Cardiff

k.o. time: 7:10 pm

1 September, 2006

BT Murrayfield

Spectators: 8,687

Munster
referee
Rob Dickson
7
/10
In recent seasons, there's been a marked improvement in Dixon's refereeing and this game was no exception. There were a few errors around - of course. There was a good shout for a penalty try and yellow card at the end of the first half, and he still made at least one howler second half in not (once more) penalising the constant infringements of Munster at the tackle point. But has he really finally developed a "feel" for the game? Good on ya, Rob.
worth annoying the wife factor
4
/10
general comment

Tortuous to watch, this game was riddled with errors and the usual Munster tactic of negative, spoiling rugby. 8,687 .... showing the success of CRFC Ltd's marketing policy. This is the biggest home attendance ever against Munster. Think how much bigger the crowd would have been if more people could actually get to the games!

scorers
Chris Czekaj (1)
Scott Morgan (1)
Nicky Robinson (4)

A largely full strength Cardiff Blues XV fumbled and spilled their was to a first win of the season against a desperately poor Munster side. This was Cardiff's first time to win their first Celtic League/Magners League game of the season since the competition began. Munster - shorn of 10 first team places by the IRFU in a successful attempt to further devalue this competition - showed 13 changes from the team that spanked Cardiff in the last game of the 2005-2006 season. As for the home side, only five players started in the same position as they did against Munster in May.

Having fluffed three tries first half and another one or two second half, Cardiff should have put sixty points on their visitors. That they didn't was down to a lack of composure in a young team overly eager to impress. Most disappointing was the captaincy of Rush. He too was caught up in the general panic and tefloned the ball forward to give up a simple try in the first half. In the second half, his captaincy decisions were bizarre at best, and designed to increase the lack of confidence around, at worse. With so many kids in the squad, Rush's leadership will be a key factor this season - let's hope he shows a marked improvement on this performance.

The first half was all one way traffic with Munster rarely getting anywhere near the home side's 22m line. But Cardiff lacked the composure to make the best of their opportunities and too often rushed the challenge instead of approaching it with a measured confidence. A hyper-active Sid was first to break through and canter under the posts, but Melon had rushed forward too early and obstructed the defender.

Next up was Czekaj as he spilled a straight forward pass with the line at his mercy.

Then TRT burst through the centre of a maul and charged towards the line. Tackled just short, Munster defenders frantically jumped all over the ball and lay on the wrong side (no difference to every other ruck then). Dixon showed a distinct lack of bottle and instead of a yellow card, he just awarded a penalty. Then, with the entire defence nowhere near on-side, Czekaj was taken out just short of the line (just as Phillips was in Belfast last season). This could have been another yellow card and a penalty try, but once more Dixon bottled the situation. But where was Rush complaining in his ear?

Nick Robinson varied the point of attack extremely well with a beautiful chip over the defence. He expertly collected his kick and fed Rush in space on his left with the line at his mercy. Typifying the lack of composure in the side, the captain failed to lead by example and dropped the pass. Unopposed and in space, this was unforgivable.

For all their pressure, all Cardiff had to show for their efforts were penalties traded between Robinson and Manning - the "rent-an-irishman" Kiwi recruited because of a dearth of local talent. Much as Graham Henry wanted to do, the IRFU have picked up talent overseas and imported it to Ireland in an effort to make up for home-grown inadequacies making a mockery on international qualification.

For all Cardiff's constant pressure, they were unable to trouble the scoreboard with another poor kicking performance from Robinson. When the running game is faltering, Cardiff simply have no plan B without a decent kicker in the side. Being unable to turn pressure into points frustrates the team, and the crowd and you can see the negative effect this has on confidence levels.

The second half came and the torrent of attacks continued to rain down on the beleaguered team in red. Finally, following a wonderful angled run, a side step and an excellent pass, Stcherbina set up a try for Czekaj who finished unopposed down the left touchline. Stcherbina was a shining light of composure throughout the game - unruffled and unflustered, he did the simple things right and provided the essential spark to send Cardiff on the way to victory.

Martyn Williams' work at the breakdown was simply outstanding as he worked turnover after turnover and moved the ball away from contact with speed and vision. Much has been written about RST as Cardiff's number one, but so far this season Williams is showing that you can't underestimate the benefit of experience.

With Phillips taking on so many ball carrying duties, Cardiff were often left without a scrum half. Czekaj finally cottoned on to this and continued the assault with a charge close to the ruck. The young winger linked with Rush who fed TRT and a wonderful pass from the hooker sent Morgan racing down the left touch line like Mr Peperami on his way to the food mixer. Arms and legs flailing everywhere, but with a bolt upright stance, he cut a picture of frantic determination and got his just rewards with a try in the corner.

Cardiff were now up to 19-6 and should have been racing away for the bonus point. The Irish were flagging badly and the cumulative effects of cheating at the breakdown was proving too much for Dixon. A second yellow soon followed a first, and it was 15 vs 13. But, instead of ramming home the advantage and taking the Munster pack apart, Rush inexplicably opted for three points. The momentum was lost and with the numerous subs in the last 10 minutes, Cardiff lost rhythm and the chance of bonus points was gone.

That the last score of the game went to the visitors typified the greater intensity to their game. With an error count less than one third of the home side's, they may not have attempted much but what they did do was play with control. When the chance came to Ryan on a one-on-one with Martyn Williams, the flanker blotted his copy book with a pathetic attempt at a tackle. Young did exactly the right thing and hauled off Williams immediately for RST to show what he could do.

Munster - for all their huff and puff and diving on the floor - lacked the pace in the back line to push for a bonus point that they didn't really deserve. Their determination at the breakdown - constantly bordering on the illegal - left a constant threat of turnover. Rarely did they release the ball - even after the whistle - as they were quite aware of the speed in Cardiff\'s back line. The choice of referee for the European games will be vital if this sort of gamesmanship is to be stamped out.

And stamping is something that Cardiff were very slow to do. Only Morgan - showing his experience of the Guinness Premiership - was ready to put the boot into Munster players lying all over the wrong side of the ruck. Cardiff will need to toughen up in this area if the pack is to win enough fast ball for Phillips to use.

We can only hope that the rustiness on show will soon by polished off which more matches under collective belts. But there were weaknesses on show which have been apparent in recent games which look "unfixed". The fielding of kick offs is frankly awful, and with Sidoli around surely he must take control of this facet of play. This is just a question of practice and organisation and there's no excuse for the "after you, sir" approach. When Robinson booted Cardiff into the lead, immediately at the next kick off Sidoli's failure to field the ball resulted in a penalty to Munster and Manning levelled the scores.

At the breakdown, there's still the concern that Cardiff are regularly out muscled and can't clear away bodies quickly enough. Phillips gets little protection and the pack are weak at rucking away players who deliberately infringe and lie all over the ball. Morgan was one of the few who looked capable, but Cardiff look like the inconsistencies of refs have left them with the attitude that it's better not to try (the result is poor competition).

If it wasn't for the enormous work done by Martyn Williams, Munster's pick and drive game would have threatened the Cardiff pack with a front five that still looks more interested in playing on the wing than getting stuck into the opposition.

Under Young's stewardship, the maul has gone from being the Achilles Heal of the side, to one of their most potent weapons, and although there needs to be more "heads up" control from Phillips, the coach deserves credit.

This was very much and early season game from the home side, but the fact that they failed to score more than their previous record against Munster (60-14 in the 2003-2004 season) showed the anxiety in the squad. More composure and the four tries that went missing would have been easily converted. It wasn't so much "the silly passes" that cost Cardiff so dear, it was the lack of intensity with which players approached the game. Concentration was sorely missing - it looked like they'd all caught the Nick Robinson disease.

Sloppiness is never excusable, but if you're going to be sloppy, then you're first game up with a victory at home is the place to do it. If they're this sloppy in Swansea, then they'll be no second victory at the Liberty Stadium for Cardiff.

15
Gethin Rhys Williams
5
/10
Still looks way out of sorts at full back. His kicking out of hand was poor and his counter attacking skills wayward. In contrast, he looked much happier when he went on the wing.
14
Chris Czekaj
5
/10
Finally playing on the left wing (which has always been his preferred position) he took his try well. In the second half, his work rate was up there with the best and his willingness to play scrum half made the opening for Morgan's try. But he badly fluffed a simply try in the first half and still has little understanding on how to counter attack with Rhys Williams. You'd think with all these games they play together that they'd have worked something out by now, but Munster too joined the rank of teams who've worked this out as an established Cardiff weakness with a number of astute chips over Czekaj's head into no mans land.
13
Jamie Robinson
12
Marc Stcherbina
8
/10
Yet another outstanding performance from the best centre at Cardiff at the moment. His jinking run to set up Cardiff's first try was a game breaker. It was that, that gave his team mates the confidence to go on and win the game. In defence he was solid, and unlike his fellow centres, he has a reliable boot to clear his lines. He looked exasperated when subbed. Let's hope that Young picks his back line on form (and what's good for Cardiff) and not was the WRU want. Competition for places breads the right attitude in the squad and Young much ignore the short termism of the WRU.
11
Mosese Luvetasau
6
/10
Huge kahunas again on show with a fearsome turn of pace. The way he chased down one Robinson kick was excellent and symptomatic of an outstanding attitude that will hopefully brush off on the lazier members of the squad. However, his ball presentation skills are severely lacking, and against a better attacking line he's going to be severely found out. With more time on the pitch, his performances will undoubtedly improve. One for the future.
10
Nicky Robinson
6
/10
Looked rusty .... very rusty. His goal kicking is simply dreadful. If he retains any ambition to wear the Welsh no 10 jersey, he's got to improve. It's all about practice. With Jinx around at the club, there's no excuse for poor coaching, so its time for application and hard work. The present level is simply not acceptable for a professional rugby player.
9
Mike Phillips
6
/10
The sharpness was missing, as was the linking skills with the players around him. As an individual, he's outstanding, but a scrum half needs to contribute more to the performance. He needs to boss those around him more than he's doing at the moment. Another of Cardiff's kids with bags of ability, but without the composure and presence.
8
Xavier Rush
5
/10
One trick pony stuff from Rush. Awesome with ball in hand, his love of contact is not creating the space for those around him because the team can't recycle the ball quickly enough when he dies with it. As a captain, he's so far failed to impress. Against Bristol he made a number of dodgy decisions and again against Munster when playing 15 vs 13 he opted for a missed three points instead of the Munnherball kick to the corner.
7
Martyn Williams
8
/10
Simply outstanding performance from the man who looks like he's playing at his peak. A misplaced obsession with youth is an endemic disease in Welsh rugby, and on his 31st birthday, Williams showed the value of experience. Against Worcester he was on top of his game, and this performance was an improvement on that. The one badly missed tackle on Ryan severely blotted his copy book. Young's decision to sub him immediately was an excellent one. This tells Martyn that Young expects perfection, and if he doesn't get it, he's got RST breathing down his neck!
6
Scott Morgan
8
/10
He's a bit of an animal! He may run like Mr Perperami, but its dog rather than pork that he brings to the pack.
5
Robert Sidoli
7
/10
Looking fired up and he needs to be. Even took one kick off.
4
Deiniol Jones
5
/10
Back to the usual stuff.
3
Taufa'ao Filise
6
/10
Susceptible in the scrum, active in the loose .... provided good support for the ball carrier throughout the game. Impressive work rate.
2
Thomas Rhys Thomas
7
/10
Wonderful pass for Morgan's try. Lineout was solid (if unspectacular), and he had a great run to the line. Appetite is back and he's on the way up.
1
Gethin Jenkins
5
/10
Coasted.