Neath

k.o. time: 2:30 pm

18 September, 1999

The Gnoll

Spectators: 3,000

Cardiff
referee
Robert Davies
8
/10
"Miked-up" to his touch judges, little missed his eagle eye.
weather
Heavy Rain
worth annoying the wife factor
5
/10
our man of the match
Greg Kacala
scorers
Craig Morgan (1)
Mike Rayer (1)
Paul Burke (1)
Paul Burke (3)
our choice for next week

vs Scarlets

k.o. time: 5:30 pm

25 September, 1999

Stradey Park

15
Mike Rayer
14
Gethin Rhys Williams
13
Grant Esterhuizen
12
Matthew Wintle
11
Craig Morgan
10
Paul Burke
9
Kevin Ellis
8
Emyr Lewis
7
Owain Williams
6
Greg Kacala
5
Brett Barrett
4
Steve Williams
3
Gary Powell
2
Damien Geraghty
1
Spencer John

So this was the game of the cheque-book charlies against the team who've done nothing in Europe but catch a plane. So who would come out on top, Cardiff's largely over 30s club or the team Lyn Jones' feels should be in this year's European Cup giving Montferrand, Harlequins and Treviso a hard time?

Although there were signs of improvement from the previous two weeks, Cardiff still have a lot of work to do before they function as a well-oiled unit. Sloppy play, poor defences and bad decision making highlighted the drop in standard from last season. Neath finished high up in the Welsh league last season but could not beat a second string Cardiff team, playing away from home, who've been without their coach all week.

It took all of 51secs for Craig Morgan to justify his first start to the season catching Burke's excellent chip to fall over the line. Burke had seen his ex-Bristol colleague Tieuti come in field and so attacked his wing. This set the tone for his match performance which was way above that at Bristol and was his best since Richmond last season.

In the first half Neath drove at Cardiff's pack which played right into their hands. Cardiff's back row totally outplayed Neath on their own, making Rowland Phillips look a shadow of the player he once was. Cardiff have now encountered players past their prime slowing up the game for the past two weeks Webster and Devereux at Bridgend) and this has suited Cardiff perfectly. Despite having a match winner in the Rhys Williams-like Shane Williams Neath simply couldn't adjust their game plan to get the ball to him more often. Burke palpably outplayed his opponent and this week it was Cardiff who waited for the opposition's errors to take their chances to score.

In the first half Cardiff showed glimpses of good back play. Kacala was used between the centres and created havoc in the Neath defence - making a try for Mike Rayer in the process. Esterhuizen chose clever angles, sometimes too clever for his colleagues.

Now over the years we've never been the biggest fans of Owain, but today he was excellent. Let's hope there's life in the old engine yet and he maintains this momentum. Owain Williams was superb in his link play and as a result Cardiff played expansive rugby at a good tempo.

Into the wind in the second half, the forwards kept the ball extremely well and played something approaching the rugby we saw last season. The interlinking between backs and forwards was perfect for the back row of Cardiff and the rugby a joy to watch. Barrett and Steve Williams shone in these phases but they were too few in number for Cardiff to dominate. Unfortunately, when Cardiff did lose the ball their defensive alignment was awful and better teams will expose this weakness. Neath kicked too much possession away , allowing Rayer to mop up any potential problems.

Towards the end of the game, Cardiff's forwards shut up shop and the experience of the half backs and Rayer saw the team to victory during the final phases.

Ten man rugby must be the order of the day against Llanelli, where given a decent referee, the forwards can dominate in a tight game. With Rhys Williams and Craig Morgan on the wings their pace will test from kicks ahead by Burke and Ellis. If the game is expansive Cardiff do not yet have the cohesion between backs and forwards to live with Llanelli. You have been warned!!

15
Mike Rayer
6
/10
slow in thought and deed, the strong wind and heavy pitch showed up his lack of pace. But his steadying influence towards the end of the game (in conjunction with Burke) won the day.
14
Simon Hill
6
/10
nowadays is very steady and unexceptional, although shown up by his opposite number.
13
Grant Esterhuizen
7
/10
his best game yet, at last finding his handling skills despite the rain. Has good pace and excellent tackling. Supported the ball well.
12
Matthew Wintle
6
/10
one bad kick gave away a try, but his other kicks were well thought out. Passed and tackled well.
11
Craig Morgan
6
/10
had little to do as the play was always on the other side of the field. Let's hope Cardiff are not sidelining another exceptional young talent in the way they failed to manage the careers of Lee Jarvis and Gareth Jones in the past.
10
Paul Burke
8
/10
controlled the game very well, never shipped on bad ball and used his experience very well towards the end of the game.
9
Kevin Ellis
6
/10
strong 'back row' play and control playing into the wind in the second half. Also used his experience very well.
8
Emyr Lewis
8
/10
superb performance of strong tackling and bullocking runs. His charges at Cerith Rees ruined Neath's game plan and always provided momentum for his fellow forwards.
7
Owain Williams
8
/10
his best performance for some time, playing as the dedicated open side and link man. Recycled much ball for Cardiff and showed Ringer how to play.
6
Greg Kacala
8
/10
much the same as Emyr Lewis their partnership has continued from the promising signs shown at the end of last year.
5
Brett Barrett
7
/10
a very good performance from a fit and energetic player. Always showing up in the loose with support running and good tackling. May extend his contract until the end of the season. A player in the mold of Steve Moore.
4
Steve Williams
7
/10
forming an excellent partnership with Barrett, the pair are very similar players who cover a lot of ground. Superb claiming of restarts AGAIN.
3
Gary Powell
6
/10
not the greatest thinker, i.e. kicking the ball away to set up a try for Neath, but promising in the loose and with hard scrummaging.
2
Damien Geraghty
7
/10
excellent in the loose but still is not consistent with throwing in.
1
Spencer John
6
/10
at last just knuckled down to playing rather than trying to be Eric Cantona.