Cardiff

k.o. time: 3:00 pm

8 January, 2000

Cardiff Arms Park

Spectators: 9,000

Clermont
referee
Alan Lewis
weather
One short shower short of fine with a strong breeze in the second half from the Taff end
worth annoying the wife factor
8
/10
our man of the match
Emyr Lewis
general comment

Get the sprinklers out!

scorers
Mike Voyle (1)
Liam Botham (1)
Gareth Thomas (1)
Neil Jenkins (3)
Neil Jenkins (3)
our choice for next week

vs Harlequins

k.o. time: 2:30 pm

16 January, 2000

Twickenham Stoop

15
Gethin Rhys Williams
14
Liam Botham
13
Gareth Thomas
12
Leigh Davies
11
Craig Morgan
10
Neil Jenkins
9
Ryan Powell
8
Emyr Lewis
7
Greg Kacala
6
Dan Baugh
5
John Tait
4
Steve Moore
3
Dai Young
2
Jon Humphreys
1
Spencer John

This was a game full of passion, power and pace and a pumped up Cardiff team out-thought and out-skilled a very talented French outfit. Whereas in France six weeks ago our players barely got out of bed to run on the pitch, when they charged onto the bog this week, the fierce determination in their eyes spelt only one thing - the French were soon going to be in a world of pain. The smiles on the faces we had seen in Montferrand were replaced with dejected looks after the match under the North Terrace. Revenge is sweet.

Whoever saw this game cannot deny that any team in Europe would not have matched Cardiff in the first half of this game. The front five was simply unstoppable - outscrummaging and outmauling ASM who were muscled out of the game. Let's hope the rain continues. Having driven the oxen from the pitch, the ground was really in a much better state than the press would have had us believe. Certainly we've played on worse grounds. Scrummaging in the mud wasn't really what the ASM front row wanted and they were soon forced to opt for lineouts in preference. Behind the scrum, although our half backs still continue to be below their best, but the centre pairing looks ready to tear any defence to shreads. The hesitancy which dogged their performance in Montferrand was put well behind them and ASM attacks were repulsed with ease. Even the ever-excellent (ever-offside) Olivier Magne was outplayed by Emyr Lewis who had his best game in a Cardiff jersey. Leigh Davies is now unstoppable and with Alfie ready to pick up on any small opening his partner creates, this partnership is a class above anything else we've seen in Europe this year.

Emyr Lewis ended the game with the same determination with which he started it - charging hard and strong at the opposition and commiting the dangerous ASM back row from first phase time after time. Despite some dodgy kicking from hand throughout the game, Jinx deft passing created space well for his centres. Whereas his counterpart, Merceron, was quite awesome in his own back yard, in the bog at Cardiff his game was riddled with missed kicks and lost opportunities. Botham charged well in the first 15 minutes but most things originated from the Cardiff front five. Steve Moore had an awesome performance - driving hard in the tight, winning the ball in the loose, tackling and pressuring the opposition at every opportunity. Why on earth was he substituted at half time? Although Dai Young seemed to suffer a worsening injury after the half, the scrum faired less well with Quinnell in the second row than with Moore. Having said that though, Quinnell had one of his better performances in defence in the second half - something Cardiff spent most of the second half doing. Perhaps we'd have preferred Moore in defence and Quinnell in attack, but nevertheless apart from giving away one of his typically moronic suicidal ruck penalties, Fester pressured well and was always in the face of the opposition back row. ASM were without Merle for this game, but still tried to use their favoured front of the line ploys. However, with Moore against them, they found the task of breaking the gain line altogether tougher. Quinnell even took one ball at the front on a Cardiff throw!

Cardiff's first try came from a total of seven phases of recycled possession in a perfect example of how well coached and drilled they now are in the art of patience and teamwork. What they've gained in discipline, however, they may have lost in flair, as one pop pass and ruck has become too much the norm. Rhys Williams and the ever-excellent Leigh Davies are welcome exceptions to this, though as soon as slow ball reached Howley the head down and charge brigade seem to take over. With Walne forced to leave the pitch after only five minutes or so we feared the worse as Rayer in his Trabant came on. Merceron had ruthlessly exposed the Rayer-Botham-Hill combination in France, but for this game, the Trabant was more than adequate as it ploughed its furrow in defence and attack. With the pace slower, Rayer was able to show all his skills. It was his beautifully weighted pass that set up Rhys Williams' burst towards the line during the attack that led to Alfie breaking Magne's tackle to cross for Cardiff's first try. That's the best way to silence his critics, don't you think so Andrew?

For Cardiff's second try, Howley offered us a brief glimpse of the player hopefully he still is with a wonderful blindside break from a ruck in the ASM 22. Whilst Botham and Magne traded handbags, Howley sped through the bog and flipped a pass to Voyle in support to score an excellent try. OK, so his dive wasn't exactly Gareth Edwards in 1973, but when you score, you score, and although Mr Voyle hasn't been our flavour of the season so far, this performance was of an altogether different standard. He jumped immaculately in the lineout and supported well in the loose. His tackles are still pretty Derwyn-like, but this was his best game by far in Cardiff colours.

ASM hit back with a try from their only visit to the Cardiff 22 after more totally bewildering decisions from the man in green. First we had a "not-straight", which wasn't. Then we had "numbers-in-the-lineout", which wasn't. And then we had a Ginolaesque bit of diving which the Irishman bought. Three dodgy decisions and Cardiff defence were sleeping. Five points.

It seems that week after week we are saddled with appalling referees, and Alan Lewis was even worse than the Frenchman who ruined the Treviso game. Why can't the orginizers furnish us with a decent referee? Why do we get these complete unknowns who haven't got a clue, frustrate and alienate the players and infuriate the spectators? Referees of this calibre do nothing to spread the popularity of the game. Tacklers constantly lay prostrate after making the tackle and dived over the top to kills the ball. It took the referee an hour to cotton on to this.

The scrum became a joke in the second half, and watching the game on video later, we could finally work out what Lewis said before giving Dai Young a yellow card - "Persistent". "Persistent ..... " what? How can idiots like this ruin the game for the spectator? He failed to control the scrum at all! Pushing before the ball was in, collapsing the scrum, boring in on the hooker, anything was tried in the free for all. As the scrum was Cardiff's most potent weapon, his failure to control it stopped their most likely area for turnovers and points. Thus ASM were able to keep the points down in the second half. During the last 15 minutes nobody had a clue what was going on - least of all the players! Moreover, the problem was not limited to the referee - even the touch judges were useless! Judging when there should be a lineout and who's throw it should be is not exactly the stuff of MENSA members, but these simple decisions were well beyond the ability of the two idiots on show! And this was a televised match! For God sake sort this mess out or you'll drive the spectators away!

One final point about the referee though, however much an idiot he is/was, then the players must never make it obvious that they think he's an idiot. During the game, there was some dangerous examples of arrogance from the players when they ignored the drivel dripping from his mouth. He may be an idiot, but yo can still lose the game if you ignore him!

The second half was a pretty dire affair as the game degenerated into a series of messy scrums and handling errors. The players were totally baffled by the man with the whistle. As Cardiff's supremacy in the scrum waned - partly through the disappearance of Moore, partly through Dai Young's worsening injury (Boy! Do we need him for Saturday!) and partly because the referee didn't have a clue how to control the scrum - their ability to create turnovers disappeared and in the dying seconds only excellent defence limited ASM to the single try. Botham's charge from 50 metres was the highlight of the half when Cardiff enjoyed a length of the pitch romp through some pretty poor tackling from Sadourny and Ngauamo (ex-Harlequins). Jinx's kicking from hand worsened during the second half, though this time the VC didn't try to substitute him. It was left to the faultless Rayer to give an effortless display on how to play in a bog - kicking with ease from hand, by kicking the ball low into the wind. Jenkins just doesn't seem to watch and learn. Can't fault his place kicking though - truly top class even when kicking from the middle of a rice paddy. Must be all that practice behind the Montego.

So now with one final pool match remaining, we've a real chance to finish top of the group. Please give us a decent referee! Whether this means a home draw in the quarter final, seems unlikely though. Nevertheless, find a car, a coach, a train or a bicycle and make your way to The Stoop next Saturday to see Gareth Five Bellies Rees and his buddies get a special dose of revenge. Come on you Blue Blacks!

15
Gethin Rhys Williams
9
/10
Faultless performance with all but seven minutes spent on the wing. Came looking for work when needed and combined well with Rayer in defence. A little underused in attack, but was instrumental in creating the first try.
14
Liam Botham
8
/10
Top game from the Englishman leading from the front in his wholehearted determination to win. Ran 50 metres for his try in the second half and took good angles in attack in the first half.
13
Lee Davies
9
/10
Creative in attack and destructive in defence, the understanding he has with Alfie is ripping defences apart week after week. Two poor kicks short of a 10.
12
Gareth Thomas
9
/10
No sign of the way the French tore through our centres in Montferrand. Defence was excellent and again took his try well. This man is a points machine. Again, plays so well at outside centre complimenting LD so well. What do yo need a trial for, Uncle Graham?
11
Nick Walne
5
/10
Unlucky injury after only a few minutes - had no time to have an impact on the game.
10
Neil Jenkins
6
/10
Deft passing created much in attack and the man gets stuck in - hard - in defence. Coped with the awful pitch well to convert all but one of his attempts at goal. But failure to hit touch so many times in a tighter game could have resulted in defeat, no matter how much his front five were on top. Failed to read the wind in the second half.
9
Robert Howley
5
/10
Made one great break for Voyle's try but other than that, once more failed to make his mark on the game. Kicking from hand was poor and passing erratic. The lack of an imposing character at scrum-half is causing confusion in the team on too many occasions in attack and defence.
8
Emyr Lewis
10
/10
Man of the match. Charged like the Bull of old in attack and wrapped up Magne more times than the Frenchman would like to remember. Where Magne had helped rip Cardiff apart in November, now he faced Lewis on top form. Tarw did more to change the game than any player. A perfect all round display.
7
Martyn Williams
5
/10
Another disappointing display against Montferrand. Lacks the physical stature to play against big physical back rows on a slow and energy-sapping pitch. Maybe we'll see the best of him when we find a decent pitch to play on.
6
Dan Baugh
7
/10
Full-on charges in attack, constantly making good yards, but we didn't see the kidney tackles we're used to wincing at. Took second place to Tarw in that respect.
5
Mike Voyle
8
/10
By far his best game for Cardiff. Faultless in the lineout, good support play in the loose and took his try very well. Learning to tackle will make him the complete player.
4
Steve Moore
9
/10
An excellent performance of abrasive aggression and determination in the tight. Tackle count was immense and stopped the driving mauls that ripped Cardiff apart in France. Why was he taken off at half time?
3
Dai Young
8
/10
Immense first half performance when leading in the tight. Faded after half time, probably due to a worsening injury. Forced ASM to abandon scrums in favour of lineouts, as they realised his strength (even if the referee didn't!).
2
Jon Humphreys
7
/10
One key "not straight" could have been costly, his tackle count is still remarkable. Scrummaging destroyed ASM. Support play was excellent and the man never loses the ball in the tackle. Lack of match fitness probably caused him to fade in the second half.
1
Andrew Lewis
8
/10
His best game of the season with charges in the loose and excellence in the tight. Competition in the Cardiff front row is bringing out the best from all three props and the future looks full of pain for opposition front rows.