Cardiff

k.o. time: 7:10 pm

8 April, 2005

Cardiff Arms Park

Spectators: 5,600

Ulster
referee
David Changleng
2
/10
It matters little which Changleng referees the game as both are equally dreadful. This one had no clue about entering a ruck properly, as white jersey after white jersey jumped on the ball on the floor which prevented any kind of defensive rucking. The game dies as a contest as a result of refereeing like this. Changleng missed knock ons, allowed obvious forward passes.
worth annoying the wife factor
3
/10
our man of the match
Martyn Williams
scorers
Craig Quinnell (1)
Robin Sowden-Taylor (1)
Tom Shanklin (1)
Nick Macleod (2)
Nick Macleod (1)
our choice for next week

vs Borders

k.o. time: 7:05 pm

15 April, 2005

Cardiff Arms Park

15
Nick Macleod
14
Chris Czekaj
13
Gethin Rhys Williams
12
Dafydd Hewitt
11
Craig Morgan
10
Lee Thomas
9
Dean Dewdney
8
James Malpas
7
Robin Sowden-Taylor
6
Kort Schubert
5
Robert Sidoli
4
James Goode
3
Ben Evans
2
Thomas Rhys Thomas
1
John Yapp

Cardiff kept alive their chance of qualifying for the top-level European competition next season with a poor win over a poor Ulster team. Despite a cracking start (or should that be because of?) that saw a try in the first minute of the game, the obvious Cardiff attacking supremacy could not be built upon as players - who should know better - made stupid individual mistake after stupid individual mistake. Furthermore, once Shanklin left the field just before half time, the team lacked a figure head and confidence visibly seeped from the performance.

The game started with Cardiff playing at a good pace that the visitors struggled to keep up with. Sowden-Taylor created panic straight from the kick off and this led to a knock on amongst the Ulster forwards. From the scrum the ball was moved from right to left and the whole of the defence seemed to follow Shanklin towards the touchline. From the ruck, the ball was moved back towards the North Terrace and RST sprinted though a gap and made the try line.

Macloed converted and Cardiff were 7-0 up with only two minutes on the clock.

This was the perfect foundation from which to smash Ulster and take the bonus points as soon as possible, but Cardiff could not maintain possession. The breakdown was a shambles all game as the “Referee” seemed to allow all sorts to go on as players dived off their feet at every opportunity.

Any possession that was earned was misused by a backline that missed Shanklin even more than it missed its confidence. With Ulster looking to maul at every opportunity, the game was dying as a spectator sport.

In between bouts of absolutely nothing, Ulster were able to make a couple of breaks because of Cardiff errors or lazy defending at the sides of rucks. Many of the Cardiff forwards were not giving this game their best physical effort and were it not for Macleod making his one on one tackles, then it could all have been so different on the scoreboard. Indeed Wallace, the Ulster outside half, missed with kicks at goal that could have made the game far more interesting.

Moments of individual skill were carrying Cardiff though the first half, however, and this was apparent in the second Cardiff try. A poor clearance kick from Ulster was gathered by Czekaj who quickly spread the ball from one side of the pitch to the other, via Nick Robinson.

The Ulster defence was wrong footed and Morgan straightened the line to fed Shanklin who burst passed tacklers to score in the left hand corner at the Taff end of the ground. Though the conversion was too difficult for Macleod, the try should have been the impetus for Cardiff to drive home their individual advantage.

Alas, there was no impetus and Ulster gradually clawed their way back into the game.

It was Ulster who scored next, from a well worked scrum in the Cardiff 22. Bowe used the width of the pitch and scorched from the blind side. Using his head start, he arced around Shanklin and score in front of the clubhouse. Shanklin let him slip, however, in a very average attempt at a tackle.

The second half was very poor for Cardiff as it took them almost 15 minutes to get out of their own half. The pattern that formed was Ulster attempting to drive over the gain line from the lineout, but failing to do so but still winning penalties from Changleng. Somehow Wallace missed three kicks (from varying distances) in front of the posts and the game was dying as a spectacle.

The only saving grace from the boredom was a break from Wallace (right between our two props who seemed completely lacking in interest when it came to tackling) but Macleod was there to make the tackle again. The two excellent Cardiff flankers made time for the defence to re-group.

Whenever Cardiff had a chance to make it into Ulster territory they blew it badly: Nick Robinson sliced two kicks straight into touch and Gareth Williams threw interception passes. There was no pattern from Cardiff, no style, no idea of how to get over the gain line and the chance of the bonus point was disappearing as quickly as did the ball in an Ulster maul.

In a very rare foray into the Ulster half, however, Cardiff managed to put the game out of the reach of the visitors. An accurate line out from Gareth Williams (he was sound at finding his jumpers throughout the game) was taken by Sidoli and Martyn Williams took on the drive. The group splintered and wingnut found Quinnell ten yards from the line. There was no stopping Fester and co and the balding giant ripped the ball from would be tacklers to score his second try in as many games.

The difference between the dynamism of the two teams’ driving mauls was marked. Ulster had excellent line out possession but could never get over the gain line with any speed in order to disrupt the defence. Quinnell and Jenkins are superb defensive maulers and this skill meant that Ulster were forced to play an unnatural game of passing the ball.

Compare that with the speed and disruption of the drive that led to Cardiff’s try and you will see just how a driving maul is supposed to be executed.

Now Cardiff were 22 – 8 up and over concentrating on not allowing Ulster to score. Preventing Ulster from securing a bonus point rather than scoring a try of their own suited the spectators less than ist suited the players.

From this point on, the game died on its feet.

Another poor game that Cardiff should have finished in the first half but left us all thinking of what could have been.

This was a muddle display from a team clearly uncertain of what tactics they should be playing. Picking Gareth Williams with MW and RST in the back row means you often have three players standing around trying to "defend" driving mauls. Although Ulster paucity of any cutting edge behind the scrum enable Cardiff to front up to the slow paced driving maul, they were unable to win turnovers and so Ulster kept hold of the ball for large chunks of the game.

Despite chosing a looser pack surely designed to run the Ulster pack around the pitch, during the second half it was the home team who all too often also chose this dire method of attack. Perhaps fearful of another Nick Robinson aboration, Gareth Williams and co also opted for the "up your jumper" approach. So much for the "Welsh" style!

If Young favours this approach, then Rhys Thomas is far better suited to the tight stuff.

In the back line, if the Powell+Robinson partnership was a race horse, it would have been put down by now. Off to the glue factory. Basically, it simply doesn't function. Cardiff desperately need forward ball carriers to work overlaps against tight defences, but only even though Quinnell and Yapp often offered themselves, they were all too often bypassed.

Once more Young will lose most of his first XV for the next few months (either to Ruddock or SCW), so one wonders how much impact he can have before September, and the inevitable forced rest periods and international call ups. Who'd be a coach in Wales, eh?

The players looked uncertain of each other, unclear of what they were required to do tactically and hampered by a dreadful half back partnership that looks like it needs to go back to the drawing board.

Even if results go Cardiff's way and we make that trip to Italy, it's far from certain that the bois will come back with a win.

15
Nick Macleod
7
/10
a strong defensive performance where he always made his one on one tackles. It seems that he held back instead of joining the play at first receiver and this could be because of Rhys Willaims being back in the team. He still needs to join the line more often if full back is to be his future and he definitely needs to work on his goal kicking.
14
Chris Czekaj
6
/10
a positive debut in which he would have learned that professional rugby is much more physical than anything else he has played. With the ball in hand he looked able to beat the first man but just needs a little more confidence and strength work over the summer.
13
Gethin Rhys Williams
6
/10
seemed to be blowing quite hard for much of the game as he looked rusty from the lack of recent rugby. He stood up to Maggs on the couple of occasions that the head on tackle was needed but Williams lacked his spark and turn of pace.
12
Tom Shanklin
8
/10
was pretty good in attack when he was on the pitch, if not quite so hot in defence. He took his try very well and looked excellent with the ball, but one tackle and a twisted knee meant that he left the field just before half time.
11
Craig Morgan
6
/10
another subdued performance that was only really characterized by his big left boot. He straightened the line well for Shanklin’s try and this was a hint of what he can do. Let’s hope that the summer brings him some confidence.
10
Nicky Robinson
4
/10
perhaps it is another game under his belt but he doesn’t seem to have even 50% of the speed of thought or deed needed for this level of game. His line kicking was woeful and his trademark passing game seems to have disappeared too. Plus, of course, he tackled like a speed bump.
9
Ryan Powell
1
/10
thinks he is George Gregan, but plays like George from Rainbow. He is so slow to most of the breakdowns that Martyn Williams was all too often moving the ball away. Even when he does arrive on time he then has to look around, have a think and the whole movement is lost. Powell is dreadful at the moment, like Robert Jones at his worse during the rebel season. Roll on Mike Phillips.
8
Kort Schubert
3
/10
his season has ebbed away into being something of a non-entity in the back row. He cannot keep up with MW or RST, but adds little in strength terms either.
7
Martyn Williams
9
/10
hilariously outstanding despite being the best lineout option, scrum half and openside on the pitch. His work rate is fantastic, but it is the way that he is usually in the right place at the right time that shows his class. Running the ball from his own line, kicking clearance kicks from his 22 and supporting the ball brilliantly.
6
Robin Sowden-Taylor
8
/10
another excellent spoiling performance of winning the ball on the floor. He is much more the traditional openside than is MW, so if the two of them can operate a partnership like Waugh and Smith then all the better for us! Started brilliantly (even outshining his fellow flanker) but faded in the final quarter.
5
Robert Sidoli
6
/10
not quite as conspicuous with the ball in hand as he has been in the red jersey recently, but his commitment in defence was pretty sound. Not overly used in the lineout but held his own for much of the game.
4
Craig Quinnell
7
/10
took his try (with a little help from his friends) very well and was keen to do much of the physical work that some of his team were skirting from. Quite obviously he hasn’t had a letter from Sir Clive Woodward so he didn’t fall off tackles!
3
Gethin Jenkins
4
/10
Pretty weak in much of the game as he was clearly playing within himself, probably because of the shoulder injury and probably because he didn’t want to get injured before the Lions tour. This is the last we will see of Jenkins before Christmas.
2
Gareth Williams
3
/10
The reverse of his normal game as he seemed to be fairly accurate in the line out but completely dreadful in the loose. He spent the whole game trying to force passes, or kicking the ball away up the touch line rather than just taking the tackle and setting up the play. Why? He lost so much possession for Cardiff just through sheer stupidity.
1
John Yapp
4
/10
poor in the tackle for much of the game as he went too high and let players brush off him. He wasn’t so conspicuous in the loose with ball in hand either so let’s hope that he hasn’t led the “Magnificent Seven” marketing get to his head!