Cardiff Blues

k.o. time: 7:10 pm

25 March, 2006

Cardiff Arms Park

Spectators: 4,508

Glasgow
referee
Donal Courtney
6
/10
Made one of the worst refereeing decisions you're ever likely to see in penalizing Czekaj for skidding in the mud, but apart from that didn't have a bad game. He was undoubtedly helped by the positive approach of both sets of players, and hindered by the fact that both sets of jerseys looked remarkably similar.
weather
Teaming down all evening
worth annoying the wife factor
6
/10
our man of the match
Maama Molitika
general comment

Considering the conditions, the entertainment factor was pretty high. Glasgow were very limited behind the scrum, but at least tried to move the ball.

scorers
Mike Phillips (1)
Nicky Robinson (1)
Chris Czekaj (1)
Martyn Williams (1)
Andy Powell (1)
Nicky Robinson (3)
our choice for next week

vs Edinburgh

k.o. time: 7:30 pm

7 April, 2006

BT Murrayfield

15
Gethin Rhys Williams
14
Chris Czekaj
13
Jamie Robinson
12
Marc Stcherbina
11
Craig Morgan
10
Nicky Robinson
9
Mike Phillips
8
Xavier Rush
7
Martyn Williams
6
Maama Molitika
5
Craig Quinnell
4
Deiniol Jones
3
Gethin Jenkins
2
Duane Goodfield
1
John Yapp

In dreadful weather conditions Cardiff continued their good home run of late with an easy victory over a limited Glasgow side. On very few occasions this season has Dai Young been able to field anywhere near his first fifteen, but for this fixture he came very close. Only Shanklin, TRT and Sidoli were missing, and with the early introduction of Fester the team was boosted by the necessary muscle to toughen out a victory in these sort of miserable conditions.

Inevitably, the game was riddled with errors and Cardiff made an inauspicious start with Goode getting nowhere near the kick off. The visitors started with a good tempo, but a thumping tackle from Rush and then another by Melon soon won the turnover. But the basics were still missing and next it was Nick Robinson who dropped a simple pass under his posts. It really did look like once again Cardiff were starting a game under cooked. The scrum was creaking and the error count mounting as Glasgow pressurised the Cardiff line.

Some excellent line kicking from Parks worked a five yard lineout for his side as Cardiff struggled to get out of their half. More intelligent cross kicking from Parks targeted Cardiff's lack of height in defence.

Good work off the back of the scrum set up a charge from Molitika and Cardiff broke from their own line. But a poor kick from Phillips and another by Morgan ruined any chance of exerting pressure on the Scots. It was an error-a-minute from the home side as Cardiff struggled with the conditions. Then Goode left the pitch with a shoulder injury and immediately the scrum looked far more stable with the introduction of Fester.

Parks' line kicking was simply excellent and perfect for these sort of conditions. But whereas Glasgow were concentrating on pressurizing the opposition into mistakes, Cardiff's mauling game with Fester at the fore was proving a real handful. Martyn Williams span free and fed Phillips before some good scramble defence halted the attack.

Poor scrummaging from Gethin Jenkins lost the ball, but the back line was on hand to run things hard at the Glasgow defence. Undaunted by the mud, it was good to see Cardiff backing their handling skills and running hard with ball in hand. Next scrum up and suddenly it was the home side on top.

Czekaj - full of confidence and eager for more tries - made a great break through the outside centre channel and Molitika made yet another charge midfield, only for Rhys Williams to fumble under the Glasgow posts. Then with the Glasgow defence drifting far too wide, Mike Phillips darted through the back of the lineout to score under the posts. The try was a product of Cardiff's previous attacking tactics - all out wide and forcing the defence to spread. This opened opportunities for Phillips and he slid in under the posts to make it a simple conversion. 7-0.

Confidence was up, and Denzil caught and charged from the kick off. Glasgow appetite was waning and their back line skill levels were again cruelly exposed. A fumble mid-field following a big tackle on Parks by Martyn Williams saw the ball hacked on by Stcherbina. Staniforth made a pathetic attempt to fall on the ball, and then some good footwork by Robinson Snr and then Morgan set up Jnr. to score left of the posts. 12-0.

Back came Glasgow with a penalty for Parks after a high tackle by Biarritz-bound Martyn Williams who will surely rarely see conditions like this next season!

Pressure from Cardiff on the 22m line led to Snr being isolated and once more Parks impressed with a clearing kick. However, it soon became clear that when Glasgow kicked they looked solid, when they ran they looked fragile.

With Jones catching at the lineout, and Fester and Molitika driving in hard, Cardiff's maul looked very impressive. Philips was always a threat around the fringes, and this tied in the defence leaving gaps out wide. Even Cardiff's pick and drive was working with Yapp doing some good work. The balance was clearly there in the pack and ideally suited to these conditions.

Then from a ruck on the 22, with the defence committed following a forward drive by Yapp, Jnr fed Rhys Williams with a bullet of a pass as the full back sprinted hard between two forwards. Having committed the defence, he in turn fed Czekaj for the winger to score in the corner. It was a classic try born out of missed tackles in defence and a winger out sprinting the full back for the corner.

17-3 at half time and Cardiff were coasting. Even though the scrum was far from stable, at the maul the pack were on top. In the back line the running of Robinson and Philips was causing a real headache for the Scots and in Czekaj Cardiff possessed a constant threat to the visitors' line.

The monsoon continued as the second half started and all credit to the players, considering the dreadful conditions the error count was extremely low. Furthermore, Cardiff's insistence on running the ball was quite remarkable.

Jones and Goodfield showed up well with some impressive pick and drives and even Czekaj wasn't losing the ball in contact. Parks kicking continued to impress, but it was never backed up with sufficient threat at centre to cause the Cardiff defence too many problems.

An expert kick to the corner set up some Munnherball opportunity for Goodfield and Jones, and with Fester the driver you'd have to travel a long way to see a better example of a driving lineout. The unit was tight, the ball control excellent and the coach orgasmic as Williams drove over at the back. Text book stuff. 24-3.

Glasgow struggled manfully to get back into the game, but the passing in the back line was never crisp enough to present problems for the home team.

The pressure was now on from Cardiff and they remained camped on the Glasgow 22m line. Testing the defence with a variety of attacking options kept the Scots on their toes. Robinson mixed up the cross kicks with the long passes and even Martyn Williams got in on the act with a chip and chase. The forwards worked on a pick and drive until Yapp became isolated with the line in sight.

A tired Martyn Williams was subbed on the hour for Andy Powell in what was a smart decision by Young. Far less smart was using Lomu as a sub for Czekaj. Why? What did he think Lomu would bring to the game, apart from the inevitable knock ons.

Cardiff's admirable commitment to running the ball despite the dreadful conditions was tempered with a sense of the practical. Robinson was always on hand to place some expert kicks to within yards of the line.

Sure enough, it was from yet another expert kick from the much improved Robinson that set up some more Munnherball close to the Glasgow line. With Powell at the back, the new open side showed excellent upper body strength to force his way over. 31-3.

In these sort of conditions, playing under a constant deluge, Cardiff were playing the perfect game. However, the only disappointment came as we endured yet another final 15 minutes where the team couldn't really force things further - beyond 50 points and above. Sure the inevitable stream of substitutes broke up the balance of play, but that extra hard-nosed professionalism wasn't really on show.

A desire to entertain and throw the ball around outweighed the more practical Munnherball approach. Jones came on for Yapp on 70 minutes, but it was Gethin Jenkins' work rate that was showing up so well and his tackling was simply immense. Rhys Williams and Phillips linked expertly in defence to clear the ball as the confidence clearly flowed through the side.

It took Lomu 15 minutes to touch the ball, and when he did, sure enough, he lost it in contact. However, Johnson - on for Goodfield - made a far better impression and his work won a penalty on the 22m line. Munnherball was on the cards again, but the control wasn't there and although a good angle from Lomu and an excellent pass from Robinson worked an overlap on the right, Rush refused the pass to a free Powell.

And so the game came to a close with Cardiff pressurizing in the Glasgow 22 - just where they'd spent most of the game.

Full credit to the players for their work ethic, but also for their commitment to move the ball and entertain a drenched crowd. Also full credit to Glasgow for their positive approach to the game and their commitment to playing rugby.

15
Gethin Rhys Williams
7
/10
Error free ... more through a lack of pressure than anything else. However, in these sort of conditions, there's little else you can ask of your full back. Set up Czekaj's try very well and made some good touch finders. Solid.
14
Chris Czekaj
8
/10
... is playing like a striker who knows he can score every time he has the ball.
13
Jamie Robinson
7
/10
Showed signs that the pace of old is returning as confidence levels increase, though against such poor opposition he was hardly tested.
12
Marc Stcherbina
11
Craig Morgan
7
/10
Good clearance kicking and unselfish play for Jnr's try.
10
Nicky Robinson
8
/10
Some great kicking out of hand cruelly exposed the dreadful Staniforth. His passing - in these dreadful conditions - was excellent and tactically, his game was pretty much spot on.
9
Mike Phillips
8
/10
Philips' game has undoubtedly improved as the season has gone on. He started as a show pony - not too keen on passing the ball, and not too keen on doing anything other than scoring tries (which he's very good at). Now, he's linking very well with his back row as well as his outside half. He's mixing up his game well - kicking where necessary - and is always keeping the opposition occupied. He's become a real handful for teams who are forced to load the defence around the breakdown which makes more room out wide. He's far from the finished article, though, and his kicking in particular is far from reliable.
8
Xavier Rush
6
/10
Thumping tackle early doors, but had a pretty quiet game with ball in hand. In defence however, he was ever-present around the sides of rucks and mauls. Second half, he came far more into the game.
7
Martyn Williams
6
/10
Hardly his favourite conditions, but the impressive work rate is still there. Careless high tackle shipped three points for his side.
6
Maama Molitika
8
/10
One of his best games for Cardiff. Whether carrying the ball out of defence or being a general nuisance around the pitch, Molitika was everywhere. Some may have thought him a journeyman before this season, but in the limited number of games he's started, he's been simply excellent. Tremendous aggressive defence.
5
James Goode
5
/10
Won some good early lineout ball, despite the fluffed catch from the kick off. Shame he lasted only six minutes before picking up an injury, but given his frail physical condition it was hardly unexpected. Needs to bulk up.
4
Deiniol Jones
6
/10
Some good work in the lineout, though we should expect better control at the kick off. Too many mistakes from what should be a guaranteed source of possession. But as the game progressed he monopolized the lineout.
3
Gethin Jenkins
6
/10
Thumping tackles in defence, but far from impressive as a tight head scrummager. Impressed as a hard worker and a fearless defender.
2
Duane Goodfield
6
/10
Did the basics right and kept the error count down. More bulk please!
1
John Yapp
6
/10
Some good work in the loose and impressive mauling. Looked far more up for it than in recent games.