Clermont

k.o. time: 4:00 pm

6 October, 2001

Stade Marcel Michelin

Spectators: 8,500

Cardiff
referee
Rob Dickson
1
/10
Doughnuts
weather
Very warm and humid
worth annoying the wife factor
8
/10
our man of the match
John Tait
scorers
Spencer John (1)
Nicky Robinson (1)
Nicky Robinson (1)
our choice for next week

vs Llandaff

k.o. time: 5:30 pm

20 October, 2001

Stradey Park

15
Iestyn Harris
14
Craig Hudson
13
Nick Wakley
12
Matt Allen
11
Anthony Sullivan
10
Nicky Robinson
9
Chris Miller
8
Emyr Lewis
7
Robin Sowden-Taylor
6
Francois Mounier
5
Adam Jones
4
Luke Tait
3
Gary Powell
2
Greg Woods
1
Peter Rogers

Another defeat away in France as Cardiff failed to perform again at the higher standard required in the European Cup. In an "unknown" environment, those who have the professional pride and drive from within themselves succeed and those who rely on external factors for their inspiration struggle.

The game started in a predictable fashion with Cardiff kicking the ball away and the French running it back. A feature of the French approach to rucks and mauls was the pace and aggression with which they hit the tackler - in stark contrast to the more static approach favoured by the Welsh. The ball carrier had the confidence to roll the ball back at the tackle point - comfortable in the knowledge that support was at hand. The Welsh, meanwhile, chose to hit the floor and push the ball back slowly through their legs - critically, a much more time consuming process.

At the set piece, the hoped for supremacy of our front row failed to materialise with the disruption of the loss of Dai Young. When the scrum spun, Setiti displayed his dismal control skills and instead of turning bad ball into good, he turned bad ball into atrocious ball. Both ASM props had carefully prepared how to counteract CRFC's strength, and didn't push straight once in the whole game.

The lineout was a shambles from start to finish. Neither hooker could hit a cow's @rse with a banjo and both sets of second rows concentrated on jumping into the man and not on catching the ball. Dickson stared on - helpless. Mmmmm doughnuts. His two judges - Andrew Ireland and Bert Craig - were equally nonplussed.

The first half performances from both sides was pretty shapeless. Neither side stamped their authority on the game, but one individual stood head and shoulders above the rest in his total inadequacy. His first contribution to the game was a true toreador performance, as he ushered the French wing to his line offering him some popcorn on the way. After you, pal.

Torch in hand, minutes later, he jumped into his Zero and headed straight for a big guy. Cardiff's back row was nowhere to be seen expecting The Usher to clear his lines and the ease that Bory strolled over was an embarrassment. Clearly lessons had not been learned since the last visit to the home of the Michelin Man.

Another premiere performance from The Usher and Mr Inconsistent - the remarkable Jimmy Marlu - pinched an innocuous box kick and strolled over the corner - obviously waiting for the ball to drop. The home crowd had berated Troncon for kicking away good ball but he knew that The Usher had dropped his torch and was lost in the darkness.

Living off Cardiff's errors, and looking far from competent in defence themselves, suddenly ASM found themselves 22-3 up at half time. Nick Robinson's ill-directed place kicks were fortunately mirrored by Gerry Merc who struggled with a left-hand drive.

Critically, too many players went into the tackle point lacking conviction and determination - certainly the back row were most at fault here. Missing your first up tackles against players of the calibre of David Bory was "a gimme" for the French attackers. Allen's endeavours were a noticeable exception, showing that this weakness wasn't a question of skill or physique -more of the correct mental approach to the game. Furthermore, heads dropped far too easily during the first half. Win or lose, points difference could prove crucial in this competition, and there was a clear lack of application and determination. Going 22-3 down at half time was a blow, but a more positive attitude in the second half could have seen an even better result than the 15-7 loss. Spence was at the forefront of motivating his troops (as well as - of course - John Tait), but the back row lacked a determined leader. By half time, ASM had scored three tries - all from Cardiff mistakes. At least it wasn't 32 points. Booth disappeared at half time - he may have gone earlier, but we didn't notice. Robert "Ruby Tuesday" Howley, made an immediate impact as Cardiff now had a scrum-half fast enough to get the breakdown. When the great Humph arrived, we hoped he'd stem the flow of bash and crash, but there was no judo on show. He'd also left his contact lenses on the plane and didn't even get close to throwing in straight. Obviously using Alp's banjo, the cow benefited and so did ASM.

Turnovers flowed, and with Magne to the fore they raced in for two further gifted tries. 37-3. Tarw came on for the ineffectual Mounier, and suddenly Dickson recovered the use of his left arm. Finally, Muller raced on with a point to prove and Gerry got mullered. One pick up and throw later and Merceron left on a stretcher. If only we had an openside who could have done this earlier, the result may have been very different. Crazy Dan, where are you?

Dickson gave a display which illustrated exactly how far out of his depth he is at this level. More incompetent than biased, the number of mistakes he made during the game was staggering. Missed so many knock-ons and forward passes showing exactly how far off the pace he was. The French rucking practice of a player ploughing a gap for the ball carrier around the side of the breakdown also went unnoticed. In contrast to Mr Magoo at Welford Road, he was so easily swayed by his touch judges - obviously not seeing any of the incidents himself. Intimidation is part of the game here in France, and the crowd played their part in getting Fester sin-binned.

But Dickson's piece de resistanse was a true masterpiece.

Having calculated the huge imbalance in the penalty count, when it came for the traditional evening-up process at the end of the game, he was forced to react - big time. Finally he cottoned on to the props' tactics in the scrum and in doing so dug himself into a corner with a flurry of raised left arms. Clearly failing to get his message across, he was forced into sin-binning not one, but two props! With three native English speakers in the ASM team, there was surely no excuse for language problems. We ended the game with a complete farce ..... unopposed scrums on the ASM line with Cardiff's most potent weapon - the scrum - rendered useless. Why no penalty try for persistant infringing? What was the point in the yellow cards?

Unlike the WRU, it seems the IRB have no ruling on unopposed scrums and so the game ended with Dickson handing Spencer a try with him clearly held up on the line.

We wanted to slap the officials - verbally of course - but the French beat us to it. Clearly incensed by such a shambolic performance, at least one ASM player was ready to vent his frustration. As the game ended and Dickson headed for the touchline waving off verbal attacks. One overly excited fan launched himself at the man in green, only to be restrained by a loan steward. Now rendered defenceless to a second wave, a flying right hook contacted with the Andy Ireland, the touch judge who had fallen for some French amateur dramatics earlier in the game which led to Fester getting a warning. Will ASM be punished for this or are French crowds now allowed to use physical as well as snowball abuse to their intimidation?

We would consider ourselves two proponents of letting the referee know all about what the fans think of their performances, but physical assault on the officials is a step too far. Will Dickson have the courage to write this up in his match report? Will the ERC act and ban ASM from hosting matches at this level until they can guarantee the safety of the officials both from their own players and fans? In football this action would result in a very hefty fine and possible points reduction. Bring it on! The precedent is not good, however. At Bath in the EC quarter final some years ago, with Windmill Mene failing to allow a perfectly acceptable try from Craig Morgan, a Cardiff fan ran on the pitch after the game and pushed the ref. No repercussions for the club.

But surely, what is beyond doubt is that Dickson should not be allowed to ruin another European game. He could have easily awarded a penalty try rather than the second yellow card, but no, his fifteen minutes of fame had arrived.

So Cardiff once more failed to perform in France against a team they could have beaten. All ASM's tries came from Cardiff errors. More importantly - unforced errors. Key players - hooker, second row, number eight, both half backs and full back - made simple mistakes. In a professional sport, to win away from home, you cannot afford to make these mistakes. Before the trip to Glasgow, these players need to ask themselves some serious questions about their professional approach to fixture like this.

Sharing a beer in the evening after the game with ASM's bought-in southern hemisphere contingent, they revealed much about the psyche of rugby in the south of France. They weren't aware of Jenkins' absence and knew nothing of Cardiff's form this season. They also pointed out their team mates' fanatical devotion to home performances, and their mental block when it comes to away fixtures.

Disappointed that the Cardiff players shot off to the airport straight after the game finished - no "warm down" and a recipe for muscle strain.

A special thanks to Stuart Cable of the Stereophonics - cheer leader during the game and choir master in the pub in the evening. A few players could learn something about your enthusiasm, Stuart!

15
Gethin Rhys Williams
1
/10
"The Usher" gave away three tries due to a severe lack of kahunas - which obviously haven't dropped. Second half incident with Sullivan was the worst. Woeful tackling and seemed to lack the convection in contact. The size of his grin after the game was in stark contrast to the grim faces of the other players as they emerged from the stand following the game.
14
Andrew Henry
6
/10
Kick and chase was good and commitment was excellent. One phenomenal try saving tackle when he went for the intercept and the tackle at the same time. Only one sign of a lack of kahunas but more than made up for it by being one of the few players still running strongly at the end of the game.
13
Jamie Robinson
8
/10
Excellent defensive display - didn't seem to miss a tackle - in no way overawed. Didn't seem to want to give Sullivan the ball enough. On the whole, poor co-ordination with Sulli in attack by all the backs.
12
Matt Allen
6
/10
Very solid player ..... hugely consistent, very determined in contact but completely unspectacular. Showed a lack of creativity but you know what you're going to get with Allen. Good trench warfare but won't unlock defences.
11
Anthony Sullivan
4
/10
Still looks like a fish out of water. Kicks like an under-15s number 8 and tackles like an under-15s number 10. Still never gets a pass but doesn't help himself by a lack of creativity in the angles he runs.
10
Nicky Robinson
5
/10
Missed too many easy kicks at goal. He's been asked to do a job he's not yet good enough to do and it shows. Does well not to allow the poor place kicks to affect the rest of is game. Looked after Merceron well, and put in a number of impressive punts. Looks far more comfortable from second phase at inside centre - where his future lies.
9
Andy Booth
5
/10
Off the pace and unable to keep up with the frequency of the rucks. His selection was for no other reason than to set a club rule - no training on Tuesday = no start on Saturday. It was a big ask for him to play having been out of first class rugby for so long.
8
Semo Sititi
3
/10
When his forwards were taking a pasting, went AWOL at inside centre. Needed to be there making the tackles close in, where - as predicted - ASM concentrated their attacks. Plays like a winger told to play at number eight. Only good news is that he's only on a year's contract. Now Tarw's returned, and hopefully the whip round for Kacala's air fair will come through for the Glasgow game, will we see him again?
7
Rob Appleyard
6
/10
Missed a huge number of tackles by going in far too high. A lot of endeavour which resulted in him having to do the work the other two failed to do. Made one or two big tackles which the rest of the pack failed to do.
6
Francois Mounier
3
/10
Ou est Mounier? Won some good lineout possession, but did he take a pass all game? Completely unnoticeable
5
John Tait
8
/10
Huge effort levels from the Canadian. Took over the captaincy from Mr Motivator and filled the role admirably. A little over-used in the lineout - his call? Needs to work on getting his body into more tackles - spends his time swinging his arms.
4
Craig Quinnell
4
/10
..... got sin-binned again. Didn't take a pass all game and won very little lineout ball. Is a little too wound up with being the bad boy and needs to get his head down and work more.
3
Dai Young
5
/10
..... is injured. Looks like an ankle strain and not the twanging calf muscles we'd feared. Never had a chance to get going in the scrum.
2
Andrew Lewis
3
/10
Some terrible throwing in at the lineout - poor co-ordination with Tait and at the rear of the lineout. No ball carries and failed to make the impact hoped for. But as he was suffering from a sickness bug, why did he start the game?
1
Spencer John
7
/10
Plenty of endeavour and hard work from Spence. Out-scrummaged his opponent and on a performance like this can't be far from a Welsh cap. Defended with guts and was a willing worker around Nick Robinson - took his "try" well. Spence likes playing in Europe much more than in the Village.