Cardiff

23 January, 1999

Cardiff Arms Park

Wasps
referee
Dave Price
scorers
Leigh Davies (1)
Lee Jarvis (2)
Lee Jarvis (1)

This wrestle in the mud was a game which only the die hard rugby fan could enjoy. It was truly a bruising contest with two evenly matched teams slugging it out, with perhaps Cardiff only winning because they wanted to a little bit more. The game was never going to be a classic. Those who saw Wasps play at Loftus Road and win last month know that they play percentage, tactical-kicking based rugby. Their pitch is narrow and the game plan is about winning, with little room for flair. But once more, Cardiff's performance also left no room for flair with big forward battles and no evidence of working to make room for Sullivan and Morgan. When will see Cardiff playing more open rugby, regardless of the tactics of the opponents?

Well, the answer to that questions lies in the composition of our back row. Since the injury to Gwyn Jones we have lacked an open side who can move the ball quickly from the tackle point. Dan the man showed signs of being able to do so earlier in the season, but he too was getting sucked into crash bang wallop rugby before his injury.

Time after time, first phase ball was taken into a tackle only for our back row to hang around at outside centre rather than winning the ball on the floor. The result was a tedious, stop-start affair. Sure Terrance and Peter Manning there were too many turnovers - but what do you expect when there's no player to win the ball at the tackle point? The Wasps no. 7 (who was the real Man of the Match and must have thought that Xmas had come round again) pinched the ball with ease. Boy do we need to sign some new back row players! Inability to recycle the ball is making our game plan one dimensional and the present players look jaded and tired!

In his defence of our open side, he received very little support from his colleagues who were equally anonymous. Anyone that has played the number of games Oh!why?n has this season is well overdue a rest - take a month off and come back the player you were 5 years ago!

The inevitability of a lack of fast second phase ball was quickly recognised by Howley and Jarvis and rather than ship on bad ball they played "cup" rugby and kicked for the open spaces. This negative style is disappointing your supporters Cardiff - please Mr Thomas, get your cheque book out! We've lost the chance of signing Junior Parrimore, but we're getting desperate for some running rugby! The total failure that was Sullivan's brief visit to Cardiff was more than partly caused by a game plan failure brought on by personnel problems in the back row.

But we have Gareth "gut-bucket" Rees to thank for our victory. Hesitation near his line and his inability to outpace our slimmer second rows, resulted in a (turnover) scrum for Cardiff. The tried and trusted blind side charge by Hall again resulted in a try.

On a day when invention and flair was mostly vacant, that was the only try Wasps conceded. Their game plan is based on a bruising defence - far superior to anything in Welsh domestic rugby. Time after time they had a spare man covering any space which appeared, frustrating both the crowd and the Cardiff players. The cross field backing by the time was a lesson in how to frustrate teams. After a battering in both halves like that, all Welsh teams would have conceded many more tries. However, the level of professionalism we have seen all year is the difference between the Allied unbarred and the sponsor-less Welsh debacle. It is this which is helping our National team.

Grinding out wins against tough opposition like Wasps is what professionalism is all about, and is the difference between finishing mid-table and in the top three.

15
Craig Morgan
6
/10
looks like a winger playing full back, lacking in defensive confidence. Rarely takes a high ball and clearance kicking needs more work. Some training from Mikey is necessary.
14
Anthony Sullivan
3
/10
totally shown up in this game. Poor defensive alignment, did not join his centres when the ball pinched from line outs, lack of knowledge of the rules when not allowing the player to regain his feet following a diving save. Perhaps we can all come back down to earth now that he has gone back. In the end the team was playing to try to give him the ball, regardless of its quality.
13
Mike Hall
12
Leigh Davies
6
/10
better at outside centre than Mike Hall. An excellent couple of clear breaks and some good half breaks - but where was the back row on his shoulder to make use of the quick ball?
11
Liam Botham
7
/10
busy, as always, constantly looking after his full back.
10
Lee Jarvis
8
/10
never shipped on bad ball, took control of the game. Positional kicking was adequate, and drop goals were intelligent.
9
Robert Howley
8
/10
as Jarvis. Reluctant to make a break on his own as he lacked support.
8
Greg Kacala
5
/10
for God sake pass the ball once in a while. Is becoming a martyr . . . .
7
Owain Williams
1
/10
Where were the big tide-turning tackles? where was the fast recycled ball? Where was the support play? Scores one for his on field leadership. Give him a rest, Terrance.
6
Paul Williams
1
/10
totally anonymous
5
John Tait
7
/10
worked well in the loose and took some good ball. Soft going is not for him, though. Lacks the rugby experience to cope with the tight physical style of the English.
4
Steve Moore
6
/10
had his mauling game negated by the seemingly stronger English forwards.
3
Dai Young
4
/10
anonymous and still only plays half a game.
2
Jon Humphreys
5
/10
confident first game back.
1
Andrew Lewis
7
/10
a busier performance than of late, seems to be returning to a bit of form.