Cardiff

k.o. time: 5:30 pm

30 April, 2000

Cardiff Arms Park

Spectators: 4,000

Ebbw Vale
referee
Clayton Thomas
7
/10
Unbelievable decisions at scrum ruined an otherwise acceptable display. Showed blatant bias when ignoring the way Ebbw's back row broke early from a wheeled scrum.
weather
Sunny and clear
worth annoying the wife factor
7
/10
our man of the match
Martyn Williams
scorers
Nick Walne (1)
Owain Williams (1)
Jamie Robinson (1)
Martyn Williams (1)
Gethin Rhys Williams (1)
Neil Jenkins (6)
Neil Jenkins (2)
our choice for next week

vs Neath

k.o. time: 12:00 am

2 May, 2000

Cardiff Arms Park

15
Gethin Rhys Williams
14
Craig Morgan
13
Jamie Robinson
12
Gareth Thomas
11
Nick Walne
10
Paul Burke
9
Robert Howley
8
Emyr Lewis
7
Martyn Williams
6
Philip Wheeler
5
John Tait
4
Steve Williams
3
Spencer John
2
Jon Humphreys
1
Andrew Lewis

In a game where Cardiff conceded more points at home than any other game this season, for the impartial spectator this was a wonderful game of ebb and flow - the talents and skills of the Cardiff players against the superior organisation and running patterns of a committed Ebbw Vale team. Despite quickly breaking into a 13 point lead, Ebbw were not able to maintain the momentum and spent most of the game in catch up mode. With the game drawing to a close, they found themselves 41-34 behind and stringing huge amounts of phase attacks together - a converted try and they would draw level! But Howley and Rhys Williams' vision gave the youngster a 55m run in to score under the posts and seal a Cardiff victory deep into injury time.

But for a Cardiff supporter, this was yet another lacklustre performance by a team who looked to be going through the motions. When they needed to, there was always something more in the tank to take them away from a gallant Ebbw team, but there was little concerted effort (other than from Howley and Martyn Williams). With only seven players remainng from the starting lineup in October, players played with a grimace on their faces, and a desire to"get things over and done with" rather than to entertain their fans with a professional, committed and disciplined approach.

At the beginning of the day, Ebbw lay second in the league, and it says much for the Village League that first beat second playing some of their worst rugby of the season. Sloppiness and a lack of professionalism characterised the Cardiff performance - too many players going through the motion with no real hunger for the fight. There was a clear arrogance from each individual in the Cardiff ranks who knew they were better individuals than their opposite number and therefore hardly broke sweat in an effort to entertain.

But as a team, the difference was staggering. Ebbw play a disciplined game of recycled phase position, trying to work some space for their half backs. With almost every forward prepared to take the ball and the tackle, and with centres always changing angles of running, their team is well-coached and well organised.

In contrast, the home team relied purely on an outstanding performance from Martyn Williams, and the cool arrogance that one-on-one, they had the upper hand. Cardiff scored some wonderful tries but almost all came from the individual's brilliance rather than any coached pattern to the play. Whereas Sean Connor was always trying to work some space for his centres, the prima donna with the ears just shipped ball onwards. Lying as flat as he does, any defence that drifts too quickly will give him a chance to break, but his total lack of speed of the mark saw him caught on three or four occasions.

At forward, our pack once more destroyed the opposition scrum. Ebbw were missing two key players in their back row, but even with their inclusion, their scrum would still have taken a tonking. In the lineout, the players seem clearly unhappy about the unnecessary, high risk lateral movement which puts unnecessary pressure on thrower, jumper and supporters. Because Ebbw lacked the physical presence to force Cardiff to commit players to ruck and maul, they were always faced with a blue and black wall strung out across the pitch from phase possession. Because there was little or no backing up from the Cardiff team, however, then once Ebbw broke the initial defence, the try line was at their mercy. In the second half, Cardiff were responsible for some totally non-commited defence with players ambling back as Ebbw sprinted through. This performance was about scoring more points than the opposition - not playing to the best of your ability, reducing unforced errors and forcing home your advantage.

In the backs, Howley had a lively game and seemed to always be looking for space. He made a number of lightening breaks, but inevitably there was insufficient support on hand. The ginger disaster did as little as possible - as we've come to expect. But this obviously is enough for his coach, who showed no sign of changing him for the more committed and versatile Burke. Sloppy passing and poor support play characterised the back play, and Cardiff failed to develop any sort of pattern. The tries came from physical superiority and playing the game at a pace that Ebbw could not cope with.

With the season now drawing to a close, its difficult to see how Cardiff will end the season with their ground record in tact. Howell's comments in the press seem to indicate the "let's-get-it-over-and-done-with" attitude that seems to run through the team. No-one seems to be enjoying their rugby. It will be interesting to see what sort of "celebration" there will be on Tuesday, if Cardiff win. The club has disappointingly ensured that the season's climax is on a Tuesday evening, which ruins the chance of supporters from further afield seeing the game.

Despite a beautiful evening and a pitch with more grass on it than we've seen all season, the crowd was miserably few. How far have we slipped since the Saracens, Bath and Swansea games last season? Quite clearly the players area not enjoying their rugby, the supporters are disappointed with the standard (and are staying away). Meanwhile, the coach is disrupting the squad an unmeritocratic selection policy and the rugby is a patternless, shapeless, tactical mess.

As for talk of a British League, and with Cardiff - the League Champions elect - playing as badly as this, they'd be lucky to reach mid-table in the Allied Dunbar. As for Ebbw, well they're going to struggle to reach the European Cup next season with a games against Swansea and Bridgend to come.

15
Gethin Rhys Williams
7
/10
A completely awful failed tackle which allowed Ebbw in for their first "try". Hardly the tackle of an international fullback! Finally showing some willingness to play at outside half from second phase. Kicking was still dubious but his vision is excellent - as exemplified by his understanding with Howley for the last try of the game.
14
Liam Botham
5
/10
Other than one wonderful catch in defence this was a lame performance from the son of daddy sitting in the stand. His kick and chase were miserable - missing his tackles every time and allowing Josh to pick up some speed in attack. A lack of pace meant that he was not on hand to take passes from Howley following many of the numerous breaks made by the scrum half.
13
Jamie Robinson
6
/10
More sloppiness in the pass spoiled an otherwise solid performance. Tackled well and worked effectively with Alfie in defence against an extremely well organized and inventive Ebbw partnership. Typical of the fits and starts that characterized the whole team performance, his determination in the chase virtually one Cardiff a try on his own shortly after the break.
12
Gareth Thomas
6
/10
Treading water. When required, he made and effort,but all too often played well within himself. Typical of the whole team. Hardly any backing up in defence and seemed content to allow Ebbw to score in the full knowledge that Cardiff were capable of scoring more.
11
Nick Walne
5
/10
Stayed on the wing and did as little as possible. Other than Howley and possibly Rhys Williams - the whole of the Cardiff back line seemed to be content to only play when the ball came near them - Walne was also guilty of not looking for work.
10
Neil Jenkins
2
/10
Wonderful place kicking but otherwise showed no appetite for the game. Clearly outpaced by ALP on more than one occasion in the game, it really is scandalous that Howells continues to pick this man. He does as little as possible and has little or no commitment to the team. Turns up, kicks his goals, collects his cheque, and tries not to get injured in the process. With an international like Burke at the club, can't Howells create enough internal competition to ensure that players play at the top of their game, regardless of the opposition?
9
Robert Howley
8
/10
One of only two of the backs who seemed to have a genuine hunger for the game. Always looking to inject some pace into the game, he enjoyed playing against a very depleted Ebbw Vale back row. Still unable to kick off his left foot (what are you practicing, Rob?) his angles of running are excellent. Poor support from his back row and wingers left him isolated on too many occasions having made good yardage.
8
Emyr Lewis
6
/10
Disappointing performance from Tarw. One or two charges but another member of the team doing as little as possible - only when necessary. Started well, but seemed to lack the enthusiasm for the fight - the whole body language of the team is one of lethargy and a lack of enjoyment of the game. Even when the tries came, there was barely a smile from any one of them. Talk about treading water!
7
Martyn Williams
10
/10
One of the games of the season from Martyn. A quite wonderful performance of passion, pace and aggression. Won so many turnovers for Cardiff, we lost count. Always worked hard at the breakdown to pinch the ball Cardiff desperately needed. Made a few good charges with ball in hand and chased lost causes all afternoon. His game of the season.
6
Owain Williams
2
/10
And to think Phil Wheeler's still at the club. Why pick this has-been instead of a player of the future? Saw two tackles from Owain which is two more than usual, but has the physical presence of a rampaging butterfly and the aggression of a psychotic tortoise. Lived on the off side line and vaguely followed play around the pitch. Has been studying Vile's mime-artist-rucking technics. Owain has become a goal hanger - looking for the glory but not putting in the hard work.
5
John Tait
6
/10
Took some excellent catches in the lineout despite the usual disorganised shambles. Why oh why do we have to move around so much? What's the point? Some of the lineout moves were executed so slowly that the Ebbw forwards didn't have to move as the Cardiff forwards flopped into contact. Made a lovely try-making break through some woeful tackling from Ebbw only to fling a wild pass into touch.
4
Steve Moore
6
/10
Another player guilty of a woeful pass throwing away a certain try. Drove well in the loose and the scrum, and won some good lineout ball. But the Cardiff pack performed so much better during the brief moments when they played as a unit instead of a bunch of individuals.
3
Spencer John
7
/10
Some excellent scrummaging from Spencer for which he was given no credit from the blatantly biased Clayton Thomas. Despite destroying the Ebbw scrum every time they stayed up, it was he who was warned by the WRU stooge when the scrum collapsed. Even made some charges from the stand off position during the first half when Jenkins went AWOL. (No wonder he ran out of steam in the second half.)
2
Jon Humphreys
5
/10
Curiously subdued performance from the Cardiff talisman. Whilst the excellent tackles were still there, he seems genuinely unhappy with Howells' unnecessary lineout shambles (as do most of the pack) and the usual love of the game and thirst for action seemed missing from his performance.
1
Andrew Lewis
7
/10
Along with Spencer, ALP also totally destroyed the Ebbw scrum. Sped past Jinx on at least two occasions with a fair turn of speed. Excellent ball carries, but the defensive work that characterized his partnership with Humph earlier in the season seems missing.