Cardiff

11 January, 2003

Cardiff Arms Park

Spectators: 4,000

Ulster
referee
Robin Goodliffe
5
/10
Refusing to play advantage and refusing to use yellow cards against persistent offenders did not create an atmosphere conducive to entertaining rugby. But one refusal so angered the crowd, they suddenly they found their voice. This raised the players spirits (so poor professionals are they, that they rely on the crowd for inspiration), and we saw Cardiff's customary twenty minutes of rugby. Thank you Steve. Ever thought of taking over from Dai Young on the motivation side?
weather
Very cold and dry
worth annoying the wife factor
1
/10
our man of the match
Matt Allen
scorers
Nick Walne (1)
Matt Allen (1)
Nicky Robinson (1)
Nicky Robinson (3)
our choice for next week

vs Biarritz

k.o. time: 3:00 pm

18 January, 2003

Parc Aguilera

15
Gethin Rhys Williams
14
Nick Walne
13
Jamie Robinson
12
Matt Allen
11
Craig Morgan
10
Nicky Robinson
9
Ryan Powell
8
Emyr Lewis
7
Dan Baugh
6
Heino Senekal
5
John Tait
4
Chris Stamatakis
3
Dai Young
2
Andrew Lewis
1
Ken Fourie

Two years ago - almost to the day - Cardiff played Ulster in a pool game in the European Cup. 12,000 crammed into CAP and watched the home team slaughter the visitors, falling just short of accumulating fifty points. Six of the team that racked up such a convincing victory wore the jersey on Saturday, but barely a third of the crowd did. And "turn up" is about all they did. Faced with opposition lacking any pace and inventiveness in a static back line, they played for 20 minutes and fell to their fifth European defeat of the season.

We can all take victory against a better team, but what has the supporters on the terraces crying into their clenched fists is a team lacking commitment and effort. We dubbed Dai Young "Mr Motivator" when he captained the club, and his infamous motivation skills came to the fore again on Saturday. Ulster barely walked through the game, with the dire Humphreys kicking everything in sight. Their supporters chanted "it's just like watching Brazil" - they were right considering the change of any handling from the team. When the Blue Blacks did try and pick the pace up, they had far too much gas for the Ulstermen, who spent most of the game off side in an attempt to try to slow down a vastly superior opposition back line.

But in a pattern as predictable as Nicky Robinson's refusal to kick with his right foot, the pack is a disaster area. Sure, players like Senekal and Baugh put in the effort, but that's about it. A coach earns his crust when he can motivate players for the more meaningless fixtures, and Young is failing dramatically - even more so than Holmes, Joubert and Howells. His teams are just going through the motions - barely breaking sweat. Frankly, it's embarrassing watching players as talented as Tait trundle through the game showing as little commitment as they do.

One player sums up Young's team - Peter Rogers. He is a real role model for the rest of the pack. Young's insistence on picking Rogers means we've now got a pack of six or seven loafers. Rogers has set the mould, and ably supported by his coach has moulded the pack in his image. Rogers is a role model for the way Young's pack plays the game.

And the game? Well, after 20 minutes, it was a question of whether to send the season ticket back to Robert Norster with a note asking him to explain exactly what he means by "The Future's Bright". Cardiff were useless. The scrum was getting shunted all over the place. Rogers spent all his time standing up (Lord knows why he didn't get yellow carded), and the second rows were as about as much use as an Ulster centre. The Ulster front five looked a foot taller than the home team. Senekal works hard, but he's far too small to play in the second row and belongs on the blind side.

Ulster were bossing the set piece with ease, with their much larger and physical second rows, they mauled and drove at the much weaker Cardiff eight. Humphreys tried to make a few passes, but quite honestly, he's so slow that his centres were consistently taken behind the gain line. Predictably, following a few customary Humphreys penalties, Cardiff were shunted over their line for two tries (one, a penalty try from a wheeling scrum). Then, Emyr Lewis put in a tackle worthy of Cwmfelinfach 3rd XV for Ulster's man of the math Neil McMillan to slip through unopposed. Soon-to-be-pack-leader Peter Rogers was looking very impressed with Lewis' work rate.

Matt Allen and Dan Baugh - the only two real "professionals" in the home XV - were trying their best to raise the spirits of their team mates and the sparse crowd on the terraces, and deservedly Allen got a try to answer Ulster's forays. Sliding through some pretty pathetic tackling, he accelerated away from the Ulstermen (yep! that's how slow they are!) to score under the posts.

At half time the home team were down 24-12.

The talk on the terraces was all about what fools we are to turn out in this sort of weather to watch this sort of shambles, and we longed for something to cheer. Then came Goodcliffe's stroke of genius - awarding Cardiff a scrum just as Crazy was bursting out from his own 22m. Enraged with the decision (but more enraged with the terrible standard of rugby on show), the North Terrace screamed in disbelief. Suddenly, the Blue Blacks found some effort from somewhere and raised the pace of the game. Unable to play at any sort of pace about a slow jog, the Ulstermen resorted to killing ruck after ruck and the penalties suddenly flowed Cardiff's way. Davidson did some tap dancing at a ruck, and Crazy went crazy. Payne shook his hand in congratulation, but a better ref would have sent him from the pitch - no different was his assault to that on Sidoli by Fourie. But somehow this added more fire to the game and the pack's effort levels rose above the derisory towards the half-hearted. All we wanted was a little effort, but even that was too much to expect.

Sorely lacking in confidence, first Rhys Williams screamed through on the blind side into open space only to fail, and then Jamie Robinson made an equally dire error to through away try scoring chances. In open space, Williams refused to back his pace with a simple kick ahead and instead took the tackle. What were you thinking about Rhys? The Ulster back line have all the pace of Peter Rogers on a treadmill- where was the kick and chase? Then Robinson made an equally impressive break with far too much pace for Humphreys and his fellow plodders, only to lack the composure and forced an impossible pass.

In recent weeks, Young has failed to recognise that winning is a habit, and constant defeats breed a lack of confidence. Now he's built a pack whose role model is Peter Rogers, and a back line so lacking in confidence, they look like they couldn't score against a team of Long John Silvers!

So, Robert, "The Future's Bright" - which future is that then? Next week, we travel to Biarritz to face a game as tough as that endured by Newport against Toulouse. But in the true spirit of villagism that is even affecting our club at the moment.

Mr Mic on the P.A. held the Black and Ambers up for ridicule in their thrashing in Toulouse. How stupid and small minded can you get? What do you think is going to happen to our bois next weekend if they turn in their usual pathetic away performances?

This season is a complete disaster for the club, but most importantly for we supporters. Sure Young can cite injuries to key players - John, Powell, Brownrigg, Appleyard(?) and Muller - but what is inexcusable is the half hearted approach by his team. Season ticket holders expect commitment in the face of adversity and all we're seeing at the moment is capitulation in the face of mediocrity. Ulster's 10-man rugby is straight out of the arc and with even a little effort, Cardiff's back line should have had far too much for the visitors. Instead, we saw more passion on the lifeless terraces than on the pitch.

Players and coach (and not even spectators) can influence what happens next season. Young's failure to engender any sort of team spirit into the players he selects is a sad reflection on the club. We were told with Norster-Derwyn-Young in place, the club's identity would be at the forefront and we'd see real team spirit.

Frankly speaking, this was one of the worst Cardiff performances at home in many, many years. Norster-Derwyn-Young have a lot to answer for.

Lord help us next weekend.

15
Gethin Rhys Williams
6
/10
Failed to use his superior pace throughout the game. Blew a great opportunity for a try by poor judgement. Should have used the kick and chase into space from second and third phase far more often with the Ulster back line so far up offside. Poorly sliced kicking.
14
Nick Walne
4
/10
Got a try, but contributed little. Hangs around on the wing in defence and waited for the ball to come to him. Given the freezing temperatures, this was either brave or foolish. Either way, it was definitely lazy. Ulster barely managed a single pass to the outside centre all game, so what was Walne thinking. May as well have played at number eight.
13
Jamie Robinson
4
/10
Totally lacking in confidence and half the player he was in the Autumn Internationals. Poor drift defence alignment, half hearted tackling and very bad kicking. Linking with the rest of the back line is almost non-existent ..... takes the ball into contact then flings it anywhere.
12
Matt Allen
7
/10
Mr dependable. Went through the unspectacular with solid professionalism. A lesson for the loafers around him. Deserved his try.
11
Anthony Sullivan
3
/10
Some terrible tackling from the man who only runs when he hasn't got the ball in his hands. Making up the numbers. Counting the months until he retires. May as well pick someone from the Youth XV.
10
Nicky Robinson
3
/10
Lazy, poor, half hearted and clueless. His kicking is still frankly awful and he's making no effort to learn to kick off both feet. Sort of sums up the comfort zone he's operating in - failing to push himself (be pushed?) to acquire new skills when so young. His entire body language is just so lethargic. When he did run hard at Humphreys, no surprise that he made the yards easily. All too often, say back in the pocked and fielded one of Powell's typical looped passes only to see it charged down. Little tactical variation all game - no high punt and no chip over the top against the encroaching Ulster back line.
9
Ryan Powell
5
/10
Would make a great number 8 if he was about a foot taller. Still runs very well with ball in hand and is capable of making good breaks, but the passing is simply not getting any better. Count the number of charged down kicks. Box kicking showed promise, but he's another who's not working on his weaknesses - sums up the rampant complacency, arrogance and lack of professional application in Young's squad.
8
Emyr Lewis
2
/10
Retire
7
Martyn Williams
4
/10
Drifted in and out of the game, but seemed to spend more time arguing with the ref about his bizarre decisions instead of rallying his pack and building some fire in the bellies.
6
Dan Baugh
6
/10
Clearly totally frustrated with the shower he's playing with at the moment and should have been yellow or even red carded for his assault on Davidson. Still, he's the only player in the pack who looks capable of breaking the defence and doing something with the ball. Still making the tackles and working the turnovers.
5
John Tait
2
/10
Total shadow of the player who partnered Fester last season. Played like an overcooked runner bean.
4
Heino Senekal
5
/10
Effort levels are always high and he's always around to take the ball into contact. But he looks too small for second row and possibly too slow for the blind side. Rudy mate, you really stitched us up good and proper.
3
Tim Payne
3
/10
Scrummaged.
2
Greg Woods
5
/10
One of those who looked more up for the fight than those around him, but still looks a little lightweight at this level. Destined for a big future, but playing in a pack this bad can hardly be good for confidence levels.
1
Peter Rogers
1
/10
Dai Young's favourite role model - probably get picked as captain next week!