Cardiff

k.o. time: 7:05 pm

27 October, 2000

Cardiff Arms Park

Spectators: 13,500

Saracens
referee
Antonio Lombardi
1
/10
Woefully out of his depth. You can't play a game of rugby when the referee awards over forty penalties.
weather
Dry, slight breeze
worth annoying the wife factor
5
/10
our man of the match
Neil Jenkins
general comment

Whilst a win is everything, we can only feel disappointed with the woeful performance of the officials (equally incompetent for both teams), the dreadful kicking skills of the men in black and the out and out thuggery that masquerades itself as Saracens rucking.

scorers
Neil Jenkins (8)

These European nights just keep getting better and better as Cardiff put those camel riders to the sword again. Can we play them every week? This was yet another tough physical encounter with the men in black out to elbow their way to victory again. But, for the second week in a row, Cardiff were never behind on the scoreboard, and whilst there were some nervy moments, always looked like they had that ruthless edge to notch up another victory which took them to top of their group.

Despite the talent on show and the expectation in the crowd, the evening was ruined by a referee woefully out of his depth. When the Champions of Wales and Scotland take on the Champions-elect of England, don't we deserve top class officials? Erring on the side of caution, the ref opted for a string of penalties - over 40 in all - instead of letting the game flow. Worse than that, he was overly focussed on looking where the ball was instead of watching out for all the off-the-ball-stuff that the visitors seem to like so much. At every ruck, black jerseys dived over the top - parallel to the ground, leading with elbow or shoulder - blatantly taking men out. Take a look at this Antonio ...

LAW 21. RUCK

A player joining a ruck must bind with at least one arm around the body of a player of his team in the ruck. The placing of a hand on another player is not binding. Binding involves the whole arm, from hand to shoulder. (Players must not .....) .... jump on top of other players in the ruck, or wilfully fall or kneel in the ruck.

Quite clearly, taking players out without binding on to those in the ruck is obstruction and should be penalised. Shame the ref didn't read the rule book!

Murray was at it again. Once more - eventually - he saw yellow, but once more it should have been red. Only Dale McIntosh comes anywhere near to matching Pienaar's forward tactics. Perhaps if he coached his team to play rugby instead of to try to bully their way through games, he might have a winning team! Murray did not return to the ring after his yellow card - the man was a liability and even Pienaar finally recognized it - despite all his spin after last week's game. How did you get that elbow injury Francois? During training?

So if the woeful officials ruined the game and the Saracens second rows mistook rugby for mortal combat, then the kicking of McRae and Castanets bordered on the farcical. Never have we seen at CAP such an abysmal display of goal kicking. Whilst Jenks was in sublime form, disproving our theory that he can only kick goals from within the opposition's 10 meter line, McRae and the French prima donna were missing kicks that an under-15 goal kicker would consider simple.

Saracens biggest failing was themselves. They are clearly not used to playing under as much pressure as Cardiff put them under and their players cracked when facing the crunch - either through indescipline of woeful place kicking.

Their formulaic approach to attacking was easy to read. From defence the only form of attack was to pass the ball to the outside centre for a long diagonal kick down the field. All attacks came close to the breakdown point as big forwards charged. But the Cardiff defence was waiting for them. Big tackles from the whole pack repelled the English as wave after wave of white jersey rained in on them.

Lacking sufficient pace in the centre to make any headway from first phase, this bossy muscular approach was their one tactic. Quite why they didn't use the prima donna at outside centre is bewildering as that's where the Frenchman was so potent last week. Instead of moving the ball wide, it was all crash, bang, wallop and when that didn't work panic spread, errors multiplied and the pressure got too much for them.

As for the home team, well they struggled without the ball for large sections of the game. When they did finally get ball in hand, they tried a little too hard to force the gap instead of a more patient approach based on phased attacks and ball retention.

At centre, once more Cardiff were more potent with the Muller-Robinson combination working more closely that their opposite numbers. When the visitors did work space for runners they soon became isolated and the attack petered out. Cardiff attacks seemed to be based more on a passing game and a short, snappy movement of the ball. Jamie Robinson was particularly effective in this area.

But the evening really belonged to Jenkins. Despite being targeted for the second week in a row for off the ball treatment he made the visitors pay in the best way with a world class performance of accomplished kicking. If he was perhaps the weak link last week, this week he was truly awesome, and bossed the second half so well he virtually won the game on his won.

In the first half, particularly in the second quarter, the pack had struggled to win any possession and spent most of their time tackling. But now the lineout looks much more stable and simplified and finally the VC has listened to good sense and abandoned all the jiggery pokery. Humph's got a clear target to aim at, and Voyle and Quinnell are used equally. As a result, despite being up against two excellent lineout jumpers in Murray and Grewcock, they held their own and even managed (memorably) to pick off one from the opposition!

In the scrum, Humph was still staring skywards a little too often and Spencer struggled again at tight head, but on Saracens put in, the power of Fester sent them backwards.

As the game went on and the second half began, the pack upped their effort, the pace of the game quickened and suddenly Cardiff had more than parity of loose possession. Humph's support play was truly staggering as he seemed to be everywhere. Likewise when Fyvie replaced Baugh, he too always seemed to be around making the big close quarter tackles. Where the pack had faded in the last 10 minutes last week, this week there was far more pace about them. Although bringing Kacala on for the final quarter would surely have given them a new powerful ball carrier to break the gain line, the VC still didn't use his Pole. With Baugh off the pitch, and Lewis playing on the back foot, other than Humph, there was no Cardiff forward taking the play to the Saracens. Fyvie is more of a tight player than a ball carrier and so there still seemed an imbalance in our pack.

Nevertheless, shear application and work rate carried us through. Every time the Saracens thought they were coming back into the game, the crowd screamed their support for the home team and it really seemed to lift them. Back they came, and Jenkins slipped over another one.

Whilst this performance probably wasn't as accomplished as last weeks, rugby doesn't get much tougher or physical than this. Give them a week off, VC!

15
Gethin Rhys Williams
4
/10
Indecisive in defence he seemed to be trying too hard to impress the Cardiff selector in the stand preparing for the forthcoming internationals. Tentative under the high ball and overly cavalier when counter attacking from hopeless decisions, he only just shaded his opposite number in the bad performance league.
14
Nick Walne
7
/10
Strong with ball in hand and solid in defence. Still stays on his wing instead of looking for work around the pitch.
13
Jamie Robinson
8
/10
Yet another excellent performance from the 20 year old. With the pace, confidence and vision to exploit every gap, he was more of a threat that Muller - probably because the Saracens defence concentrated too much on stifling Muller.
12
Pieter Muller
7
/10
Tries a lot of things that didn't quite come off - passes in the tackle and speculative kicks - but was still a real handful for the away team.
11
Gareth Thomas
7
/10
Excellent work rate, the man pops up all over the pitch, though his decision making was suspect throughout the game. He picked the ball up when he should have hacked it through, he passed when he should have kicked and kicked when he should have passed. Despite the successes of using him from the kick off last week, wasn't used once this week, eh? Still more of an asset to the team than Walne.
10
Neil Jenkins
9
/10
Match winning performance from the ginger monster. Showing us the full range of his world class place kicking, superb kicking to touch and tactical control, the man was the difference between the two teams. Only some dodgy drop outs away from a 10. By far his best match for Cardiff. GH will pick him for Wales on this form - better head on tackling, and he'll be on his way to Oz no problem!
9
Robert Howley
6
/10
Obviously playing under duress with a hand/finger injury, some of his passing was poor and speed of distribution from ruck and maul a little slow. Tried to speed the game up as best he could and was always looking for the gap. The confidence is there - the man is back! Unfair to judge a scrum half playing with one hand.
8
Emyr Lewis
8
/10
Rock-like performance from Tarw who's rapidly regaining his form. Took the ball well from on the charge on numerous occasions and those limpet tackles are coming back. Covered well in defence and was always on hand in support. Sort out the ball from the scrum and he's not far away from his best.
7
Martyn Williams
8
/10
Worked tirelessly in defence and must have a huge tackle count figure against him . Despite not making those show stopping tackles that our No 6 specializes in, Martyn's ability to slow the ball down around the tackle area won Cardiff valuable time to realign their defence and make the next tackles. Without doubt, played an integral part in the victory.
6
Dan Baugh
7
/10
Injury stifled his performance so let's wrap him in cotton wool until January when two victories will surely gain us a home quarter final. Singled out for Saracens for a dose of the rough stuff, still managed to make some bbbiiiiggg tackles - one particularly memorable on Chesney.
5
Mike Voyle
8
/10
..... Actually managed to pinch some opposition ball in the lineout!! First time this season?? Now all the morris dancing is coming to an end, there seems to be far more confidence in the Cardiff lineout. This time outplayed Murray and Grewcock who were too interested in looking for heads to take off instead of playing rugby.
4
Craig Quinnell
9
/10
Fantastic performance from the man who just keeps getting better. Won his fair share in the lineout, is a truly frightening site when running in space with ball in hand and still had the fitness and power to make some great tackles at the end of the game. A real handful for any opposition - when he's around there's a real buzz in the crowd and on the pitch.
3
Spencer John
7
/10
Another who worked tirelessly for the jersey. Struggled manfully at tight head - evidently not his preferred position, and played in integral part in disrupting those (yawn!) rolling mauls.
2
Jon Humphreys
9
/10
Excellent performance from Humph - the man was everywhere and must be using time travel to get around the pitch. Laid his body on the line for the team time and time again with those limpet tackles disrupting the Saracens attacks. Lineout looks much more stable with only one error all game. Still popping up at the scrum , though with the return of Dai for the Ulster game, then there's far more strength to come in the Cardiff scrum.
1
Andrew Lewis
8
/10
Another example of phenomenal work rate for Alp. Huge tackle count and excellent support play. Still can't see any reason why this man can't play international rugby at loose head. Forced Wallace out of the starting lineup and had absolutely no problems with Julian from the Brewery Field.