Dax

k.o. time: 7:00 pm

1 August, 2001

Stade Maurice Boyau

Spectators: 4,000

Cardiff
referee
Eric Darriere
5
/10
Very lessez faire. Made an arse of himself when refereeing the scrum. Inability to get players to stand on their feet at the breakdown led to frustration and the inevitable yellow cards.
weather
Very Sunny and Hot
worth annoying the wife factor
7
/10
our man of the match
Gethin Rhys Williams
scorers
Nicky Robinson (1)
Gethin Rhys Williams (1)
Nicky Robinson (1)
our choice for next week

vs Connacht

k.o. time: 2:30 pm

18 August, 2001

Cardiff Arms Park

15
Gethin Rhys Williams
14
Owain Ashman
13
Jamie Robinson
12
Pieter Muller
11
William Barber
10
Nicky Robinson
9
Ryan Powell
8
Rob Appleyard
7
Robin Sowden-Taylor
6
Dan McShane
5
John Tait
4
Craig Quinnell
3
Gary Powell
2
Greg Woods
1
Spencer John

In the heart of bull fighting country, Cardiff were put to the sword by a Dax squad showing far more cohesion at ruck and maul than the impatient and impetuous visitors.

From the off, the home team tore into Cardiff with some determined running particularly from the back row. Ball carriers tore holes in a defence lacking beef (Fester aside). Only some determined tackling kept the Dax forwards from breaking through. With the little ball that Cardiff did manage to secure, Nicky Robinson moved it wide with urgency where Cardiff's pace out wide always looked dangerous.

But much as in recent years, there was no punch in the back row to make any impact close to rucks and mauls. As a result, the home back row was free to roam and stifle Cardiff's ability to free the ball at the breakdown.

A try from the home side seemed inevitable and soon enough it came as a result of Cardiff's traditional weakness - the driving lineout. The Preacher's only been with us a month, but if there's one glaring hole in Cardiff's defence, it's their inability to stop a driving lineout.

The second half was a far more open affair as Cardiff finally managed to gain some possession. A whole raft of changes disrupted both teams and made for a more open game. As Dax pressed hard after the break, Nicky Robinson intercepted a loose pass and charged 80 metres to score under the posts. A needless piece of thuggery on the ground took him out for a few minutes but he got up to kick the conversion.

But this was only a brief respite for the visitors, and the home team kept pressing. Two more tries for the red and whites followed - one from a woeful piece of drift defence from Allen and another from a sweeping passage of play and some excellent team work.

As the game drew to a close, the home back row continued to exert their superiority and at one time they looked to be overwhelming the visitors.

However, to the youngsters' credit, the bois hung in well and with Owain Ashman and Rhys Williams looking far too lively for a one-paced Dax backline, the Welsh fullback wriggled through to score at the close.

At times, the passing skills on show from both teams were woeful. Dax were particularly at fault here. Cardiff's defensive organisation was excellent, and against a home team lacking individual pace, they put on a determined display to trail only 10-0 at half time.

But at ruck and maul, Cardiff conceded far too much possession though inferior support of the ball carrier. Rushed passes and poor control illustrated a pre-planned tactic of running at all costs. However, without control, frantic passing resulted in turnovers. Even with control, the ball carrier all too often became too isolated, or lacked the pace and punch to muscle his way though a a broken tackle.

Cardiff had clear superiority at the scrum - where the referee allowed the home team to negate the visitors' superiority by constantly standing at each scrum. When they did stay down, Cardiff shunted the Dax pack all over the park. However, when the scrum wheeled, Griffin failed to control the situation.

Tait (and later Jones) were the only two lineout jumpers used - nothing from the back row and nothing from Fester. Greg Woods seemed to find Tait extremely well (other than on two occasions). Lineout percentages against Dax were good, said Rudy, but options were limited.

But this game was lost at the breakdown area, and in the difference in the collective driving skills of the two teams. On numerous occasions, Dax built up a real head of steam from their lineout drives. Players drive low and bind tightly - they act as a unit. By comparison, Cardiff's lineouts are static affairs and one "drive" by Fester in the first half was embarrassing. Cardiff players fly in as individuals and drive with their chests and not their shoulders.

Dax scored their first try from a driving lineout and Cardiff failed to capitalize from a similar chance as the half came to a close. Expect (another) onslaught from Neath in this area. Little change from last season yet.

Picking young players in the backs has been very successful for Cardiff in recent seasons, and now they are trying to do the same with the forwards. Greg Woods, Robin Sowden-Taylor, Matthew Griffin, Adam Jones and Gary Powell are fine in a loose, open game, but when the opposition mixed it up, youth soon took second spot. Compare this with the excellence of George Smith - still only 20 - in green and gold this summer. Fester struggled manfully alone, but without the hardened, tough, physical edge of Humph, Dai Young and Dan Baugh, the pack looked lightweight and were dominated as a result.

Pluses for the coach were the supreme defensive effort in the first half and the collective refusal of heads to drop even with the team when 27-7 down.

In as short a period as one month, The Preacher has at least converted his flock into a unit with the team spirit that was so sadly lacking in the last two seasons. He's got an outside half with bags of potential and a full back who's at last regaining his confidence.

On the downside, running rugby is fine if your forwards can ruck and recycle - so there's plenty of work to do there. The lineout options still look limited, but given time this team will only get better.

With so many top players yet to return to the side (Young, Humph, Alp, Tarw, Baugh, Williams, Howley, Jinx, Morgan and Harris(!)), if there's sufficient time for them to gel before October, we can still do something in the European Cup this year.

15
Gethin Rhys Williams
9
/10
Nigh on faultless performance from a man at last returning to his best form. Had too much pace for the opposition and ruthlessly exposed some lethargic French backs with a string of counter attacks. Took his try well. One dropped kick from a 10.
14
Elgan Jones
8
/10
Looked lively and elusive against some limited opposition. Always broke the gain line and kept onto possession well at the breakdown. subbed for Owain Ashman (8) - Excellent elusive attacking force. Serious speed worked many an opening which should have resulted in a try or two. Sadly still looks very frail in contact - need more work on the weights. Excellent performance on the wing, with plenty of poise and vision. More pace than anyone else on the pitch, this bois' got a future. Get on the weights, Owain!
13
Jamie Robinson
6
/10
Fairly typical JR performance. Elusive with ball in hand, solid in defence but three two humdinging shockers which almost gave the game away. Still seems to lack the poise needed when under pressure, despite stacks of ability.
12
Pieter Muller
8
/10
Back play seemed a little disorganised as spontaneity was enough to break the gain line. Took to coaching from the touchline in the second half - which was great to see. Under used. subbed for Matt Allen (4) - Looked way off the pace and gave away a simple try (which proved decisive) with a schoolboy error in drift defence. Despite being of equal stature, he didn't have the same physical presence as Muller.
11
Craig Hudson
6
/10
.... is big ..... very big! But just like another NZ wing, despite being very strong in contact and as fast as the TGV, he's also prone to handling errors, doesn't pick the ball off his toes too well and is not the fastest to turn in defence. subbed by William Barber (7) - Played like a man with something to prove. Determined runner and very committed in the tackle. Went looking for work, though didn't really get the ball in space.
10
Nicky Robinson
9
/10
.... is a real raw talent. At last an outside half in a blue and blacks jersey who can tackle! At least an outside half who takes the ball at pace. Sadly, his kicking skills are not yet of European Cup standard, but his angles of running are excellent. We can forgive him his occasional errors of judgment (some suicidal attempts at running the ball when a tactical kick would be better). It will come ..... Iestyn who? The Preacher praised Nicky Robinson after the game and reiterated his dislike of "needless kicking". However, with Robinson ruling out kicking, the defence was able to lie flat and pressurise, when perhaps Cardiff needed more variety - up and unders, chip kicks and grubber kicks. It was precisely the chip and grubber kick which caused Dax the biggest problems
9
Ryan Powell
7
/10
Typically busy performance but with Cardiff rarely getting a touch of the ball in the first half, had little chance to shine. Looked suspect in contact against a physically tough French back row. Given his build, he should be much tougher.
8
Matthew Griffin
5
/10
Has the ball handling skills, but was out-muscled by the opposition and looked out of his depth. Not a lineout jumper, doesn't break tackles from the back of the scrum, physically intimidated with the rough stuff - looks like an Abertillery player.
7
Robin Sowden-Taylor
5
/10
Looked excellent in loose play but lacked the bulk to compete with the tight stuff. Another excellent prospect, but needs to bulk up quickly to compete at this level. More upper body strength needed.
6
Rob Appleyard
7
/10
Excellent work rate, this man is supremely fit. Always supported his outside half well, and covered the ground with amazing omnipresence. However, some of his handling was poor and he's not the sort of player who's going to win us possession in the tackle area. subbed for Dan McShane (8) - Cardiff's best back row player of the evening. Serious upper body strength gave him the weapons to compete in the tight. Strong at close quarters - a real handful. Let's hope he develops into the player who'll win the ball for us at the breakdown. subbed for Phil Wheeler (5) - Phil Wheeler (5) - .... was barely noticeable. Missed a howler of a tackle when concentrating on an eight man shove.
5
John Tait
8
/10
Work rate in the lineout was top class, as was his cover tackling .... best forward performance of the evening.
4
Craig Quinnell
7
/10
The most physical of the Cardiff forwards .... refused to take a backward step and felt the full force of the home pack for doing so. Sin-binned for 10 minutes as a result. Thoroughly enjoyed himself - a born entertainer! subbed by Adam Jones (7) - Took some good ball in the lineout and put himself about in the tight. Not a Tesco trolley in site. Ran well with ball in hand - another good prospect.
3
Ken Fourie
5
/10
Strangely anonymous .... referee's failings at refereeing the scrum seemed to upset him. subbed by Gary Powell (6) - Doesn't like the tight stuff but watch him run with ball in hand!
2
Greg Woods
7
/10
Plenty of raw talent but lacks physical presence. Good support player and handles the ball well, but lacked the hard edge to take on the French physically. Experience and two extra stones of muscle should see him fulfill his potential.
1
Spencer John
4
/10
- Same old Spence. Lacks the aggression to make an impact. Too easily physically dominated. Not angry enough. subbed by Rita Podgers (3) - .... is a prima donna and not a grafter. Trickery in the scrum quickly saw him overpower his weak opponent, but he's lazy in open play (two aimless kicks to touch???) and does no work in the tight. How long 'til The Preacher excommunicates him?