Saracens

k.o. time: 3:00 pm

21 October, 2000

Vicarage Road

Spectators: 10,824

Cardiff
referee
Joel Jutge
9
/10
Spot on performance. Sin binnings were spot on and got so bored with Sarnies negative tactics that he didn't give a penalty try. Kept the game flowing and ensured that the entertainment was top notch. Man of the day: PA operator for musical accompaniment (even though the "we will rock you" was a bit sneaky). Let's hope he teaches Lord Bufton some tricks.
weather
Dry, grey and murky
worth annoying the wife factor
10
/10
our man of the match
Andrew Lewis
scorers
Andrew Lewis (1)
Robert Howley (1)
Craig Quinnell (1)
Pieter Muller (1)
Neil Jenkins (3)
Neil Jenkins (2)

Cardiff opened their season with a first victory on English soil for a Welsh Club in this year's European Cup. We've certainly had to put up with some drivel in recent weeks, but this performance was their best not only this season, but since they last beat Saracens two years ago. Despite all the misinformation from the official site, the VC chose the same starting lineup as last week.

The game started well with Muller frightening the life out of the English centres - much hyped but totally outclassed when playing at a higher level. Muller's timing of the tackle is quite frightening. Whilst he's not the fastest player on the pitch, his rugby brain constantly created space for Robinson and Thomas. Every week we see the Cardiff centres (all three of them) ripping through opposition defences - be worried Saracens, be very worried, there's more to come on Friday.

During the first 10 minutes, Cardiff were an immediate threat and but for more composure from Alfie, Cardiff would have had more points on the board at the break. Castaignede's sin binning was totally justified and whilst we may have dreaded referee Judge, his verdict was spot on. Although Jenkins missed the kick that followed (and eight points in all), Cardiff had the initiative and were soon on the attack again. With a penalty under the posts, they took a 3-0 lead.

Despite Cardiff's obvious superiority in the mid-field, slow ball from the scrum and an ill-directed kick from Jenkins let Sarnies back into the game. Some poor play from Rhys gifted possession to the opposition and allowed them to level the scores. The game was full of niggling elbows and knees and real petulance from the home team, who argued with every decision like overpaid prima donnas. Russell kneed Fester in a scrum in the Cardiff 22 and Fester gave him a kiss - of the Glaswegian variety. Three players had been sin-binned but Sarnies discipline was still in tatters - detention and 100 lines for you lot!

Zondagh took Richard Hill off to replace him with a hooker and that really seemed to be a turning point. Why take off your British Lion? This gave Cardiff the edge and they capitalised on the panic rushing through the Sarnies schoolboys. The elbows and knees continued - most notably from Murray. If such a class player had concentrated as much on the rugby as on the use of his elbows and knees, Cardiff would have been in trouble. But real discipline and professional application from the men in white increased the lead.

Another good lineout from Emyr Lewis gave Howley excellent fast ball which he used to charge towards the home team centres and the posts. More ruck ball secured by Jenkins and Williams and as Muller spread the ball to Emyr Lewis to suck in defenders, the ball came right for Alp to shake off a poor tackle from Chesney to score. Would Richard Hill have missed that tackle?

As half time approached, the determination of the Cardiff defence waned slightly allowing Castaignede to enter the line at real pace and slip Robinson's tackle only for Muller to pull him down with one hand! Another two penalties allowed Sarnies to close the lead to 9-13, but the Cardiff defence was impenetrable.

Tactical naivety from a home team - which should have been playing to their strengths instead of their obvious weaknesses in the back line - allowed Howley to pounce on poor passing from Bracken and Luger to charge down the left touch line and under the posts.

But more pain was to follow for the boys from the smoke.

McRae tried to drive a ball into the Cardiff 22 but he lost his focus and the mad Canuck was soon in his face - as he'd been all day. Despite a feeble tackle from the French prima donna, he sprinted hard from the half way line only to be pulled down from behind by the South African Sparg. Robinson, Howley and Emyr Lewis were in support, but no one was stopping Fester with a mammoth charge from three yards. As Jenkins took the conversion, the excavation began for the Saracens defenders.

Half time was 9-27 and this was getting too good to be true. Whilst the sparks flew on the pitch, it's a good job they didn't in the stand which was straight out of the 1920s. If Quinnell had been charging at the stand, it wouldn't have stood a chance. Used to polite applause and a friendly family atmosphere with no away fans, the egg and cress brigade wondered what had hit them as too many drunk fat Welsh people jumped up and down screaming and collectively pinching themselves. Could this really be happening?

Learning from Howley, Bracken tried to pick up the pace of the laboured home team's attacks but poor handling and a farcical knock on lost the initiative. Missing the following penalty could have been crucial but Jenkins, Howley and Rhys Williams constantly thumped the home team back into their 22. The pressure was on and there was no way through Cardiff's awesome defence. Each man stood his ground and nailed the ball carrier.

Forced to kick to gain any sort of territory, this allowed Cardiff to counter attack and some excellent fast passing almost put Alfie into enough space to score in the corner. Only an excellent tackle by the prima donna saved the day.

But you could see the self belief growing in the Cardiff team as their aggressive defence forced the errors from the home team. From another counter attack from a poor kick, handling from Quinnell and Spencer set up a ruck which allowed Muller to put Jamie Robinson in on a good angle. Excellent support from the muldooning Bok allowed a flip pass from Robinson to gift him a try. Was this the nail in the home team's coffin?

By this stage, Sarnies were forced to concentrate more on the rugby and less on the niggle. O'Mahoney came on for Johnson and Castanets moved to the centre, where he soon created a try for Sorrell. We entered the last ten minutes with the away team looking physically exhausted.

Martyn Williams had been replaced by Fyvie after 50 minutes, but the pack now was out on its feet. Total exhaustion had set in, but where were the subs? Fester was out on his feet and from one defensive scrum, instead of finding a space blocked with a massive bulk, Bracken flopped over unopposed.

As the game came to a close, Saracens attacked out wide and found far more space with Emyr Lewis sinbinned for pulling down a maul. Instead of moving the ball wide, they chose four five metre lineouts in the last few minutes as their preferred method of attack. Ignoring one of the World's most exciting players at centre, they chose the time honoured English tradition of belly flopping over the line.

Still no substitutes. What was the VC thinking? Where was Krooklock? Had he lost GH's phone number?

Enormous guts and determination from a totally exhausted pack forced Bracken to pass the ball out. Don Boat was waiting. He ate up the Sarnie and spat out the ball. What a turnover! Jenkins cleared and the pressure was gone.

Lacking inventiveness and ideas in the back line, the home team gave away another penalty - this time for obvious crossing - and Jenkins punted a huge touch finder to the corner.

The noise was all coming from the Cardiff fans.

Finally the whistle came, and Cardiff had hung on to prevent themselves from snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Thankfully the game wasn't 10 minutes longer!!

Our simplified lineout at last produced the results today. Gone were the shortened rubbish (apart from the lineouts we lost), Quinnell was lifted expertly by Lewis and Spencer and we even used Emyr Lewis in key areas of the pitch. Humph was happier with a static target and hopefully player power has forced the VC to reconsider his pigs bladder tactics.

At the scrum, Andrew Lewis was excellent and forced Wallace out of the game. The much vaunted Saracens back row looked jaded and often in defence the blind side flanker was the one and only. Diprose faded badly in the second half, as his bruised elbow and ego slowed him down. Richard Hill looked half the player in a black jersey that he is in a white one - want to play for us in a white jersey?

Whilst the forward struggled and forced parity in the tight and loose, our supremely coached back line was eons better than the home side's. Angles of running are far more creative, defensive lines are sound and Muller runs the show. Alfie pops up all over the gain line and this unpredictability is very hard to defend against.

15
Gethin Rhys Williams
7
/10
a couple of wayward kicks and hesitancy in counter in counter attack could have cost Cardiff dear. Still some way off his best but is improving with each game. One real shocker when trying to run the ball from his own 22 cost Cardiff 3 points and Quinnell's sin binning.
14
Nick Walne
7
/10
Actually charged through between the centres for the first time this season. Made an excellent tackle on Chesney Hawkes and was very solid in defence. Still underused. 13. Jamie Robinson (8) - This was one of Robinson's best performance. One missed t
13
Jamie Robinson
8
/10
This was one of Robinson's best performance. One missed tackle and a village pass from a "9", James keeps getting better every game. Full of pace, his defensive tackling of Castaignede was sound. Excellent awareness for Muller's try.
12
Pieter Muller
9
/10
(Sorry, no umlaut) Big match performance from the big man. Once more frightened the life out of the opposition centres with his limpet tackling and pass-round-the-body passing (a la rugby league). Always seems to have so much time when playing with ball in hand.
11
Gareth Thomas
7
/10
Excellent work rate from Alfie .. You're not having him yet, Leighton. Good variation on the kick off and looked for work around the pitch (are you watching, Nick Walne?). Still mysteriously lacks the confidence to go for the gap, though when you don't know which jersey number you're wearing from week to week, you're gonna struggle.
10
Neil Jenkins
6
/10
Wayward kicking at the posts, seems to have been ruffled by the Saracens physical tactics - late tackles, elbows in the face, and the famous flying forearm smash. Made some wonderful touch kicks from penalties and got stuck in when it mattered. Needed to punish the opposition more when it mattered - seemed reluctant to make the box kicks needed in the second half.
9
Robert Howley
9
/10
Excellent performance which totally outplayed Bracken. Always alert for the space, he got another opportunist try in what is rapidly becoming a habit. Kicked well from hand and let's hope his fingers are OK for Friday night.
8
Emyr Lewis
8
/10
Big tackles, didn't knock the ball on once and huge transformation from two weeks ago. A totally different player. Scrambled well in the loose and was unlucky to be yellow carded - others were far more guilty.
7
Martyn Williams
8
/10
Very high tackle count ... Worked fearlessly in the loose to nullify the Sarnies attacks. Where was Richard Hill?
6
Dan Baugh
9
/10
Awesome. Awesome. Awesome.
5
Mike Voyle
8
/10
Worked very, very hard in both tight and loose. Saracens' wing couldn't run around him, but there was still much for him to learn from the excellent Grewcock.
4
Craig Quinnell
8
/10
Work rate was remarkable for a man who could have ended up in a wheelchair. Totally exhausted in the last 10 minutes, his effort with ball in hand, in defence or lineout earned him his try. Coming back to his best, there's surely still another 25% to come from this man.
3
Spencer John
8
/10
Struggled in the scrum but another player who put his body on the line for the team. Flatman may have outscrummaged him, but Spencer had a far bigger impact in the loose with good carries, good passing and firm tackling.
2
Jon Humphreys
9
/10
Played an absolute stormer. When his lineout jumpers weren't shaking their pigs bladders, Humph found his men with ease. Phenomenal tackle count, another player putting his body on the line. How he didn't get a yellow card, is beyond understanding!! Nevertheless, you play the ref - something the Sarnies could not fathom.
1
Andrew Lewis
10
/10
Someone explain why this man can't play loose head for Wales. Totally outplayed the Lion Wallace in both tight and loose. Constant tackling and support play around the pitch. He even managed to lift Quinnell!