Cardiff

k.o. time: 7:05 pm

12 January, 2001

Cardiff Arms Park

Spectators: 10,500

Ulster
referee
Steve Lander
5
/10
His whistle-happy approach was not that of a top professional referee. Refusing to play advantage and refusing to use yellow cards against persistant offenders did not create an atmosphere condusive to entertaining rugby. Although the 57 old farts are picking up your pay cheque, Steve, it's the people on the terraces who keep the sport going. Remember that when you try to slow the game down!
weather
Crisp and dry
worth annoying the wife factor
9
/10
our man of the match
Neil Jenkins
scorers
Craig Quinnell (1)
Neil Jenkins (1)
Jamie Robinson (2)
Neil Jenkins (2)
Neil Jenkins (5)
Neil Jenkins (1)
our choice for next week

vs

k.o. time: 12:00 am

1 January, 1970

15
Gethin Rhys Williams
14
Nick Walne
13
Jamie Robinson
12
Pieter Muller
11
Gareth Thomas
10
Neil Jenkins
9
Robert Howley
8
Emyr Lewis
7
Martyn Williams
6
Dan Baugh
5
John Tait
4
Craig Quinnell
3
Dai Young
2
Jon Humphreys
1
Spencer John

A first half performance of near perfection saw an Ulster team run ragged by a rampant Cardiff playing their best rugby for years at CAP. The shear pace of the game was way too much for the men in white (and the man in yellow), as Cardiff attacks rained down on a frantic defence. The Ulstermen had come to kick, catch and maul but were shell shocked by a team playing three gears above their woeful performance in Belfast.

The home team - having changed a third of their team since the game in Belfast - had a game plan which they stuck to from the first attack - keep ball in hand and run hard at David Humphries. If it wasn't Emyr Lewis charging through the number 10, it was Muller cutting back inside to pulverize him. With quick ball secured by Martyn Williams, Cardiff eventually worked space out wide for Walne and Thomas to power their way through.

And controlling it all throughout the evening was Jinx - surely playing one of his best games ever. With perfect passing from Howley - contrasting deeply with the looped rubbish poor David Humphries had to put up with - he was always taking the ball at pace (forget all this flat and static rubbish that's been inflicted on us over recent years). Cardiff have finally abandoned Henry's flat style of back play and are now binning his lineout line dancing. With Wales now 33-1 to win the Grand Slam, it seems that people are finally waking up to the fact the GH is not the Great Redeemer at all - more like the Great Interferer!

This was fluid rugby played with a pace no team could live with. Whether popping the ball inside to Spencer or Emyr Lewis or floating it wide to Robinson, Jinx had too much variation for the Hulster defence. To play this type of rugby needs a commitment from the whole team and Jinx could always rely on support from both back row and centres in his angles of attack.

Dai Young was targeted at the first scrummage with a volley of punches which seemed to scar his night in more ways than one. He never really recovered and there's still a lot of work to do by the Wales' forward coach - "Lyn the Lineout" - before the French trip next weekend.

The lineout worked (for a change) and Cardiff's poise in comfortably recycling the ball despite not always making the yards on first phase showed a different team from the one that floundered in Belfast. Their ability to keep the ball was excellent. When a player was forced to take a tackle and "die" with the ball, the support play of those around him was excellent - particularly from Jon Humphreys and Emyr Lewis.

The first half started at a frightening pace and Cardiff set up an almost error free first 20 minutes. Their domination should have been grater of the referee had understood anything about the importance of maintaining the offside line and playing advantage. At one point in the game, he gave three penalties in a row against the Ulstermen for offside - why no yellow cards for professional fouls? McWhirter, the Ulster tight head, went into the Guinness book of records for the number of times he dived over the top in the ruck - frantically trying to kill the ball at every opportunity. Quite how he didn't get a yellow card, nobody knows. Maybe he was doing Lander a favour by slowing things down so the man in yellow could keep up!

Whilst Cardiff rained in three tries in the first half - almost all from deep and with flowing left to right attacks - Hulster came to kick, lineout and maul their way over. This was good enough against Cardiff in Belfast, but despite some sterling work in defence Ulster seemed unprepared for the speed of the attacks they saw in Cardiff.

David Humphries kicked his penalties to try to keep his team in the game, as did the referee as he fed Hulster some unbelievable penalties, including one for pushing too hard in the scrum. Lander's performance was bewildering at times and his explanations to the players were short and schoolmaster like. His constant penalizing of Quinnell in the lineout for tackling the man with the ball was compounded by his refusal to explain his decision until after the second penalty. This attitude of the referee does not install discipline into the game - as the constant scrum flare ups proved - but just alienate him from the players and from the crowd.

The second half saw Cardiff wilt and the pace visibly dropped. We needed some strong strategic replacements from the bench, but there wasn't the resources there to make an impact. Bringing on the mad Kiwi to play against his compatriots in the back row showed how weak we are in the back row. But Fourie for Young was more of a strengthening than a patch up. Dai surely realizes that forget playing for his Welsh place - the first thing he needs to do is to play for his Cardiff place! This is what we need at the club to bring the best out of players - competition for places is vital to get out of the complacent attitude that pollutes our national game.

Ulster kicked for the corners and mauled their way towards the line. But, despite our lightweight back row, the defence held solid which augers well for next weekend. The visitors backline was by now in shambolic disarray and with ball in hand the backs spent more time retreating than attacking. Andy Ward was never far from the action - either in defence or attack - and completely outplayed grandad. But with the pace that Cardiff have, they can score at any time from any range and Jinx topped off the evening with another excellent try. Where Ulster were restricted to short distance strikes, out wide, Cardiff had the beating of them and so distance was no object.

The only downside for the evening was scoring only four tries in a 42 point haul. Perhaps Dai was guilty of being a little over-cautious in his decision making. Only time will tell whether our try count will matter when we play our quarter final.

This performance really highlighted the gulf between the Village League and the European Cup. This season, Cardiff have consistently turned in laboured, sub-standard performances in domestic rugby. They've scraped victories with a miserable try count which could yet cost us the Village title. It's clear for all to see that they are not inspired by the Village games and can still win playing at 50%.

And then along comes Europe.

Suddenly we see a different team on the pitch. So here's the challenge. The coaching staff has to get players to set their own standards and ignore the level of the opposition. Cardiff need to produce error-free pace rugby week in week out - regardless of the opposition. Professional sportsmen need to perform to high standards they set themselves, and if they don't, then the coaching staff needs to ensure that these standards are maintained. Much as this game warmed the sole, it only adds to the frustration when the same squad turns in junk performances like that in Glasgow.

15
Gethin Rhys Williams
7
/10
Tentative in the tackle lacking in pace in joining the line tested little in defence but still had way too much pace for the Ulster attackers.
14
Gareth Thomas
9
/10
Phenomenal work rate in defence and attack. Effectively played at centre, wing and number 8. Always available to take the ball on the inside - strong in the tackle but unfortunately lost the ball in contact with the line looming.
13
Jamie Robinson
8
/10
Excellent tackling and passing and is willing to take risks with the ball in hand in order to create space. Plays well with the three centres.
12
Pieter Muller
9
/10
Awesome presence in attack and defence. Scared the life out of the Hulstermen. Hand-off on Humphries was worth the entrance fee.
11
Nick Walne
8
/10
Always makes good yards with the ball in hand. Awesome defence. Stood his man up in attack. Excellent smother tackles in defence to stop overlaps.
10
Neil Jenkins
10
/10
Despite missing some extremely difficult first half conversions into the wind, Jinx deserves a ten for his masterly control of the game and speed of distribution and speed off the mark. 27 points with a full house doesn't yet explain his total impact on the game. Made Humphries look like a U15 player. Johnny Who? How can this man not be in the Lions starting line up playing like this?
9
Robert Howley
9
/10
The eyes and ears of the team. Distribution was good and he was always looking to mix up the play with creative passing to both forwards and backs. Looking for the break from the base at every opportunity, this committed defenders and created space out wide for the Cardiff wingers.
8
Emyr Lewis
9
/10
Another playing with an enormous work rate. Speed in the last five minutes was as fast as the first. Excellent ball carries. Smother tackles snuffled out Hulster's forward charges. But it was his pace off the shoulder of Jinx that really put David Humphries out of the game.
7
Martyn Williams
8
/10
Sixty minute performance from the geographically challenged man - will need to find his bearings for the trip to the south of France. Ball recycling was good and his excellent support play brought Cardiff won of the best tries ever seen at the Arms Park.
6
Owain Williams
5
/10
Couldn't tackle a hot dinner and didn't. Targeted by Hulster on drop outs because a lack of hunger for the ball. Won some decent line out stuff, but lacked the physical presence to combat a more aggressive opposition back row. We're in big trouble in Toulouse if we can't find a bigger physical presence in defence.
5
John Tait
8
/10
Good scrummaging away from a nine. Pace around the park is awesome. Aggressive ball carrying and good support play. Lineout work was faultless (as long as Humph could throw it properly).
4
Craig Quinnell
8
/10
Excellent for 60 minutes, then did a little too much work on the wing. Still off match fitness. More pace - less pies please Craig! A galvanizing influence for the team and the supporters. The pack takes on more confidence when he's in the team. Won some line out ball but needs to work harder in the scrum for a tougher test up front on Saturday.
3
Dai Young
6
/10
Struggled in the scrum and took only one pass all game (which lost us three points). Another player not match fit - will get better for next week, if he doesn't lose his place to the excellent Fourie.
2
Jon Humphreys
8
/10
Couple of poor throws in the lineout but his support play is awesome. Never too far away from the ball he worked tirelessly in defence and attack.
1
Spencer John
8
/10
Looks weaker at loose head but this offers him more freedom around the pitch. Worked hard with ball in hand and made good yards (and a nice touch kick). Safe hands.