Cardiff

k.o. time: 2:30 pm

28 December, 1999

Cardiff Arms Park

Spectators: 8,000

Bridgend
referee
Paul Adams
1
/10
This joker had no idea of the tackle area or, indeed, how props should bind at scrums. He somehow managed to keep Bridgend from an extra 20 point hammering with many crazy decisions.
worth annoying the wife factor
4
/10
our man of the match
Martyn Williams
scorers
Spencer John (1)
Robert Howley (1)
Craig Morgan (2)
Ryan Powell (2)
Paul Burke (5)
Paul Burke (1)
our choice for next week

vs Neath

k.o. time: 3:00 pm

8 January, 2000

Cardiff Arms Park

15
Gethin Rhys Williams
14
Nick Walne
13
Leigh Davies
12
Grant Esterhuizen
11
Craig Morgan
10
Neil Jenkins
9
Ryan Powell
8
Philip Wheeler
7
Dan Baugh
6
Greg Kacala
5
Steve Williams
4
Steve Moore
3
Lyndon Mustoe
2
Andrew Lewis
1
Gary Powell

Cardiff won this game at a canter with at least four players doing the minimum required - obviously totally uninspired by such a fixture. Dai Young, Craig Quinnell, Robert Howley, Gareth Thomas barely broke sweat and you've got to wonder at their professionalism. The opposite view would be that you can't blame them. Certainly these four will be amongst the first to leave if Cardiff don't get any decent opposition next year. Although Dai Young probably needs the match practice, maybe the VC'd have been better off starting with players with a bit more enthusiasm - and with something to prove.

However, the VC continues to make crazy team selections. With the choice of Andrew Lewis as his first outing at hooker for a while why was Craig Quinnell chosen? - preventing the easiest throw for him to make. This was a game when Lewis would have begged for Tait to be playing - just as avenue for an easy catch and build his confidence. The centre pairing saw a genuine outside centre (who has been in the form of his life recently) playing solely at inside centre. His centre partner, who is an excellent passer and reader of the game, was also out of position, without the genuine pace to play at outside centre. These decisions are baffling.

The first twenty minutes were dyer for the spectator with no entertainment at all as we were subjected to Bridgend's kick and chase tactics when in attack and spoiling tactics in defence. What became increasingly clear, however, was Martyn Williams performance against Ringer. The Ginger battle was a no contest as Williams won all the ball in the loose. The continuity this allowed Cardiff always kept them one step ahead of a team containing no fewer than five ex-Cardiff players.

Also clearly highlighted early on was Cardiff's inability to defend the driving maul à again. With Young and Quinnell leaning in the mauls, Vile and Owain Williams the mime artists, and a lack of Humph to get amongst them, we were desperate for some dog from the pack. Bridgend kicked for position and won lineouts but did little else with their domination of possession.

The more scrums in the game the better it is for Cardiff. Therefore, as handling errors and poor lineout throws resulted in scrums, Cardiff were able to dominate. With three props in the front row and the monster bulk of Fester behind them Cardiff's scrum is reaching Argentinean standards and the Bridgend forwards soon tired after having to hold the irresistible force. From such a scrum Steve Williams broke, forgot to take the ball with him all the way, and Howler picked up the loose ball (no knock-on however) to stroll over the line. Cardiff scrum halves scored two tries from scrums during the game as the nonexistent back row of Bridgend were torn apart.

Once continuity was allowed by the referee (and the rucking skills of Cardiff forwards pulling Bridgend players off the ball on the floor) the game opened up. Bridgend were intent on piling bodies into rucks but this only left gaps in their back line which a good pass from Burke and Morgan's searing pace exploited for the first try. Cardiff's guile was up against Britain's fattest centre pairing and rumour has it that Dennis John is looking to buy Gareth Rees to make it an even lardier back line. All that was left of the first half was the highlight of Vile getting a pasting from Steve Ford on the floor, for which both were shown yellow cards, Ford's for punching and Vile's because he tackles like a wimp.

After the break, Howley sped up the game with quick penalties and passes to runners at speed which bamboozled Bridgend and tore holes through the back row. With Martyn Williams ensuring quick ball, Cardiff were to dominate the half. Bridgend retreated like a Ponty scrum although their foul play on the floor kept the score down. Spencer burst through the defence for one try with embarrassing ease whilst Craig Morgan sped over for another after good work by Owain Williams and Gareth Thomas. Martyn Williams' pass off the floor to continue the movement highlighted the improvement Cardiff have made since last season.

Bridgend were another team to come to the Arms Park to be annihilated in the forwards and outthought and outpaced in the backs. This was by a mixture of squad and regular players who played in a different style from the first choice XV. This was a looser performance, based on the speed Cardiff possesses out wide, rather than the concentration of attack near the ruck. We did not see the support play of the ball carrier as we saw against Pontypridd nor the intensity of performance from the big name players.

Bridgend lacked any firepower up front or speed in the back line. Ringer saved 14 points with cover tackles from behind (a specialty) but the lack of unity in the back row gave acres of space late on in the game. Ryan Powell's two tries showed the difference in class and teamwork between the two teams. Cardiff are developing a squad of horses-for-courses. Andrew Lewis needs more games like this to develop into a hooker, and Powell and Robinson will get better when up against this opposition. Some grass on the pith will see more points on the board.

15
Gethin Rhys Williams
8
/10
Almost broke through the gap on so many occasions, only to be caught by the ankle. He has frightening pace helped forge a clear partnership being with Craig Morgan. Looks good for the future.
14
Nick Walne
7
/10
Today was used more as a battering ram than anything else, but his performance improves with every game. Still needs to be a little more involved and show more willing to join play.
13
Jamie Robinson
6
/10
A competent performance but at outside centre only where his passing skills are limited. Always takes passes at intelligent angles to break the defensive line.
12
Gareth Thomas
6
/10
Did the bare minimum against his old team just to ensure the easy victory. Set up Craig Morgan's second try but looked uncomfortable at inside centre where his pace was useless.
11
Craig Morgan
8
/10
His fearsome pace took him away from his opposite number on two occasions which both resulted in tries. This is what we need on the wing and with Rhys Williams in tow Bridgend were torn apart. Comfortable under the high ball also, the back three looked a better defensive unit.
10
Paul Burke
5
/10
One fine pass set up Morgan's try but otherwise a stuttering performance. Seemed to lie flatter than he would normally, which may show that the VC is trying to turn him into a Jerkins clone. This negated his mixed game and resulted in poor ball being passed on to his centres. Just when he was playing so well - don't ruin him Howells!
9
Robert Howley
6
/10
Another minimalistic performance from the player content just to do enough. Made two sniping breaks in the first half and sped the game up in the second with tap penalties but did little else.
8
Steve Williams
7
/10
Enjoyed driving off scrums straight in to Ringer, which ensured that Cardiff always got over the gain line. Denied a try in the first half from one such scrum break. Faded a little in the last twenty minutes.
7
Martyn Williams
9
/10
Seemed very at home with this loose, free flowing format. Within two minutes of the kick off it was plain to see what Cardiff have gained at open side since his arrival and Ringer's departure. It continued to be obvious throughout the game as Williams put in a near faultless performance.
6
Owain Williams
6
/10
Apart from the clever change of angle to set up the try for Craig Morgan he was generally anonymous. He played during the tight phases of the game and then was substituted by Don Boat when the game became loose . . . . . .? Isn't the wrong way around?
5
Mike Voyle
1
/10
In each game he plays he excels in performing worse than he did before. He constantly knocked the ball on at kickoffs and ran away from tackles and contact. He nearly fumbled the ball during many handling movements and was even shown a yellow card. During his absence Cardiff looked more balanced.
4
Craig Quinnell
6
/10
Another of the star "first teamers" content to do the minimum just to ensure victory. Rarely carried the ball but was very prominent with tackles made in defence.
3
Dai Young
6
/10
More aggressive scrummaging but another doing the basics only.
2
Andrew Lewis
7
/10
For the first hour of the game he was absolutely bloody shocking. He couldn't throw straight at line-outs and lost Cardiff field position and possession. Once he had found his range, however, he excelled. His extra confidence meant that he became prominent with ball in hand and showed that his future lies at hooker.
1
Spencer John
9
/10
Another storming performance from the player who must at least deserve a place in the Welsh squad. Excellent scrummaging ruined Bridgend's pack and his ball carries even resulted in a try from 30 metres!! His only problem seems to be his fitness in the last 10 minutes.