Cardiff Blues

k.o. time: 7:10 pm

9 September, 2005

Cardiff Arms Park

Spectators: 5,784

Ulster
referee
Rob Dickson
5
/10
Seemed to be the only person in the ground actually enjoying himself. Went through his full range of tackle point penalties, but missed crucial offsides and Ulster's constant infringements at the scrum. Manfully tried to play advantage as much as he could but the players couldn't manage it.
worth annoying the wife factor
2
/10
our man of the match
Nicky Robinson
scorers
Craig Morgan (1)
Nicky Robinson (1)
Nicky Robinson (5)
our choice for next week

vs Ospreys

k.o. time: 7:10 pm

14 September, 2005

Cardiff Arms Park

15
Craig Morgan
14
Tom Shanklin
13
Jamie Robinson
12
Marc Stcherbina
11
Rhys Williams
10
Nicky Robinson
9
Mike Phillips
8
Xavier Rush
7
Martyn Williams
6
Robin Sowden-Taylor
5
Robert Sidoli
4
Craig Quinnell
3
Gethin Jenkins
2
Thomas Rhys Thomas
1
John Yapp

Cardiff fell to their second defeat of the season in a dour and lifeless game at CAP peppered with numerous errors and unimaginative rugby. Both sides were seriously short on confidence and the game was finally sealed by the team who made the fewer errors - much as it was in Galway last week.

The crucial turning point in the game was a series of schoolboy errors by Cardiff's largely schoolboy back three. With Young and his coaching staff ignoring the lessons of last week, they persevered with Rhys Williams at centre and Rosie at full back. A simple chip and chase from Humphries found the back three woefully out of position and winger Bowe chased through for a simple try. It was a gift. Born out of poor preparation on the training ground, it was the turning point in a tight game that saw Ulster take victory and beat Cardiff for the first time at CAP since 11th January 2003.

The game started with the visitors well drilled lineout taking control, and with an excellent driving maul to follow Young could hardly have been surprised with the performance. Irish rugby's "kick and clap" is highly effective against teams that don't get the basics right and the visitors limited approach mirrored that of Connacht's last week.

In a sign of things to come, Humphries clever cross kick almost exposed an out of position back three. A series of knock ons eventually halted the play - something that we endured throughout the evening.

Cardiff's heavier pack soon got on top at the scrum and although their "hit" was much better than the opposition, a lack of control at tight head and the refs inability to work out that the Ulster tight head was slipping his binding negated this superiority. Robinson kicked a penalty took put Cardiff ahead - one of many of a series of impressive kicks during the evening.

As we've come to expect from Cardiff, straight from the kick off a series of mistakes gifted Ulster more pressure. Molitika was poorly supported at kick off, Rosie sliced his kick to touch, Phillips flipped out a dreadful pass from the ensuing scrum and then RST went off side under the posts. Sure these are rugby errors, but the coach is clearly not adequately preparing his time psychologically if this sort of panic ensues after five minutes and 3-0 up.

Crucially, instead of gathering the troops and raising concentration levels, Rhys Williams chose to ask the ref what the penalty was for.

You can always rely on Dixon to go through his range of penalties and another technical infringement - this time from Ulster - gifted Robinson a penalty to see the home side regain the lead.

This time the errors were eradicated and although Molitika still looked a little isolated, Robinson fired an excellent clearance kick to the half way line. Humphries returned a kick to the corner and in ages of time Morgan fluffed the clearance kick. This really was desperate stuff. "Kick and clap" of the lowest order.

As the game went on, the error count soared. Powell took the ball up well in attack and Yapp continued to rip into Ulster's tight head Simon Best. Ulster knocked on and Rhys Williams looked fragile in defence. Powell spotted a blind side gap and needlessly kicked the ball away. Now Ulster's set piece was falling apart with the hooker firing the ball all over the place. Humphries kicked and Rosie hesitated. It was dire stuff.

The Humphries kicked and Czekaj made a hash of a regulation catch before the Ulster back line made more schoolboy errors with an overlap ignored. Phillips, Yapp and Sidoli linked well to get behind the defence, but the centre partnership was a shambles and Rhys Williams lost the ball mid field. More errors, more kick and clap.

"Titan tanks" were emblazoned across the Ulster team's shoulder blades, but it was more like "septic tanks". Rhys Williams was once more embarrassed mid field before another error from the visitors. Clearly both teams were as bad as each other. Ignoring the running game, Young chose to take on Humphries and Ulster with the same kick and clap that the Ravenhill mob enjoy so much. Strange that - pick the game plan your opponents are most comfortable with and use it yourself.

Rosie fluffed a high kick and Ulster were under the posts with a scrum. Molitika put in a try saving tackle on Harrisson to hold the big man just short of the line. Shouting "ball is out" he then penalised Rhys Thomas for diving on it. Somebody hasn't been reading the rule book. Another gift for Humphries. 6-6.

Robinson kicked deep and Molitika chased hard on a one man destruction mission. Ulster fluffed their defence and got offside and you can bet Dixon wouldn't miss that one. 9-6 ..... more kicking and more clapping.

Again from the kick off Cardiff looked impressive. Phillips fielded the kick, Powell charged (actually taking the ball at pace) and Robinson fired the kick to the half way line. Good control and well executed.

Then it was Martin Jones giving away a simple penalty for off side at a ruck (do they actually take note of who the ref will be? do they actually prepare accordingly? just about everybody in the ground knows that Dixon loves his ruck/offside penalties, by Jones didn't). Over to you Humphries ... 9-9. At three breakdowns in a row Cardiff forwards had gone off side and gifted three points - RST, Rhys Thomas and Martin Jones. How stupid are these guys?? Worse still, on all three occasions it was totally unnecessary!

Rhys Thomas through, Molitika knocked on, Humphries kicked, the Ulster faithful clapped. Anyone see a pattern emerging? Now Robinson put the high ball up and with good pressure from Tristan Davies, Williams picked up on the loose ball. But you guessed it, Rhys once more lost the ball in contact. More kick from Humphries.

Then we actually saw some rugby. It'd taken half an hour, but some good inter passing from the forwards on the left touchline found some space from Quinnell who didn't lose the ball in contact. Jones made some extra yards, and Phillips made another break. With Sidoli on his shoulder, only a dubious hand (deliberate knock on, anyone?) from Harrisson halted the chance of the first try.

Powell fluffed the scrum and instead of pressure from Cardiff, Ulster were back on the half way line. Awful play. Catch and drive, ruck and trailer, Humphries kick and more clap. It really was rugby by numbers with a head down attitude from the home side - very much in the mould of their coach. If some teams try to play with a smile on their faces, Cardiff's collective grimace did little to lift the mood.

Then came yet another Phillips break - speeding past static defenders and hoofing the ball down the centre of the pitch. With Ulster clearly offside under the posts, there could have been a case for a penalty try. Dixon loves his niggly penalties, but often avoids the big ones and Cardiff should have had more that just a lineout on the 22 line.

Throughout the game Phillips was Cardiff's main threat and unfortunately lacked any sort of support each time he made the break. Howliesque in his pace he is not, but oh! for an openside to link with his breaks and keep the ball moving. Looks like we're going to have to wait for the Saracens game to see that with Young unable to pick his best team.

Molitika caught well and Fester drove hard at the midfield only for Dixon once more to miss interfering with the ball on the floor. This was a crucial time for Cardiff and the Scotsman let them down badly as they pressurized the posts. With Yapp ripping Best to shreds, Dixon once more failed to notice the prostrate number three at the ensuing scrum.

Poor support play from the pack left Yapp isolated on a charge and Humphries kicked. Then Rosie one an excellent turnover mid field with the ball carrier isolated and the defender ripping the ball away standing on his feet. Robinson kicked from the half way to put Cardiff in the lead. This really was an advertisement for hard work and practice. Clearly the young man has been putting in the hours and it shows.

With Molitika targeted by the white shirts, he took the kick off well and Robinson once more belted the ball the half way line. Almost Humphriesesque. Then came a crucial kick. With the Ulster no 5 crawling around in a ruck jumping on the ball, Robinson had a simple 40m kick centre field to take Cardiff to 15-9 at half time. He missed it .... the demons are still there.

The second half started with more errors - Cardiff's failure to take the catch, and Humphries the pass .... twice. Stienmetz raced back to save the day but bad play in the Ulster back line failed to expose Cardiff's fragile defence. Macleod kicked when we wanted open play and the aerial tennis continued until Phillips kicked the ball directly to touch - ably flagged by the portly touch judge.

Then it was Sidoli's chance to feed Dixon's habit with number four penalty at the breakdown. Did the coaching staff actually talk about needless penalties at half time, or are the players plain thick? Miraculously, Humphries missed.

Then Stienmetz kicked and Rosie fluffed - Ulster were back on the attack from an unforced Cardiff error. Dixon tried his hardest to play advantage from the numerous errors, but the players failed to capitalize. More kick, more clap and Robinson made it 15-9.

Then Powell lost the ball at the back of the scrum and the Cardiff lineout was so disorganized that despite winning a clean catch, they conceded a scrum when they were unable to move the ball from the ensuing static maul. Now the Ulster scrum was in an awful mess and Yapp was eating Best off a plate.

Then came number five. Molitika was very harshly penalised by Dixon when the ball carrier clearly didn't release the ball in the tackle. Humphries didn't miss this time .... 15-12. Then, Dixon inexplicably penalised the Cardiff scrum and the Ulstermen were back in the game 15-15.

Back came Cardiff with a series of lateral attacks before Sidoli coughed up the ball in contact. Then, from the ensuing scrum with Morgan woefully out of position, Humphries chipped and Bowe chased. Rosie had equally gone awol and Ulster were 15-22. In as many minutes, Cardiff had allowed Ulster to score 13 points and take the lead.

From that point onwards there was a certain inevitability about the whole proceedings. Cardiff huffed and puffed but lacked any sort of composure even when they got behind the Ulster defence. As soon as any sort of pressure came on them, they fluffed their lines, lost shape and spilled the ball. Baby Ben came on on 67 minutes but with nothing on the bench to enliven the game, Young was really up against it.

The only saving grace was that Humphries and Ulster were equally dreadful when forced to do anything creative. His passing was dreadful and knock ons flowed a plenty. However, his kicking was as sure as ever and this was the deciding factor. For all Robinson's clever touches, he could not drive his pack forward - for all their superiority at the scrum. Mark Lewis came on for Powell and the level dropped even further. The gap between the first and second XV is enormous at Cardiff and until the squad is strengthened, they will struggle.

Phillips fluffed a kick and Humphries dropped the goal - another unforced error leading to an Ulster score. Tristan Davies knocked on and Jones and Powell came on for Fester and Phillips. Some things never change, however, and it didn't take Ryan Powell long to put a lot of ineffective box kicks mostly straight to touch.

Then will minutes to go, Humphries went for another drop goal - totally inappropriate in the circumstance - it was charged down and Rhys Williams pounced on the ball. As he sprinted through it seemed he'd lost a bit of pace, but with Morgan charging up on his left shoulder the winger crossed out wide for Cardiff's first try of the season. Nick Robinson kicked an excellent conversion to take the score to 22-25.

Could Cardiff snatch an unlikely victory? No. Molitika lost the ball in contact and the kick and clap merchants were having a field day.

So, another week and another victory. The scrum looked solid and the lineout effective (without ever being much of a potent weapon). The driving maul was dabbled with, but that sort of summed up Cardiff's night. They dabbled with a lot of tactics, without ever settling on one. Once more, it was difficult to see what the team was trying to do. What had they planned before the game? What were the tactics? Take on master-kick-and-clap Humphries at his own game?

The team now looks devoid of any sort of self belief and their performances typify the personality of the coach. Cardiff are dour and unimaginative, lifeless and obdurate. Rugby looks like a chore and all self belief has left the club. A siege mentality has set in. If is looking increasingly unlikely that Young can engender any sort of confidence into his side.

If they lose against Llanelli, then they will - of course - obviously lose to Glasgow away, meaning they will go into the Saracens game having played four, lost four. With Wasps (away) and Leinster (away) to follow, it's getting increasingly difficult to see how Cardiff can win anything in the near future.

Llanelli could prove Young's nemesis.

15
Nick Macleod
3
/10
A very unhappy person at full back. Missed countless kicks, was a complete stranger in attack and fluffed his lines for the key try. His kicking out of hand was poor and it looks like he needs some games for the rags to regain his confidence.
14
Chris Czekaj
6
/10
Sure he's apt to lose the ball in contact but the key thing is it doesn't seem to phase him. If he makes a mistake (and in contact, he often does) then the very next play he's there to make an excellent catch. Definitely worth perceive ring with.
13
Gethin Rhys Williams
3
/10
Fair play to Rhys, he's doing a job for the club at the expense of making himself look good. But the coaching staff really need to take a long look at this tactic. Williams is best taking the ball at pace from second phase out wide. Sticking him in the rough and tumble at centre is merely sucking any confidence out of him. In contact he looked frail, and as a leader in tough situations you just don't see him rallying the troops.
12
Tristan Davies
4
/10
Solid with one knock on. You know what you're getting and most of the time it ain't pretty. That Davies is probably one of the first names on the team sheet sums up how low we've sunk. Where are our centres???
11
Craig Morgan
6
/10
Belongs at full back and desperately needs to get more involved with the game.
10
Nicky Robinson
7
/10
Some excellent kicking on show which is a tribute to his application and hard work. From being one of his weaknesses, it is clearly now one of his strengths. But he still lacks the tactical awareness to close a game out, and should study the video hard. Learn from the master - Humphries.
9
Mike Phillips
6
/10
A couple of fluffed kicks and poor passes cost his side, but he is still one of the team's most potent attacking weapons. Needs more game time to learn to boss the pack more (a la Howley). It will come - given time.
8
Andy Powell
6
/10
Prone to run away from support, Powell is still a 100%-er and a rare ball carrier in the Cardiff pack. Always effective at breaking the gain line, the pack needs more practice to make more of his hard work with much better support.
7
Robin Sowden-Taylor
4
/10
Very subdued. Made some tackles but looked lifeless.
6
Maama Molitika
5
/10
Worked hard in the lineout and from kick offs. Was unlucky with his penalty, but simply does not carry the ball enough.
5
Robert Sidoli
5
/10
A penalty waiting to happen. In the lineout he's consistently climbing all over his opponent and a better referee will murder him. With ball in hand, for a big man, he looks like he couldn't make a hole in a wet paper back and has all the impact in contact of a fly on the windscreen of a 40ft truck.
4
Craig Quinnell
4
/10
Very subdued. Put his body on the line for the team and carried effectively on two or three occasions. But the spark wasn't there. Clearly not happy (about something).
3
Martin Jones
2
Thomas Rhys Thomas
4
/10
Looked very short of match practice. Needs more rugby.
1
John Yapp
6
/10
Impressive scrummaging, but didn't carry the ball as well as we know he can. Work rate needs to improve although at least he was better than last week.