Cardiff

k.o. time: 2:30 pm

17 August, 2002

BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park

Spectators: 2,500

Bourgoin
referee
Nigel Whitehouse
4
/10
A huge avalanche of penalties in favour of the home side ruined any sort of flow to the game. Even though it was a "friendly", surely better communication with the French would have provided a better spectacle. His positioning at the two "tries" at the end of the game was woefully bad - standing behind the tackler and not near the grounded ball, and worse still he lacked the composure to give himself time to check whether the French had scored. Alienated the visitors completely and as a result the match had far too many bad tempered moments. New season, new players, new opponents, same old Welsh refs.
weather
Very hot and sunny
worth annoying the wife factor
9
/10
our man of the match
Matt Allen
scorers
Peter Rogers (1)
Anthony Sullivan (1)
Jim Brownrigg (1)
Iestyn Harris (2)
Nicky Robinson (1)
our choice for next week

vs Bath

k.o. time: 2:30 pm

24 August, 2002

BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park

15
Nicky Robinson
14
Liam Roberts
13
Nick Walne
12
Matt Allen
11
Anthony Sullivan
10
Iestyn Harris
9
Richard Malcolm Smith
8
Jim Brownrigg
7
Robin Sowden-Taylor
6
Rob Appleyard
5
Adam Jones
4
Chris Stamatakis
3
Ken Fourie
2
Greg Woods
1
Peter Rogers

Cardiff started their pre-season with a thorough work out against a very well organised Bourgoin XV in searing heat at the Arms Park. Despite missing 6 internationals this was the same visiting team that had thumped Swansea by 40 points last week. Ex-Gloucester supremo Phillipe Saint-Andre ensured that his team's defence was top class - both individually and as a unit - and only Cardiff's superior individual class won the day.

Meanwhile, new Cardiff Head Coach Dai Young used the game to blood many of last year's Under 21 team and no player looked out of place. Despite many obvious problems in the Cardiff make up this would have been a good test for the squad and introduced the new signings Brownrigg and Smith to the Arms Park. A training injury to Dewdney in the week mean that he was missing and Senekal has not yet arrived from South Africa.

Throughout the match, Cardiff's ball retention was superb. For the first 15 minutes, the French had to withstand wave after wave of Cardiff attacks and couldn't get their hands on the ball. It took the visitors more than half an hour before they could get into the Cardiff half. That they lasted so long without conceding a try was in equal part testament to their own professional pride and application and to the incompetence of the Cardiff back line. The Bourgoin defence was superb throughout the game and it came as a shock to the home team as tackle after tackle came flying in. The tackling was so ferocious in the first twenty minutes that time after time the home team kept going backwards. Were it not for excellent rucking from the whole team, turnovers would have flowed.

A total lack of composure at half back meant that possession was repeatedly squandered. Powell looked indecisive and linked poorly not only with his back row, but also with Harris. He seemed to spend his time thinking more about his own game than on how to get the team moving. As for the alignment of the backs, then typical of a team lacking confidence, players crept "inwards" looking for the ball, instead of standing wider and deeper looking for longer passes and taking the ball at pace.

As the numberless Harris dropped out to start the game the sun shone down on the excellent surface of the Arms Park. The slow chase from the Cardiff forwards did not bode well but the French seemed to be on holiday rather than a training camp and the sliced kick from the French outside half meant an attacking platform. Excellent variation in the line out was soon on show with Lewis finding Jones. Quick ball off the top gave Robinson some space as he ploughed forward - upright - on crash ball after a dummy scissors.

Good clearing out at the tackle point should have meant further attacking opportunities but confusion in a staggered back line created chaos. Cardiff were driven back in the tackle so often that it was down to Harris to find a field position in the French 22. The first half pattern was set. Only the half backs for the visitors touched the ball during this time as the best they could do was to boot the ball down field. From one such kick return Cardiff were deep in trouble in their 22 until Whitehouse awarded a penalty for offside.

Harris quickly tapped and went, and broke through but lacked the real support to score. He shone well in his half of the game and seemed keen to take the ball at pace on second phase but had to stand too close to Powell to create real damage. He broke through a couple of times down the blind side and stayed on his feet well in the tackle and kicked very well in attack, as well as defence. Whether poor alignment in the backs was his responsibility or not is open to debate, but one excellent pass for Rhys Williams to burst onto would have led to a try were it not from some excellent cover tackling from the Bourgoin back line.

Cardiff continued to plough forward with Fourie, Alp and the two second rows doing a lot of ball carrying to suck in the opposition defence. Finally after a concerted drive down the right hand touchline, a huge openside offered the chance of an overlap. Sure enough, the overlap came and the ball went wide to Rogers who scored in almost the same spot as he did in Cardiff's last game.

It was a feature of the French defence that the second player to arrive at the tackle point would flop over the ball to kill the attack. Whitehouse seemed puzzled by this, unsure of whether to penalise or play advantage and his indecision led to many a simmering feud.

With Cardiff leading 7-0 Bourgoin did not change their tactics and continued to belt the ball into the Cardiff half. From one such kick Morgan decided to counter attack with an up and under, only for his run to be checked by a French defender. We all saw the blatant obstruction (a feature of the visitors' play where shirt pulling was in abundance) but Whitehouse was oblivious. Unfortunately, Whitehouse was not oblivious of the obvious obstruction that brought revenge for Morgan as he shoulder charged the Full Back as he returned the kick. This would have been a yellow card offence in a League game and Morgan must be careful of this. Whilst Bourgoin lined up the kick, Martyn Williams brought his players together in a huddle to lay down the law. Bloody hell! We've never seen that before! Go for it, Martyn!

The French, however, were more into the game now and they were able to score just before the break with a lovely move played at pace. Simple long passing - using the width of the pitch with alacrity - and taking the ball at pace led to an excellent try from first phase. The extra man joined the line and drew the Cardiff defence. Meanwhile, the inside backs looped around at a faster speed than the ambling defence and Janin scored in the corner. The excellent conversion from Peclier drew the scored level at the break.

Both half backs and both props were changed at half time and suddenly the was a marked improvement in the speed of Cardiff's attacks. Smith revitalised the back line with a delivery so much more accurate and quicker than anything Powell had offered. Now Cardiff were able to attack from further away from the rucks and bring into play the speed of the back line. Longer flatter passes meant backs lay deeper and Nicky Robinson enjoyed greater freedom to show off his left footed kicking skills and excellent passing.

The game soon turned sour, however, with the sending off of Orsoni after a nasty fight in the middle of the pitch. Each ruck led to more an more frustration between the two packs. The home team thought the French were killing the ball, and the visitors thought they were on the receiving end of one too many shoeings. Tempers were frayed. Whitehouse lost total control of another scrum (how difficult can it be to get "crouch-hold-engage" working?) after resetting twice. Once his back was turned a fight broke out between 3 or four on each side but it was the fast hands of the French number 4 that got him sent off in a friendly. What an achievement!! Incredibly, the incompetence of both touch judges and Whitehouse meant that the upper cut from the replacement front rower from Bourgoin went unnoticed! How did they miss it? What were they looking at?

This of course ruined the game and Whitehouse spend much of the remaining minutes warning the French for killing the ball in every ruck. Despite the remaining 14 visitors continuing to make it difficult for Cardiff to break through, the loss of the second row meant that game was not as tough as it should have been for the home team.

Up front, Cardiff were struggling against seven men especially at the scrum where the Bristol prop Payne was in a world of it! At tight head, neither Powell nor Fourie could hold a steady scrum and this is clearly and predictably an area of major weakness for Cardiff. The writing was on the wall at the end of last season, and yet the club has done nothing to replace the loss of Humph or Young. Against the top four Welsh teams - let alone in Europe - Cardiff are going to struggle unless they find a solution ..... and quickly! Whilst Smith seems to have been an inspired signing on initial viewing, a failure to find an experience tight head is mystifying. What are they thinking of?

If they can't find a decent tight head, then the next Cardiff signing should be Charlie Faulkner!

More indiscipline from Bourgoin led to a penalty that Nicky Robinson brilliantly slammed into the French 22. The" off the top ball" allowed the Cardiff back line fast ball with dummy runners concentrated around Jamie Robinson. A lucky flipped pass from him (he just threw it up in the air like a frightened school full back with Crazy Dan running at him) saw Sullivan reach frantically for the ball and in doing so ducked under the tackles to Underwood over the line.

This was the first time in the game that a pre-planned backline move came close to working (it could easily have been intercepted).

Now that the lead was again Cardiff's the game degenerated into a serious of players coming on and off the pitch that the game seemed to be American Football. One of the highlights of the second period was a French forward awarded 6.8 from the South Stand Judge for a dive that Greg Luganis would have been proud of! But the French saved their secret weapon 'til last when they brought on their coach driver at prop. He gave the home team a torrid time! He may have struggled to reach the steering wheel, but he caused untold damage in the front row. How do you pack against Papa Smurf?

Richard Smith was still continuing to shine, however, despite having a worse relationship with Emyr Lewis than everybody does with George Gregan! Time after time the two combined poorly, but the one time it did succeed led to a brilliant Smith break with Brownrigg in support to march over the line. His pace to support the ball from the second row in the scrum was marvellous and shows what an asset he can be. With the back five in the scrum having so many options in the squad perhaps Senekal'll be swapped for a Southern Hemisphere prop?

The determined French were to score the final try of the game despite the best efforts of Whitehouse to prevent them. Rolling mauls and scrums in the Cardiff 22 put huge pressure on the Cardiff defence and it seemed that the French were over but Whitehouse decided "no!" from the wrong side of the breakdown! Despite this setback, a good drive after a twisting maul sucked in the defence and Pesteil was left free to run in unopposed.

It seems as though Young has put a large emphasis on ball retention and this can only be a good thing. During this TriNations series we saw Australia score after 15 phases and it's obviously true that the opposition cannot score without the ball. However, whether Welsh referees will be as lenient as was Whitehouse during this game is another matter. More penetration must come from the back line and it looks likely on this showing that Smith will be the better scrum half for the expansive game. Harris will also enjoy his superior pass and once the alignment is worked on, Cardiff will again have an exciting back line.

In the pack however, things were even more worrying. The lineout worked very well indeed. The greater options afforded by picking Brownrigg mean a much more certain flow of possession. At the tackle area, Cardiff competed very well (both backs and forwards) and recycling was on the whole very good.

In the mauls, player's body positions continue to be ever pointing upwards. Many push with their chests - as if sumo wrestling - rather than with the shoulder. There's a whole season's worth of work to do there as well.

However, the biggest disaster of the afternoon was the scrum. It chugged and wheeled, wheezed and crumbled. If it was a horse, you'd have shot it out of compassion. And before we start looking for excuses, the Bourgoin pack were not that good, either. Cardiff may have finished the game with six U21 players in the pack (looked after by Grandad Appleyard) but that's a sign of the lack of cover, rather than of something that should be overly admired.

15
Gethin Rhys Williams
7
/10
one of the few players that played the whole game, despite supporting the crazy limit of 20 games per season! He looked as quick as ever, always keen to counter attack but lacking the ultimate confidence to take a real risk. One tremendous burst of pace was too much for the defenders who could only pull him back off the ball, but the poorly placed Whitehouse was way off the mark. He was always looking for the ball in attack, often playing at 10 off third or fourth phase. Good stuff!!!
14
Anthony Sullivan
5
/10
cruised through the game at half pace, just the same pace he cruised through most of last season! When the opportunity came to chase a kick he never really went at full pace but he did take his try fairly well, ducking underneath tackles on his way to the try line with a fairly average Underwood-esque dive! With the presence of Walne, the up and coming Roberts and the possibility of Williams playing on the wing, Mr Sullivan needs to put in a little more effort!
13
Jamie Robinson
4
/10
seemed totally bored by the prospect of playing opposite a blind side flanker for most of the game! His alignment was awful, his passing not much better and one horrendous "kick" through that went straight into touch summed up his afternoon. REPLACED BY: Nick Walne - who had nothing really to do
12
Matt Allen
8
/10
an excellent Allen performance where in the first half it seemed as though he has found some speed. This thought was quickly quashed in the second half, however, as normal service resumed. His commitment to take the flat ball was brilliant as was his commitment to the tackling of the enormous French backs. He rucked well and joined in the driving mauls and gave a wholehearted committed performance. Excellent! REPLACED BY: Nick McLeod - who had one run with the ball in hand. His low to the floor running angle is typical of those who graduate from the Under 21 set up and this technique was obvious with his 50 metre burst. Strangely selected to play at 12 with Robinson at 10, when they played their junior rugby in the opposite positions!
11
Craig Morgan
6
/10
one hilarious late shoulder charge apart, Morgan had a quiet game. The tight defence from the French did not suit him and Cardiff's horrendous alignment in the backs meant he never had a good pass. REPLACED BY: Liam Roberts - who didn't get a pass.
10
Iestyn Harris
6
/10
already the signs of the video study are being shown. It is true that was one sublime break from defence but of more importance was the excellent tactical kicking display. The improvement in this area from last season will stand him in good stead and has shown his willingness to work on his weaknesses. However, the alignment of the backs during the first half was abysmal and Geraint John should have had something to say about it. REPLACED BY: >Nicky Robinson - who also kicked well despite having visited Rita's barber and was wearing mittens! Seems to have spent more time in the off season working on his highlights instead of kicking off his right foot. A typical performance from Robinson who seemed to enjoy the space created for him by Richard Smith.
9
Ryan Powell
4
/10
another game for Powell where he took countless wrong options and generally tried to do everything himself. He lacked the composure he needs to show this season and also lacked the pass to create space for Harris. There generally seemed to be little improvement in his game from last season. REPLACED BY: Richard Smith - who had an excellent second half. His speed of delivery and its accuracy allowed the Cardiff backs to function better with much more space. A break from the base of the scrum was Howleyesque and so much better was his performance than Powell's that he must be favourite to start the season as no 1 choice.
8
Emyr Lewis
6
/10
despite a lot of hustle and bustle Lewis was never able to break away from the French back row. On a couple of occasions he took the ball at pace (!) only to be brought down without breaking a tackle and this meant that he rarely created a platform from which Cardiff could attack. Perhaps would have been better playing at 6 with Brownrigg at 8? REPLACED BY: Dan McShane - who huffed and puffed and tried to blow the house down, but didn't quite manage it. Looked like he was trying a bit too hard.
7
Martyn Williams
8
/10
an excellent performance that showed a new dimension to his game whereby he carried the ball on from the base of the tackle. His support play of the crash ball was brilliant as he was generally first to every possible breakdown. He was also seen talking to his players during a game, a rarity of late for a Cardiff captain! REPLACED BY: Robin Sowden-Taylor: who got stuck in and kept himself busy. And of course was penalised at a ruck by Whitehouse!
6
Jim Brownrigg
6
/10
a fairly low key affair for the Bristolian as he seemed to be pretty anonymous at blind side flanker. Of course his line out work is brilliant and is must be remembered that he took his try from the second row, just to show his speed.
5
Adam Jones
7
/10
a very good game for Jones who seems to have bulked up a little over the summer months. Some excellent one handed takes in the line out were coupled with some good tackling and chasing around the park. He is clearly keen to cement his place in the starting line up and will do so until Senekal gets here at least. The Elephants play their last game against the Bulls on 13th September. REPLACED BY: James Goode - who did nothing really
4
Chris Stamatakis
7
/10
an excellent debut from a monster of a man. He was fairly secure in the line out and seemed to hold his own in the scrums but it was in the loose that he shone. His chasing of kicks shows his pace - especially when he caught the French full back with an excellent tackle!!!!! He was always keen to the tackle and generally got stuck in. REPLACED BY: Rob Appleyard - who slotted into the back row with Brownrigg moving forward.
3
Ken Fourie
6
/10
one excellent drive with the ball in hand resulted in the South African heading the knee cap of the French defender, but BabyFace just got up and rubbed his head to move on to the next line out!!!! He looked keen to get the ball in hand and often made the right decision to carry the ball straight up from the ruck. Unfortunately his scrummaging creaked quite badly. REPLACED BY: Gary Powell - who loves playing in the sunshine!!!!! Powell had to leave the field as a result of a bloody nose from a superb punch from a French forward.
2
Andrew Lewis
8
/10
a very good leadership performance from Lewis who is obviously keen to make the number 2 jersey his own. He called for all the kick off returns and was generally busy around the park until that fateful punch may mean a long lay off with a face injury. His lineout throwing was 80% accurate and this will obviously need working on, but with two new jumpers at the club for him to hit he did very well. REPLACED BY: Greg Woods - who had a busy second half but did not show up as well as Lewis
1
Peter Rogers
3
/10
a typical Rogers performance of having around in the back line as he cannot be @rsed to go from ruck to ruck. He only played one half yet called for attention on a bad ankle and generally seemed unfit. As he is the only fit loose head at the club his performances are hardly likely to improve either. REPLACED BY: Tim Payne - who is the wrong shape to play prop