Cardiff

k.o. time: 2:30 pm

26 August, 2000

Cardiff Arms Park

Spectators: 7,120

Neath
referee
Paul Adams
5
/10
Another clueless performance from a referee who penalised Cardiff for being too strong in the scrum.
weather
Forecast rain but cloudy with sunny spells
worth annoying the wife factor
4
/10
our man of the match
Robert Howley
general comment

I thought Cardiff's kit was bad! With the right sort of six pack ..... maybe, but with the wrong sort .... talk about lardy, gut bucket, wobble bottom!

scorers
Craig Morgan (1)
Dan Baugh (1)
Neil Jenkins (2)
Neil Jenkins (6)
Neil Jenkins (1)
our choice for next week

vs Edinburgh

k.o. time: 2:30 pm

2 September, 2000

Cardiff Arms Park

15
Paul Jones
14
Gareth Thomas
13
Jamie Robinson
12
Pieter Muller
11
Craig Morgan
10
Lee Davies
9
Robert Howley
8
Greg Kacala
7
Dan Baugh
6
Philip Wheeler
5
John Tait
4
Martin Morgan
3
Dai Young
2
Jon Humphreys
1
Andrew Lewis

Yet another show at the Arms Park where the home team scrapes a win playing below par against well coached and well organized opposition.

This was almost the same XV that played so well against Leicester but what a contrast in enthusiasm and commitment! The players seem to be as excited as the rest of us by the Village League! But it's the back room staff's job to instill a more professional attitude in the players - to encourage them to play for their place and with professional pride. Too many were simply going through the motions (we've written that so many times, it's getting tedious).

Neath showed progress since conceding more than 50 points in May, but the relative strengths and weaknesses of the two clubs was wholly predictable - Cardiff had the match winning individuals (in May it was Martyn Williams and Rhys Williams and on Saturday Gareth Thomas and Robert Howley), Neath with the superior pack of driving, mauling forwards and superior coach. As was the case in May, the skill of the individual won the day.

Tactically, Cardiff's approach seemed to be to throw the ball around at the earliest opportunity, without putting in the hard graft first. The suicidal tactic of running from deep regardless of the score line (first pioneered at the massacre of Clement-Ferrand) continues this season.

We have it on good authority that at least some of the players haven't a clue what's going on with Jinx' tactical approach to the game. Such attacks from deep rarely got anywhere against a well marshalled and well coached Neath defence. Tactically Cardiff spent the first half in second gear racked by indecision and slow paced ball. Whereas Muller and Robinson seemed to hit it off so well against Leicester, there was more than a little indecision in mid-field. Nevertheless, two Cardiff tries were disallowed by referee Paul Adams - one from Craig Morgan for a marginal forward pass with the ref way off the pace following an intelligent kick ahead from Alfie.

Jinx' contribution to this game contrasted greatly with the excellent Paul Burke's in May - now pushing hard for a Irish place with first class results at Harlequins. Jinx thought he was indecisive, but he wasn't really sure. His touch clearances were poor, his decision making woeful as he constantly chose the wrong option, he dropped passes for no apparent reason and his defensive alignment saw holes ripped in the Cardiff defence by yet another Tongan playing in Wales.

Meanwhile, Howley was a real contrast with excellent tackling saving Neath tries and making a wonderful garryowen and catch to set up Craig Morgan's try. How Neath managed to get away with throwing the ball away every time Cardiff were awarded a penalty only the referee knows. But this week, for a change, it wasn't Don who was sinbinned but that good ol' Welsh boy Sinkinship, for scragging Howley on one of his Dawsonesque quick penalties.

But whilst the backs sort of coughed and spluttered their way through the game, the forwards swarmed about like a disorganized rabble. Wary of Cardiff's scrummaging power, Lyn Jones had managed to successfully prepare his troops with a curious ability to get away with constant wheeling in the front row or with he ability to keep popping up and get away with it. Neath came to maul and slow the game down - which they did very effectively - whereas the VC seemed to want his players to play it fast and loose without putting in the hard work first. Neath's superior mauling skills shunted Cardiff backwards throughout the first half and this facet of play was always going to be their most effective attacking weapon. One of these mauls led to Neath scoring their first try through Duncan Jones.

Although Craig Morgan scored his try when Neath were down to 14 men, on the whole the pack failed to capitalise on their numerical advantage. Despite an international front row, Cardiff were unable to make use of their stronger scrum, and as is becoming common week in week out, referees simply haven't got a clue on how to referee the scrum.

The lineouts still were shambolic. Failing to score from a push over try from two five yard lineouts against 7 men at Bridgend last season cost us a game. From the three tries given away against Saracens in London in 1999 to constant yardage given away (and a try) during the Leicester game, it's a glaring weakness for opposition coaches to exploit. The defeat at Stradey was at the hands of a team who kept it simple on their own throw and then challenged hard on the Cardiff throw. Cardiff continue to allow the opposition unopposed ball and still cannot drive them back in the ensuing maul. Lineout skills are very much coached - they are not the realm of the individual. With the world class athleticism of Tait, it is bewildering why Cardiff are struggling in this facet of play. Time to bring in the experts, Uncle Peter. VC needs to unearth some mauling skills - whether unit or individual! It really seems pointless to build your tactics around scrummaging - which is so poorly refereed -particularly when Cardiff's inability to maul is such a clear weakness.

Overall, Neath played well in defence and found open spaces in the Cardiff mid-field. But not for the first time, CRFC excelled in doing just enough to win and playing nowhere near their full potential. With five minutes remaining and needing 9 points to win, they stepped up the pace of the game and Neath couldn't hang on to them.

Good to see Kacala coming on with an NHS-fund-sapping amount of bandage around his leg - thought he injured his arm? Either way, we're desperate for either him or Tarw to climb out of their respective sick beds and make an impact this season. It borders on incompetence to start a season with both your number 8's injured, and only kids to replace them. Whilst Griffin may well be a player for the future, Cardiff's lack of a ball carrier in the back row was once again exposed (now that's hardly a surprise, is it?). Martyn Williams needs a good kick up the @rse if he's got any aspirations on playing for Wales this season. In the two games he's played so far, he's hardly seemed interested. We know he's all or nothing from our experiences last season, but the two run outs he's had so far have been near his valley, at least.

Also good to see Pies Jnr on the touch line - shame we're not going to see him in a jersey (XXXXL size, that is) for a few months yet.

Unless we see some dramatic improvement in Paul Jones in the next four games, we'll probably see Mike "zimmer-frame" Rayer at full back in Belfast. As for Edinburgh next week, well they whooped Ebbw at home but may be without 7'1" Richard Metcalf for the game in Cardiff.

Good to see the great man getting back near his best - maybe the training with Nigel Walker is paying off!

15
Paul Jones
3
/10
Was he playing? Poorly used by the players around him - Jenkins should have nursed him into the game by giving him some blind side charges. Nevertheless, he wasn't tested by Neath, and barely touched the ball. Was hardly given a chance by those around him.
14
Nick Walne
6
/10
Worked hard off the ball and his support play was good - unlucky not to get a try following excellent work by Alfie. Made a few breaks.
13
Gareth Thomas
8
/10
Easily Cardiff's most enterprising player - always looking dangerous with ball in hand, and probably the only player that looked capable of breaching the Neaf defence. Was at the core of Cardiff's best attacking opportunities and it was fitting that he should set up a try for Dan Baugh at the end of the game to set up the victory come back.
12
Pieter Muller
5
/10
Although making a good pass to set up Craig Morgan's try, Sinkinship kept him quiet throughout the game. None of the tackles we saw against Leicester. Too busy eating his pies.
11
Craig Morgan
6
/10
The try machine just keeps on scoring - how long can Graham Henry go on ignoring this man? Working extremely well with Alfie.
10
Neil Jenkins
2
/10
Poor touch kicks, ran ineptly from his own line, missed one penalty, but dropped a goal and kicked the penalty to win the game - given about 5 hours by a shattered Neath team before he took his drop goal though! Plays like someone who knows he's not quite good enough and tries too hard as a result. Why oh why did we get rid of Paul Burke? Now that will be a decision that definitely comes back to haunt us!
9
Robert Howley
8
/10
Dealt well with poor ball from terrible scrummaging and box kicked impressively (something he seems to have been working on in the closed season). Always looking to vary the play and speed things up - despite the disappearing ball after each penalty.
8
Matthew Griffin
5
/10
Sort of half Lion half eagle.
7
Martyn Williams
5
/10
Another anonymous performance similar to the way he played against Leicester. Can't be @rsed by the look of it.
6
Dan Baugh
6
/10
It he's not getting sin-binned he's giving penalties away. If only the VC could channel his competitiveness in a more constructive (or even destructive) way, then for the effort he puts in he should be scoring 10 each week!
5
Mike Voyle
5
/10
Jumped well in the lineout.
4
Steve Moore
5
/10
Once moore anonymous in the lineout (as he was against Leicester). As he should be the strongest mauler in the pack, you've got to look at him and ask him why Neath won so many mauls and shunted Cardiff back so frequently.
3
Dai Young
5
/10
Failed to impose himself in the scrum.
2
Jon Humphreys
5
/10
Curiously barely interested in the game. No dramatic ball winning at the breakdown, no big smother tackles and still unhappy with the jiggery pokery in the lineout.
1
Spencer John
3
/10
Gave three points to Neath for mouthing off at the ref. Another who failed to get to grips with Neath's spoiling tactics. Dan Baugh's ability to wind up the opposition is legendary but the boot was on the other foot in this game, where a punch thrown in retaliation for being held back by a Neath defender caused Cardiff to lose three points. That's six points to the opposition for indiscipline - come on VC, get your pack in order!