Glasgow

k.o. time: 7:30 pm

5 September, 2003

Hughenden

Spectators: 3,264

Cardiff Blues
referee
David McHugh
2
/10
One of his worst performances ever. Whistle happy to the last, he played almost no advantage all game. He spent all his time warning players without taking action. All cards came from players' frustrations at a lack of flowing rugby, caused by Magoo's failure to penalise negative play with a card earlier on in the game. As for the touch judges, well that was plainly a farce. We all know you can't win in Scotland with Scottish refs, so why expect anything different from a touch judge! Why are there no neutral touch judges? How could Magoo yellow card one prop when both were fighting!
worth annoying the wife factor
2
/10
our man of the match
Jim Brownrigg
general comment

If you like kick and clap, this was a game for you and you'd give it 10/10. If you want to see pace, running rugby and how to run around your opponent, this was a cure for insomnia.

scorers
Nick Macleod (1)
Nicky Robinson (1)
Nicky Robinson (2)
our choice for next week

vs Connacht

k.o. time: 5:30 pm

13 September, 2003

Cardiff Arms Park

15
Donovan Van Vuuren
14
Nick Walne
13
Jamie Robinson
12
Pieter Muller
11
Dean Dewdney
10
Nicky Robinson
9
Andy Moore
8
James Malpas
7
Robin Sowden-Taylor
6
Nathan Thomas
5
Andrew Moore
4
Dan McShane
3
Ken Fourie
2
Thomas Rhys Thomas
1
John Yapp

Cardiff slumped to their third defeat of the season in a game of mind numbing mediocrity. The kick and clap fans at Hughenden were in their element and the ball spent more time in the air than in the hands. Boy was this dull! No wonder Scottish international rugby players wouldn't know how to score a try if it came and bit them on the bum. Even Leicester supporters would have craved a little more creativity on a night which should have been a celebration of a new era for Celtic rugby.

A thin film of drizzle made a half-hearted attempt at raining throughout the game and the precipitation matched the attempts of the players to convince us that William Webb Ellis invented a game where you run with the ball. Virtually from the kick off, both outside halfs set about kicking the ball as often as possible. Calvin Howarth went for the "up-in-the-air" or "as-far-as-it-goes" approach, whilst laid-back Nicky opted for prods into the corner or surprisingly long left footed screw kicks. All this had the home supporters in raptures, of course. Season ticket sales are up 16% this season, so "kick and clap" it is then!

The "kick and clap" fans did not have it all their own way though. Following some good angles of running and excellent support play, Gareth McClure crossed over on the left hand side inside the opening minutes to lead the way for the Scots. Kerr's incursion from full back opened the defence with an intelligent angle of running, leaving a flat footed defence to trot under the posts.

Could we really be up for some running rugby? Sadly, no. That was the end of it.

Kerr made one or two breaks later in the half, but after half time he returned to field kicks and that was about it. The rest of the game was a relentless barrage of hoofed kicks followed by rapturous applause.

Neither side seemed to want to create much - both were intent on hoping the opposition would make more errors. Superiority in the tight game should have given Cardiff the platform to attack with ball in hand, but every time they crossed the home team's 22 an unforced error cost them dearly. And they did provide us with the full range - lineout throws not straight, diving off your feet at the tackle area, fluffling simple penalty kicks at goal ? the list goes on.

Despite exerting the pressure needed in the front five, a lack of a crediable pick and drive at number eight, meant the Scots were free to fly up offside (what, Scottish flankers offside? Never!) and pressurise Cardiff's new half back partnership. Likewise, when slow ball from a ruck cried out for a forward to take the ball up and suck in the opposition back row, there was no one on hand to do the work and so slow ball was shipped out to a static and pondorous back line.

The extremely solid Cardiff scrum was a joy to behold and the visitors even managed to shunt the Scots backwards on a number of occassions. When the throw was good, the lineout looked organised and solid. Clearly Dai Young has (rightly) prioritised set piece solidity in the off season and has done well to instill a disciplined and organised approach (well, at least for an hour). Andy Moore even managed to pinch a number of opposition throw ins. The drive from the lineout looked organised, but sadly individual skill levels let the team down.

The first half was aerial ping pong. Glasgow whooped it long and deep and Cardiff kicked it back, not quite so far. Adept at recycling without ever showing any real penetration behind, as with the national side, the Scots opted for repitition over flair. Cardiff prefered the set piece approach and kicking to the corners. Playing down the slope in the first half was wasted by the visitors. Mauling was pretty good from set pieces but body angles were poor.

The Scots were very adept - the back row in particular - at driving onto the ball barrier at the tackle area. If the tackled player could stay on his feet, he knew that his team mates would be on hand to drive him deep into Cardiff territory.

As for the visitors, they seems unsure of whether to flop on the ball, flop over the top (a la Leicester and Northampton) or drive in hard and low. What we often saw was a mixture of all three from different players working as individuals. Despite the Scots always passing way behind the gain line, this ability to drive the tackled player forward often enabled them to keep recycling the ball (without actually going anywhere). As a result, RST was notably unable to win any turnover throughout the game.

Constant recycling coupled with a total lack of penetration - it was like watching a eunuchs car boot sale.

Cardiff were unable or unwilling to step up the pace until Nick Robinson won them an excellent try. Concentrating on set pieces and static play turned the game into a practice session as risk aversion was the order of the day behind.

At half time all we had to show was McClure's try and a couple of kicks at goal by both outside halfs. Fester had provided the comedy moment with a run at Howarth - sending the New Zealander flying backwards with a characteristic hand off. However, even then, the big man didn't run straight and his run was angled away from any support runners.

As an exercise in controlled rugby, this was a first for Cardiff. Trouble is, the "controlled" approach relied more on forcing errors in the opposition than creating anything themselves.

With both teams opting for the same approach, it was like watching paint dry - in the rain. And when the Cardiff errors came and the crucial scores followed, the visitors cracked.

Shortly following the break, Dewdney had a kick charged down and gifted the Scots a key try. When you're down, you're down, and when RST had a similar charge down in the closing minutes, the ball spun harmlessly into a Scot's hand. 18-6 seemed a fair reflection of events up to that point however. For all Cardiff's minor superiority at the set pieces, the more vigorous approach of the home side in the loose deservedly saw them take the lead.

Back came Cardiff however and launched a number of assaults close the Scots line. Despite a "not straight" throw from Alp, the pressure mounted with the Cardiff maul pummelling away at a creaking defence. Magoo opted for a string of penalties instead of cards for collapsing the maul, but Alp crucially cracked and chose a kick at goal instead of more pressure. He who dares, wins, and Alp lost his bottle. As if not to be outdone, Nick Robinson lost his bottle, and for all their pressure, Cardiff came away pointless.

Inevitably, this lifted the Scots, and back they charged for a driving lineout of their own. With bodies strewn everywhere - many in front of the ball carrier - they scored in the corner and the score was suddenly 23-6 with Cardiff looking like they would take a hiding. There was little leadership on show and a subdued, lifeless pack was fortunately rescued by Nick Robinson who took the game by the scruff of the neck and forced a try for the visitors. With a clever chip and an intelligent break, the outside half led his team deep into opposition territory. Then, with a deft pass that Iestyn would have been proud of, he glided through to feed Macleod for a try on his debut for the "firsts" at centre.

But then crucially, Cardiff's discipine deserted them and key players let the side down. Evans' yellow card for fighting breaking up from a scrum was rediculous. If you yellow card Evans, then how can you ignore his opposite number? Then Baugh - completely frustrated by the offside play of his opposition back row - lost his cool and let his side down. As we all know, in rugby you play the ref - not the rules. To get a yellow card for this was just plane dumb.

Regardless of being down to 13, Cardiff were on top and the Scots were well on the back foot. If the visitors had played with more confidence like this from the start - they would have surely come away with a victory. Fester's rediculous red card at the end of the game was another act of gross unprofessionalism.

Nick Robinson and Alp failed to do exercise simple skills - hitting your man in the lineout and kicking your penalties. When a team lacks confidence, you must do the simple things right and the bois failed. Andy Moore's performance in the second row is a perfect example of what Cardiff needed against Glasgow - nothing special, just did what he was supposed to do. He may not be the most flamboyant of players, but he does the simple things right - pinching the ball in the lineout, taking kick offs and driving in the scrum.

The spine of the team - hooker, number 8 and outside half - failed at key times and that lost Cardiff the game. Young needs to look at his selection at number eight and surely Malpas deserves his opportunity. Crazy at eight just doesn't work. He's too lightweight to break tackles and doesn't suck in back rows when carrying the ball from the back of the scrum - something Malpas or McShane can do.

In the back line, Nick Robinson provided the spark that Cardiff needed, but why did it take so long to adopt a more expansive approach against a limited back line? Someone of Nick Walne's experience should be playing a bigger role in lifting the back line when things are not going so well. When scrum half Andy Moore gains more experience with the team, no doubt he'll start to make better use of Fester, Fourie and Yapp as ball carriers - something sorely missing from this performance.

Crucially, though, Cardiff got the game plan wrong. Sure, keep it tight for 20 minutes when you play away from home, but then work out your area of supremecy and go for it. Crash balling Macleod was daft, not using big forwards to suck in the Scots back row was equally daft. Refusing to move the ball was also stupid.

As a first game with many "new" faces in new positions - hooker, both second rows, scrum half and inside centre - there was much to build on on this performance. As a unit, things functioned well, even when individual discipline let the side down. There's a good blend of youth and experience in the side and things well get better. At least the Rags beat the Turks.

15
Donovan Van Vuuren
8
/10
Very strong under the high ball. Despite kicking the ball away consistently throughout the game, the Scots failed to induce one error from DVD - the bokka didn't drop a single catch. Plenty of pace in attack but looks uncertain of his support runners and dies with the ball too often. A little lightweight in the tight stuff.
14
Nick Walne
5
/10
Sat on the wing and did little all game. What happened to those inside breaks we saw at the end of last season? If Nick Robinson can use his right wing well against Romania, why not throw a pass to Walne once in a while?
13
Jamie Robinson
5
/10
Looked like he didn't want to be there. When receiving the ball in the outside half spot, he flung it wildly forward to Dewdney instead of taking the responsibility of kicking to touch. Wassamara Jamie? Can't kick off your right foot?
12
Nick Macleod
7
/10
Second start for the firsts, and first time at inside centre for the youngster. Good, solid if unspectacular. Lacked the power to make any impression on the typically statuesque Scottish centres, but still managed to recycle the crash ball effectively. Disappointingly did not alternate with Nick Robinson in the outside half position. Where guile and speed were in Cardiff's favour, they chose muscle and braun which was definitely in the Scots' favour.
11
Dean Dewdney
5
/10
His charged down kick gifted the off-side Scots a simpole seven points after the break which dented the fragile confidence of the visitors. Plenty of pace but poorly used in Cardiff's obsession with a set piece game.
10
Nicky Robinson
8
/10
Excellent performance from the laid-back one. Fluffing two simple penalties at this level is simply not good enough and robbed him of a 10. In attack he kicked inteligently - with variety - though a little too often. In defence he was solid. His passing was crisp and accurate and he even managed a few breaks. Inventive to the last, it was he would lifted Cardiff from what could have been a drubbing - almost single handedly working a try for Macleod to bring Cardiff back to within 10 points with 15 minutes remaining.
9
Andy Moore
6
/10
Not bad for a man with three days practice with Cardiff under his belt. Huge improvement on Smith. Struggled with what to do about the consistent off side Scottish flankers, but without a number 8 willing/able to pick up the ball from the back of the scrum, he was left exposed. Passing was accurate and decisive and tried hard to mix the game up. Imbalanced selection in front of his was the biggest problem.
8
Dan Baugh
2
/10
His worst ever game for Cardiff in a run of form that sees him getting worse by the weak. Fantastic facial hair, and that's about it. This performance reeked of mediocrity - dropping the ball in contact, dropping the ball at the kick off (Jeez! Half the crowd heard the call, Dan!), slow off the back of the scrum in defence, missed tackles, spilled the ball in contact and then to top it all off, got himself yellow carded which virtually threw the game away. Crazy is an impact player (who's not making much of an impact at the moment) - NOT a number 8.
7
Robin Sowden-Taylor
6
/10
Very subdues performance …… sulking? Barely carried the ball all game and seemed to spend most of his time looking for work in the tight instead of supporting ball carriers.
6
Jim Brownrigg
8
/10
Another excellent performance from Mr Versatile. Seeing Jim suffer a serious looking neck injury on the last play summed up the night for Cardiff. He won shed loads of ball in the lineout and worked tirelessly around the pitch. His speed of the back of the scrum looked a little suspect (get him in the second row!!), but he was hardly alone in that weakness. Should be playing second row. Should be captain.
5
Andrew Moore
6
/10
Won some great ball in the lineout and worked hard in the tight. Made one excellent catch from a kick off (don't see that from a Welsh player very often!). However, didn't take a pass all game. Limped off with five minutes to go.
4
Craig Quinnell
2
/10
This game should have been a solid return to Cardiff for Fester. His power in the scrum makes an enormous difference and put the Scots under all sort of pressure. He won a number of key lineouts. He was a real pain in the tight, stopping just about every legal rolling maul. He even made a memorable hilarious charge at Shane's little brother! But then he got himself red carded ….. for nothing. What an idiot!
3
Ken Fourie
5
/10
Must be so happy to have a decent second row behind him! Still managed to give away two penalties during the game. Worked well in the tight though didn't carry the ball. Subdued.
2
Andrew Lewis
2
/10
Shocking. Bad and inconsistent captaincy was only one problem. Let the Scots off the hook crucially when pressing on their line, only to opt for a missed kick by Nick Robinson (how predictable was that?!?!). Missed two key throws from five metre lineouts - one not straight and one over Brownrigg's head. Didn't lead from the front. Didn't carry the ball and his subdued performance set the tone.
1
John Yapp
7
/10
Scrummaged well - his technique seems to have improved well since last season. Managed to carry the ball a few times, but tactically underused by Dai Young.