Dai Young was pleased with how the playmaking duo of Jarrod Evans and Ben Thomas allowed Cardiff Blues to play an exciting, expansive brand of rugby in their Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup win over Scarlets on Saturday.
With Max Llewellyn ruled out of the encounter with a shoulder injury, a reshuffle in midfield saw Thomas lining up in the number 12 jersey, linking up with Welsh international Evans as part of a playmaking 10-12 axis.
Both Thomas and Evans played key roles in Cardiff’s three first half tries, with Guinness Player of the Match, Evans, dotting down for the opener while both contributed heavily to the build up of Cory Hill and Hallam Amos’ scores.
Young is excited at the options he has along his backline and is looking forward to seeing how youngster Thomas kicks on in the coming months as he gains more matchday experience.
“It worked really well today. You’ve got to go forward somewhere, but you’ve got two ball players there who have individual threat when carrying the ball and distribution,” said the former British and Irish Lion.
“However, they might not carry the physical element that you see in some 10-12 partnerships, so you need to bring that physical presence from somewhere else.
“Jason Harries came off the wing a lot today to get us over the gain line and that, in addition to big carries from the forwards, got us on the front foot in order to give Jarrod and Ben an opportunity to take the ball wide.
“I was very pleased with how that partnership went for us today.
“Ben is a quality player who certainly has an x factor. He has the ability to play in a number of positions.
“I get that no-one wants to be a jack of all trades, but the important thing for Ben is to be playing regular rugby at this moment in time.
“When he gets game time he needs to be taking his opportunities, whether that’s at full back, centre or outside half.
“But he’s also got a lot of competition when you look at Rhys [Priestland] coming in at 10 alongside Jarrod, Willis and Max who have done really well at 12 and Hallam Amos and Nipper at 15.
“You want that type of competition within your squad, but I’ve been really pleased and impressed with Ben. He’s slotted into any position we’ve put him in and he sees himself as a 10 or 12, probably more than a full back.
“However, he’s more than capable of playing in either of the three positions.
“I pulled his leg in the changing room that he’d be playing scrum half next week, but the reality is that he’s just happy to have game-time and be out on the field.”
Another stand-out player at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday was James Ratti, the lock who has been tested at number eight during the Rainbow Cup campaign.
His strong ball-carrying ability set the platform for Cardiff Blues to attack, and a half break in the early stages of the second half led to Josh Turnbull crossing the whitewash for the bonus point try.
Former Cardiff prop, Young, has been delighted with how Ratti has adapted to his new position, with promising displays making him a realistic option at the base of the scrum.
The director of rugby added: “We’re looking at James playing in a different position rather than out of position. We know he can play at second row, but one of his strengths is his ball carrying.
“People have identified that one of the things we’ve missed is a big ball-carrying number eight, and that we’ve probably not replaced Nick Williams.
“I believe Ratti can do that job for us, and he’s demonstrated that in the games that he’s played.
“He’s more than capable of doing that and in the summer he’ll probably change his training direction a little bit.
“He’s really starting to put his hand up in showing that he’s a quality eight and a ball carrier that, perhaps, we’ve been missing over the last season or so.”
While there were plenty of promise in attack on Saturday, it was a piece of defensive play that really stood out for Young, with wing Jason Harries charging down a Leigh Halfpenny conversion.
The former Wales Sevens star’s actions proved vital as Cardiff came away with a one-point victory, and the director of rugby insists moments of effort are just as important as moments of talent.
Young explained: “As I said in the changing room after the game, there were a lot of good stuff played by both teams but one thing that didn’t require talent was an outstanding bit of work by Jason to charge that kick down.
“That work rate, effort and thought process can be the difference between winning and losing at the end of the day.
“You don’t see charge downs like that too often, and it does help that he’s six foot five, but it was about having the thought process and work rate to do it.
“Those little things that don’t require talent are so important in a game and that’s won us the game today.”