Scarlets

k.o. time: 3:05 pm

15 April, 2000

Stradey Park

Spectators: 11,000

Cardiff
referee
Didier Mene
5
/10
Had no idea how to referee collapsing scrums - but then what referee does? On at least one of the key second half penalties, Bambi's hand was clearly on the ground. Good decision on Cardey's "try", bad decision on Botham's. Couldn't get the game flowing and awarded a staggering 49 penalties during the contest! Should have sin-binned Gilles in the first half. Read the press before the game and used his whistle more than his brain. A quick note on the shambles of an organisation which allows such confusion over the sin-bin rule. Stuart Gallacher claimed that the clubs had not been told about the rules - he obviously didn't feel they were obliged to find out! This is typical of the attitude of dependency that dogs Welsh rugby administration! Ken Braxton, you're a star mate! Another ref who clearly showed that he didn't understand the rules!
weather
Bright and sunny
worth annoying the wife factor
1
/10
our man of the match
Dan Baugh
scorers
Neil Jenkins (1)
our choice for next week

vs Glasgow

k.o. time: 2:30 pm

21 April, 2000

Cardiff Arms Park

15
Gethin Rhys Williams
14
Craig Morgan
13
Gareth Thomas
12
Leigh Davies
11
Nick Walne
10
Paul Burke
9
Ryan Powell
8
Steve Williams
7
Philip Wheeler
6
Dan Baugh
5
John Tait
4
Steve Moore
3
Dai Young
2
Jon Humphreys
1
Spencer John

Cardiff slumped to yet another defeat at the hands of the mighty Scarlets - their third in a row. They were out-thought, out-tackled and out-muscled by a highly professional and disciplined Llanelli side.

The Turks victory was built on forward power by a team coached by the Welsh ..... Uh .... forward coach. In the lineout, they competed on the Cardiff throw and kept things simple. Craig Gilles took some key Cardiff ball, and Humph was guilty of two not straight throws. Meanwhile, the Cardiff lineout concentrated on trying to out manoeuvre the Scarlets by arriving late at the lineout and moving around back and fore at a rate of knots.

As scrum, we saw an unbalanced second row partnership with Cardiff unable to gain any advantage when in the ascendancy at scrum and conceding four key penalties from the scrum after the break to the Scarlets' eight. An abiding memory will be Dai Young getting shoved back at a rate of knots by Bambi.

As for the breakdown, the Llanelli pack were far faster to ruck and maul. Their pick and drive was executed at a speed that the Cardiff pack couldn't match and Cardiff were out-muscled in the mauls.

But this was a really dire game. No fault to the winners - they played to their strengths and won by a mile. Nevertheless, the contrast with the flowing rugby played by Munster and Stade Francias was clear. This game summed up Village rugby in Wales. The players new each other inside out and the first half was a dire succession of off the ball elbows and jersey pulling, punctuated with the unusually whistle happy Mene, who somehow managed to miss Gillies throwing punches of the ball at Vile on at least two occassions. Unfortunately, most did not land.

The game descended into who made the fewer mistakes and this Llanelli did with ease. Time after time, Cardiff players spilt the ball, failed to release it in the tackle or crept up off side.

With both sets of players cancelling each other out, this game was down to the brains of the coaches - and the VC came off a desperate second. Take a look at our match report for the previous game at Stradey, and look to see if Howell's learned anything. In that game, a lightweight backrow was outplayed - our scrummage was ripped apart and Howells failed to make fast enough substitutions when the gamewas going away from Cardiff. Steve Williams was the man of the match - but didn't even get a start in this game.

So where did the VC lose us the game?

Well firstly his selection. If Steve Williams is injured, then he has an excuse, but starting with such a physically lightweight back row was criminal. As prophesied by Skipper - the Ponty fan - the back row weakness was the biggest reason for the defeat. Whilst the loss of Emyr Lewis (who lost half a stone with a virus this week!) was a bitter blow, he must have known all week that the man was unlikely to start. Unlucky to be without Kacala as well, there seemed no Plan B. If his plan was to play it fast and wide with a mobile back row and lightweight back row, he didn't tell his half backs. Owain Williams was guilty of many mistakes and poor tackling - indicating that this perhaps was the game to throw in a youngster, such as Phil Wheeler. Terry Holmes was willing to do such that against Swansea at home last year and the youngster had a storming game.Another selection blunder was failing to pick Moore to combat the heavier Llanelli pack. The scrum was always going to Cardiff's major attacking weapon, and no Moore weakened the scrum.

Secondly was his injudicious use of substitutes. The man is obviously blind to the faults of the prima donna at outside half, but as the game wore on, it was becoming increasingly obvious that the man had no idea on how to break down the Llanelli defence. With Paul Burke on top of his game, his Valley Vision has blinded him to the strengths already in his squad. Even the prima donna's woeful kick offs didn't prompt Howells to take action! Also, why did he wait so long to bring Moore on? Four penalties after the break came from a Cardiff scrum retreating at a rate of knots - why not make the change earlier? The man learned nothing from the defeat in September.

Thirdly was the total shambles of a lineout he has ruined. Unnecessary jiggery pokery puts too much pressure on the team. Keep it simple. No pressure on the Scarlets' throw in enabled them to get away with mistakes that Cardiff didn't.

Finally, as we saw at Rodney Parade, he does not know how to prepare his team for Cup games (as we're sure Ponty fans will agree). To go to a fortress of Welsh running rugby and try to out run the home team in the first twenty minutes was farcical. Again, he obviously learned nothing from the shambles in France. As against Newport, Jenkins was reluctant to kick for position and not one up-and-under was put in. Cup rugby is all about playing the touchlines, keeping the ball tight and making few mistakes. Once you then have the platform and the opposition players are tired from having to make tackles, then you spread the ball wide and use the pace of Walne and Williams. Instead, Cardiff had no game plan. The lack of a ball carrier up front was obvious - so why are there no coached moves to overcome this? Dan Baugh is not used close to the rucks from second phase play, Andrew Lewis did not have the ball in hand, Humph only took the ball standing still. When they were close to the line, the set piece penalty move used was the same they have used all season. Did the VC not think that Llanelli were waiting for this one? It is clear that he has one way of playing rugby, as showed when he was at Ponty. The game is based around a strong number 8 (MacIntosh) who carries the ball over the gain line. Therefore, without Kacala or Emyr Lewis, his game is lost - there is no plan B. Rumours abound that Geraint Lewis is joining Cardiff in the summer - but he's more of the same. What we need is a ball carrying tackler, not a loose basketball player.

The Cardiff style of play is based on set piece rugby. The successful teams of the Eighties and Nineties had strong ball winning forwards - Norster, Scott, Tony Rees, Wakeford etc - who could win ball in the lineout and scrummage well. Once domination had happened up front, then the backs such as Ring and Adrian Davies were able to enjoy the space. But under the VC there is no plan. You run the ball from the start of the game, yet you have an outside half who stands flat and takes the ball standing still. He picks a back row of two open sides and his favourite paperweight Vile. To play the fast game he picks a (slow) centre on one wing and with the other (much faster) wing never gets a pass. Strong scrummaging second rows have been sacrficed for mobile runners. His team is full of anomalies for the game he wants to play. In short it'll never work against good coaches (Allan Lewis, Gareth Jenkins).

But perhps the most worrying deficiency in the Cardiff team is their lack of heart. Content with bullying minows, Howell's has failed to create a spirit in the squad. Instead of playing as a unit, they were pointing fingers at each other - this is the coach's responsibility.

So where do we go from here? Have Cardiff progressed since last season? With Terrance at the helm, we suffered from the poor use of subs, though on reflection, selection was far more based on merit than favoritism. It is clear that the VC picks certain players out a jaundiced view of the best XV - namely at least two of his ex-Ponty players and Mike Voyle. Botham may be in the team as a media ploy to keep the English interested in Cardiff, but he rarely goes looking for work. Cardiff will probably win the Village Mickey Mouse League this year, but the VC has failed to produce the goods in three key games - at Rodney Parade, Montferrand and again at Sradey. With all the money pumped into the club through the biggest supporter base in Wales and one of the biggest in Britain, only winning the Village League this year is simply not good enough! We're still seeing passionless sub-standard performances away from home - just as last year - though now we're also seeing bewildering selections which do not relfect current form.

It is our belief that the man is having a negative effect on the club. We're winning games against sub-standard opposition through the excellence of individuals rather than the excellence of the team. The unit has functioned as they should for only 30 minutes this season - the first 30 minutes against Montferrand. He's failed us three times away from home - Rodney Parade, Montferrand away and now Stradey.

What Cardiff need is a coach who understands there's a big rugby world out there - a coach who picks players on form, not because they come from the same valley as he does, a coach who aims high by encouraging his players to look to higher levels. We need players who want to be part of the club and not just in it for the money. After playing home in the French league, Montferrand players take it in turns for bar duty in the club house - Olivier Magne must pull pints on a Saturday night after a game, whereas our boys just p**s off back to Ponty / Neath / Caerphilly in the Mercedes counting their win bonus for beating Dunvant.

Peter Thomas - Howells must go!

15
Gethin Rhys Williams
7
/10
Had little to do all game. Didn't field the attacking kicks as well as Cardy but counter-attacked well. Never pops up at stand off from second phase (a la England) - probably because the whole club seems to be being run by the second rate prima donna at outside half. Needed to come into the game more and didn't.
14
Liam Botham
7
/10
Another with little to do throughout the game. Bad decision by the touch judge cost him a try. One slice kick to touch. Defended OK. Hardly in the game.
13
Leigh Davies
7
/10
Charged well in almost no space. Always looked to keep the ball alive in the tackle but had no support. Predictably left the game injured after his first attempt to tackle the failed Warrington prop, Finau.
12
Gareth Thomas
8
/10
Another player who made yards and should have been used more often, but never got the ball in space and often found himself isolated without a back row. He often broke the gain line only to be forced into a turnover or to give away a penalty as his much-vaunted open side was nowhere.
11
Nick Walne
7
/10
Barely got a pass all game. Woefully under used. Showed his pace when passing Cardey in the second half.
10
Neil Jenkins
2
/10
Surely now clearly the worst signing Cardiff have ever made (alongside Vile and Robert Ackermen - for surely there were two of them under that jersey). Totally outplayed by his opposite number. Totally devoid of ideas. Unwilling to make the tackles that Stephen Jones made. Unable to work any space for his centres. Couldn't even kick off properly! McGeechan had the right idea - shove him at full back so that he can kick at goal. For the second week in a row, the introduction of Rayer highlighted all the prima donna's weaknesses. With a deft slight of hand, visionary running angles and the art of the unexpected, Rayer carved holes in the Llanelli defence.
9
Robert Howley
8
/10
Worked very hard in attack and defence and desperately tried to up the tempo of the game. Always looked for space, was woefully under-supported every time he made a break. Didn't kick as well as Moon.
8
Owain Williams
2
/10
Did one thing all game and did it badly. Charged down a kick and instead of heading for the line, looked to pass. Didn't see him make a tackle all game. Unable to match the physical and abrasive nature of the Llanelli pack - now there's a surprise! Poor support play. Had no idea how to play behind a retreating pack - take channel one ball and break quickly. Instead kept the ball at his feet and watch the scrum disintegrate. Owain has been a good servant for Cardiff, but the man's had two seasons too many at the Arms Park.
7
Martyn Williams
2
/10
As the game was lost, came into his own - a la Ringer. Lacked the physical presence to halt the Llanelli charges. Was rarely on hand at the breakdown to speed up the phase play. As is well known and established now, the man cannot play outside his valley. Cardiff's best period in the game was when he was in the bin. Was the man therefore more of a liability than an asset? Please Ebbw, can we have Paul Williams back?
6
Dan Baugh
2
/10
Drove Quinnell across the pitch every time the non-passer had the ball. As happens at the palpably higher level Six Nations. Quinnell should have then been isolated and there should have been a turnover, but a one man back row is never enough.
5
Mike Voyle
3
/10
Out-scrummaged, out-jumped and non-existent in the loose. We know he's not a ball carrier (though boy did we need one) and therefore contributed little.
4
John Tait
4
/10
His worst game for Cardiff in living memory. A player who loves the loose stuff, he was a victim of the total lack of balance in the Cardiff pack. Eventually won some ball in the lineout but both Cardiff second rows were totally outplayed by Gilles and Wyatt.
3
Dai Young
4
/10
Shunted back in the scrum and unable to win an advantage over Bambi. Did some useful work in the tight, but failed to take a pass all game.
2
Jon Humphreys
5
/10
Looked the shadow of the player who's excelled this season. Two not straights in the lineout and a failure in the scrum. Like Young, worked hard in the physical stuff around the mauls and rucks.
1
Andrew Lewis
7
/10
Don't know how much his injury affect his game, but propped well against his opposite number. One of the few forwards to take on ball carrying duties around the park.