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Boss praise for intensity in league opener

8th September 2014

Director of Rugby Mark Hammett praised the intensity produced by his Cardiff Blues in energy sapping conditions as they launched the new Guinness PRO12 season with a bonus point 41-26 win over Zebre in Italy.

Blues and Zebre served an eight-try encounter that ebbed and flowed throughout as temperatures at Stadio XV Aprile boiled over 30 degrees.

First half tries from man-of-the-match Rhys Patchell – who finished with 21 points - and Lloyd Williams saw Blues take control before Zebre roared back to snatch the lead early in the second period.

However, Blues were not to be denied on day one and further clinical scores from Alex Cuthbert, Dan Fish and Kristian Dacey ensured maximum points and much for Hammer to contemplate.

“I was happy with the intensity and the way we tried to play,” he said. “We went out there in 30 degrees plus and felt we had to hold a little bit back to get through this game. But at half-time the boys looked really, really fresh. It was about backing our fitness and playing with intensity.

“The boys did that in the second half. We made some replacements early to give the intensity a bit of a kick, those boys performed well for us. After that we started to create some good ball.

“We didn’t help ourselves in the first half with our exit play and indiscipline and those little things we need to get on top of because otherwise it will cost us.

“But full points away from home, against a team that will trip teams over, is a good start.

“We are way, way from where we want to be, but in terms of effort, clarity and homework leading into the game, I’m happy with the team.”

Blues now face Glasgow Warriors in the first league game of the season at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park on Sunday (kick-off 4pm) and Hammer is keen for his team to kick on again.

“In the first half we got in some good positions and turned a couple of lineouts over. We didn’t quite build what we needed and we spilled a little,” he said.

“It was hard in those conditions, it was like playing in wet weather, but if we play in those conditions again we need to understand about ball security and making sure we do secure it. 

“It depends what you focus on when you look at that performance as to how well we did,” he added. “If you talk about the clean out area, I thought we were eight out of ten. If you talk about some of our commitment, again we were high, but if you look at some of our patterns in the first half we weren’t quite there.

“You have got to be careful about putting a figure on it. There were some things that were good and there were some that weren’t good. It’s a start and we will get better.”