Cardiff

k.o. time: 5:30 pm

16 December, 2000

Cardiff Arms Park

Spectators: 4,111

Ebbw Vale
referee
Huw Lewis
3
/10
This man clearly does not understand the third man to the breakdown rule, nor does he understand front row paly OR anything about the ruck.
weather
Dry but cold
worth annoying the wife factor
3
/10
our man of the match
Neil Jenkins
scorers
Craig Morgan (1)
Steve Moore (1)
Dan Baugh (1)
Neil Jenkins (4)
our choice for next week

vs Pontypridd

k.o. time: 12:00 am

23 December, 2000

Cardiff Arms Park

15
Gethin Rhys Williams
14
Nick Walne
13
Jamie Robinson
12
Pieter Muller
11
Craig Morgan
10
Neil Jenkins
9
Robert Howley
8
Emyr Lewis
7
Martyn Williams
6
Dan Baugh
5
Mike Voyle
4
Steve Moore
3
Ken Fourie
2
Andrew Lewis
1
Peter Rogers

Another dire Welsh Village League game, enlivened only by individual skill, a superb bunch of Ebbw Vale supporters and an almighty cock up by Gareth Thomas. Yet again Cardiff were run close by a poor side although the result was never in danger of going to the Steelmen. The word is out in Wales now on how to beat Cardiff - Lyn Jones started it and Rudderless's team played in the same manner. It has taken Village Clubs four months to work Cardiff out - will Howells have a Plan B?

Just as we saw against Neath the way to beat Cardiff is to take them on up front, with a quick rucking game, based on ball protection and the illegal taking out of players at each ruck. With the dearth of quality of Welsh referees, highlighted extremely well by Huw Lewis, this blatant obstruction goes unnoticed and at each ruck Cardiff players were taken out yards away from the ball. This blocking style is reminiscent of American Football and, of course, creates space around the ruck and gaps for players to dart into. These gaps draw players in from wide and, therefore, creates space for the outside backs. If it were not for the excellent tackling of Robinson out wide and the poor skill of the Ebbw Vale players, Cardiff would have been in trouble.

The game started well for Ebbw Vale as their ball recycling and support play tore holes into Cardiff. It was hoped that Cardiff would be able to compete up front and use the pace of their exciting young backs (apart from Mikey Rayer the Vampire Slayer) to create havoc. Owain Ashman made his first start and looked fairly comfortable at full back, always taking the simple option and never creating problems for his team. We never were able to see him in full flight however, as after taking a high ball he was rucked a little close to his head and he left permanently for treatment. This unfortunately brought Alfie in at full back, again under instruction from GH when it would have been far more sensible to put Buffy at full back.

The introduction of Thomas was both sweet and sour for Cardiff. Just before half time space was available for the Cardiff backs and Jenkins made the best use of it. The heavy pitch was a great leveller for Jinx as he was able to use his pace(!) to open up the Ebbw defence. A move he started with an excellently timed interpass with Buffy created space for Thomas as he burst into the line, with Craig Morgan outside him for the scoring pass. But Thomas was true to form and threw a schoolboy pass, which of course went forward. The only exciting move of the game was ruined.

But more was to come as Cardiff pressed and won a penalty when Ebbw dived into a ruck and did not stay on their feet! Jinx took the penalty and a rucked was formed centre field. But then a wonderful loop around by Emyr Lewis created the overlap and this time Thomas was able to put Morgan in for the score. Was this the start of the floodgates?

The signs were there for Cardiff to go on and press their supremacy. Both Rogers and the Fuehrer were excellent in the scrums, and the Ebbw pack were rattled. The debutante South African was excellent in the first half, with superb ball carries and excellent support play. Not least, however, was his strong scrummaging as he ruined Iestyn Thomas, the best Welsh loosehead? (He was sitting on the bench for Cardiff for 60 minutes.)

Cardiff came out for the second half like a lethargic rhinoceros and showed no urgency to press home their advantage. Whilst the scrum was well on top the line out was a disaster. It is impossible to finish teams off unless you have a successful lineout and these days are gone for Cardiff. Lyn the Lineout has ruined Humph, who must need special contact lenses to stop him from getting dizzy. Ball was lost in this vital phase when all it needed was the short ball to Moore to retain possession. Part time teams like Vale will tire when all they do is tackle, but Cardiff had no ball source and the ball retention was embarrassing. Roll on next season when the back row problems will be sorted out and Owain Williams will finally retire.

How clear it was that 30 minutes into the second half Owain Williams' jersey was the cleanest of all the forwards - twice as clean as Baugh's who had only been on the field for a few minutes. This man is lazy and off the pace - why is Wheeler at Caerphilly?

Vale should have been finished but were given a lifeline in the most comical moment of the match. An inane chip over the top by Richard Smith was going nowhere until we all realised that Alfie was full back. When trying to smash the ball into touch he kicked nothing but air and Smith fell on the ball to claim the try. The Ebbw cheers in the crowd were eclipsed by the laughter of the Cardiff fans as Thomas made his final point about where he wants to play his rugby. An excellent conversion by the awful Strange meant Vale were in the lead.

It was time for the old heads of Cardiff to see them home and Jenkins took the lead. When his goal kicking goes to pot he becomes an excellent outside half and even made two breaks. But it was Baugh that proved the inspiration as he took the ball on the burst, straight through the Vale defence. How noticeable it was that he sprinted away from Richard Smith to score - but did Smith really want to tackle him? This try brought the Cardiff faithful to their feet as the hero was saluted and Cardiff were back in business.

As predicted Vale grew short of strength and fitness in the final 10 minutes and Cardiff were able to pull away. Again it was Jenkins who showed the way with an excellent break down the blind side - he sprinted away from Strange! - and the inside pass to Moore who deservedly made his way to the line.

This was a woeful Cardiff performance, lacking in speed and invention. Walne and Morgan received little ball as there was a visible lack of confidence in passing the ball wide. Why? because the forwards were so slow in arriving that the ball would usually be lost at the ruck. The imbalance in the back row is ruining Cardiff's game, without Martyn Williams they cannot play the natural game. Fyvie is a tight player who lacks the pace at openside, Emyr Lewis was tied in to tackling and lacked the support for any of his ball carries. Owain Williams is well past it - he is fine during Autumn and Spring but he is not interested in putting his body on the line, he is not that type of player. He has no strength in the tackle and rarely supports his colleagues. Mr White Jersey. It must be pointed out that Vale's back row were better.

It was also noticeable that no Cardiff player was able to inject urgency or pace into the game. Powell takes too long to get the ball from the ruck and his pass to Jenkins is not always accurate enough. Furthermore, he takes too few quick penalties. This is where he should learn from Howley who is the master of speeding up a game. Cardiff have big problems and if Martyn Williams is not available for Ponty and Newport - Cardiff will lose.

15
Owain Ashman
6
/10
did what he had to do, but he was stamped on and had to leave the pitch.
14
Nick Walne
7
/10
a couple of breaks, but he is still underused. He has the speed, strength and potential to be the Welsh Joe Roff but does he have the inclination?
13
Jamie Robinson
7
/10
a superb tackler, but when he plays with Buffy he takes too many crash balls rather than looking for space.
12
Mike Rayer
6
/10
one or two good passes and always willing to tackle. Congratulations on 350 games for the club, it could have been so many more.
11
Craig Morgan
7
/10
fantastic pace when chasing kicks and, of course, scored his try.
10
Neil Jenkins
8
/10
a superb running game, but his goal kicking was poor. One hilarious drop of a high ball, a la Gareth Thomas.
9
Ryan Powell
6
/10
for some reason he seems to step into his pass and he must stop doing this - get Terry back to coach him!
8
Emyr Lewis
6
/10
very anonymous, apart from picking up at the back of the scrum.
7
Wayne Fyvie
6
/10
this guy is fine for 60 minutes but is now knackered after trying to tackle Mark Jones.
6
Owain Williams
2
/10
Phil Wheeler
5
John Tait
6
/10
good for him to get a full game under his belt, but wasn't found in the lineout and carried little ball.
4
Steve Moore
7
/10
another returning from injury and this time 80 minutes was played. he deserved his try, for effort alone.
3
Ken Fourie
8
/10
an excellent start to his Cardiff career as he showed how physical a tight head can be. This is the guy who will understudy Dai Young. Bye bye Spencer.
2
Jon Humphreys
6
/10
still good around the field but his lineout is ruined. If Howells stays next year, will Humph retire?
1
Peter Rogers
8
/10
a proper game at last from the wobbling Bok. Obviously more comfortable having his countryman alongside him in the front row. He ruined his opponent, and warmed him up nicely for the arrival of Alp. And at long last he didn't get in the way too much!!!!