Cardiff

k.o. time: 7:05 pm

22 August, 2003

Cardiff Arms Park

Spectators: 4,000

Leicester
referee
Hugh Watkins
4
/10
He tried to keep the game flowing by allowing quick tap penalties but his complete unwillingness to penalise the Tigers forwards for flopping off their feet at every ruck just ruined the game. It was 50 minutes before the first penalty for this offence was given, yet Leicester have been doing this for 50 years!! He and his officials also managed the rare achievement of allowing the opposition XVI players on the pitch as the game came to a close. That he blew the final whistle with both touch judges signally foul play and a potential winning kick at goal for Cardiff summed it all up. New season, new branding, same old refs.
weather
Very hot.
worth annoying the wife factor
5
/10
our man of the match
Dean Dewdney
scorers
Richard Malcolm Smith (1)
Nick Macleod (2)
Nick Macleod (1)
our choice for next week

vs Northampton

k.o. time: 12:00 am

29 August, 2003

Cardiff Arms Park

15
Donovan Van Vuuren
14
Lee Abdul
13
Nick Walne
12
Pieter Muller
11
Johnny Vaughton
10
Gareth McCarthy
9
Dean Dewdney
8
James Malpas
7
Jim Brownrigg
6
Dan McShane
5
Andrew Moore
4
Craig Quinnell
3
Ken Fourie
2
Andrew Lewis
1
John Yapp

Cardiff limped into the new season still hindered by the old injuries of last but without many signs that previous lessons had been learned. Ben Evans may have been borrowed from the Welsh training squad but the players on the pitch didn't need his input to play with a half @red attitude in the second half that reminded us we were watching Cardiff. At 19 - 0 up there was no urgency, no will to win, no interest.

The 4,000 paying customers were given confusing messages about the launch of the re-branding. bmimbaby.com claimed to be in its second year as sponsor of the Cardiff Blues whilst Nicky Robinson was announced as the newest Blues cap - not the first? No, of course not. This was the same old Cardiff. The same marketing mistakes are still there ...

1. Asking new season ticket holders to pay to watch their "first" game.

2. The shambolic organisation of the prize draw. How can you advertise that ticket stubs would be entered into the draw for free flights but not get the stewards on one side of the ground to collect the stubs?

And the same old performance traits are still there.

1. The players played for only 25 minutes.

2. The opposition showed a far greater hunger for victory.

The start of the game was a revelation for the home side. Not only did the forwards catch and gather the kick off, but MacLeod at outside half belted the thing miles up the pitch to put Leicester on the back foot. Not for a long time have Cardiff emulated the text book.

From the resulting play the very shaky visitors, still reeling from their pasting at Perpignan last week, were penalised for an illegal boot on the man on the floor and Cardiff chose to drive the penalty into the corner using the left boot of Van Vuuuuuren.

Brownrigg secured the ball at the back and Leicester were taken on at their own game with the driving lineout. The ball moved one way and then the other before some slick hands saw Dewdney sneak into the corner near the clubhouse to start the scoring. Wow! Who was this motivated team playing in white?

MacLeod made the touchline conversion look easy and was brimming with confidence and was clearly enjoying his first start for Cardiff.

With the home team's domination of possession and territory, scores were inevitable and Cardiff were playing at a much faster pace than the disorganised and pedestrian visitors. The inventive back moves on show punched holes in a fragile defence and the ball carrier was always well supported as he hit contact.

However, Cardiff could not secure quick possession at all throughout the game for a number of reasons. With Crazy Dan at openside and main ball carrier, the clearing out at rucks was down to his team mates who could not match the "professional" skills of the Tigers 8, led by Kronfeld who is the King of slowing down ball.

But the real reason for slow ball was Watkins' failure to penalise the Leicester forwards for flopping off their feet at every breakdown. Three Leicester jerseys would be on their knees at every ruck, slowing the ball down on opposition ball and protecting the ball at attacking rucks. Leicester have been doing this for years, so it was hardly surprising. Watkins' full time ref - what were you looking at? Why did it take you 50 minutes to penalise an offence that had been going on all game?

Of course, as a result tempers frayed and at a number of breakdowns there were off the ball incidents. Fourie and two Leicester players (led by Leon Lloyd) were warned by Watkins and Andy Moore was penalised for a stupid swinging arm. Inevitably, Harry Ellis was shown a yellow card for doing on his own line what his team-mates had been doing everywhere else on the pitch. Ellis' yellow card was a lesson in idiocy from Watkins. As Cardiff crashed over the line with a clear overlap, the professional ref dramatically swung his arm skywards and emptied his lungs into his whistle. Surely more important than playing advantage and allowing the try?

Consistency? Nah. Unless consistently being inconsistent counts.

In between, Brownrigg had confirmed his bloody awkwardness for the opponents by charging down a clearance kick from the awful Sam Vesty and beating the Tigers to the try line to flop on the ball. Vesty had been a bag of nerves from the kick off. There was no alignment in the backs, and Lloyd in particular enjoyed a number of man and ball tackles well behind the gain line.

Again MacLeod converted and was looking good. Taking a crash ball in the centre, Dewdney was well and truly pummelled and left the pitch soon afterwards. Now with Abdul on as sub, MacLeod had put one superb cross field kick for the winger to chase and this showed invention that is normally missing when Harris is not around.

With their tails up Cardiff went on to produce the move of the match as clever passing out of the tackle meant kept the ball away from the ruck and any chance of flopping on the ball. Superb hands and support from McShane and Allen kept the move alive down the blind side of the ruck and as the ball was spread out Yapp made ground in the centre. His players looped around him and the try scoring pass was made for Vaughton to run in to the corner.

He dropped the pass.

And cost a minimum of 5 points.

Smith scored in the corner with an easy try from the base of the scrum. With Ellis in the bin for the professional foul from the preceding ruck there was an easy blind side overlap. The best that can be said of Smith is that he ignored the pass to Johnny "Cordle" Vaughton and flopped over himself.

19 - 0 at half time and Leicester were rubbish.

But signs of what was to come were clear. Puffing and blowing and gasping for air after just 20 minutes, the players were clearly not fit. What the hell they did at Aldershot is anyone's guess! Also, Andrew Lewis was losing it. His line out throwing, which had previously been impressive and had guaranteed ball for Andy Moore, was now being challenged and things were falling apart. Consequently, the stream of possession had dried up.

The least said of the second half, the better. The attitude of the two teams totally altered at the half time break. Leicester came out brimming with the "win at all costs" attitude that has made them famous. Our bois came out brimming with indigestion with the "who cares?" attitude that has made them infamous.

Leicester's first try came from a woeful stream of missed tackles that started with a woeful line out from Andrew Lewis. Ball was pinched and Leicester countered but should have been stopped. Allen, another recent convert to the shoe lace school of tackling, allowed the runner to step out of the tackle and Nicky Robinson just allowed the guy to stroll over.

In fact, during the second half, all the players had Nicky Robinson attitudes. (At least Nicky had an excuse for not doing anything, as he was clearly more interested in not getting injured rather than wearing a Cardiff jersey.)

Now the discipline of the team was waning as much as the interest had clearly left the team. Alp's influence was so clear in this game. When he was on form - hitting his jumpers, running clever angles in the loose - the team looked a cert for victors. When his form in the lineout disappeared and he left the pitch with an injury, the team fell apart. Not even the introduction of Muller could spark any life. MacLeod's dire drop outs just gifted the ball back to Leicester.

The only real try scoring opportunity from Cardiff in the second half was a 40 metre penalty from MacLeod but the Luke Myring responded with two penalties for Leicester and a conversion to Holby's second try. The match winning drop goal was the icing on the cake for an adequate second half performance from Leicester.

It seems as though Dai Young has swallowed the Hansen spin regarding performance over result as it was clear that the bois thought they had done enough at half time. Contrast that with Leicester's kick and chase tactics (including Perpignan bound Stimpson's thump over the dead ball line from his own 22) that meant they were only interested in the win.

At the end of the game the Leicester players and fans jumped in excitement at winning the game despite a very average performance from the visitors. Hansen and Young take note.

In the tight, the Cardiff scrum faired pretty well against the second string Leicester VIII, though when you think that that was pretty close to Cardiff's first choice (Fester and Martyn Williams aside), you can see there's plenty of work left to do this season. With no subs at prop (are you watching Uncle Peter), Yapp and Fourie were forced to play the full 80 minutes.

In the lineout, when Alp was at full fitness, the lineout worked very well. When he wasn't, it was a disaster area (should he have gone off earlier?). Brownrigg was reliable for fast ball, as was Andy Moore who is a far more physical player than the frail pairing we had last season. Leicester's rolling maul was pretty ineffectual, though in the loose, the home team had George Chuter to thank for numerous misjudgements - opting for contact instead of overlaps.

As for the backs, the introduction of the busy and creative Tim Taylor caused MacLeod a number of problems with his drift defence, and Muller's presence was clearly designed to plug holes in the colander.

This was Cardiff's first game of the season, and Leicester's second, so do we allow the home team to complain of a lack of match fitness? Uh, no. The closing 20 minutes showed a home team totally devoid of drive, vigour and a hunger for victory. Shorn of Alp, they looked leaderless and powerless to meet the more physical Leicester pack head on. It remains to be seen whether the excellent first 30 minutes was an aberration, or a platform for further improvements against Northampton on Friday. All we can hope for is that we won't be "treated" to another embarrassment mirroring the last time Cardiff faced the Saints.

15
Donovan Van Vuuren
6
/10
Didn't really have a lot to do before leaving the field injured in the first half. He was used to kick to the right touchline using his left foot and some of his tight jinking preserved ball in attack.
14
Dean Dewdney
7
/10
Took his try very well and again showed initiative and willing in attack.
13
Nick Walne
6
/10
Only once did we see him take the real crash ball at full pace that we cried out for last season. Although he kept Lloyd and Gibson quiet, he barely made a threat on the Leicester line.
12
Matt Allen
4
/10
Even less pace than last season but even more worryingly he seems to have lost some of his tackling skills. He never really broke through Kronfeld in attack and spent the game huffing and puffing around the pitch.
11
Johnny Vaughton
2
/10
A truly awful debut from the much hyped Swansea product. His first touch for Cardiff should have been to round off the move of the match that would have put Cardiff 26 points clear at the break, but instead he dropped it with the line at his mercy. This wasn't his only knock on in the game either. In defence, his opposite number skinned him twice in one-on-one situations, with Vaughton clutching at air in the tackle. Let's hope it gets better otherwise Mr Vaughton will be playing Pentref rugby.
10
Nick Macleod
5
/10
Was pretty impressive for the first half an hour when he punted well, looked for the gap and always looked inventive with ball in hand. After that, his game completely fell apart and he failed to take the correct decision time after time. He spent the second half dropping out badly, very very badly, which just guaranteed ball to the rampant Leicester 8. Why wasn't he told to kick it long? Get practising on your drop outs, Nick.
9
Richard Malcolm Smith
2
/10
Same season, same old Smith but thank God this is the last season on his contract. His passing is ponderously slow and boy did MacLeod suffer with the Smith "two step". The young outside half had ball and an All Black legend openside flanker all at the same time. That's if the ball got there accurately at all, as three or four passes put the kicker under pressure or reached the wrong target entirely. He fluffed two clear attacks but with the cupboard bare, he's guaranteed a long run in the team (hope you're not injured, Dean).
8
Nathan Thomas
3
/10
With this sort of performance, Thomas is going to have to show massive improvement to justify his signing. If he was player of the season at Bath last year, that goes some way to explaining why Bath were almost relegated. Some said that Thomas would supply the dog in the pack, doing the nasty stuff on the floor and winning the ball. However, McShane had been doing that perfectly well and Malpas was shining at 8 for Wales U21. All we saw from Thomas is that he does not have the power to break the tackle in attack or force the tackle in defence. All we saw was that McShane is a better number 8, even when he is playing in the second row. We get rid of Adam Jones, and it looks like we've signed another! As with Vaughton, let's hope it gets better.
7
Dan Baugh
4
/10
Very subdued. He now seems to tackle much lower down the body than in previous seasons - more interested in breaking shins than sternums. The result of this is that Cardiff did not have the turnover tackles of previous years so Leicester just had guaranteed ball. In attack, Crazy tied up tacklers but the "professional" (i.e. cheating) Leicester forwards prevented quick ball. And he was pasted by Tuilagi jnr., and spilled the ball in a tackle that led to Leicester's try. Is the spark still there Dan? On this performance, the power is gone.
6
Jim Brownrigg
5
/10
Was his awkward self again as the charge down for the second try showed, but apart from that he offered little. On one ball carry (loose) into the Leicester half he just threw the ball wildly rather than take the contact and set up the ruck. Needless to say the ball was lost. Worked hard and well in the lineout and took some good ball. It seems he is reluctant to play in the second row, which kind of makes him a little pointless as McShane would be better suited to the back row at 6.
5
Andrew Moore
3
/10
won excellent line out ball, but on one occasion at least threw it wildly at Smith or tapped it poorly to Yapp. In the loose his major contribution was giving away penalties, one for a stupid swinging arm early in the match. Seemed unfit as the game went on. Didn't take one pass all game, and we couldn't spot a tackle. Sort of hung around the fringes of rucks and mauls. Absolutely no sign of improvement on previous seasons.
4
Dan McShane
6
/10
was again seen on the floor doing the nasty horrible things, taking rough ball and gaining ground but he is wasted in the tight confines of the second row. He was too small in the line out as the Leicester jumpers competed, put pressure on the throw and either pinched the ball or slowed down the quality. Contributed well as the game came to a close, showing how much fitter he is than those more lardy around him. Wasted! Come on Dai, stick him on the blind side!!
3
Ken Fourie
5
/10
No problems in the scrum (for a change), but this was basically a second string/U21 Leicester VIII that he was facing. Made some good charges with the ball in hand (which we barely saw all last season), but still managed to give a penalty away for fighting (which we did see last season). With no tight head cover at the club (Crompton out for five weeks), hope you're back in training again Dai! (Who said the club didn't learn from last season?)
2
Andrew Lewis
5
/10
had an excellent first half hour of showing what he really can do. He was everywhere in the loose, the scrum was very strong and he hit his man every time in the line out but after 30 minutes he seemed to hit a brick wall (injured?) and his game disintegrated. He threw in crookedly and could not find his man, only to hobble off early in the second half.
1
John Yapp
5
/10
held up his scrum but could not make the hard yards in attack and seemed to flag through tiredness in the second half. Far too much pie consumption in the summer and not enough work on his fitness. Another playing in the comfort zone with no other prop at the club to challenge for his position.