Cardiff

k.o. time: 2:30 pm

11 December, 1999

Cardiff Arms Park

Spectators: 5,000

Benetton
referee
Jean-Christophe Gastou
1
/10
A complete abomination. Not only allowed the Italians to slow the game down at every opportunity but tried to slow it down further himself by not allowing any advantage. Didn't give a s**t about the paying customer - good job we left our snipers rifle at home.
weather
Very windy but dry
worth annoying the wife factor
2
/10
our man of the match
Dan Baugh
general comment

Sodden

scorers
Liam Botham (1)
Paul Burke (6)
our choice for next week

vs Benetton

k.o. time: 2:30 pm

18 December, 1999

Stadio Monigo

15
Gethin Rhys Williams
14
Liam Botham
13
Gareth Thomas
12
Leigh Davies
11
Simon Hill
10
Paul Burke
9
Robert Howley
8
Greg Kacala
7
Dan Baugh
6
Steve Williams
5
John Tait
4
Steve Moore
3
Dai Young
2
Jon Humphreys
1
Spencer John

Given recent results, we hoped we'd see a Cardiff performance built on passion, determination and pace. Defeat today would mean the virtual end of the European campaign for Cardiff this season. But what we got was a stuttering fragmented affair, with no continuity and other than the scrum, almost no team work. We won because we had better individuals - not because we were the better team.

From the outset, the team selection looked dodgy with Mr Howells choosing a loose and fast team on a sodden pitch against a team renown for their forward power. Did you watch the Treviso vs Montferrand/ Harlequins vs Treviso videos? When we needed beef and muscle to counteract the Italians slow paced mauling game, we started with two open sides and no Dai Young.

The first half was punctuated with three drop goal attempts from the Italians, which really summed up their tactical approach to the game. At every breakdown, they dived on the ball, were over the top and came in from the wrong side. The feeble referee - we were promised an experienced official by the old duffer who's stolen the PA these days - allowed the game to be slowed at every opportunity. But, not for the first time this season, when Cardiff's Plan A failed, they seemed unable to find a Plan B.

The highlight of the half was Burke's movement and control of the game. Whether kicking tactically, tackling in defence or sending Alfie and Six-tackles away, he showed us all what we've been missing when watching Jinx play. How can you drop Burke, when the ginger Munster "recovers", Mr Howells? With Powell busy and alert inside him, there always seemed hope if Cardiff could win any sort of fast second phase. But the woeful referee failed to reach for his cards when the Italians played as we expected and tried to kill the game at every opportunity. When they charge £14 to stand and watch such negative rubbish, does the referee really think a performance like that is going to spread the popularity of the game. European Rugby needs to take a long hard look at allowing idiots like this to ruin our game.

With the wind at their backs in the second half, Cardiff scored their penalties and took control without ever really looking convincing. At least they had Burke to thank in the last five minutes for kicking deep to the corners and killing off any chance of an Italian comeback.

But overall, this performance was even worse than we have seen in recent weeks, as Cardiff continue their downward spiral. Whilst individuals seems to be doing the minimum of what's asked of them, the collective is almost nonexistent. Witness again Cardiff conceding a driving maul try, this time from a tap penalty. Instead of binding and driving hard low as a unit, their going in as individuals, with Humph or Steve Moore pulling the maul down and giving penalties away. In the lineout, as soon as Vile replaced Tait, the first thing he did was to lose the ball, and the general lineout play particularly in defence was terrible. Whilst the Italian's contested and pinched some ball, our team stood and watched and couldn't even muster a drive in defence to stop the attack. When Cardiff tried to drive in attack from a five yard lineout, once more, we failed to score. The same weaknesses are there - week after week - and we just don't seem to get any better.

Even when the players ran onto the pitch, there seemed no enthusiasm for the fight ahead. Where we wanted to see steely-eyed determination in their eyes, they seemed to have this lethargic arrogance which said, "You're crap, and we can beat you without trying". The fact that they did, is even more annoying. Oh for a professional performance! Contrasting this afternoon with the passion on show at Montferrand, we can see what a mess the club is in at the moment. Whilst the PA in France whipped up extra support for the home team, Lord Bufton Tufton on the mike at Cardiff peppered the game with updates on the cricket! This totally deflated any vague possibility of an atmosphere building. The players desperately needed inspiration, and with a decent amount of support from the crowd, maybe, just maybe, we could have lifted them. If we were interested in cricket, we'd have stayed at home and watched Sky!! Get some rugby fan on the mike or pull his plug!

This coach is dire. Whilst Terrance let us down away from home a number of times last season, at least it was "Fortress Cardiff" at home. We've only had three home games so far this season and have failed to put one commanding performance together.

The last time Mr Howells took a team to Treviso, Ponty were stuffed 33-19. Can his crop of budding millionaires do any better next week? The signs are not good.

15
Gethin Rhys Williams
6
/10
Still dodgy in defence but with plenty of pace. Hardly got a pass all game and didn't look for work from second phase - not that there was any!
14
Liam Botham
7
/10
Mr 4x4 turned out another typically solid performance spiced with some huge punts (as well as one particularly wild one)
13
Gareth Thomas
7
/10
Did the basics ran hard and straight, but still doesn't seem to attack the pass at full pace. Too much hesitancy.
12
Leigh Davies
7
/10
Kept thinking about 6th tackle coming up.
11
Nick Walne
6
/10
Did no more than necessary. On the wet ground was beaten twice by his opposite number .... unable to turn against the smaller man.
10
Paul Burke
8
/10
Another commanding performance from the Irishman. Mixed up the tactics well with kicks to the corners, short passes and good angles of running. Lost his way when Powell went off and he had to cope with Howlers hopeless passes.
9
Ryan Powell
7
/10
Real speed and urgency to his game. Full of power and pace and strong tackling in defence. Lacks the maturity to make the right decision at the right time, but given time, will mature into a real handful.
8
Emyr Lewis
4
/10
One charge into open space, but little else. No big tackles, and no turnovers and did his best to avoid any hard work in the maul.
7
Martyn Williams
4
/10
Unable to win any ball at the breakdown and with no big tackles was comprehensively outplayed by Don.
6
Dan Baugh
8
/10
Given the total shambles of a tackle area allowed by the feeble French referee, the Canadian was a driving force in pressurizing the Italians. With Humph, they were the only players putting any real pressure on the opposition.
5
John Tait
7
/10
Miles better than Vile. Took opposition ball in the lineout and was safe as houses on our throw. A couple of galloping charges in the loose were marred by an unnecessary kick into open space which led to a big turnover.
4
Steve Moore
7
/10
Along with Humph, the only player who put his body on the line to try to stop the driving maul.
3
Spencer John
8
/10
Another fine scrummaging display from an ever-improving player who surely must join the Welsh squad this year.
2
Jon Humphreys
8
/10
Some awesome tackling and chasing. Put his body on the line for the team. This is a pack of forwards crying out for some cohesion - if only they had a coach who could pull them together.
1
Andrew Lewis
6
/10
Outscrummaged in the tight and nonexistent in defensive mauling situations. Whilst always a hard chaser in the loose, tight play is where we're weak at the moment.