Cardiff

k.o. time: 2:30 pm

21 April, 2000

Cardiff Arms Park

Spectators: 4,000

Glasgow
referee
David Davies
2
/10
An abject performance of indecision and inaccurate penalties, topped by the crazy yellow card given to Burke.
weather
A torrential downpour just before kick off almost meant an abandonment, but the surface underneath was hard and held up well.
worth annoying the wife factor
7
/10
our man of the match
Robert Howley
general comment

Not bad, especially when you take into account the slippery conditions.

scorers
Robert Howley (1)
Craig Morgan (2)
Gareth Thomas (1)
Liam Botham (1)
Paul Burke (4)
Paul Burke (2)
our choice for next week

vs Ebbw Vale

k.o. time: 5:30 pm

30 April, 2000

Cardiff Arms Park

15
Gethin Rhys Williams
14
Nick Walne
13
Gareth Thomas
12
Mike Rayer
11
Craig Morgan
10
Paul Burke
9
Robert Howley
8
Emyr Lewis
7
Martyn Williams
6
Philip Wheeler
5
John Tait
4
Steve Moore
3
Dai Young
2
Jon Humphreys
1
Gary Powell

Fielding largely a second team, Cardiff easily overcame a Scottish team containing no fewer than 9 internationals (although perhaps Tommy Hayes caps for the Cook Islands hardly make him a world beater). Again, Cardiff relied on the individual skills - largely bought-in talent - of their star players to cruise to victory, rather than a combined team effort.

Unfortunately, this squad is regressing to the level of 5 years ago, when the players rarely looked as if they had trained together for Cardiff relying more on their sessions for Wales.

With players of the calibre of Emyr Lewis, Howley and Gareth Thomas combined with the pace of Morgan and Walne, very few teams can keep up. This was especially the case with Glasgow who, with the exception of the excellent Metcalfe, lacked pace throughout the team and relied on a limited game plan, orchestrated by the horrendous Hayes, who kicked on numerous occasions, ignoring numerous overlaps outside him.

The Scottish forwards were tough and well coached (as you would expect) but they were never strong enough to exert pressure on Cardiff. There may have been four league points on offer - which should have increased the level of intensity - but the Scots' skill levels lagged woefully behind Bedford and even a Harlequins second XV. In short, both Scottish teams have done nothing to add to the level of competition in the Village League, as their league positions show. They are even behind Bridgend's Dads Army (although with Cardiff with Howell's in charge, he's becoming more like Captain Mannering than a Valley Commando!).

Cardiff approached this game with the tactic of keeping the ball tight in order to create space for the outside backs (eh?). Whilst sucking in the opposition back row may be a valid tactic, with such weak mauling skills on show the tactic required far better organisation sklls and teamwork than was on show on Saturday. Time after time lineouts were turned into pathetic attempts at driving mauls that resulted in Cardiff losing the ball on more than one occasion. The mauling technique of the forwards is now embarrassingly bad. Body angles are too high and there is never any pace nor power in the drive. Even Steve Moore - who excelled at this last season - now seems out of his depth and the general organisation borders on the woeful.

With two lightweight flankers concentrating on the physical stuff (eh?), when Cardiff do pass the ball to the centres, the back row is never in support to guarantee quick ball. So we had two lightweight flankers nowhere in the tight and nowhere in the loose as a result (eh?). Martyn Williams has had a shocking season and should he not progress next year, may even reach Ringer status on these pages. Each time one of the centres was tackled, Burke and another back were forced to wrestle the ball clear. With no backs to pass the ball too, Howley either had to make a break himself or ship the ball to a lumbering forward, which then created another ruck to slow down the game. Against Glasgow the natural skill of players saw Cardiff through but as we saw against Llanelli the inability of the forwards to ruck or maul or break tackles with ball in hand will lose Cardiff games against better opposition.

Gone are the pre-Christmas games where we saw forwards keen to support the ball runner, to be on his shoulder to continue the movement just as contact is made. The Cardiff pack are still very good at one-up close to the ruck rugby, but this is both boring to watch and risky when your play is so one-dimensional. In short, the forward play of Cardiff has regressed since Christmas and this has meant our elimination from both European and Domestic Cups. Thank you Lyn Howells, Wales Forwards Coach . . . . . . an apology in the program is hardly enough. We judge you by how your team performs on the pitch - and at the moment, you've failed to make a team let alone a squad. They're just a bunch of individuals.

It would be wrong to whinge too much about the forwards after THE BACKS HAD PUT IN SUCH A VINTAGE DISPLAY. Howley played close to his best and completely outplayed Nichol. Stealing ball from the scrum, harrowing and tapping at the ankles of the Murrayfield hero, he gave the Scotsman a lesson in scrum half play. Howley plays well with Burke. And yet again we saw another well controlled game from the Irishman. His multi-dimensional play (short passing, long passing, deep kicks etc.) is a joy to watch and he kicks well to touch and at goal. As the mediocrity of Ponty rejects takes over the club, it seems we are going to lose Burke as he returns to Ireland to play for a better coach - Mike Ruddock!

The bursts of Gareth Thomas and the sheer pace of the wingers were way too much for Glasgow. Had the pitch been completely dry then the Cardiff backs would have run rings around them and all this with the Grand Master Rayer at full back. The Scots must have thanked their lucky stars that Rhys Williams wasn't playing!!!!

With the game against Ebbw looming (let's hope they have a big hangover following recent defeats), our backs have nothing to fear, but our forwards - oh dear! We've a ground record stretching back to 1997 to defend, and with our forwards in the state they are, can we keep this record until the end of the season?

With ALP set to leave us, Spencer storming away from the ground before kick off, the abject failure of the three Ponty rejects, losing the excellent Burke and possibly Howley as well, even if we win the league, it's going to be a long summer. We're going to end the season substantially weaker than we started it. If only we'd have spent that money on that French full back on his way to Saracens and not on the Ponty prima donna!

15
Mike Rayer
6
/10
Didn't really have to do much but stand back and watch the young guns sprint away!!!
14
Nick Walne
7
/10
Settling in well at Cardiff and beginning to show just how good he will become.
13
Jamie Robinson
6
/10
An easy ride for the youngster.
12
Gareth Thomas
8
/10
Again excellent. Enjoyed scoring the wonderful try from the restart that just showed the difference in class between the two teams.
11
Craig Morgan
9
/10
Only one dropped up and under spoilt his game. An excellent pick up on the half volley for his first try was coupled with an explosive burst of pace for his second. His speed is devastating and opposition teams cannot live with it. Just what does he have to do to convince Howells he should be in the starting lineup? Or is it more the case that Botham is selected with the English media in mind, rather than because he is a better player than Craig?
10
Paul Burke
9
/10
Wonderfully varied and fluid game
9
Robert Howley
9
/10
Back to near his best.
8
Emyr Lewis
8
/10
Strong ball carries
7
Martyn Williams
3
/10
Never where he was supposed to be at the right time. Exhibiting dangerous Ringer tendencies.
6
Owain Williams
3
/10
ditto
5
John Tait
6
/10
Another who's regressed under Howells - looks like he's really lacking in confidence. This seems to be a trait throughout the pack - is this as a result of Howells' coaching?
4
Steve Moore
5
/10
ditto
3
Dai Young
5
/10
ditto
2
Jon Humphreys
6
/10
Did a little better than against the Turks
1
Gary Powell
6
/10
An awful mauler.