I’m in favour of.”
Young’s frustration with the Captain’s Challenge is understandable as its continued used throughout the game halted any momentum in a stop-start match.
Young is still in pursuit of complete 80-minute performance from his team.
End of an era tonight. The Cardiff Blues are no more. Can’t wait to get back here next season 🙌🏼🙌🏼@Cardiff_Rugby #CBLvZEB pic.twitter.com/gIhGy1nZQi
— Chris Czeks (@czeksyboy) June 5, 2021
The Blues started strongly with a ruthless opening half hour with three quick fire tries yet were not able to keep their foot on the gas. Despite being 22 points up, they did not score again until deep into the second half.
Young explained: “I think since I’ve been here, we haven’t been able to put an 80-minute performance together.
“Our execution and concentration levels and fitness levels aren’t as good as how we’d like them to be.
“There’s quite a few things to improve but we’re certainly nowhere near that 80-minute performance.”
Looking ahead to next season, Young is very optimistic and sees it as an opportunity to really put his stamp on the squad.
“I’m really looking forward to next season,” he added.
“I came in late this season, there wasn’t really many opportunities to change the things I wanted to change.
“I’d like to think next season, I can make it my environment.”
TRYYYYYY! @GwilymBradley over for his first in Cardiff colours! pic.twitter.com/SZrzED4dq5
— Cardiff Blues (@Cardiff_Rugby) June 5, 2021
A return to relative normality also excited Young and the potential for full capacity crowds.
“I think if it was ever doubted it’s certainly been confirmed now how much the crowds add to game, add to the atmosphere, add to the excitement.
“None of us can wait to get the crowds back.”
As the Wales squad announcement is looming, Young backs various players to get the nod.
“Our two looseheads have put their hands up.
“I’d be disappointed if Seb (Davies) isn’t involved.
“Jim (Botham) will probably be there.
It’s been fun, Cardiff Blues.
On to Cardiff Rugby 🔵⚫️
— Cardiff Rugby Life (@CardiffRugbyWeb) June 5, 2021
“Josh Turnbull, how he hasn’t featured has been a bit of a mystery to me.
“We’ve got a number of players that are there or thereabouts.”
Try scorer Bradley, was satisfied with his performance in a solid showing from the 20-year-old flanker.
“With the depth in the back row, there’s a lot to learn,” he said.
“Playing with those boys is a really good experience and helps me to improve.
“I think Dai’s building something very exciting and I’m pleased to be a part of it.
“We’ll reflect on this game and reflect on the entire season and come back in the new season stronger.
“Playing with Jim and JT helps you improve.”
“It’s been a great season for me personally and hopefully with pre-season, we can try to keep getting better and come back next year.”