Cardiff

k.o. time: 7:30 pm

19 November, 1999

Cardiff Arms Park

Spectators: 8,273

Harlequins
referee
Didier Mene
weather
Clear, fine and crisp
worth annoying the wife factor
8
/10
our man of the match
Leigh Davies
scorers
Simon Hill (1)
Neil Jenkins (2)
Neil Jenkins (5)
Neil Jenkins (1)
our choice for next week

vs Clermont

k.o. time: 3:10 pm

27 November, 1999

Stade Marcel Michelin

15
Mike Rayer
14
Liam Botham
13
Gareth Thomas
12
Leigh Davies
11
Simon Hill
10
Neil Jenkins
9
Robert Howley
8
Emyr Lewis
7
Martyn Williams
6
Dan Baugh
5
John Tait
4
Steve Moore
3
Spencer John
2
Jon Humphreys
1
Andrew Lewis

This was a tale of two Canadians. Cardiff, missing Tait, whether through some unfathonable selection policy or some mysterious injury, was absent, and the everygreen, one-legged Gareth "two bellies" Rees of Harlequins.

Rees's kicking, as he has done against Cardiff so many times in the past, almost won the day for a limited - but extremely professional - Harlequins team, whereas Tait's absense reduced the Cardiff lineout to a shambles.

The game started with awesome charges from a discplined and well drilled Cardiff team with Alfie and Emyr Lewis bulldozing through a non-existant Harlequins mid-field defence. However, Cardiff failed to take their chances. Howely's distribution from rucks and mauls was slow throughout the game, and whilst from first phase Cardiff cut huge swaithes through the defence, rucking skills left much to be desired and Harlequins, whether by fair means or fowl, managed to slow possession down sufficiently enough to stop any potent attack.

Jenkins missed an early kick but slotted over a few simple penalties. Then when Cardiff finally "got patient", kept control of the ball on the Quins line, the defenders panicked. Rees needlessly lofted a risky cross kick for his wing - Simon Hill cleared up with ease, beat his man and strolled to the corner. 16-0 up and there was only one team in the game . Cardiff were cruising and once more Leigh Davies and Gareth Thomas were making a mockery of Henry's selection policy in the World Cup.

But then Harlequins discovered the Cardiff weakness and cruelly exposed it for the next hour. Cardiff's second rows were totally absent throughout the game. Voyle crowned his home debut with fumbles in the loose and failure in the lineout. His only contribution throughout the game were two takes from kick-offs. This we expected. But what was more worrying was the growing girth and shrinking effort of Quinnell.

Famous for his consumption of chocolate, away from the professional back room set up at Richmond, back in the village he seems to have reverted to type. At each lineout Quins took the ball and drove forward 15-20 yards with no answer from the week Cardiff pack. Not only did Cardiff "give" the opposition the ball at each lineout by not challenging the jumper, they failed to drive them back when the ball was taken. Quinnell spent most of the game hanging around on the wing, at full back or at centre. Meanwhile, who gets stuck in at the maul, Craig? He's believing his press too much and an indisciplined performance resulted. Not having learned from his failure to beat off the challenge of Arwel last week, once more taking the ball in the full back position from a speculative kick he was he was faced with Gareth Llwellyn and charged straight at him. Needless to say, the big man was stopped and tacked and a turnover followed.

With Rees moving from fullback to stand off, despite carry a leg and a spare tyre or two, he showed he is quite clearly not only the best kicker in the world - missing nothing, unlike Jenkins who missed two penalties - but also gave a lesson to the Welsh stand off in how to control (and almost win) a game with limited resources. His place kicking was immaculate, he missed only one drop goal attempt from three, and his tactical kicking was perfect. Kicking long into the corners, he ensure that the Cardiff defenders had little choice but to kick to touch. Harlequins lineout was vastely supperior to the shambles in blue, and the take and drive resulted in either penalty or drop drop goal from the rotund Rees.

Despite a massive and unexpected resurgence from the Cardiff scrum which saw then awarded a penalty try, the half backs usage of the ball was woefull. For the second week in a row, Cardiff threw away a commanding lead - this time even failing to win the game. Cardiff tried to run everything with Jenkins rooted to his flat position. As the game went on, Harlequins soon realised that all they had to do was load the centre position with defensive bodies and that was the end of Cardiff's attacks.

Coupled with far too many knock-ons, poor passes, and poor kicking, this was a real "what-a-waste-of-money" from the ginger disaster. Against Swansea he attacked Lawson with far more kicks to the corner, but despite Harlequin's reserve full back being woefully out of position on too many occasions, he wasn't made to run to the corners, nor take any high balls under pressure. What happened to giving your centres some space as you did for Alfie's try against Swansea? Lamaison showed against New Zealand how to play stand off at the top level. Standing flat, standing deep, chipping over the top, kicking deep or making a break himself, he gave the best No 10 performance of the World Cup.

Howley, the other man in the much vaunted half back pairing also had a fairly non-descript night. Two box kicks, an ill-advised quick tap penalty and a failed break from the base of the scrum summed up his night. Until Cardiff can get fast ball from second phase, he'll not be able to show his full range of skills.

In the last twenty minutes, John Gallagher and chums brought on a number of substitutions but the VC seemed reluctant to make any changes. Lardy Quinnell decided he'd had enought with cramp, and was finally replaced by the woefully under-used Steve Williams. Then in the dying minutes, he took off Emyr Lewis who faded badly after an hour and should have been replaced earlier with Owain Williams. Owain's contribution consisted of missing three tackles, one on Cheasby from the side of the scrum (as usual) and gifting Rees another penalty from in front of the posts.

As the game stuttured to a close, it looked ever more likely that £30,000 Rees would win the game with his boot for the visitors, though a draw seemed like a fair result with his last drop goal the last kick of the game.

This performance means that Cardiff now must probably win all their remaining pool games to ensure home advantage in the next round. The last time Cardiff played in this competition they were forced to play away in Brive because of poor performances in group stages and it seems we are in danger of making the same slip ups again.

15
Mike Rayer
6
/10
the old man's still got all the skills, though his pace is disappearing at a remarkable rate. No longer able to break into the line at outside centre, he filled in well in the stand off position from second and third phase.
14
Liam Botham
8
/10
A performance full of guts and determination with a defensive tackle which was almost worth the entrance fee itself!
13
Leigh Davies
9
/10
Extremely strong in the tackle, bouncing off defender after defender. Change of angle in attack was the LD of old. A truely excellent performance, but needed the man inside him to mix and match the tactics to make more space.
12
Gareth Thomas
9
/10
Totally destroyed the Quins defence with ease he still seems to lack the confidence to put his head back and go for the line himself. Looks like he needs more games in the centre to work on his when-to-pass-when-to-go-for-it decision making. Practice your kicking Gareth, we need centres who can kick.
11
Simon Hill
8
/10
Another performance almost matching LB's in grit and passion. Solid in defence and always making yards in attack, needed more box kicks to attack the full back.
10
Neil Jenkins
4
/10
Oh dear! Another poor performace to rival those in the World Cup - curiously lacking any confidence. Given a lesson on how to read the game by Gareth Rees, one dimensional attacking options meant Cardiff's threat diminished as the game progressed.
9
Robert Howley
5
/10
Slow to release ball from second phase, his game lacked any spark. Didn't really support Jenkins with any variety to his play.
8
Emyr Lewis
7
/10
Awesome in the first 40 minutes, he faded badly from the hour onwards. Failed to tackle grandad Zinzan from a standing start from five yards - the aging New Zealander dumped him on his arse as he fell over the line. A second missed tackle in two weeks resulting in an opposition try.
7
Martyn Williams
8
/10
Excellent continuity in the loose, but not such an impact in defence. Looks like the obvious partner to hard tackling Baugh.
6
Greg Kacala
5
/10
Linking well with Lewis, but drifting across the pitch in attack, Kacala's not working as hard as he should in stopping the driving maul.
5
Mike Voyle
2
/10
A nightmare performance from Derwyn's replacement in an error-strewn display. Out-muscelled in the lineout and maul, too many handling errors gifted the ball to the opposition. Oh! How we missed Tait!
4
Craig Quinnell
2
/10
Over-rated, over-weight and believing too much in his own macho bulls**t, needs to work much harder in the tight.
3
Spencer John
8
/10
Huge performance from the man who needs big games to perform well. Outscrummaged Leonnard and drove well in the tight. Work on your mauling skills, Spencer, and your the finished article.
2
Jon Humphreys
9
/10
Another top class performance from Captain Fantastic. With one tackle on Harlequin's scrum half, he won us three points on his own. His tackling is immense though lineout deficiencies betrayed a lack of (obvious) match practice with Voyle and Quinnell.
1
Andrew Lewis
7
/10
A quiet game from Andy, he did everything required with some excellent scrummaging and good play in the loose. However, the pack looks like it lacks balance, with too many loose players on the fringe and not enough grafters.