Cardiff

k.o. time: 7:30 pm

23 December, 1999

Cardiff Arms Park

Spectators: 8,000

Pontypridd
referee
David Davies
5
/10
First half penalty/free kick count ..... Ponty 5 vs Cardiff 1 after 10 min 6 vs 3 after 20 minutes 9 vs 5 after 30 minutes 11 vs 9 after 42 minutes (HT) Comment: Yet another referee who couldn't referee the breakdown. Rucking was nonexistent, and his over-officious attitude slowed the game down on too many occasions. Still, he was a marked improvement on the last referee we saw.
weather
Constant drizzle and wind
worth annoying the wife factor
9
/10
our man of the match
Emyr Lewis
scorers
Dai Young (1)
Emyr Lewis (1)
Nick Walne (1)
Gareth Thomas (1)
Neil Jenkins (3)
Neil Jenkins (5)
our choice for next week

vs Bridgend

k.o. time: 2:30 pm

28 December, 1999

Cardiff Arms Park

15
Craig Morgan
14
Liam Botham
13
Grant Esterhuizen
12
Matthew Wintle
11
Jamie Robinson
10
Paul Burke
9
Robert Howley
8
Steve Williams
7
Paul Williams
6
Dan Baugh
5
John Tait
4
Steve Moore
3
Lyndon Mustoe
2
Damien Geraghty
1
Andrew Lewis

This was a display of power and commitment from a rejuvenated Cardiff side. They overwhelmed a packless opposition with awesome scrummaging, excellent control of the maul and driving play. Maybe we're at last seeing the benefit of Mr Howell's coaching - at least in the loose - with one playing driving hard, staying on his feet and then another driving in on him - usually Humph or Martyn Williams. The defence was rarely stretched and Cardiff won with ease.

The saucepan banging Ponty fans (all in favour of saucepan banging as long as those getting banged wear red shirts) are excellent and support their team so well. Fortunately, they also supported Cardiff really well! Chants of "what a waste of money" greeted the Cardiff team's appearance and for once this seemed to galvanize them into action. By the final whilst, the few Ponty fans that remained saw a Cardiff team really enjoying stuffing Ponty.

The first twenty minutes were a pretty miserable time for Cardiff as they were penalised off the park by David Davies. With this sort of refereeing, it took Cardiff 20 minutes to get any ball. During this period, Jenkins had a bit of a shocker with far too many errors - lost the ball in the tackle and failed in his tactical kicking. Knock-ons and forward passes peppered his play. However, when he finally got some decent ball, he kicked well to the corners. By the second half, he was kicking every penalty in site and even rucking well!

It took us until half time to reach any sort of parity in the penalty count, but Ponty failed to capitalize on their 67%-share of territory (according to our chums at S4C). Mind you, we shouldn't believe the subtle lies and deceit peddled by the incredibly biased media in Wales - even down to a camera in Ponty's dressing room at half time, but no pictures from the Cardiff camp. To read the Western Mail on Friday, you'd think there was only one Welsh team playing! Anyway, we'll leave that for another day.

Whilst our victory was complete, we shouldn't get too carried away, given the performance of the opposition. If the last game is anything to go by, Monty Ferry will provide a far sterner test. Despite their territorial advantage in the first half, Ponty never really looked like scoring. Whilst Jarvis was their only inspiration behind the beaten forwards, by the second half, he'd drifted completely out of the game. It's sad to see such good players as Jarvis, Loader and Gough totally bomb out since they've gone to Sardis Road, whilst players like Gareth Thomas and Leigh Davies are really blossoming in Cardiff. The coaching at Ponty seems to produce a series of homers only - once out the valley, their out of their depth.

Cardiff's skills at keeping hold of the ball through many phases - even if there were not going forward - and the way angles of attack were varied was a lesson to all in how to make efficient use of the ball. With a few noticeable exceptions, nobody shipped on bad ball and "control" was the key word. The pack laid the foundations for this victory and Spencer John - even more than Dai Young - completely muldooned the Ponty front row from the first scrum.

Too many kicks over the top from Ponty gave the ball away frequently in the first half. They started well, trying to drive Cardiff back in the maul but by the second half Cardiff attacked the ball carrier and drove hard and low in defence. Martyn Williams had a field day winning so much loose ball. Whilst the front row completely annihilated the Ponty scrum, it was in the back row where the biggest difference was. Despite getting driven back in the scrum, Macinotsh kept keeping the ball in ensuring his front row took even more of a pasting. The awesome charging Tarw had a phenomenal game in attack and defence. Not content with cover tackles and ripping the ball from rucks and mauls, he rampaged through weak tackles and was never far from first to the breakdown. A top display from the man. Next step Magne!

Ponty's lineout play showed good variation and team work, but they lacked the impact players in the front five to make a difference. In the ruck, their commitment was excellent, but all too often, they went diving in and Paul John got a shoeing many times for being on the wrong side of the ruck. Unfortunately, the referee had no idea on how to referee a ruck and penalised the legitimate use of the stud against the man lying on the wrong side. The "no-rucking allowed" referee meant more and more players were encouraged to lie over the ball, and the game slowed down as a result. For the first time this season, the Cardiff front five held their line on a five metre lineout drive and furthermore, with half time approaching some Cardiffesque defence from Ponty allowed Emyr Lewis to walk backwards over the line with only seven forwards leaning on him. There was no drive from the Ponty pack.

But the highlight of the first half was Dai Young taking the p*ss out of the referee when he asked Craig Quinnell "what's the name?". Quinnell's farcical sin-binning for a chest high tackle summed up exactly how much far Mr Davies was out of his depth.

In the backs, the centres have developed an almost telepathic understanding and cut huge swathes through the opposition. Much had been made in the media before the game about Sonny Parker - the New Zealand centre at Ponty - and his battle with the Cardiff centres. Unfortunately for him, this was a "no contest". Sunny it was not, just drizzle. The centre pairing of Sony and Cher were completely outclassed with Leigh Davies dancing past Jason Lewis every time. There's a real understanding developing between Alfie and Leigh, such that even when the centres are chasing kicks, one goes for the ball and one goes for the man, seemingly without any preconceived plan. Who cares if Leigh Davies gets p**sed every Wednesday night if he keeps playing like this. All that practicing in Escape seems the key to his dancing through spaces. Furthermore, Alfie is developing a total all round game. Not content with having the highest strike rate known to man, he's added the weapon of expertly executed tactical kicking to his armoury.

The part timers from Ponty held the lead for 4 minutes, but missed kicks by Jarvis into the wind meant they couldn't stretch their lead. Fair play to him though, he managed to con the referee every time he kicked penalties to touch - pinching at least two yards every time!

The Chef's play really summed up how much the Ponty forwards were out of their depth. MacIntosh has always excelled at hitting the static rucks at pace ('cos he always arrives last), picking out a defenceless player and digging him in the kidneys. Despite his assertion in the press prior to the game that he wasn't out to maim players, that's exactly what he did after 50 minutes. A defenceless Humph lay prostrate on the floor having made yet another awesome tackle, and right in front of the myopic referee, the Chef came charging in with a flying fist. Humph was punched out of the game.

Fortunately, Richie Collins took the Chef off when he started getting dirty, but by that time we'd already lost our hooker and had to play for 30 minutes with almost no lineout ball (not that that slowed the scoring down!). There seems to have been no talk of citing the Chef, but what a leaden-footed has-been thug is still doing in the game, we've no idea. It's a symptom of the state of the domestic game, that Neanderthal's like him can still pull on a jersey in the village league each week. Send him home, Richie!

A positive view of the encounter was that perhaps Cardiff have now turned the corner. There was clear evidence of better team work and a real understanding of what tactics were being played. There was none of the "run-it-at-all-costs" tactics we've seen up 'til now, and the professional approach of the players created try after try.

A more negative view would be that despite all the pro-Ponty press stories and the building-up of their players before kick off, this game shows the total lack of competition in the Welsh Village League. The top team is hammered and totally outplayed by a team with only six games practice behind them. The annihilation of the Ponty pack was embarrassing and is a warning for the future of Welsh rugby. On a brighter day, with a drier ball and pitch, the score could have been a lot more. If we want our top players playing at a high level week in week out, we need a British League. The players want it (we all know what Scott Gibbs said - a view echoed by Paul Burke recently), the fans want it, the owners want it - over to you Pete, screw the villagers in the Union - give us what we want and we'll pay your entrance fees!

15
Gethin Rhys Williams
7
/10
good kicking from hand, but had little opportunity to shine in the loose. Rhys Williams has large testicles. Substituted when he was stiff armed by the English Ponty man.
14
Liam Botham
7
/10
Fine punting style and always beat the first tackler. Botham's bombers down the pitch with the wind behind him sent he Ponty defence backwards. Still lacks the pace to finish off attacks, but was always a thorn in the Ponty side.
13
Gareth Thomas
9
/10
Wonderful grubber kicks into the 25 - constantly broke through Sonny and Cher.
12
Leigh Davies
9
/10
Now with a telepathic understanding with Alfie.
11
Nick Walne
7
/10
will become a good player but needs to up his work load.
10
Neil Jenkins
7
/10
A steady performance with ball in hand in the second half though still far too many mistakes in the first nervous 20 minutes.
9
Robert Howley
7
/10
Still not able to stamp his authority on the game, but did little wrong against a nonexistent back row.
8
Emyr Lewis
9
/10
Storming performance in all facets of play. Cover tackling was immense, ripped the ball away in the loose, charged well into space and was always first there in support. Left the Chef in the kitchen.
7
Martyn Williams
8
/10
Played right in the face of the opposition against a very poor backrow.
6
Greg Kacala
8
/10
Some charging attacks with the ball in hand. Spent the game looking for his drinking buddy to charge into. Mixed up angles of attack well.
5
Mike Voyle
2
/10
The number of tackles he made. Vile is unable to tackle aggressively and force the man backwards. In fact his only tackle of note was a totally unnecessary late one which gave Ponty a penalty.
4
Craig Quinnell
7
/10
Played his best "tight" game of the season. Scrummaged very well and drove in the tight.
3
Dai Young
9
/10
My God we're glad he's in our team! Ripped the pack apart on his own and got a try as reward. Tackled well in the loose, and even managed a few ball carries.
2
Jon Humphreys
9
/10
Once more led from the front with his tackling - even Gareth Wyatt failed to speed past him!
1
Spencer John
8
/10
Enjoyed his game against Sven Cronk and it was on the loose head side that Cardiff made the biggest progress. The arrival of Tau made his day better, however, as Ponty's scrum disintegrated.