With Cardiff setting their sights back to European competition this weekend, Matt Sherratt believes a change of focus will benefit the Blue and Blacks, following three fully-blooded Welsh derbies.
Dai Young’s side took seven points from their hotly contested festive derbies, with all three matches going down to the wire.
After securing maximum points from the first two outings, assistant coach Sherratt, who was a member of the backroom team that lifted the Challenge Cup in Bilbao in 2018, is excited for the challenge ahead as Cardiff aim to secure a home tie in the last 16.
“We’ve got a good record in the Challenge Cup and the win in 2018 was obviously a massive highlight for the club,” said Sherratt.
“Coming off the back of three derbies, it is nice to have a change of fixture, playing against an English Premiership team and then obviously away to Brive next week.
“You go from the very familiar - in terms of preparing against Scarlets, Ospreys and Dragons, where all the players know each other and have played with and against each other on numerous occasions - to playing against teams in venues and competitions that you’re not up against often.
“It’s a real good way to freshen up after the derbies. I really enjoy the competition.
“There’s two trophies you can win each year, which are the league and whichever other cup competition you’re in.
“The Challenge Cup at the moment, in all reality, is one that gives a lot of chances for clubs to get some silverware and we’ll be going for two wins over the next two weeks, which should give us a home last 16, which is massively important.
“If we get a home draw in the last 16 or quarter final, we’ve got a team that can beat anyone. So it’s really important to us.”
Cardiff strolled to a comfortable win over Newcastle at Kingston Park in December, on their way to maximum points which took them to top spot in Pool A.
However, Sherratt is fully prepared to take on a Newcastle outfit with a point to prove, and expects a difficult task on Sunday: “I think Newcastle will be a stronger than they were in December. I saw Dave Walder’s interview after they beat Leicester and they were disappointed after our game away from home.
“If I’m honest, I expected them to be a lot stronger than they were. They had some injury problems at the time and there were some young lads getting their first run out for Newcastle.
“They’re a good club, they’re well coaches and they’ve got really good players. So it will be a better Newcastle team coming to the Arms Park on Sunday, that’s for sure.
“He alluded to going a little bit stronger, and while I don’t think it will be the same team that player Leicester, it should be a mixture of youth and experience.”
Reflecting on the three derby matches, Sherratt added: “First, we had three pretty good derbies, so I think there’s a lot to be cheerful about in terms of Welsh rugby at home. I think they’ve been three pretty fiery derbies, played in the right way and hopefully they’ve been enjoyable to watch.
“We didn’t get what we wanted out of it. Obviously we got seven points over the three games.
“We had a great bonus point win in the last play of the game against Dragons, but obviously you never like to lose at home.
“If I’m honest, the weather dictated the game against the Ospreys a little bit and it probably brought their strength into the game more than we’d hoped. We wanted to play with tempo and have quite a high ball-in-play in that game, and that didn’t happen.
“Probably the one that stings, if I’m being brutally honest, was the Scarlets game. We left ourselves a mountain to climb. We were 19 to 3 down after 35 minutes and we gave away a couple of kicks to Leigh Halfpenny in the second half, which proved to be a couple of scores too many.
“But if we look at it on paper, it was seven points, we were really competitive in all of them and they could have probably all gone either way. It was just very disappointing to come on the wrong side of the last two.
“All-in-all we’ve had a 10 game block, ranging from South Africa to Leinster in a couple of weeks, and we’ve been ticking along quite nicely.
“We’ve very competitive, staying within a score and I’m sure in weeks to come those scores will go our way.”
Cardiff now turn attention back to the European Challenge Cup, where they sit top of Pool A, ahead of next week’s visit of Newcastle. The Falcons arrive at the Arms Park on Sunday (1pm) with tickets available now. Click here to get yours today.