Leinster

k.o. time: 7:35 pm

27 September, 2013

RDS Arena

Spectators: 17,180

Cardiff Blues
referee
Marius Mitrea
1
/10
His huge error in not allowing Robinson's try was the perfect example of his talent. He ignored the opportunity to let play go on and then to check with the video ref. He knew better. But, of course, he got it astonishingly wrong.
weather
Dry
worth annoying the wife factor
2
/10
our man of the match
Sam Warburton
scorers
Cory Allen (1)
Alex Cuthbert (1)
Leigh Halfpenny (1)
Rhys Patchell (1)
Leigh Halfpenny (2)
our choice for next week

vs Edinburgh

k.o. time: 2:05 pm

6 October, 2013

Cardiff Arms Park

15
Leigh Halfpenny
14
Alex Cuthbert
13
Owen Williams
12
Cory Allen
11
Harry Robinson
10
Rhys Patchell
9
Alex Walker
8
Robin Copeland
7
Sam Warburton
6
Andries Pretorius
5
Filo Paulo
4
Bradley Davies
3
Benoit Bourrust
2
Matthew Rees
1
Gethin Jenkins

Thank God for Sam Warburton. At more than one point in the game it felt like there were two of him on the pitch (we had to get that one out of the way early, so please excuse us) as he often destroyed a Leinster breakdown with three Lions back row players (Healy, O’Driscoll and O’Brien) and a Show Pony. In fact, Warburton so utterly dominated Heaslip that it became a sideshow to the game: “there’s Heaslip with the ball and, oh, now Warburton has it”. His presence at the breakdown lifted a less than average Cardiff side to a sadly, by modern standards, acceptable defeat in Dublin. It was another Lion, Halfpenny (a man not so aptly named now that the French are throwing big buck contracts at him) who started the scoring by succeeding with his second attempt at goal. His first effort was a bit of a howler by his standards but normal service was soon resumed after that.

And we don’t mean just with Halfpenny’s kicking, but with Cardiff’s gameplan being easily countered by a more than half talented opposition. Cardiff spent the first 10 minutes on the attack with Leinster holding them off by seemingly placing a big hand on the head of the Cardiff team and holding them at arms’ length, whilst the pups of Cardiff rigorously thrashed away without making contact. It was a little bit odd.

Leinster’s “big brother” position was underlined as they scored with nigh on their first opportunity. All it took for them was to maintain the possession and wait for either a flimsy tackle or for the so called defensive system to fall over. It didn’t take long for that to happen, in fact it just took long enough to expose Lloyd Williams.

The rest of the half was more of the same Scrappy Do impression from Cardiff whilst Leinster seemed to spend an age working out how much effort to put in and how to bypass Warburton. Matthew Rees was doing his best for them, however, by leaving mile wide gaps at the edges of breakdowns and feeding them easy kicks at goal.

That the first half margin wasn’t greater was, in no small part, thanks to our friend Jamie Heaslip knocking on whilst in a superb attacking position and for giving away a stupid penalty in front of the posts for a cowardly hit on Pretorious. Furthermore, there was a wonderful moment in the game where he took a flat pass into contact only for Warburton to just take the ball from him. This was extraordinary in its ease.

Leinster use Heaslip often as a carrier and Warburton had this all worked out. He’d either steal the ball as the tackler or, as second man in, just wait for the tackle to be made and then steal the ball. Supposedly Toulon have offered €35,000 a month for Warburton but his performance in the first half should have put another €10,000 a month on to that.

The second half started with a penalty try for Leinster as the referee pre-empted a series of scrum resets by awarding a penalty try early in the sequence. Playing away from home, with 7 men in your scrum against a static 8 of the home team (who had already lost one such scrum on the hook), it shouldn’t come as surprise in modern rugby so there’s little point whining about it. What should be noted, of course, is that Paulo’s yellow card for jumping over a ruck in a manner more akin to a man who had been shot in the back, was schoolboy stupidity. Worse was to follow as Lloyd Williams screwed up a subsequent scrum won against the head (yes, 7 versus 8 and they won the ball) by again passing to a static player. Two stupid errors leading to a penalty try.

Somehow, shortly after that complete shambles, Cardiff scored a try by passing the ball to Cuthbert. Well, shipping the ball to Cuthbert rather than passing it as a back line move (wow, a back line coached move) was falling to pieces (aye, a typical Baber back line coached move) until the ball arrived at a static Cuthbert who proceeded to embarrass Leinster’s defence by running in nigh (or should that be neigh) on unopposed.

It was lucky that Cuthbert had the ball and not Lloyd Williams as the Leinster defenders were so static that they would have confused Williams enough for him to pass them the ball.

Soon after, however, Leinster were on the attack. With each ball carry they made yards regardless of whether it was close to the breakdown or out wide. We saw Healy side stepping Navidi to make yards (!), as a number of phases led to the Leinster winger being held short of the line by a combined effort of Williams, Robinson and Patchell. Their combined ages, it must be remembered, still not being as much as Brand O’Driscoll’s age. Men versus boys was evidence across the pitch.

No more was this in evidence than when Davies chose a defensive 5 metre scrum to replace Sam Hobbs with a loosehead with the physique of a full back. Somehow, God knows how, his presence forced Heaslip to pick up and drive from that scrum and, therefore, allowed Warburton to rob the ball from him again. This is getting embarrassing, Jamie.

A patternless shambles was emerging until Williams and Patchell were given the ball in space with the ability to run from depth. They linked beautifully to attack on turnover ball, Williams brilliantly fed Patchell (who has serious gas), who fed Cuthbert. This was good stuff. Cuthbert couldn’t make it on his own so tried to feed Robinson who was unopposed. That pass was knocked towards his own line by the Leinster defender which the referee took to be a Cardiff knock on.

That was a 7 point decision by the referee and one that he didn’t have to make. The score at this stage was 20-13 and he had just denied Cardiff 7 points. The new protocols allow those kind of situations to run on to allow the try to be scored as the referee can then check such matters with the TMO. Our friend from Italy, however, decided that he knew better. And, to be fair to him, he didn’t. He made a monumental arse of himself.

He compounded his error by blaming the new ALP, Tom Davies, for standing up at the next scrum, just as Davies was bent double and pushing back his tight head. Baffling, just baffling, refereeing.

As play moved on we saw Lloyd Williams make more mistakes in getting charged down and tackling the charger without the ball. Leinster kicked to touch and scored from the subsequent line out. A Cardiff team smashed from a driving line out is not a new sight in rugby but this was way too easy for Leinster. The lack of any kind of bulk in that Cardiff pack is noticeable.

So now, after 65 minutes, it’s 27-13 when it shouldn’t have been. That the scoreboard read that way was because of three stupid errors – one by the ref and two by Lloyd Williams. In his 65 minutes, Williams had already conceded two tries by his own poor efforts yet still he was kept on the pitch. The chap on the bench must have been wondering just how badly Williams had to play before being removed.

At this stage of the match it was obvious that Leinster weren’t very good, weren’t playing very well, had changed half of their team (it seemed) yet were still comfortable. They still could up the tempo whenever they wanted to.

Yet the answer about how poorly Williams had to play was not yet answered. This time he was caught with the ball in possession (nothing new there, then) only for his “supporting” players to be penalised for a ruck penalty. He still stayed on until Leinster scored again.

The beauty of that penalty, however, was that this allowed for another Heaslip charge to allow another Warburton steal from him, but this time the referee didn’t like it (God knows why). From the subsequent penalty, that were now flowing to the home team, there was another catch and drive and another progression towards the line. This time it was the little outside half who ran through a Cuthbert weak tackle to score. This was the bonus point try and it seemed that barely any effort was spent achieving it.

In the meantime, Cardiff had lost James Down to yet another injury. That man is seriously unlucky.

The game ended with Leinster taking the Michael and running everything from their own half. This allowed an easy interception try for Cory Allen, who is a player that will surely be vital for Cardiff’s future. He has the talent and the size required to properly (or at least adequately) replace Roberts.

The pattern and alignment of the Cardiff players, in both attack and defence, was truly horrific throughout the game. After a small number of phases, there seems to be no clue as to who has the responsibility to do what. Lloyd Williams is like a dummy half without the half, Patchell seems to be usurped by Hewitt at first receiver and the idea of running from depth seems to be no more than two paces.

Contrast that with Leinster who had speed of recycling, runners from deep and at angles, options for the ball carrier and directors in the back line who allowed the right decision to be made more often than not.

In defence for Cardiff, it’s even worse. There is no line speed to confront the attacking play and yet there is no bulk on offer to stop the ball carrier on the gain line. Fatties defend outside the skinny players, the half backs appear wherever and the players look at each other with glares of “what are you doing here?”

These problems are clearly because of poor coaching. Baber’s idea of attack seems to be to mirror a table football team – go left, go right, go left, go bloody nowhere. That he is off at the end of the calendar year can only be a blessing in disguise but quite what organisation would have him is a mystery. Powell has been in situ for a good while now as defence coach but his rugby league history leads us to think that he can’t coach a pattern beyond six phases.

Overall, however, Davies has put a team on the pitch which has next to no idea on how to run around an opposition and zero ability to run through the opposition. The model for professional rugby teams is to have physical ball carriers who create the space for the runners to work in. The back line has the runners but the pack has no physical presence. Time after time, Patchell is left to kick the ball away as he has no options to work with. The lateral attacks are tedious, easy to defend against and, most importantly, confidence draining from his own players.

Quite how he gets this bunch of players to overcome that is anybody’s guess. It could be that his damage is already done.

15
Leigh Halfpenny
6
/10
solid in defence, as ever, even if there was a questionable missed tackle for the first Leinster try. There were attempts of attacking play but little room for him to work in. When he had a chance to run back, he kicked the ball dead from his own 10 metre line, indicating a lack of trust in his team to do anything with the ball.
14
Alex Cuthbert
8
/10
effervescent will the ball in hand but not given it often enough, which must make him wonder what is the point. When he got the ball, in no space, he still scored as he embarrassed the Leinster defence one on one (even if he was in touch).
13
Owen Williams
12
Dafydd Hewitt
4
/10
he sums up Cardiff at the moment in that he offers a lot of effort but little of it in the right place and less of it of the required quality. It’s not really his fault as he’s a squad player thrust in to first team duty. He spends far too often at first receiver and his distribution skills are deteriorating.
11
Harry Robinson
6
/10
like Cuthbert and Williams, if you give him the ball then he is lively and a handful for the opposition, but these players need a platform and a pattern to release them and that is not forthcoming in this team.
10
Rhys Patchell
9
Lloyd Williams
1
/10
His mind operates in three segments -> pass left or pass right or box kick. That’s it. It’s like watching Robert Jones in the Rebel Season, it’s that bad. Passing turnover scrum ball to a static player behind his own try line is a perfect example of his lack of mental ability, let alone how he butchered his own defensive line to allow Leinster’s first score. He then gifted them, almost singlehandedly, a second half try.
8
Andries Pretorius
5
/10
like Hewitt, a good honest trier who gives all that he can but is in a key position that requires game leadership and qualities that, sadly, are not in his game. He’s a blindside asked to play 8.
7
Sam Warburton
9
/10
from the moment he took the ball from Heaslip in a tackle, it was as though his season had started. That moment aside, Warburton’s ability shines through in that he seems to do everything properly. It’s not stunning stuff but it is just damn good.
6
Josh Navidi
4
/10
bless him, he needs three stone and a Mohican to get to the required level of nastiness expected of a blindside at this level. You can’t blame his effort but he’s just like a work experience boy expected to run a business.
5
Filo Paulo
5
/10
when you see your big SH imported ball carrier making off loads before contact then you know the coach hasn’t got a bloody clue. That noted, Paulo did put in a shift, did make a number of key tackles and is clearly not here just for the cash, but the negative of the yellow card was costly. He should know that, away from home, you can’t jump over a ruck and lead with the shoulder.
4
Lou Reed
2
/10
too light, too weak, too whatever.
3
Taufa'ao Filise
6
/10
not a bad shift for a man surely now in his forties.
2
Matthew Rees
2
/10
singlehandedly responsible for at least 6 first half Leinster points by being unable to understand what to do at a defensive breakdown, even after all of this time. More is needed from him in this team as he’s making the mistakes that the kids should make, not him.
1
Sam Hobbs
2
/10
See Lou Reed