Cardiff

29 August, 2003

Cardiff Arms Park

Spectators: 3,000

Northampton
referee
Paul Adams
4
/10
Lots of hot air from Adams. Allowed the far more street wise Northampton team to get away with a string of "rule-benders" - obstructions, forward passes, taking people off the ball, jersey pulling, not straight in the lineout, not 5m in the lineout. Issued plenty of warnings but didn't use the yellow card.
worth annoying the wife factor
1
/10
our man of the match
Jim Brownrigg
scorers
Gareth McCarthy (2)
our choice for next week

vs Glasgow

k.o. time: 7:30 pm

5 September, 2003

Hughenden

15
Donovan Van Vuuren
14
Johnny Vaughton
13
Nick Walne
12
Pieter Muller
11
Lee Abdul
10
Nick Macleod
9
Dean Dewdney
8
James Malpas
7
Robin Sowden-Taylor
6
Dan McShane
5
Jim Brownrigg
4
Craig Quinnell
3
Ken Fourie
2
Thomas Rhys Thomas
1
John Yapp

Cardiff fell to their second defeat of the season against a hardened Northampton side containing a string of internationals gathered from everywhere from New Zealand to Spain. Tackling themselves to a standstill, the youngsters did extremely well to hold out the vastly more experienced visitors for as long as they did. When Wayne Smith was bringing on Internationals as the game came to a close, Young was scraping the barrel with borrowed players from Caerphilly and Aberavon and calling on 19 year olds to hold the line. No surprise therefore that two of the visitors' tries came in the final 15 minutes, as power ploughed through weak and ineffective tackles to push the score towards 30 points. The final farce was playing Robin Sowden-Taylor on the wing, because he didn't have a capable replacement. RST is one of Wales' finest youth players. Here's a word of advise, Robin. Either get some commitment from the board that they're going to spend some money, or you're better off looking for a more professional set up somewhere else.

The game started at a snail's pace with the visitors battering the Cardiff line from the first minute. Waves of attacks pounded the Cardiff 22, and it really seemed a waste to use only one quarter of the pitch. After this game some reseeding may be needed, because the Blue Blacks barely got out of their own 22, let alone their own half. That they kept the score level for the first 15 minutes was a credit to their application and guile - John Yapp being particularly successful at pinching the ball at the final moment. However, it also said a lot about the Northampton's "training game" approach (thankfully). Whilst the pack and half backs were full of bristling aggression and power, the outside backs were truly dreadful. Barely able to pass the ball along the line, their alignment was all over the place, and Matt Allen looked to have more pace than his ex-colleagues. Standing way too far apart, flinging hopeless passes into thin air, attack after attack broke down, and turnovers followed. If they'd employed the pick and drive, the Saints would have broken the 100 mark by half time.

So what of the home team?

Yapp shone with his commitment and willingness to run the ball at the opposition, even though he lost possession soooooo many times in contact. Still, the young man's only 20, so we should be patient. The scrum looked much steadier with far more power coming from Fester. Difficult as it may be to believe, the bois even shunted Northampton backwards on a few occasions.

But, sadly the lineout was a shambles. Alp's throwing is just not accurate enough, and most importantly it seems to have got worse since the last time he wore a Cardiff jersey. At the first lineout his throw hit Thomas somewhere around the thigh level and the home team turned the ball over as a result. From there on in, more often the throw went sailing over the jumper (at least until TRT arrived). Against far more powerful opposition, these sort of unforced errors are unforgivable.

But what was perhaps most clear was the very subdued approach but just about everyone in the team. Both sides played at around 75% - something guaranteed to frustrate and annoy supporters. Alp just didn't look like a leader. Fester played his quietest game (ever!), and Nathan Thomas' rounded shoulders tell you he'd rather be somewhere else. There was no spark in the play and although individuals made the tackles and competed manfully, the whole evening was very flat.

For all Northampton's possession and territorial advantage, they lacked the invention and spark behind to create space. Fortunately, they shunned the pick and drive although there were signs in the home side's front five that even if they had, there was enough steel on show to repulse a trundle. With Fester and Yapp in the same pack, there's far more beef and power on show than we saw last season. Eventually, the visitors worked a try for Lion Beal, following a break by NZ international Robinson.

Then, Cardiff actually managed to reach the Northampton half.

With Fester finally looking fired up (somebody lamped him one at a 5m lineout and of course Adams didn't see it), and Yapp also carrying the ball well, the home side drove deep into Northampton territory. But the visitors are a "professional" lot and consistently gave penalties away rather than allow any semblance of an overlap. McCarthy kicked his penalty and somehow the home side trailed only 7-3 at half time.

Adams chose to talk more instead of carding players for professional fouls, and the niggle that resulted only compounded spectators' frustrations with the negative play on show.

Despite a star studded XV, the visitors lacked the ability to beat a man in the back line - side-step, swerve, pace ..... anything, but just entertain us! The home team, although looking more penetrative, were not able to secure simple possession from lineouts or recycle as effectively as Blowers and Pountney.

At half time, Smith brought on Scottish international Leslie, and Spanish international Ripol in an effort to invigorate his lifeless back line. Young, meanwhile, brought on 19 year old Andrews and U21 player Richard Jones. You work it out!

Looking even more anaemic following the break, the home side quickly fell off more tackles as Northampton scored their second try through their young hooker. Drahm - kicking like a drain (thank goodness) - missed the conversion. Blowers and Pountney linked well to drive the heart of the Cardiff pack and pummel their way towards the line. Working manfully well behind the gain line, RST made an excellent tackle on Pountney which in fact put the Southampton-born Scotsman out of the game.

Back came Cardiff with a penalty, only for Reihana to set up a counter attack. Some dreadful following up from a kick led to acres of space for the New Zealander to exploit, and link to Mr Pace himself - John Leslie - to score out wide. Even the smallest effort to come up in a line would have helped, but Leslie was able to saunter through some half hearted tackling and extend the visitors' lead.

With a quarter of an hour to go, we feared the worst, as Young brought on Darren Sweet - mmmmmm - and more kids. Richard Smith suffered a serious-looking neck injury and Owen Rutley joined the action. Suddenly, we had a busy inside half looking for space and linking well with his forwards. The pack looked invigorated, and Malpas started breaking tackles! Things were looking up!

But there was more to come from the Saints, and with some pretty feeble attempts at tackling from the kids in the back line, the inevitable happened and the visitors scored their fifth try through Matt Lord.

So what did we learn from yet another home defeat?

Did we really need to play this game to know that:-

1. Fielding your fourth choice outside half against one of England's strongest is not really a good idea?

2. Richard Smith just hasn't got it?

3. That two props isn't enough for a professional club?

4. That there is NO depth to the squad, let alone strength in depth?

Northampton owner, Keith Barwell, has invested millions into turning Northampton into the third best club in England (with a European Cup win thrown in on the way). The club has an excellent purpose built stadium, a proven coach and a squad packed with British Lions and internationals from around the World. In fact, when Barwell recruited Wayne Smith, he opening suggested that he hoped the new coach would bring some Southern Hemisphere talent to the club. Unsurprisingly, they average around 10,000 per home game and actually turned in a profit last season.

Despite starting without Cohen, Dawson, Grayson and a host of others, Smith was able to chose an experienced, hardened XV to take on Cardiff's pups. Shackled by the misguided and meaningless idea in Wales that to sign foreign players is a cardinal sin, the board has failed Cardiff RFC (and Dai Young in particular) by refusing to invest in the future of the club. As a result, the home side's 18 and 19 year olds were facing All Black internationals in the second half. That they kept the score to 29-6 is a credit to their application and dedication, but no credit to a board - including Peter Thomas - that lacks ambition and seems content with mediocre results in Wales rather than competing with the best in Europe.

Someone shouted "Anyone want to buy my season ticket?" as he left the ground. Is the club really so insensitive that it can't understand the consequences of present inactivity? The stands are emptying. Faces that we've seen for season after season are just not there any more.

What is the ambition at the club? If it's second or third best in Wales, then watch the gates plummet even further.

It's time to listen, Directors. Or we have no future.

15
Matt Allen
7
/10
What a shock to see Allen's black cap on the number 15 jersey! But equally, what a shock to see him make inroads in the Northampton defence! Truth be told, if there was ever a game when you'd chose to make your debut at full back, this was it. Such was the paucity of skill and lack of imagination in the opposition back line, Matt was rarely tested. Instead he was given the opportunity to make some of his characteristic thumping tackles. Unfortunately, by the time Leon Andrews replaced him, the young man had far less strength ahead of him to shield him. Perhaps starting with Andrews and bringing on Allen would have been a better idea.
14
Lee Abdul
6
/10
Rarely saw the ball in attack - did he get a pass all game? Still has plenty of pace and played with grit and determination. Of course looks lightweight at this level of competition, but not out of place.
13
Nick Walne
6
/10
A pretty anaemic performance from the whole backline. Walne made a few charges with ball in hand and looked solid in defence. Geraint John was clearly not giving anything away prior to next week.
12
Pieter Muller
6
/10
Characteristic thumping tackles aside, Muller was again largely unused. Distribution at half back was not the fastest, so despite Cardiff's extra pace in the back line (more pace out wide), there was little opportunity to work an opening. Hard running (but no passing) Richard Jones came on for the second half.
11
Johnny Vaughton
6
/10
Clearly bags of pace and a free and open running style. Given space, he looks to have the ability to beat a man (something the entire Northampton back line clearly didn't have). In the tight stuff, this week he looked more solid and even managed to take a pass. Still looks lightweight though - needs to beef up to play at the higher standard, particularly upper body strength.
10
Gareth McCarthy
6
/10
A solid debut from the solid 18 year old. Some facets of his play are very good indeed - he carries the ball well, has no fear of contact and made some telling tackles. Some facets are not - his kick offs were useless (get practising!), and his touch kicks wobbled their way gingerly over the line. Looked good in the stuff that's difficult to coach and wasn't afraid to try something different, but looked weak in the stuff that needs practice. Still, all in all, Cardiff's fourth choice outside half showed that the future is bright.
9
Richard Malcolm Smith
2
/10
Sadly injured with what looked a pretty bad neck injury. However, this was another game where Smith's glaring indecisiveness cost his back line dear. When he does try to make a break, support for him is poor which suggests he's on a completely different wavelength from those around him. His box kicking was ill-directed and poorly executed and his passing wayward. The Board's failure to put their hands in their pockets is coming home to roost - four Cardiff scrum halfs are now injured ... Smith, Powell (shin splints), Dewdney (thumping tackle) and Chris Miller. Hope Dewdney makes a recovery for next Friday night.
8
Nathan Thomas
4
/10
The body language shows that all is not rosy in the mind of Nathan. More importantly, his performances on the pitch lacked vigour and drive - everything looks so half-hearted. The game started badly for him when an ill-directed throw hit him below the waste and he spilled the catch. From there on in, things got worse. He can't break a tackle and was completely outplayed by the Pountney/Blowers show.
7
Robin Sowden-Taylor
6
/10
Hardly got a pass all game but tackled manfully throughout. The slow pace hardly suited what he wants. Standing on the wing for the last 15 minutes, he must have thought, "What the hell am I doing at this club? Why the hell didn't I try to get a contract in England?"
6
Rob Appleyard
5
/10
Made one thunderous tackle and worked hard in the loose. With McShane on the books though, why did Appleyard get a contract? Why not give McShane more games? When there is no cover at tight head, why sign on yet another back row player?
5
Jim Brownrigg
8
/10
One of the few to emerge from this game with any sort of credit. Despite playing in the second row (probably not his favourite position), he was excellent in the lineout and ever-present in the loose. Even the scrum looked stronger. But perhaps most importantly, he was one of the few players showing any sort of leadership on the pitch. Good on ya, Jim!
4
Craig Quinnell
6
/10
The scrum looked a million times better with his power around. Cardiff chose to use Appleyard in the lineout ahead of Fester, though the big man didn't really carry the ball enough to make an impact. Went through a lot of work in the tight in the first hour, but as he tired, spent more time at outside centre .... uhummm .... waiting for the next phase of attack.
3
Ken Fourie
5
/10
Scrummaged well and managed the tight stuff. Barely took a pass all game.
2
Andrew Lewis
4
/10
Very subdued performance. Lineout throwing was plain poor and didn't put in the work in the loose that he did last week. When T Rhys Thomas came on, at least the players approached their own lineout with confidence.
1
John Yapp
7
/10
As hard working as ever, if erratic. In defence, made a number of key turnovers, and his technique of tackling the ball and not the player was vital in keeping the score down. Also carried the ball well in attack - full of power and aggression - but spilled it in contact all too often. Undaunted, he was always on hand for another charge. Good to see someone looking for work.