Cardiff

k.o. time: 2:30 pm

12 August, 2000

Cardiff Arms Park

Spectators: 6,241

Leicester
referee
David McHugh
8
/10
Didn't miss much. Failed to get a grip of the scrums but then what ref does? Failed to penalise petulant back chat and throwing the ball away following infringements. Picked up well on all the crossing and forward passes. We'll get plenty of worse refs this season!
weather
Very sunny and hot
worth annoying the wife factor
9
/10
our man of the match
Jamie Robinson
scorers
Gareth Thomas (1)
Craig Morgan (1)
Nick Walne (1)
Jamie Robinson (1)
Neil Jenkins (3)
Neil Jenkins (1)
our choice for next week

vs Neath

k.o. time: 2:30 pm

26 August, 2000

Cardiff Arms Park

15
Paul Jones
14
Nick Walne
13
Jamie Robinson
12
Pieter Muller
11
Craig Morgan
10
Neil Jenkins
9
Robert Howley
8
Emyr Lewis
7
Martyn Williams
6
Matthew Griffin
5
John Tait
4
Martin Morgan
3
Dai Young
2
Andrew Lewis
1
Gary Powell

Cardiff took the Champion of Champions Trophy with a mix of highly skilled, high paced rugby and hard physical graft from a Leicester team content to wage a forward war.

Jamie Robinson was the star performer on the day and other than a wild pass which lead to a Leicester interception try and one sliced kicked his day was nigh on perfect. His vision, pace and deft passing made him man of the match. He was a man playing for his place in the team and on this sort of form, who could deny him that? With Pieter Muller - making his debut for the Blue and Blacks - he formed a centre partnership which looked perfectly balanced from the outset. Muller was all muscle, physical aggression and slick passing in the tackle, and Robinson was all speed - drifting excellently in defence and passing expertly in attack. Without doubt, he's a player flourishing under the excellent coaching skills of Geraint John.

This was one of the toughest opening games seen at CAP in recent times and certainly had an intensity only matched by Village games against Llanelli, Swansea and Newport. The Leicester side was packed full of internationals including four Lions. Their hard, forward-based game tested the pack's resolve to the full and a tough physical confrontation followed.

But it was Cardiff's back line that was the difference between the two teams. Whilst Leicester continued to look for the inside pass and limit the width of their attacks, Cardiff mixed it up tight and then worked it out wide, where both Craig Morgan and Nick Walne benefitted from some excellent centre play. Walne deserves his chance to prove himself against little Shane in two weeks time!

Almost inevitably, problems with the scrum at the start caused Mr McHue the biggest headache. But it wasn't long before Dan Baugh started dishing out his own head aches as he dumped Neil Back the first time he took the ball forward. Don't know what they've been feeding him off season but the Canuck's appetite for the game seems as big as ever! The battle between the two diminutive flankers was a key point in the game - Back palpably quicker to the breakdown and an excellent spoiler at the ruck, and Baugh an awesome tackler turning defence into attack time after time.

Indeed, the back row was where Leicester had an edge and from the first Leicester scrum, the number eight charged down the blind side without a finger being laid on him by our blind side nor No. 8, Matthew Griffin - the new Wales U-21 signing from Abertillery. By the third scrum, the ref had had enough and Leicester were penalised.

Cardiff started the game with Jenkins off-loading to trundling forwards lolloping into the Leicester tackles - little ground was made. Griffin missed another tackle as Johnson walked through the defence. However the young number 8 showed enough to indicate that he has real potential and his support play was good throughout the game. A lovely chip through by Jenkins after 10 minutes almost resulted in a Cardiff.

At this stage of the game, both teams were attacking from deep and the visitors almost got away from behind their own line. Big tackles rained in from the Cardiff back line, the pick of which was a wonderful effort by Jamie Robinson as the Leicester winger charged through. Cardiff continue to press and only a brilliant tackle stopped Nick Walne from going over in the corner. An excellent break by Walne left Winston Stanely Fletcher for dead, with only frantic Leicester cover getting the team out of jail. This was high quality attack and defence from both teams the like of which we rarely see in the Village League.

The home side's greatest weakness in the game was undoubtedly in the lineout where Leicester were unchallenged on their own throw. From almost each lineout they took they took on a drive, consistently making 10-15 meters.

But the home side's greatest strength was the scrum and after a quarter of an hour the pack won the first kickable penalty of the game as they drove the Leicester pack off the ball. Jenkins slotted the kick to make it 3-0 to Cardiff. However, instead of consolidating the lead, from the ensuing kick off, Jenkins chose to run the ball from his own line and with a bad pass caused a turnover to Leicester. Some things never change. Already we were making the same mistakes as last season. Why not kick to touch and force the opposition to take risks and play catch up rugby?

After 20 minutes, the Cardiff forwards had enough of Neil Back's constant obstruction and offside play, and he got a good shoeing from Don Boat as he lay on the wrong side of a ruck. That put them both in the bin for 10 minutes and gifted the visitors 3 points. It didn't discourage the England flanker, mind you, and he gave away another penalty for holding onto a player without the ball as Leicester pressed hard in the second half. A further penalty against Back - offside at ruck on the hour mark - should have resulted in three points, but Jenkins missed the kick.

Some of Cardiff's second and third phase play was woefully slow with Howley so miserably tardy in his distribution that the defence had plenty of time to realign. Slow ball from rucks to Jenkins static at stand off, led to pre-meditated kicking despite clear overlaps.

Garforth lasted 25 minutes of neck breaking work before Deano had enough and took him off. But it didn't get any better for the Leicester pussy cats as they continued to get completely ripped apart by the Cardiff front row. The Leicester front row spent more time in the air than on the pitch!

However, with ball in hand Cardiff lost the ball and their patience too often in the game and lacked Leicester's more professional but more dull approach in their commitment to grind the opposition down instead of trying to cut through with speed. When Leicester did take tap penalties quickly, they burst through on more than one occasion without a hand being laid on the ball carrier. Good tackling by Voyle on more than one occasion made a real difference and he also played well with ball him hand, cutting out the errors and showing good vision and support play. However, in general too many Cardiff forwards were taking the ball standing still which meant that the defence was able to drive them back in the tackle.

Howley made two beautiful box kicks for Walne to chase. The second follow on kick - with Stimpson buried at the bottom of a ruck - showed excellent speed of thought and although slightly mis-directed, Jenkins sprinted through well and pressurised the defence into errors.

Gareth Thomas spent most of the game standing far too deep (but better than standing shallow) and Heally did his best to exploit the novice with chips into space behind the centres. Standing at deep long off meant that he was able to stop the ball going to the boundary but it was a good three runs every time the ball went anywhere near him! With one long raking kick Heally made sixty yards punt down the pitch Thomas chasing behind. However, on the whole, Alfie showed a lot of commitment and defended well but was inexplicably not tested under the high ball throughout the whole game. As far as the battle of the full backs went, ex-Lion Stimpson faired far worse than the inexperienced Alfie. He made a remarkable number of fumbles in defence - far more than the novice- and every time he came into the line was greeted with a bone crunching tackle from Jamie Robinson. Leicester may need to look for a new full back instead of Stimpson who got a good shoeing on more than one occasions.

Tries from Gareth Thomas bursting into the line with pace as every good full back should and Craig Morgan took Cardiff to a 17-3 lead only for a determined Leicester side to hang on with an interception try which kept them in touch at 17-10.

Muller the muldooner dumped Austin Healey on his bum so many times by the end of the game was playing like an Austin Metro at scrum half and looking more like an Austin Allegro.

Owain - in a complete roll reversal of his usual performance - won some good ball in the tight but was much slower to the breakdown than the Leicester back row - Back in particular. He made some good tackles around the fringes and won the ball on the floor on more than one occasion.

There was a clear difference in styles with the Leicester forwards making more yardage than Cardiff with low body angles. They're aim is to make only ten yards before shovelling it back through their legs. Other than Dan Baugh who early on in the game made good yardage (probably because he runs so close to the ground) Cardiff players' body positions were too high and thus the forward charges were less effective at the start of the game. The home side were trying to off load in the tackle more and make a try scoring break - more spectacular but not always more appropriate. Leicester played the percentages but as the game entered the final quarter their passing style too became more open. The team that wins this year's European Cup will surely be able to play both styles and matches the right style for the right occasion.

After the break, Howley started the second half as he ended the first with a superb box kick resulting in the Leicester winger getting the ball and Nick Walne all in one motion - good percentage rugby from Cardiff turning defence into attack.

However, the glaring weakness of the lineout meant that by this stage Cardiff were regularly losing the ball from their own throw-ins. When ALP came on at hooker, a quarter of an hour into the second half, the situation hardly improved. Shortly after his introduction, Cardiff lost three lineouts from their own throw in. This phase was a shambles throughout the game with over complication pitched at a level above what the players are capable of. Every lineout looked more like line dancing than rugby and surely occasionally a throw to Moore and drive would have been the safer option - particularly in your own 22m! Alp struggled and threw a barrage of not-straights a la Barry Williams.

Leicester tactics in the second period involved a one up pass and run hard and straight into the tackle - trying to push the ball back quickly to the scrum half. A prime example of this was around 20 minutes into the second half when the visitors took about half a dozen phases to go 25 yards. Head down and charge. Leicester were using only about a 1/4 of the width of the pitch. A series of big tackles from Don frequently drove Leicester attackers back, but it was their alignment in their backs and continual preference for taking the ball inside that made it inevitable that they'd eventually run into a Dan Baugh special and the turnover would come.

Paul Jones came on for Gareth Thomas on the hour mark shortly followed by Gary mPowell for Young - the part timer - and Lee Davies on for a tiring Muller.

Although there was too much slow ball from Howley and Jenkins it was ironically from such static play that Cardiff scored the best try of the game. Some superb passing from Lee Davies and Jason Robinson in the centre - looping a la Tri-Nations - saw Nick Walne in at the corner. Neil Jenkins missed the kick but the home side took a 24-10 lead.

With 10 minutes to go, Back charged through some pretty feeble Jenkins tackling and Cardiff were lucky as Leicester knocked-on yards from the line. However, at the following scrum, direct ball from ALP shot out of the back of the scrum. Owain - just returned to the pitch as sub for Griffin - failed to control it and a skewed kick to touch meant that Cardiff were forced to defend Leicester's favorite 5 yard lineout. Leicester scored from the resulting lineout. Another gift. 24-17.

A bad kick from the resulting kick off from Jenkins - low and flat to the opposition number 8 - had the crowd whispering that there were signs of Swansea all over again. Another lineout ball lost by Cardiff when a difficult throw to the rear resulted in another Leicester put in was only rescued by our total supremacy at the scrum. Excellent pressure from the backs and good work by Owain set up well deserved try for Jamie Robinson as he sprinted for the corner. Jenkins missed the kick but Cardiff went into a 29-17 lead . As the game drew to a close, Martin Morgan comes on for the largely anonymous Steve Moore.

But things were not over yet and another penalty given away by Cardiff gave Leicester a further 5 yard lineout and only a desperate tackle from Walne in the corner saved the try.

With Leicester pressing until the end, the ref finally ended an excellent afternoon's entertainment by two totally committed squads. Overall the work rate of the boys was excellent though the forwards tired in the final quarter and the back row got slower and slower to the breakdown, the immense tackling of the backs (and Don) won errors from Leicester and so we got the turnovers. Judging by the attendance, this is the sort of game the public want the clubs must sort out fixtures to give us these games. Perhaps more importantly, it is clearly what the players want, as their levels of concentration and commitment remained high throughout the afternoon (unlike the half hearted approach we often see in Village League games).

Clearly we did not miss Liam Botham or Leigh Davies at all. Although Voyle did a lot of work, there was no ball carrier in the back row again and now with Emyr Lewis injured (again! Now that was hardly unpredictable, was it?), as is Phil Wheeler and Greg Kacala, Cardiff have four fit back row players at the beginning of a season. So why are we signing another prop? Isn't there an obvious area of weakness there? Bizarre!

15
Gareth Thomas
6
/10
Took his usual try extremely well. Fielded not one up and under and had to make no kicks at all during the game. Poorly tested by Leicester. Chose to stand deep and run the ball back at the opposition. Excellent experience for Alfie to watch the game from full back, but surely his future lies elsewhere.
14
Nick Walne
8
/10
A performance full of speed and determination. Was used well by Howley and by the team who tried to put the big man in space. First up tackles were excellent and made a try saver in the corner as the game came to a close.
13
Jamie Robinson
8
/10
Man of the match with some great rugby played. Interception pass and poor kicking robs him of a 10, but his all round commitment was excellent. The man means business and wants to keep the outside centre slot! Look out Alfie!
12
Pieter Muller
8
/10
A trifle portly but when this man gets fit the opposition better watch out. One of the best Cardiff debuts in years. A very clever signing and already looks well as home with the squad. Will be a major player for Cardiff this season.
11
Craig Morgan
8
/10
Liam who? Direct running and confident, competent defence mean the try machine is just getting better and better. Even did the hitch kick on Austin for his try. A born entertainer!
10
Neil Jenkins
6
/10
Patches of excellence interspersed with lazy rubbish. Missed too many kicks to touch and was too static with ball in hand, but made some lovely breaks and showed good commitment. Signs of a real partnership starting with Howley.
9
Robert Howley
6
/10
As with Jenkins, some of Howley's play was excellent and some was very poor indeed. Box kicked very well, but the speed of his passing from rucks and mauls was almost Moonesque. Not the form that will win him a Lions place by a long way.
8
Matthew Griffin
6
/10
Shaky start defensively and lacks the physical presence that someone of his size should have. Nevertheless his support play was good and there's signs of a big future. Needs to work on his ball carries and pump those weights!
7
Dan Baugh
8
/10
Only the sinbinning deprives him of a 10. The man is a one-man demolition merchant. Wins so many turnovers for the team, he's an inspiration. We should wrap him up in cotton wool until October!
6
Owain Williams
7
/10
A bizarre game from Owain who won some good ball in the tight with some hard close quarter tackling. Was rarely around at the breakdown to win fast ball for the team and wasn't around at outside centre either. Pretty much the opposite of a usual Owain performance!
5
Mike Voyle
7
/10
A man playing for his position with some great support work and tackling in defence. Rose well to the occasion and seemed to enjoy himself. Faded badly as the game came to a close, but match fitness should see him improve as the season progresses.
4
Steve Moore
5
/10
A pretty anonymous performance. The only pass he got all game he managed to knock on and although the scrum is performing at stratospheric levels, needs to do more in the loose as well as the lineout (as do all the pack!).
3
Dai Young
6
/10
Excellent scrummaging put the Leicester front row on their collective @rses time after time. Some good tight work in the maul but hardly any ball carries in the loose. Working his way slowly into the season.
2
Jon Humphreys
7
/10
The second member of our indestructible front row. Excellent srummaging and good tackling around the pitch. Worked the gaps well with ball in hand, but faded in the second half. Needs more games under his belt.
1
Spencer John
8
/10
Another player who raises his game for the big occasion and the strongest front row player on show. Had a point to prove and proved it. Out-scrummaged his opposite number and took the ball on numerous charges up field. Needs to lower his body angle in the tackle but made a major contribution to the win.