Connacht

22 January, 2005

Sportsground

Spectators: 1,750

Cardiff
referee
Malcolm Changleng
1
/10
Where to start? It's a complete lottery playing against the Irish - only because you get a Scottish ref. Running at an error a minute, only the severe cold and drenching rain stopped the players for lamping hell out of each other in frustration. Offsides? What are they? Disallowed tries, disallowed penalties, farcical conversions - in this game MC outdid himself.
weather
Windswept, rain drenched.
worth annoying the wife factor
5
/10
our man of the match
Dean Dewdney
general comment

10/10 for the weekend.

scorers
Johnny Vaughton (2)
Nick Macleod (1)
Nick Macleod (2)
our choice for next week

vs Edinburgh

k.o. time: 7:05 pm

28 January, 2005

Cardiff Arms Park

15
Craig Morgan
14
Dean Dewdney
13
Shaun James
12
Tristan Davies
11
Johnny Vaughton
10
Nick Macleod
9
Ryan Powell
8
Nathan Budgett
7
Kort Schubert
6
Maama Molitika
5
Nathan Budgett
4
Deiniol Jones
3
Martin Jones
2
Thomas Rhys Thomas
1
Ben Evans

Cardiff equaled their longest running streak of the season with their first away victory for 11 months at a windswept, rain drenched Sportsground. They may have built a new stand in Galway, and there's clearly more money in dogs than rugby players, but boy could they do with some lights. January in the west of Oirland is not for those in search of a tan, and the whole game was played in a grey mist. Don't be fooled by the tele pictures, the light was so bad Changalang has the perfect excuse.

The game started with the home side choosing to play with the gale behind them, and splitting the pack for the kick off chipped into Cardiff territory. From the ensuing lineout, a clever chip from Australian Paul Warwick was caught by winger Dowdney running at full pelt. Brushing off a half hearted tackle by Morgan, the winger went on to score with little over a minute on the clock.

As Warwick prepared to take the conversion he dipped his shoulder preparing for the run up. Sidoli and co prepared the charge down and with MC waving his arms to play on, Nathan Thomas hoofed the ball off the tee, much to Warwick's shock. Now you pays your money and makes your choice, but one thing is for certain; at subsequent kicks, Warwick did NOT dip his shoulder before kicking.

Given recent results you could forgive the visitors heads from dropping having suffered such a serious blow in such a crucial match. But Cardiff are clearly made of sterner stuff. Over the weeks, they're now used to conceding scores, and it's become increasingly clear that the state of the scoreboard is not affecting the team's performance.

What does affect their performance is their proximity to the opposition goal line. For just about the next 39 minutes they threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Connacht line, and still struggled to convince supporters and spectators alike that they were in danger of crossing it. We're not talking white line fever here - it's more like an epidemic. Player after player fluffed his lines as an overwhelming territorial advantage led to diddly squat.

Schubert, Shanklin, Sidoli, Jenkins and Dewdney himself were all guilty of fluffing their lines with that white line in front of them. The visitors pack was in overdrive and Connacht soon found that their driving maul was getting them nowhere. Worse still, they found their own Gareth Williams in the shape of Jackman who had an unerring ability to throw the ball to a Cardiff player in the lineout.

Now in all fairness to the man, the game was being played in a howling gale, but the contrast with Rhys Thomas' performance could not have been greater. With uncanny accuracy, he managed to lob high to Jones, toss it straight to Sidoli or fire it to Schubert with ease - not missing his man once. Thomas is everything Williams isn't - staggeringly accurate in the lineout and formidable in the tight stuff. But to progress further, he must learn to carry the ball more.

In the scrum, Jenkins was giving Hogan a fearful working over. It's not really a good idea to be 6' 4" and want to play prop, and Jenkins made Hogan regret the decision after the first scrum. Twisting him left and right, the poor man was in all sorts of bother and as a result the Connacht scrum skewed around all game.

With neither lineout nor scrum working, and with their first attacking weapon of choice - the rolling maul - also ineffectual, the men in green were going nowhere. Sadly, the men in blue, white and black were only going through the motions. Impressive though their complete domination was, few players seemed to really have the self belief needed to turn an opportunity into a score.

One of those few was Shanklin who scared the beejeesuz out of poor old Downey - the man with a similar build to Hogan - who was given the task of trying to mark him. These days, every coach seems to think you have to pick the biggest backs possible - everyone's 6'4" and over 100kg. So it's been a delight to watch Dewdney and Vaughton putting the frightners up Ulster and now Connacht with pace and the ability to beat the man.

From an excellent pass by Macleod, Shanklin ran round the helpless defender at outside centre and fed Dewdney steaming up on his outside. Try in the corner. All so simple - not by battering your way through, but by a clever pass, excellent angle of running and paaaaaace.

Sadly, the only flood gates that opened up with those in the heavens above Galway. Cardiff still look most suspect to conceding a score just after they've scored themselves, and so it proved against Connacht.

For only the second time in the game and with only a minute or so remaining in the first half, Vaughton was left to field a speculative kick from Warwick. Making clever use of the wind, the Ozzie spiraled a kick across field deep into the Cardiff 22m. With the Ospreys game still on his mind, Vaughton fluffed his defensive duties, and worse still didn't fly hack the ball out across the dog track. Green jerseys were on hand to take a quick through and somehow Vaughton got himself stuck at the bottom of the ensuing ruck.

MC was on hand to give another of his indecipherable decisions and Vaughton found himself in the bin for 10 minutes. Having failed to give one offside decision all half against the ever offside Connacht defence, it beggared belief to understand how MC managed to come to that conclusion, but there you go. Perhaps he was trying to outdo his brother's efforts in Munster.

Warwick slapped over the ensuing penalty and somehow Connacht reached half time ahead 8-5. Macleod failed with too many kicks to count during the game, but he struggled with the same wind that flummoxed Jackman. But to go in at half time 8-5 was yet another huge injustice considering the totally one-sided nature of the first half.

The second half again led to continuing Cardiff dominance, though perhaps not so much as we saw in the first half. Although Morgan's kicking from full back was often excellent, his decision making was sometimes suspect. Instead of learning from Connacht's example (kicking from left to right across the pitch), he chose to kick low across the wind, never really getting the distance as a result.

But the real success of the first half came from the tenacity and guts of a Cardiff team determined to keep playing in the face of such bad luck!! Clearly feeling the pressure near the line, chances still went begging. But the pack were now rampant, and one driving maul in particular saw them shove the home team backwards a full thirty yards.

Forced to pull the maul down (no yellow card? no penalty try?), Shanklin somehow decided to opt for an unlikely goal instead of the obvious chip to the corner, catch and drive. This decision seemed to sum up the visitor's approach - approach play excellent, but dreadful decision making close to the line.

Although his decision making as captain was suspect, his skill in the back line was not and he was a constant thorn in the Connacht back line. However, despite the forward supremacy, the excellent play of Sowden-Talyor and the elements at their backs, Cardiff still lacked the guile and self-belief to make the pressure count.

Until Dean Dewdney found himself counter attacking midfield following a series of ping pong kicks from both sides. No one in the Cardiff side seemed to want to take a risk, but as we all know, the Zimbabwean is not averse to "'avin' a go!" Chipping over the onrushing defenders (as did Warwick in the first half), he juggled with the catch and somehow held on to the ball to score under the posts. He who dares wins. Dewdney's try was a lesson to those around him that if you don't take risks, then you'll never score.

Macleod then slotted the conversion right in front of the posts, but MC mysteriously disallowed the kick - over ruling both touch judges.

Cardiff were now rampant and Connacht's pack - totally taken to the cleaners - were out on their feet. More excellent kicking from Morgan, and Mostyn surely held onto the ball on the floor with the line yards behind him. Yellow card? Penalty try? No.

With minutes remaining, Dewdney was at it again, sidestepping down the right touchline and going over for another try. Uh .... no! MC somehow found a knock on.

When MC finally blew the whistle, it seemed incredible that we'd finally seen the bois win on the road. Was it really 10 long months?

The performance on the whole was one of their best this season, but hardly a massive change on recent weeks and perhaps more. The pack was highly efficient in the tight, and RST was awesome in the loose. The movement in the backs was much better, with Shanklin seemingly working out game by game how to play outside centre. Both wingers offer far more invention than we've seen so far this season.

Onwards and upwards. A resurgent Edinburgh will be next for Cardiff and if they are to maintain the momentum, a victory is vital. Shorn or key players through injury as well as the whims of Ruddock's selection policy, Young still needs to find a spine to the team that can turn pressure into points.

But then again, with Dewdney acting as a spark, anything can happen.

15
Craig Morgan
8
/10
Very steady in defence in wicked conditions. Kicking out of hand was excellent ... though missed a trick with the direction of his kicking in the second half. Didn't really make it into the line as often as he should have which meant that Cardiff attacks were a little too predictable.
14
Dean Dewdney
9
/10
Provided the spark of confidence that the team needed to win the game. Dude is a winner and really knows his way to the try line. Whether at scrum half or on the wing, he's been a real catalyst this season.
13
Tom Shanklin
12
Tristan Davies
7
/10
Ran hard and straight and made his tackles. Nothing new.
11
Johnny Vaughton
6
/10
Plenty of pace, but still liable to cock up in defence. Needs more games under his belt.
10
Nick Macleod
6
/10
More intelligent play into the wind with some excellent kicks. With Connacht always up so fast, failed to chip when needed. Needs to mix up the tactics more than he's doing at the moment. Excellent pass for Dude's first try.
9
Ryan Powell
5
/10
A really tough game for Powell who had two or three players around his neck all game with players running up off side. Made one of the worse kicks you're likely to see, but still gives 100%. Needs to take far more control of the loose and order players around.
8
Kort Schubert
6
/10
More hard work around the park and excellent athleticism in the lineout. Not carrying the ball enough.
7
Robin Sowden-Taylor
9
/10
Superb performance marred only by an unnecessary penalty (thought he was going to get yellow carded at one time). He support of the ball carrier was top notch and as a result he was on hand to make the breaks. Never far from the ball, one of Cardiff's key players.
6
Nathan Thomas
6
/10
A slow paced game with lots of mauling so well up Nathan's street. Barely broke the gain line all game.
5
Robert Sidoli
7
/10
Reigned supreme in the lineout with a 100% record on Cardiff's throw. Pinched his fair share of ball and carried well. The appetite's returned and the lineout work is excellent. To reach the next level, still needs to beef up and get nastier.
4
Deiniol Jones
5
/10
Stands up in the middle of a maul and directs people around him very well.
3
Gethin Jenkins
8
/10
Muldooned his opposite number and ripped the Connacht scrum apart. Wasn't so prominent in the loose, but in the tight played a blinder.
2
Thomas Rhys Thomas
8
/10
Mr solid at the lineout. Winning your own ball when the gale is blowing is a real bonus to the team - priceless. Thomas' throwing is truly top class. In the tight, he was at the centre of the driving maul.
1
John Yapp
7
/10
Quieter than last week, but still only second to RST in the ball carrying figures. Needs a partner in the pack to share the work. Over to you Uncle Peter - time to sign a ball carrier in the back row with experience to guide this young pack.