John Mulvihill has lauded his side's heroic defensive effort, as Cardiff Blues' memorable 2018 came to an end with a bonus point victory over Scarlets in Llanelli.
Rey Lee-Lo crossed for two tries at Parc y Scarlets, joining Gareth Anscombe and Lloyd Williams on the scoreboard, as Wales’ Capital Region made it two-from-two in the festive derbies.
The win brought an end to Scarlets’ 26-match home winning streak in the Guinness PRO14, and Mulvihill was also left encouraged by his players’ contribution in attack.
“The team that got two scores ahead tonight were always going to go on to win that game, because the conditions were really tough out there,” said the head coach.
“We knew that if we put Scarlets under a bit of pressure that they’d have to force the game to try to score.
“The last two tries came out of the defence we had in the first half and the pressure we put on them, so they did chase the game and threw two error passes.
“We’d worked on that all week, and they’re a team that do move the ball and they’re the highest in the PRO14 for offloads. We set the trap and they went into it.
“There was stages when they held onto the ball for 36 phases, and also 28, 26 and 18 phases, so they held the ball for long periods of time but they didn’t go anywhere.
“That will sap you as a team and you’d lose a bit of confidence. They’re a team capable of doing 70 meters on the field but tonight they were very tight with one-off runners.
“If you want to run straight at a Cardiff Blues player, they’ll accommodate you with a shoulder and that’s what happened tonight.
“We were pretty good with the ball, and there will always be things you can work on. Two of our tries came without the ball so we were really happy with the defence.
“We had a nice break and interplay with Blaine [Scully] from Lloyd [Williams], who was picked tonight for his kicking game but he was really sharp with the ball, which was great.
“The second try came from really good footwork from a midfield scrum, which was hard to defend. We got to the edge and had too much speed. That’s something we’ve been quite good at this year.
“For us, it’s about having a consistent message of putting the first phase and the second and third together to give us a bit of momentum going forward.”
With five points in the bag, Cardiff Blues remain in the hunt for a place in the Heineken Champions Cup next year, as they look to narrow the gap on Munster, Connacht and Ospreys.
Mulvihill believes the extra point could prove crucial as his side prepare for another tough derby encounter against Allan Clarke’s Ospreys at Liberty Stadium next week.
The head coach said: “The significance of picking up the five points, rather than four, is massive in the context of the whole season.
“Connacht are sailing away at the moment, as are the Ospreys, who are doing really well.
“This keeps us in the mix and keeps it interesting. We will face those teams twice over the next few months so we had to win tonight to keep in touch.
“If you had said we’d win with a bonus point beforehand, I’d have said you were away with the fairies, but for us, to get that five is brilliant.
“Ospreys have kicked the most in the Championship, compared to tonight where we faced the team who have kicked the least.
“Last week, Scarlets got pulled into the Ospreys game and they beat them with experience.
“It’s important for us that our plan marries up with with them giving us the ball, and what we do with it.
“It’s important that we hang on to the ball a little bit longer than we did tonight in certain areas of the field.”