Clermont

k.o. time: 3:10 pm

27 November, 1999

Stade Marcel Michelin

Spectators: 15,000

Cardiff
referee
Chuck Muir
2
/10
What a wimp! Should have yellow carded ASM back row for continually going over the top at the breakdown. Should have sent off Humph for his punch. Should have banned the ASM gougers for life. Should have given Cardiff a penalty try for 5 offside decisions against ASM on their line. Over ruled his own decision when challenged by a totally incompetent touch judge. A real Homer.
weather
Crisp and perfect for rugby - very little wind.
worth annoying the wife factor
3
/10
our man of the match
Jon Humphreys
general comment

In the shadow of the Michelin factory, there was no cauldron of atmosphere with both ends open. No beer on site either!

scorers
Martyn Williams (1)
Neil Jenkins (1)
Neil Jenkins (2)
our choice for next week

vs Newport

k.o. time: 5:30 pm

4 December, 1999

Cardiff Arms Park

15
Gethin Rhys Williams
14
Craig Morgan
13
Gareth Thomas
12
Leigh Davies
11
Simon Hill
10
Paul Burke
9
Ryan Powell
8
Emyr Lewis
7
Dan Baugh
6
Greg Kacala
5
John Tait
4
Steve Williams
3
Lyndon Mustoe
2
Jon Humphreys
1
Spencer John

Clemont-Ferrand is a peaceful town nestling in the shadows on the snow capped mountains of the Auvergne region. We landed at St Ettiene and drove the 90 minutes or so to Clemont-Ferrand and the ancient village of Montferrand in the suburbs of the city.

The good natured crowd started filling the new stand an hour or so before kick-off, all flags and air horns, daubed in yellow and blue. As kick off approached, the signing reached a crescendo and the announcer urged the supporters on. There was none of the intimidating aggression we'd heard about from other French grounds though, just the typical one-eyed support you'd expect. Nevertheless, the rugby served up by ASM (Montferrand RFC), sent the supporters away happy, and Cardiff presented them with plenty of gifts with which to celebrate their new stadium.

They were totally outplayed by a team faster in thought and deed who were far more hungry for victory.

Learning absolutely nothing from last week's debacle, their tactical incompetence was staggering. When tactics of pressure rugby - kick it deep, scrummage hard and tackle like your life depends on it, were obviously required, Cardiff were programmed to use "chuck it about" tactics at all costs. Playing over-coached rugby by numbers, robotic running from deep, resulted in turnover after turnover and try after try. Weaknesses in the back three exposed by two bellies last week were not remedied during the week, and our weakness to drives from the lineout once more resulted in tries to the opposition.

Didn't you learn anything, Lyn? Apparently not, because not only were the same players (other than one change forced through injury) picked before kick off, the same players took the pitch in the second half despite conceding 32 points in the first!

Mistakes were made and ball was turned over as communications between players evaporated. Jerkins restarted short, without apparently telling his team mates, which gave easy possession to ASM and two breakaway tries. It wasn't until deep into the second half and the appearance of the two mighty Canucks that Cardiff maintained possession and shape.

For the second week running our half backs/wits lacked maturity and insight to play the right tactics at the right time. Or is it the halfbacks? Surely such experienced internationals know how to pressurize the opposition into errors? Rather, it is becoming obvious that they, and everyone else in the team, are playing to orders. Rather than trusting his players to run the game as they want, the VC is insisting on totally premeditated tactics. His substitutions are also clearly premeditated - timed to the minute. Dan Baugh came on with exactly 30 minutes remaining - the coach did not analyze weaknesses and strengths and make a tactical change - it was simply robotic programming, non-thinking rugby.

Although he states publicly that he wants his players to take more control of the game, he sends them onto the field with the wrong tactics in the first place. The money saved on JJH would be best invested on a coach who brought the most of the undoubted pool of talent we have at the club. Not content with conceding 70pts plus on his last outing away in France, with Cardiff down by 32pts at half time, lack of changes suggested he would be satisfied with a similar result this time.

The difference in performance of Martyn Williams in two weeks sums up the Valley Boy mentality of too many of the players. We need a professional coach with experience on the world stage, who can bring out the best in his team - not a Valley Boy who thinks as long as he can win at home, then he's happy.

From the first minute, Cardiff started to run the ball at every opportunity. Instead of kicking deep for the open spaces and pressurizing, they ran the ball in the centre and lost possession at the breakdown - with Martyn Williams clearly off the pace. Jerkins made a lovely break but with the full back up to tackle him, instead of kicking long for his wingers and centres to run on to, he took the tackle and the attack was stopped. Indeed, his positioning at the breakdown makes it so easy to read his intentions. He's always lying so flat that the opposition knows he can't kick the ball and so can push up flat to attack our centres and close the space down. With Howler's slow and stuttering passing, this puts Jerkins under even more pressure.

In defence, Merceron (ASM's outside half) much have watched the videos of Cardiff's traditional weakness - a box kick over the winger's head and in front of the full back. As long as this kick doesn't go to touch, the opposition can be guaranteed of a throw to the line out every time. Pontypridd (Jerkins himself) used this tactic against us in the Mickey Mouse Cup Final at Sardis a few years back against Alfie, and teams now can clearly see this is the way to beat Cardiff. A lack of pace and decision making in the back three make an obvious target for opposition teams to attack. Come on VC! Earn your wedge and solve the problem! Practice, practice, practice or if the present players lack the speed to defend, just exactly why don't you pick Craig Morgan (the fastest wing at the club)?

Whilst Cardiff's frailties were competently exposed by ASM, make no mistake, they didn't lose to the best team in the world. Their line out was one dimensional (always throwing to Merle and driving), their scrum creaked, so that had to almost exclusively run from no.8, and their propensity to give penalties away was generous in the extreme. What ASM did so well, was to expose the obvious limitations in the Cardiff style of play, the weaknesses in defence, and kick excellently in attack. They took their chances.

All is not lost for Cardiff, though, particularly with Treviso beating Harlequins. Despite being bottom of the table, we can still qualify, but we need a minor revolution in the type of coaching, the game plan and the attitude of the players. This is where you prove Lyn that your good enough to coach the biggest and the best. Results will prove …….

But we're not too optimistic. During the farcical last 10 minutes, Paul Burke stood on the touch line waiting to join the fray under the instructions of Lyn. With the fourth official clearly holding aloft the sign showing "10", Jerkins quite clearly ignore his coach's instructions. Furthermore, so did everybody else! The VC stood helpless and hopeless on the touch line, trying in vain to coach the team and failed! Just who's in charge?!?!?!!?!?

Note:

When the Canadians entered the fray, Cardiff looked like a different team. This raises two obvious questions ....

1) Why were they on the bench? - Well the answer to that is clearly that the VC lacks judgment in his selection of the team (see his refusal to play the excellent Craig Morgan, if you want further evidence).
...... but more worrying is ......

2) Why should these particular players make such a difference? - We feel, having watched Cardiff away from home last year, the major reason is that they are Canadian - every game is an "away" game for them! There are now too many boys from the Village in the teams selected by the VC and they play like little lost boys in the big world. We need a balance between the street wise and the Welsh flair!

15
Mike Rayer
4
/10
Didn't do anything wrong - didn't do anything fast enough. Ruthlessly exposed by Merceron.
14
Liam Botham
6
/10
Generally competent but a lack of pace was too obvious in attack and defence. The gulf in pace was frightening between him and his opposite number.
13
Leigh Davies
6
/10
Competent but didn't make the big tackles in defence - still no space in attack because of limitations inside.
12
Gareth Thomas
7
/10
Ran hard and straight, made no obvious mistakes and supported well - woefully under used in space and no space outside him.
11
Simon Hill
5
/10
Again competent, but lacks the pace required for the step up in class needed at this level. A real chasm in the difference in pace between him and his opposite number.
10
Neil Jenkins
3
/10
Learned nothing from last week. Ran everything from his own line in the first half. Very poor reading of the game and tactical awareness, Didn't kick half as well from hand as Merceron. He's an even worse coach than the VC 'cos obviously he decides who's to be subbed.
9
Robert Howley
2
/10
Week on week his performance gets worse - should clearly have been substituted at half time. Slow in thought and deed. Lacking the kicking skills to make a difference. On this form, couldn't get in the Wales Under-12 team. Infrequent kicking was woeful and no longer takes on the opposition back row. A shadow of the former man.
8
Steve Williams
3
/10
Out of position and out of practice. Absent out wide in defence and spilled the ball in the tackle too often. Very disappointing.
7
Martyn Williams
2
/10
Another boy from the village. Out of his valley = out of his depth. Totally outplayed by Magne and well off the pace - belongs at Charlton.
6
Greg Kacala
6
/10
The only ball carrier in the team, he continually made yards but always lacked support. No big tackles round the fringes, meant Cardiff couldn't stop ASM's initiative.
5
Mike Voyle
1
/10
More dropped passes, and more aggression in a Tesco Trolley Boy. Tackles like a checkout girl. Only here for the money - time to show your balls or return to Turkey via the Balkans.
4
Craig Quinnell
2
/10
All meat and no veg. Completely outthought and outplayed by Merle. ASM only had one lineout option - through it to Merle. But that was enough to beat Cadbury Boy.
3
Spencer John
5
/10
Scrummaged well but pretty absent in the loose. Kept trying hard, which was more than many of those around him did!
2
Jon Humphreys
7
/10
Put in the effort of four men with constant tackling and rucking. One very good punch cost Cardiff a try scoring chance - was it worth it? Stood up to the gouging well, probably as a result of steel plated contact lenses.
1
Andrew Lewis
6
/10
Outscrummaged his British Lion opponent, but slow retreating from the scrum (along with his front row partners). Defence was not strong enough and no big tackles.