23 September, 2000

Brewery Field

Spectators: 7,500

Clayton Thomas
our man of the match
Craig Morgan
Craig Morgan (2)
Damien Geraghty (1)
Spencer John (2)
Neil Jenkins (3)
Neil Jenkins (2)

Get there early was the cry!! Bridgend may have the best grass in the Village League, but the turnstiles are still built for people with abnormally short legs.

Struggling through the sauna each week to find a pint is still a tortuous experience and as usual, there wasn't enough bar staff on so we tried the new wooden experience next door. Same problem though, but eventually we got served and settled down to discuss by how many we were going to win, and whether it really was worth standing in that queue for another. Looks like we were wrong on both decisions there.

The HUGE crowd (7,500 to 8,000 - depending on who had the abacus at the time) was beginning to build up outside. Fearing the worse, we sensed another delayed kick-off. Just how do all those big football clubs manage? Eh? With huge crowds of under 10,000, its a wonder any games involving Cardiff go ahead at all!

The grass is green at the Bridge, but the terrace is shallow and the scoreboard designed for the board members in the stand - not the plebs in the open!

Sure enough the match was delayed - but for only 5 minutes - or was that the BBC's fault?

Finally the teams took the pitch (without the boo-boys this week).

Cardiff started shakily with a shambolic attempt at a kick off take and before you could say "Frame That!" Warlow had the ball and the Bridge were 3-0 up.

When faced with a dodgy front five, what Cardiff needed was a big performance from Steve Moore to maul Dennis John's traditionally loose forwards off the ball. But within six minutes, following a lineout, down he went. It looked like he'd need a stretcher at one point but he eventually managed to limp off. The news on the official site it that he's going for a scan and says its not as bad as he feared. Let's all hope he makes a speedy recovery - the man's had a squad's worth of knee injuries in his time.

So when we needed tight players, we were left with the ever loose and fancy free Tait and Voyle show.

Jinx slotted a penalty to make it 3 -3, but from the ensuing kick off a passage of rugby that Bridgend fans will not forget in a long time.

Craig Warlow attacked the two men in the Cardiff team who had all the killing instinct in the tackle of a four year old with a fly swatter. He stepped inside Jinx, drifted past Paul "after you Sir" Jones with ease and was tackled just short of the line. Typical quick ruck ball and a long pass and Jones the Lard was over in the corner. Warlow converted to give Bridgend the lead 10 - 3. Soon after, Cardiff gifted another penalty from another player playing in body not in spirit - this time Martyn Williams being too eager, 13 - 3.

At this stage, it was all one way traffic with attack after attack from Bridgend breaking through that much vaunted defence. But Cardiff had the real danger man on the pitch and with one pass from Jinx he was away! Though strangely not making the line this time, following the tackle, Bridgend were offside at the ruck. A quick tap penalty, excellent vision by Howley and Cardiff are away as Alp (playing prop - hurray!) took the ball at pace - coming from deep - and it's that man again! Nobody went over in the corner! Jinx, having a bit of a shocker, missed the conversion.

But Bridgend were not to be outdone and back they came again, finding gaps in a Cardiff defence looking as solid as a slice of Swiss cheese. Jones the Lard doubled his try count and with Warlow doing what Jinx couldn't : 23-8.

Then the best try of the game and you could not have scripted it better. From the kick off the ball was again moved out, Durston joined the line at pace and a pass to Shimmy and the rest was about that side-step to flat foot Paul Jones and he was over. With Jones woefully out of his depth and leaking points left, right and centre, why oh why didn't Howells start with Rayer, or even Morgan as has been suggested by one and all recently? Warlow converted and the score was up to 30 - 8. Surely they couldn't come back from that score line with the Bridgend backs destroying the threadbare shambles that was the Cardiff back line?

If this was the old Cardiff then it would have been game over. Heads would have dropped, fingers would have been pointed and the team would have degenerated into a disorganized rabble. But whether it was the lessons learned during our rebel year, whether the influence of the back room team or the players at last understanding the true meaning of professionalism, this year's Cardiff are not about to roll over - whatever the score there's a determination and belief that they can win any game!

Instead of caving in under this torrent of points, the bois came back with a try of their own. Spencer took a pop pass from Jinx and with some Paul Joneseque tackles from the Bridgend "defence" he was in to score. Jinx missed again.

Then, from another Bridgend attack, those thunderous tackles won another turnover and with grandad and Jones the Defence playing footie the ball bounced loose to Nobody and it was good night Vienna! Can anyone deny that Howells was a complete plonker not to pick this man last season? This time Jinx slotted over the conversion and incredibly Cardiff were back in it. A couple of penalties and half time was reached with the score 33 - 23.

Now if there was any reason needed to go back to the old days when the players had a quick orange and turned round, then the half time "entertainment" at the Brewery Field made us yearn for the days of true amateurism. Not content with huge Cardiff influence amongst their playing ranks, Bridgend are also copying the level of professionalism of the bloke on the P.A.. We've got an old duffer who thinks everything is Pimms and lashings of ginger beer and the Bridge have got Stuart Hall. The bloke on the P.A., from a local (hospital?) radio station, tried to get a Mexican wave going. This went down like a lead balloon. In homage to Saracens - and truly reflecting the village nature of rugby in Wales - a group of young boys were encouraged to kick the ball over the posts. At Saracens, they go all the way. If you make your kick there's £1,000 to put in your pocket and take home with you (anyone coming up to Vicarage Road?). The lucky contestants are picked from the crowd before the game starts on the basis of who shouts the loudest! Wonder what the small boys got?

The second half was all about playing the wind, getting ahead and staying there. This Cardiff managed.

For the first time in living memory Cardiff actually managed to score a try from a five yard lineout. Surely this is a sign of how weak the Bridgend front five are. As the weather get's worse and the game becomes more muscle and less speed, will their forwards be able to maintain the momentum in the mud of Sardis?

The pace had been relentless and as the second half progressed, the Bridgend boys looked more and more tired. Following a break by Alfie, The Mad Kiwi (who was surely off-side more times in one game than Alan Phillips) burst through some tired Bridgend tackles and Cardiff were ahead for the first time.

This was to be the final score of the game as Cardiff held out one last attack from Bridgend a couple of dropped passes near the line cost Bridgend dear.

The game finished with Jinx kicking to touch and Cardiff had come back from the dead.

The never say die and don't panic attitude won the day but although none of us want to go through that again, we've got a pretty good feeling that there's plenty of those games still to come.

Good to see Emyr Lewis getting a run around for the last 20 minutes. Perhaps with him, Kacala and Don, we can finally field a decent back row (even if one of them is playing with a broken hand, one has a dodgy back and the third is still struggling for match fitness - still, it's not as bad as if Spencer gets injured!).

Well done lads! Onward into Europe! But first let's go top next week!

Thanks to Steve Brown for helping us put this report together.

Paul Jones
Nick Walne
Gareth Thomas
Jamie Robinson
Craig Morgan
Neil Jenkins
Robert Howley
Owain Williams
Martyn Williams
Greg Kacala
Mike Voyle
Steve Moore
Spencer John
Damien Geraghty
Andrew Lewis