Cardiff

k.o. time: 7:05 pm

13 September, 2013

Cardiff Arms Park

Spectators: 6,874

Connacht
referee
Claudio Blessano
5
/10

On the whole, generous to the attacking side – thank goodness otherwise the game would have been even less of a spectacle. But most importantly, overly generous to Cardiff. There was a huge penalty count in favour of the home side.

weather
Wet - very wet
worth annoying the wife factor
2
/10
our man of the match
Taufa'ao Filise
scorers
Rhys Patchell (6)
Rhys Patchell (1)
our choice for next week

vs Zebre

k.o. time: 7:30 pm

20 September, 2013

Cardiff Arms Park

15
Leigh Halfpenny
14
Alex Cuthbert
13
Owen Williams
12
Dafydd Hewitt
11
Chris Czekaj
10
Rhys Patchell
9
Lloyd Williams
8
Andries Pretorius
7
Josh Navidi
6
Macauley Cook
5
Filo Paulo
4
Lou Reed
3
Scott Andrews
2
Marc Breeze
1
Taufa'ao Filise

This was another howler of a game - low on quality, high on errors and with basic skill levels missing across the starting XV. It's going to be a long season and you can only hope that out of this young collection of players, something of quality will emerge.

But if youth was the flavour of the evening, it was an old head that set the tone for what would follow. Straight from the kick off, Dan Parks over-cooked his kick and hoofed it straight into touch. With the ref following up with a penalty against Scott Andrews for slipping his bind, Parks had a chance to redeem himself, but he missed a straightforward kick from the half way line.

Copeland started brightly, breaking a few tackles but was lucky to get away with dropping the ball. Blessano conjured the first of many against Connacht, but justice was done with a poor kick from Patchell hitting the post.

If the scrums were penalty-prone, the line outs were worse as neither team had sufficient cohesion to exert any sort of control on the game. Connacht targeted the diminutive Harry Robinson with box kicks with limited success, and Copeland linked well from the base of the scrum with his half, but a poor kick ahead from Lloyd Williams went straight to touch. The aerial assault continued, with yet another box kick and a great catch from Robinson, but Patchell’s kick and hope downfield really was a kick to nothing.

Despite the monsoon, the new pitch was standing up well, if lacking bounce at times. However, given the amount of surface water, that was hardly surprising.

Then from a straight up the middle run from Connacht, some very poor defence from Cardiff gave Connacht an easy try under the posts. Poor organisation and no pillars at the ruck and an easy seven points. Pretorious chose the wrong spot to defend and left a huge gap.

Tom Williams was showing good line speed, but looks dreadfully lightweight even at this level, and liable to loose the ball in contact at every tackle. Can he maintain his pace if he puts on another 10kg?

Yet another harsh technical penalty from the Claudio the Homer saw Patchell attempt a kick from the half way. The power was there, but again the execution was poor. He really should have taken his chance.

Meanwhile, Connacht seemed happy to kick the ball away and pressure the defence. With no outside kicking backs, defenders can gang up on the young fly half in defence, confident that no one else can made a decent clearance kick. If only Owen Williams had been learning to kick properly instead of all that wasted time at VIIs.

Cardiff's initial tactic seemed to be to try to use Hewitt on the crash ball at Parks, but the speed and execution wasn’t there. Yet another kick from the halfway line from Patchell and he finally got himself on the score sheet just on 20 minutes. 3-7

Suddenly, the Patchell show was now in full swing. Whether covering in defence, making his kicks, chasing his kicks or dancing through defenders his full skills were on show. But poor comunication with Hewitt gave Connacht a shance to hoof the ball through and yet again, Cardiff were incapable of exerting pressure because of unforced errors.

Good work at a driving maul was ruined by a soft knock on from Lloyd Williams, and a clear lack of composure and confidence was really hampering the home side. Somehow Claudio the Homer got very annoyed with Robinson getting interefered with when trying to take a catch in loose play, and Patchell slotted the soft penalty.

But as is becoming so, so predictable, having scored, you can rely on Cardiff players to cock up from the kick off. Dreadful communication between Owen Williams and Tom Williams from the kick off gave Connacht an attacking 5m scrum. Fortunately for the young backs, Filise was having a stormer, and made a complete mess of the Connacht scrum. Neither team had much success in entering the opponents 22 as a mounting error count saw play concentrated around the half way line.

Owen Williams made great tackle on the Connacht number 8, but then Connacht made a mess of Scott Andrews and only good work from Navidi stopped the danger. Patchy Patchell continued to blow hot and cold and yet another unforced error saw him miss a penalty kick to touch. Connacht now had a chance to attack and tried to string the phases together on Cardiff's 22m line, but they too spilled the ball in contact.

Meanwhile, it was clear that Cuthbert was Cardiff's biggest attacking threat, but they were far too guilty of failing to get the ball to him in space.

With Cardiff looking unlikely to score a try, only an excellent drop kick from Patchell saw them take the lead on 32 minutes. There was little penetration from the back line and to be honest, he was wise to take the three on offer.

But, totally predictable, yet more poor coordination at the kick off saw Paolo completely miss the catch. It seems so obvious that Cardiff will follow up a points score with an unforced error, it makes you wonder what the players are thinking. Rees really should have been giving his players a bollocking. Concentrate! You made idiots!!

More poor kick execution from Brynmour's elder son, but at least there was finally a better chase from the back line. But with no width from the turnover, there was no penetration and Cuthbert's level of frustration was rising.

Patchell collected a loose kick in his 22 and decided to run it out. Feading Lloyd, the scrum half showed great pace and suddenly Cuthbert was finally getting the ball in space. He fed Harry Robinson and again Tom Williams lost the ball in contact.

Poor execution at the lineout yet again gifted the ball to Connacht in Cardiff’s 22. And once more the home team were grateful to Felise who's work in the scrum at loose head ruined the timing of the Connacht back line. By way of contract, Scott Andrews was spening far too much time on his belly.

Then right on half time, Lloyd Williams was penalised with a gift to Connacht of three points for a crooked feed. That the half ended on an error summed things up nicely. Claudio should have given a free kick to Connacht, but with Parks finally on form, they went to half time a point in the lead.

A new half, so a new start - right? No. Sure enough, the second half started with an error as Connacht failed to catch the kick off.

Andrews was now in dreadful trouble, but somehow won a scrum penalty. Despite favouring the rolling maul, there was still a lack of real aggression from the home side. Lots of kicking was bad enough, lots of poor kicking was worse. No kick chase of any note compounded the mediocrity. Tom Williams hoofed the ball directly to touch just to underline the point. Collectively, Cardiff were unable to string more than half a dozen phases together. Panic set in and poor kicking followed.

Patchell missed yet another touch from a penalty as only Claudio's left arm seemed to be keeping them in the game. They simply weren’t playing with their heads up and looking for gaps – they looked like they were going through the motions. A dreadful pass from Dafydd Hewitt and yet again an unforced error put a halt to the attack.

Gavin Evans, Bourrust and Cook came on on 50 minutes as Tulip tried to freshen things. The Frenchman made an immediate impact as he won a penalty from his first scrum. With 52 minutes gone, Patchell put Cardiff back into the lead by two points. This was an arm wrestle - an arm wrestle between two teams with not very big arms.

An error-free kick off (at last!) was a welcome novelty as Cardiff tried to exert some sort of concerted pressure. Rees persisted with the driving maul and only another poor pass from Lloyd Williams and poor angle of running from his brawd mid-field completely messed up an overlap. Cuthbert was now at the centre of all the threats in the back line as he hungrily set about looking for work. Then Harry Robinson coughed up the ball in yet another unfored error.

With the home side finally stringing some phases together, could they break through and find the try line? Unfortunately, Claudio penalised Cuthbert for going in at the side at a ruck when he was clearing out a defender. It was a pretty harsh decision, but a crucial one for Connacht. But once more Parks fluffed the chance to arrest the decline.

Standards were poor. Kicking was aimless, chasing lackadaisical and confidence at a premium. "The hoof" was all too often the prefered option. Lou Reed came on at the hour for Bradley. In an effort to shore up the scrum, Pat Lam brought Rodney Ah You (if only his name was William) but it didn't seem to make much difference. Connacht were still in trouble. Ah Yu was penalised and Patchell missed another in the battle of the poor kickers.

Too often a lack of composure from the pack as a whole saw possession coughed up near the Connacht line. Even then Cardff were lucky with Rees benefiting from clear obstruction. No matter, with Connacht diving off their feet at an ensuing ruck, Patchell finally took his chance and suddenly Cardiff had a five point lead.

Thanks to Claudio, there was a huge penalty count in favour of Cardiff ... 14-4 after 67minutes.

If the rain had finally stopped, the error count hadn’t. BBC Wales seems loathed to share this information with the viewer for fear of more people reaching for the remote. With Tom Williams nursing a hamstring injury, Gareth Davies came in at 10 and Patchell moved to full back. Ah You meanwhile, was still spending most of his time on his belly at the scrum as the penalty count soured.

Yet another penalty for offside, and Patchell extended the lead to eight.

Old habits die hard, and from the ensuing kick off, Cardiff yet again failed to take a clean catch. When the basics are beyond so may players, you have to feel sympathy for the coach.

Finally, the ref had enough and Ah You saw yellow for not beinding correctly. That proved to be the final nail in the coffin for Connacht.

Owen Williams still looked a handful and a high tackle led to another three points for Patchell. Williams’ ability to offload in the tackle will surely start to reap rewards when his team mates work out how to play off his skills.

Phil Davies has a young squad with which to work, but when they fail to do the simple things well, he's got his work cut out. Mentally, they still look frail and prone to panic in the red zone and until he cures that problem, they simply won't be able to convert pressure into tries.

15
Tom Williams
4
/10
Looks like a decent footballer, but too lightweight for professional rugby. Will he have the same turn of speed when he puts on another 10kg of muscle?
14
Alex Cuthbert
8
/10
Clearly a class above this level. Looks out of place.
13
Owen Williams
6
/10
Plenty of potential on show with a neat ability to pass the ball out of contact. He looks like a real handful for defenders, but he's another who can't kick a rugby ball.
12
Dafydd Hewitt
4
/10
Looked like he met Patchell in the changing rooms before the game. On a different wavelength.
11
Harry Robinson
2
/10
An accident waiting to happen.
10
Rhys Patchell
6
/10
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
9
Lloyd Williams
5
/10
Sloppy stuff from Lloyd. He's still fresh faced, but far more experienced than those around him. He really needs to dictate more and show some leadership.
8
Robin Copeland
3
/10
Started well, then disappeared.
7
Josh Navidi
4
/10
Another of the lightweights. Works hard, but there's no power game at all. Against only mildly stronger opposition than Connacht, he won't get a look in.
6
Andries Pretorius
5
/10
Carried the ball well, but was badly at fault for the Connacht try.
5
Filo Paulo
2
/10
Nice jersey.
4
Bradley Davies
4
/10
Not too much impact.
3
Scott Andrews
3
/10
An accident happened.
2
Matthew Rees
4
/10
Basic skill levels are poor and as captain, he's setting the tone for the side. Lineout throws are poor, no pace into contact when carrying the ball and little leadership skills on show at those dreadful kick offs.
1
Taufa'ao Filise
8
/10
A bit of a step back in time with this performance. Carried the ball well and made a complete mess of his opposite number.