Toulouse

k.o. time: 6:00 pm

20 January, 2001

Stade Ernest Wallon

Spectators: 10,000

Cardiff
referee
Iain Ramage
6
/10
Kept the game flowing but ignored the ruck laws. Homers seem to be the order of the day. Persistent infringements on the offside line went unpunished. An easy game for him in a stadium with no atmosphere. Pandy Park would have been more intimidating.
weather
Drizzle for 40 minutes then more drizzle
worth annoying the wife factor
7
/10
our man of the match
Pieter Muller
scorers
Gethin Rhys Williams (1)
Owain Williams (1)
Neil Jenkins (1)
Neil Jenkins (5)
our choice for next week

vs Gloucester

k.o. time: 2:05 pm

28 January, 2001

Kingsholm

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
Dan Baugh
6
Wayne Fyvie
5
John Tait
4
Craig Quinnell
3
Dai Young
2
Jon Humphreys
1
Spencer John

In the centre of French rugby league territory, Cardiff made the mistake of playing with only 13 players on a rain soaked evening in Toulouse. Somehow, we supporters can make our way in the hundreds to away games - even as far away as Toulouse - but half the squad left their enthusiasm back in Wales.

Were it not for Jinx's excellent first half kicking performance and some wonderful individual efforts in defence, the bois would have been on the wrong end of a 50 point tonking. But just as Jinx game fell apart after half time so Cardiff's dwindling enthusiasm evaporated - just when there were signs of serious improvement in the tight play as the first half ended. Whatever that half time talk was, Lyn, it was a stormer!

The game started with indiscipline and a string of penalties against Cardiff forwards (Owain and Humph) for needless indiscretions. Indiscipline away from home is not the way to compete! Furthermore, arguing against the ref is pointless, particularly when it was clear that the ref was going to allow the French to dive on the ball carrier at every ruck. Once more, when faced with a referee who allowed attackers to dive on the ball carrier, Cardiff lacked the turnover players to make the difference.

With a shaky lineout leaking possession for the home team, a kick to the corner and hope was the main tactic. But despite an almost total monopoly of possession in the first half, Toulouse managed only one try. A supremely well-organised Cardiff defence kept out the French without too much trouble. Unit skills are so well coached that players fan out across the pitch and tackle phase after phase. Muller shone in defence with both technique and effort, but Humph and Emyr Lewis were the only ones who stood up to the Maka challenge.

In the low skill Village League this is enough - opposition teams lack the power to break the tackle, lack sufficient pace to run around the outside and lack the skillful slight of hand to work an opening. Whilst Toulouse didn't out-pace Cardiff, they did out-power them and had skills in abundance to slip the ball in the tackle. Isatola Maka pummeled the Cardiff mid-field, and once a supporting player had dived on the tackler, Cardiff couldn't work a turnover. They had no-one strong enough (other than Muller - possibly) to force the ball carrier backwards.

They simply had no ball to play with in the first half. The referee was content to allow uncontested rucks, so the team in possession maintained possession. Toulouse either stole Cardiff's lineout ball or the scrum creaked around 90 degrees. When Cardiff did win some ball, Toulouse refused to allow them into their 22, usually by giving away penalties further up field. From these Jenkins slotted his 12 points. Cardiff failed to learn from the lessons of the Brewery field two years ago. Instead of reading the ref and diving on the ball (something that Gerraghty is so adept at), they slavishly stayed on their feet and thus found it very difficult to recycle what little ball they won. In short, the back row were well out of their depth.

With no tackles to make, Toulouse hardly worked up a sweat in defence.

Straight after half time, within 15 minutes, the game was effectively over as a contest. Cardiff leaked three tries in the face of a ferocious assault of pace and power rugby. With the speed of ball recycling and an increasingly lethargic performance from the men in white, some hard straight running ripped holes through some weak tackling - particularly around the fringes of rucks and mauls.

Our forwards ended up tackling their backs and they couldn't live with their pace. Despite some sterling effort by Jinx and Tait in particular with their cover tackles, shear weight of numbers was enough.

John Kear has worked wonders with a well organised defence, but without a big tackler, we simply couldn't win the turnovers.

However, there were signs of more fundamental problems. As we entered the final quarter and with the bois still in the hunt, the was a palpable lack of cohesion in the team. Individuals tried their best - notably Howley, Quinnell and Muller - but Cardiff lacked the support play to capitalize. Where was the team spirit? Where was our captain rallying his troops and saying "We can still win this bois! Let's see everyone giving it 100%!

Lineout unit skills suffered as a result of some pretty poor throwing from Humph. The front of the line was hardly used throughout the game and misdirected throws to Tait in the middle of the line saw him catch the ball waste or chest high at best.

The back of the lineout saw the most success with Owain winning more than his fair share until the French realised that this was Cardiff's only real avenue for secure possession.

Whilst Toulouse successfully challenged Cardiff on every throw in - safe in the knowledge that the away team's catch and drive was too slow to present any real threat - Cardiff failed not only to challenge the jumper, but also to counteract the resulting forward drives.

Collapsing the rolling maul was their only option, and the penalties flowed. We've been writing about this weakness for more than two seasons and it's still there. Where are the unit skills of our forwards?

So once more a trip to France has produced another sub-standard performance. Admittedly, this was no Montferrand, but there seemed a lack of collective passion amongst the pack in particular. Once more our forward's unit skills have been found wanting. At least two thirds of the team should take a long hard look in the mirror before next weekends' game and ask themselves whether they gave 100%.

It's getting repetitive to constantly criticize Howells but it's difficult to see where we go from here.

So Uncle Peter, it seems time for you to bite the bullet. Are you going to keep pumping your money to a coach who is clearly our of his depth? Forget Nathan Budgett!!! (Why did we let Paul Williams go and fail to register Phil Wheeler? Wouldn't have been better to keep some young talent and develop it rather than pick an aging 37 year old whose retirement is imminent?) Save your money to get us a decent forward coach who an develop players as well as Geraint John has developed the backs. Get us an inspirational leader of men who can build some team spirit at the club and make it clear to all players that whatever happens, their best is the only thing that's good enough.

Many thanks to Skipper the Ponty fan for his help in putting this report together.

15
Gethin Rhys Williams
7
/10
Predictable pokey kick from counter-attack which was easily read by the Toulouse cover defence. Some dodgy kicking all round. Took his try well.
14
Nick Walne
4
/10
Much lower work rate than last week. Stayed on his wing throughout the game. None of the charges close to the breakdown that we saw last week.
13
Jamie Robinson
4
/10
Drifted too wide in defence. Had so much pace - far more than the opposition - but lacked the bottle to impose himself in the second half and missed tackles that he has made all season.
12
Pieter Muller
9
/10
Awesome defence and a real force in attack. One of the few players to shine.
11
Gareth Thomas
2
/10
has already moved to Bridgend. On this sort of performance the sooner he goes the better. Let himself down, let the team down and worst of all let the supporters down. The VC, demonstrating his usual grip of reality, subbed Walne instead of moving Alfie to the centre and taking Robinson off. Make him work for his money!
10
Neil Jenkins
6
/10
Wonderful kicking performance in the first half, which kept a completely outplayed away team in the chase. Awesome try-saving tackle in the corner. However, after the Toulouse burst of tries in the second half, fell away very badly and turned in a pretty ordinary second half - missed kicks and unimaginative used of limited possession never got his line moving.
9
Robert Howley
9
/10
Never failed to give 100% ..... excellent tackle defence and always looking for the gap. Had no back row to support to feed off him.
8
Emyr Lewis
5
/10
As the only back row player on the pitch was always going to face an uphill battle against a physically superior French unit.
7
Martyn Williams
2
/10
Stayed in his valley. Out-muscled, out-fought and out-tackled. If he plays for Wales in this form, we're on for a thumping against the Saes. ....but then again, that will be at home.
6
Owain Williams
6
/10
An integral part of Howells' tactical plans - used extensively at kick off and the lineout. Completely outplayed in defence, as per the defeat at Stradey, barely made a tackle which stopped his man throughout the game. Despite being completely outplayed in the back row, Howells made no changes when Toulouse made widespread use of their bench.The Mad Kiwi would have excelled in the physical game, especially when you can dive on rucks!!!
5
John Tait
7
/10
Ran well in the loose with some excellent cover tackles. Missed lineout throws went nowhere near him. Scrum domination was Cardiff's as the game went on.
4
Craig Quinnell
8
/10
Inspirational performance which failed to inspire those around him. Charged well in the loose and dominated the scrum. One of the few ball carriers in the pack, was underused in the lineout.
3
Dai Young
6
/10
After a shaky start in the scrum went onto dominate Califano when the ref could keep the scrum from collapsing. No leadership skills on the pitch - failed to stop his players from playing like a bunch of individuals. Even when the points difference was not so great, there was no Dai Young motivating his team to keep plugging away.
2
Jon Humphreys
7
/10
Some woeful lineout throwing but some wonderful defence. Along with Emyr Lewis, the only Cardiff forward who looked even interested in tackling Maka - which he did to great effect. Scrummaging looked dodgy as once more the front row popped up too often for comfort.
1
Spencer John
7
/10
Shared ball carrying duties well but lacked the power to make the tackles. Only Spencer, Emyr and Quinnell had any sort of physical presence in attack, but because of the lack of speed and enthusiasm of support play, we simply couldn't get second phase ball quickly enough.