Newport

k.o. time: 5:30 pm

26 February, 2000

Rodney Parade

Spectators: 10,000

Cardiff
referee
Nigel Williams
weather
Constant drizzle
worth annoying the wife factor
4
/10
scorers
Liam Botham (1)
Neil Jenkins (1)
Neil Jenkins (2)
our choice for next week

vs Dunvant

k.o. time: 2:30 pm

11 March, 2000

Cardiff Arms Park

15
Gethin Rhys Williams
14
Simon Hill
13
Grant Esterhuizen
12
Leigh Davies
11
Liam Botham
10
Paul Burke
9
Ryan Powell
8
Emyr Lewis
7
Dan Baugh
6
Owain Williams
5
John Tait
4
Steve Williams
3
Gary Powell
2
Jon Humphreys
1
Andrew Lewis

So this is what Adrian Davies meant by slow-motion rugby. The game was reminiscent of the rugby we were forced to watch two seasons ago - slow, with a ball in play figure barely reaching double figures (it seemed), with little skill and a unknown referee way out of his depth.

Cardiff were lackluster throughout, despite the best efforts of a small number of players (Rayer, Botham, Leigh Davies, Dai Young, Vile, ALP and Quinnell & Owain in the second half - you can't play rugby with only half a team), but should have easily beaten a one paced Newport team, devoid of speed in thought or deed. In fact so devoid, that there was only one team more devoid on Saturday and that was Cardiff.

It is sad that modern rugby allows a negative style to win over a team at least trying to play running rugby - and by doing so playing completely the wrong tactics. Newport's tactics were to kick long and chase and wait for Cardiff to make the mistakes. This Cardiff duly obliged to do - running the ball from impossible positions, forcing the ball in the tackle on too many occasions and lacking a mauling game with big ball carriers to make the most of the conditions. Great selection, VC!

The disjointed display by the Cardiff team reminded us of the rugby during the World Cup, but then we had the excuse of it being second team. No such excuse now, however, as the backs' alignment approached Wales' standard and the forwards, although tackling well, had no interest in supporting the ball carrier (sounds like Wales again, doesn't it?). Continuity was lost as Martyn Williams obviously can't play rugby east of Caerphilly.

Yet never has a referee allowed so much advantage play during such an important cup match. His arm waving was on a par with a Dutch windmill as he allowed both side to make constant handling errors. Why? It can only be explained by his unwillingness to give scrums - perhaps the only facet of play that worked for Cardiff all night. This was because he had no idea of how to control the scrum. As Newport were able to disrupt - they were donated free kicks from each - in fact only one penalty from a scrum was given to Cardiff all game (and that was when they were camped on their own line). These new rules - at least his interpretation of the new rules - allowed a team quite obviously totally outclassed in the scrum to stop Cardiff's most potent weapon.

His unwillingness to stop play resulted in a shambles of a game, strewn with errors and players appearing in strange parts of the ground with ball in hand. But the eccentricities of the referee did not stop there. After 45 minutes of the game, not for the first time this season, the referee had given almost twice as many penalties to the opposition as to Cardiff - the penalty count was Newport 11 against Cardiff 6. This ratio was to continue throughout the second half.

The off the ball fighting was the result of player's frustrations and the loose nature of the game. Unfortunately, Newport players just couldn't take a tackle. Every time they received a big hit - obviously not used to it in the Village League games they play - they started throwing punches. This ill discipline led to Forster being sent off (by the touch judge - not the referee, of course) because of an off the ball incident.

But we shouldn't dwell too much on the referee. When you play in the village league, under the WRU, this is what you expect - biggest game of the round and we get an unknown referee. Cardiff should have strolled to victory but quite simply, the Newport pack and indeed the Newport team - wanted it more than some of the "we're only here for the money" Cardiff players. Their season's not been going well, and the jibes left them with something to prove. And they did.

Let's not forget that the quality of the Newport team is poor and they've seen defeat by Bedford (!) this season. There is no pace in the Newport backs, with General Franco operating more at the pace of Sergeant Bilko, and centres less mobile than the excellent Rod Snow (although he can't scrummage, but you didn't seem to need to on Saturday). J2H was non-existent (quite incredible all the column inches written about this man! We should have left him in Oz!). Yet there was no hunger in the Cardiff team and their performance was sloppy, lazy and disinterested.

After half time we expected to see the players charge onto the pitch with a real rocket up their collective ar@es following a serious bollo@king from the VC. But no, they strolled on and proceeded to play in exactly the same way as the first half. The forwards were out mauled (again) and were always second best in the loose. When Don Boat was in the sin bin we saw Martyn Williams packing down on the blind side as Steve Williams picked up and drove at Bilko. Obviously Jenkins had to join the ruck to recycle the ball and momentum, and ultimately possession, was lost. No brains.

It was this kind of sloppy, amateur performance that allowed Newport to win.

Jenkins play in general suggested that he was from the high Veld, and not Bilko, as he wanted to run everything in the first hour, including from his own line. In Cup games, Jinx, when the ball is wet, you kick the bloody thing (especially when your best centre is not playing) and do not shift on constant hospital passes to Leigh Davies! Bilko and Howarth gave Jenkins a lesson in wet weather rugby - but you have to ask yourself, why does he need one? Do we have to go through a whole season of watching the rubbish he serves up? How much longer before Peter Thomas realises that he's simply a waste of money - sell him to Bath before his value falls even further!

Vile was prominent with ball in hand, and then even more prominent when the ball was knocked out of his hands.

The blame for the defeat must lay clearly with the VC. Two days before a big cup game he states on television that the treble is beyond his team this season, which cannot be the best preparation. He, and indeed most of his players, is not bright enough to deal with reverse psychology, which, if asked, he probably thinks is a manoeuvre on your driving test. His comments showed the lack of ambition he has for the club - we want to see 100% effort each week! OK, so you can't win every game but you should always give your best trying. So Howells, do you think your team gave of their best? Do you think they played for the jersey? Do you think they played with pride and commitment to the club? (This lack of commitment comes from the top, where he's more interested in the Welsh team than the Cardiff team.) With the money and resources at your fingertips, there should be no team (other than a team coached by Gareth Jenkins, who on their day are a match for anyone) in Wales that should come within 20 points of Cardiff. How are you going to win the European Cup when your team can't even beat a team who lost to Bedford?

He asked his players to play the wrong tactics - how many up and unders did Jenkins kick? How many times did he choose to run the ball from his own 22? How many times did he organise his offensive back line properly? And what about the VC's selection policy? Why didn't he have a ball carrier in the pack? In wet weather the back row had no real ball carrier, although Don Bough - no relation to Frank, honest - does his best.

The coup de grace was with the replacement of Boat by Owain Jordan (no criticism meant for Owain, though, who played with real guts and determination in the last few minutes - if only the rest of the pack had played like that!). To take off your hardest (apart from Dai Young) tackler and most effective ball carrier was crazy. Steve Williams or Vile should have been removed, yet his blind spot with Vile is now so apparent as to be embarrassing. The VC cares only about the Welsh team - not about Cardiff - and is more interested in securing the top spot with GH returns home. Why else did he start the game with Moore, who's form has dipped dramatically in the last few months? If he thinks he's a better player, then why wasn't he in the starting line up?

15
Mike Rayer
8
/10
his conditions. A faultless performance of commitment and skill - should have moved to outside half with 20 minutes left. Showed commitment and speed of thought well about most of the rest of the back line.
14
Liam Botham
8
/10
another totally committed performance from the man with massive co-hoonies. Great ball carries and catching, even when at full back. If only he could kick straight . . . . . made his traditional direct kick to touch from an up and under. Played for his jersey.
13
Jamie Robinson
2
/10
totally out of his depth. Stood far too far away from Leigh Davies in attack, which forced him to go inside. HE IS AN INSIDE CENTRE - although no one in the Welsh coaching set up clearly understands the difference between inside and outside.
12
Leigh Davies
7
/10
solid in defence but had such bad ball shipped on to him he must've thought he was playing outside Arwel Thomas. The only back who looked like he could break the gain line which he did on numerous occasions. However, there was never anybody within five yards of him to whom he could pass the ball (now that sound's familiar, doesn't it?).
11
Nick Walne
2
/10
totally anonymous, apart from doing the VC's job and taking Robinson out the game with a fine head butt - that's how disorganised they were! Didn't play for the jersey and is hardly playing at all in fact. Signed on a reputation that has failed to materialise - all he's done is keep Craig Morgan out of the team. Up your effort or bugger off! It cost us eight quid each to watch the rubbish you serve up!
10
Neil Jenkins
2
/10
played the wrong game, again, and we lost again - see Montferrand. Looked like he couldn't give a sh@t in the last 20 minutes - no urgency to his play at all. Tactically inept, and although touch kicking was very good, missed a vital 3 points from a position where Howarth did not miss. Only here for the money, and shows no sign of any improvement this season. The same mistakes, week in, week out.
9
Robert Howley
5
/10
committed but with little skill, even when Newport's back row was reduced to two.
8
Steve Williams
3
/10
another making mistakes and playing loose rugby in tight conditions.
7
Martyn Williams
1
/10
Still constricted when forced to play in a county not containing the word Glamorgan. Another player selected by Howells because he coached him at Pontypridd - not because he lays his body on the line for the club. When the weather's wet you need big ball carriers and mauling forwards - Howell's picked a loose back row of ball handlers.
6
Dan Baugh
5
/10
big tackles but discipline let him and the team down. Every week he's getting sin binned and is becoming more of a liability than an asset.
5
Mike Voyle
6
/10
put a lot of effort into his game but spills the ball more times in the tackle than Pies Snr. Really seemed to play for the jersey, but effort didn't equal results. Tackles with his arms and not his body.
4
Steve Moore
2
/10
Woeful - why didn't you start with Quinnell, Howells? Why was Quinnell fannying about with the ball on the pitch at half time instead of listening to the team talk?
3
Dai Young
8
/10
tremendous scrummaging which murdered the Wobbling Bok and awesome tackling in the tight. At times in the second half it was Dai Young against the whole of the mauling Newport pack. Should not have been penalised for the last kick.
2
Andrew Lewis
6
/10
one poor throw in. Some good tackling around the pitch in the first half. Played for his jersey in the last twenty minutes when others were just picking up their cheques and thinking about driving home in their flash cars.
1
Spencer John
3
/10
did not play like a man motivated to play for Wales. Did not play like a man motivated to play for Cardiff. Did not play like a man motivated. Did not play. Did not .... oh! you get the point.