Neath

k.o. time: 7:15 pm

5 December, 2000

The Gnoll

Spectators: 4,500

Cardiff
referee
Nigel Whitehouse
4
/10
Totally unaware of the obstruction throughout the game by the Neath forwards & their taking out of men away from the ball.
weather
Dry but cold
worth annoying the wife factor
3
/10
our man of the match
Nick Walne
scorers
Nick Walne (2)
Neil Jenkins (1)
Neil Jenkins (1)
Neil Jenkins (1)
our choice for next week

vs Edinburgh

k.o. time: 12:00 am

9 December, 2000

Myreside

15
Gethin Rhys Williams
14
Nick Walne
13
Jamie Robinson
12
Pieter Muller
11
Craig Morgan
10
Lee Davies
9
Robert Howley
8
Emyr Lewis
7
Wayne Fyvie
6
Greg Kacala
5
Steve Moore
4
Craig Quinnell
3
Gary Powell
2
Andrew Lewis
1
Peter Rogers

With eight changes from the team that saw off the Turkish invaders on Saturday, Cardiff picked a team to suit the surroundings of a once famous ground. Six changes in the pack meant that Cardiff would never gain momentum throughout a game which saw many players playing for the first time in a month. A much changed team, in a once great and fearsome arena and a whopping £15 to sit under cover (to "Ease congestion and to come into line with other Premier clubs") did not bode well for an evening that never sparked but contained one great moment.

Neath's team performance in the first half was exceptional. Lyn Jones is able to coach his team to play to a game plan that is capable of beating the opposition - oh! how did we get that wrong Lyn? - and that is enjoyable for the spectators to watch. Cardiff were pinned in their 22 for most of the first half as Neath used the wind cleverly and forced Cardiff into errors by playing at a tempo the visitors could not match. The speed of recycling the ball and fast off loads to one of many support runners was way too much for Cardiff - and this showed throughout the game as the penalty count was 19 - 6 against the visitors. As Cardiff backs were forced to tackle men running from deep at pace, gaps opened up and chances were there for Neath. At each ruck Jenkins was hammered in the ribs well off the ball as Lyn Jones lived up to his promise of targeting him. He had no support from his back row at all as he was constantly exposed to tackling and rucking. Jenkins' commitment can never be criticised after this performance as he put his body on the line time after time.

Why he was forced to do this was much to do with Grandaddy Williams. His performance in the mud of the Gnoll surpassed all other woeful appearances he has made. His tackling was weak when he bothered to get anywhere near the ball, whilst most of the time he was happy to stand way out of position and let others to the hard work. Fyvie tackled for two men in the loose but he could not protect the outside half on his own. Williams is a dry weather, basketball player who lacks the physical strength or willingness to get stuck in to hard, abrasive games. Why the hell play him against Neath? His opposite number had a storming game in attack, carrying the ball yards at every opportunity - his one mistake was to knock on a restart when Quinnell was charging at him, showing how frightened he was by real physical contact.

Most of the pressure Neath put on Cardiff was created by moving the ball into midfield and securing quick ruck ball - whether from line outs or scrums. All this could easily have been counteracted by moving Gradpops to blind side and Krooklock to number eight. The Polish back rower enjoyed the physicalities of the game but he did not have the pace to keep up with Neath in the first half. Thank God Sinkinson wasn't playing.

So whilst the coach had worked out the beating of the Rags, the Neath players were awful. The two bullies in the centre have the passing skills of Finau and the vision of Penfold. Whilst subtlety has never been a word favoured by Neath, these guys stretch the meaning of the word "blunt". Their combined skill was summed up by missed passes, poor timing and a pathetic miss by Storey of a drop goal from the 22 metre line, right in front of the posts. When Duncan McRae is sacked, the Gnoll will become his spiritual home.

Chance after chance went begging for Neath as they continually messed up excellent field positions. Throughout the game Ikkul Shane was reluctant to take on Walne and his lack of confidence manifested itself when he missed two very kickable penalties with the wind behind him. But worse was to come from the Big Fish in the Puddle as the aforementioned Storey (remember? - he of the deft hands?) lobbed a schoolboy pass right into the hands of the waiting Walne. The interception was so obviously going to happen that only Storey didn't see the inevitable - again using his excellent vision - and at last we had what we had come to see. Walne and Ikkul with standing starts in a race to the line, although to be fair to the starlet he did have to turn slightly. But there was no competition. Walne won hands down. So much for picking Ikkul for his pace because he was left eating mud in Walne's wake. Perhaps it is for his bulk? After his pathetic attempt at shoulder barging Walne - when he himself fell over - and being handed off by the massive Ryan Powell on the try line it cannot be so. But then again he does put the fuel into the bandwagon ....

So Cardiff went into half time 10 - 6 in the lead and the arrival of Andrew Lewis at the start of the second half to replace the dazed Humph meant that Cardiff were bringing on the big boys. With the wind at their backs Cardiff should have controlled the game but Neath's handling movements and physical approach still worried the visitors.

Yet more mistakes and errors were to follow in a stop start second half that suited the home team. The constant breaks allowed them to have a breather and maintain their high tempo game. Cardiff tried to move the ball but Powell's delivery allowed the Neath centres to come up flat, and when second phase was allowed Rita Podgers always got in the bloody way. Sod off Rogers!!!! You are not the outside half - you are a wobbling Bok who gives away penalties like the similar physiqued Santa Claus gives away presents. The guy is a menace.

When Podgers had his head buried at the bottom of a ruck Cardiff scored another through Walne after an excellent movement, spearheaded by the sniping runs of Powell. He played well against a physical pack of forwards, but he must speed up! Jenkins took three big tackles because the ball was too slow to him and because Whitehouse was useless.

Neath continued to attack throughout the second half and only excellent defence saved Cardiff three points. John Kear's influence on the defensive lines are clear and Neath recycled much ball without making many yards. Yet gaps appeared (mainly near Owain Williams) and players sprinted through only to be swallowed up in the crater in the middle of the pitch, delayed and then met by a posse of Cardiff players waiting on the other side. The pressure was on and Muller was yellow carded for a high tackle on Ikkul (somewhere around Muller's left thigh) and Cardiff were down to thirteen men (as Grandad was now walking). Neath created more chances and won a penalty in the Cardiff 22, but Ikkul was off the field. His poor luck continued as he watched while Horgan took over the kicking duties. Williams had not missed in the second half but Horgan showed that Duncan McRae's influence over Neath was growing as he missed an easy kick at goal.

That piece of play summed up Neath - a great team effort to gain the field position but only for a poor piece of individual skill to let them down. Lyn Jones must be the next coach at Cardiff (if we can't have Telfer) as with him coaching the forwards and Geraint John the backs, Cardiff would be unstoppable. He must dream for the opportunity to coach players of the quality in Cardiff squad - but would the egos there allow him to operate?

One final word must be made on the state of the ground. Gone is the pitch length open seated stand to be replaced by a shorter, stunted version. The seats in the main stand were obviously designed for someone of Shane's size. But it was a good idea to increase the price as this created enough space for those remaining to be comfortable. The under stand toilets (of the open trough variety) are an embarrassment to Welsh Premier rugby and the smell was stomach churning.

And to the Neath support who claimed that his team were as good as Cardiff's - this was a poorly coached team containing 8 changes from the first team, playing very poorly and strangely lacking motivation. Neath were superb, playing to the best of their abilities and trying to play attacking, exciting rugby to please their fans. The Clubs and the teams are years apart, but the two coaches are light years apart - but unfortunately in reverse.

15
Mike Rayer
7
/10
Kicked well throughout the game and timed the pass well for Walne's second try, but had little else to do but tackle.
14
Nick Walne
8
/10
Defended very well and took his two tries with ease. A couple of big tackles to prevent overlaps forming saved Cardiff's bacon on more than one occassion. Ikkul was frightened to taken him on and we saw why with the first try. This man has pace and strength - the necessary ingedience for international rugby.
13
Jamie Robinson
7
/10
still kicks so badly it is embarassing. His defensive tackles are excellent yet he seems to offer little at present with the ball in hand.
12
Pieter Muller
6
/10
doesn't seem to like the cold winter in Wales and his performance is suffering. Rightly yellow carded for an excellent high tackle but spent the rest of the game tackling back row players where Owain Williams should have been.
11
Craig Morgan
6
/10
only had one excellent clearing kick to do in the game apart from tackle.
10
Neil Jenkins
7
/10
some excellent punts but this was a game when he put his body on the line and tackled his heart out.
9
Ryan Powell
7
/10
superb with ball in hand but must speed up his delivery. He needs more games like this because he handled the Neath back row very well but ships on too much bad ball.
8
Owain Williams
2
/10
woeful
7
Wayne Fyvie
7
/10
another 60 minutes performance of hard work and guts.
6
Greg Kacala
6
/10
big tackles but seemded to be outpaced by the opposition too many times. He is now showing his age.
5
Mike Voyle
6
/10
tackled, but did little else.
4
Steve Moore
6
/10
did well to last 65 minuted on a hard surface for bad knees. But it must have hurt his knees more when he was forced to sit in the midget seats in the stand!!
3
Gary Powell
6
/10
tackled and scrummaged well but does not carry the ball enough. His drive set up the second try and he must do this more often.
2
Jon Humphreys
5
/10
injured
1
Peter Rogers
5
/10
why?