Glasgow

k.o. time: 8:00 pm

13 December, 2013

Scotstoun

Spectators: 5,429

Cardiff Blues
referee
Pascal Gauzere
2
/10
A very odd performance in many ways. He didn't make the decision to not allow the Glasgow score, his TMO did, but he could easily have given a penalty try minutes before at scrum time.
weather
squally and Scottish
worth annoying the wife factor
2
/10
our man of the match
Rory Watts-Jones
scorers
Rhys Patchell (1)
Leigh Halfpenny (2)
our choice for next week

vs Ospreys

k.o. time: 7:05 pm

20 December, 2013

Cardiff Arms Park

15
Leigh Halfpenny
14
Alex Cuthbert
13
Owen Williams
12
Rhys Patchell
11
Harry Robinson
10
Gareth Davies
9
Lloyd Williams
8
Robin Copeland
7
Rory Watts-Jones
6
Sam Warburton
5
Filo Paulo
4
Chris Dicomidis
3
Benoit Bourrust
2
Kristian Dacey
1
Taufa'ao Filise

They say that lightening doesn’t strike twice. They say that the definition of stupidity is doing the same thing twice but expecting a different result the second time. It seems that Gregor Townsend is unaware of either of those sayings as he coached his team to the equivalent of HEC suicide for the second time in two weeks. It’s all well and good having principles on how the game should be played but only if those principles actually work and, in that regard, both Townsend and our own Phil Davies are as bad as each other.

If you see the Glasgow coaching team as extremely amateur then you can almost excuse the performance last week at the Arms Park. It looked like they had never seen Cardiff play before, that none of them have Sky+ and none had even noticed how Exeter and Munster had dismantled them. However, when you then see your own team walk through the middle of Cardiff with ease (as though Cardiff’s ruck defence is coached by Moses) and yet you still decide to tell them to chuck it about, you have to believed that they are not amateur but completely incompetent.

So we settled down to watch a home team with an obvious up front and physical advantage, take on a team of enthusiastic lightweights, on a rain sodden pitch with a French referee. Of course, this was going to be Glasgow getting revenge and smashing the soft underbelly of Cardiff. Instead, we got a lesson (a second lesson) in utter stupidity from the home team.

From the start of the game is was as apparent as it was last week that Glasgow had a huge advantage up front. Their scrum was dominant, they could win the contact area with ease when they flooded it and they played into the strong wind in the first half. So you’d think that they’d keep in tight, yes? No.

Instead, they played around their Fijian scrum half who crabbed across the pitch inviting runners on to passes which most of them dropped. Cardiff spent most of the first half just waiting for Glasgow to cock it up and they never had to wait long.

With a wind at his back, Patchell opened the scoring with a 60m+ penalty (if you believe the pitch to be 100m long, which looks unlikely) and soon more Glasgow stupidity allowed Halfpenny an easier chance, which he missed. It’s ok, though, as it wouldn’t be long before they gifted him another chance and he doesn’t miss twice.

There had been no rugby played other than a series of mistakes and yet the visitors were 6-0 up after the first quarter. Meanwhile, Glasgow tried to play champagne running rugby into the teeth of a gale and, of course, kept dropping the ball.

The second quarter was where Glasgow finally managed to get a territorial foothold and began to play to their strengths, but only a little. The scrum was winning them territory and putting pressure on the Cardiff 8. The number of tackles the visitors needed to make was increasing and the penalties were totting up. Soon, Hobbs was in the bin after the second or third time he was penalised at scrum time.

Now, it was 8v7 upfront. Not even Glasgow would go wide now, surely? Runners were brought in close and they were now catching the ball, penalties awarded were taken as scrums. From one such series you would have expected the home team to be awarded the penalty try but our French friend in the middle was having none of that.

And then, finally, the Fijian scrum half realised (after 120 minutes) that there was a huge hole for him to run into at every ruck. He finally worked out that the way to the try line was through one up runners and keeping it close. He finally saw his moment of glory and he was over for a simple, simple try that would have given Glasgow the lead but for one small issue – a chap called Rob Harley had rucked Patchell so far off the ball that he had created the gap that Matawalu had jogged through. Some cried foul at the obstruction call that was made by the TMO and it’s often the fact that away teams don’t get those calls, but Harley did hit a ruck at the side and completely take out a player well off the ball. It was a 50/50 call and Cardiff got the luck.

That was compounded luck, however, as previously to that the Kiwi-Lion Maitland had dropped the ball with the line at his mercy. It was an easy try to score yet he fumbled the ball. Hogg was guilty of passing the ball into touch, others just couldn’t catch at all.

This was so bad from Glasgow that we thought that Gerald Cordle was coaching their back line.

This was on the stroke of half time so now we thought that Townsend would take the hint and use half time to get his team to keep it far closer to the breakdown in the second half. Use the wind, drive the line outs, create penalties from the scrums, up the tackle count they have to make etc.

Instead, out came the Glasgow Globetrotters to try it all over again in the second half. Wide, wide, wide, as though Townsend was possessed by the ghost of some Turk coach from the sixties, was how they played. All the while, Cardiff’s pack was tackling all it could, it’s line speed was good and the backline did their bit. This was backs to the wall stuff for the visitors but they almost seemed more comfortable doing that than trying to keep hold of the ball themselves.

This was probably because, despite their real effort and commitment, with each ball carry saw ground lost. Dacey was prominent in this kind of kamikaze ball carrying that sees him off a standing start run into a much bigger man and get driven backwards. Time after time he did it, but he wasn’t alone in facing that kind of physical defeat. Phil Davies has created a vegan pack to take on carnivores, it’s almost cruelty in the work place.

Finally, the pressure of constantly losing the contact area and of a scrum in serious decline began to pay. Glasgow were on the front foot for most of the second half but it took them until the final 10 minutes or so to score. Before that we had seen penalties exchanged between Halfpenny and Jackson to make it 9-3 to Cardiff. Oh, hang on, no we hadn’t seen that as Glasgow’s kicking was worse than their handling. It was still 9-0.

And then Townsend replaced Matawalu with Cusiter and Glasgow looked like a proper team. A series of one up drives instigated by Cusiter allowed Ryan Grant to take a short pass to score under the posts. We were now 150 minutes into this contest over two weeks and Glasgow had finally worked it out.

This set up an “exciting” (and anything could be considered exciting compared with the bore fest of errors which had preceded it) finale that we knew would be settled by the referee and, as sure as eggs are eggs, he gave Glasgow another shot at goal. And, as sure as eggs are eggs, Weir missed the kick.

This was undoubtedly a battle between two poor teams to prove the other team to be the better of the two and Glasgow won. By God, they were poor. Our bois stuck in there when many would have folded so good on them for that, but better teams would have smashed these pair by 50 points.

We shouldn’t forget, however, that whilst the two victories were orchestrated by Glasgow’s stupidity, both games were played with the following players missing:

Owen Williams, Cory Allen, Gethin Jenkins, Matthew Rees, Scott Andrews, Lou Reed, Bradley Davies, Sam Warburton, Josh Navidi

15
Leigh Halfpenny
7
/10
He’s such a fine player that he can get by at this level without really pushing himself, but there were signs of real interest in this game in terms of defence and a willingness to run with the ball. His goal kicking is valuable but young Mr Patchell has his eyes on that prize once Halfpenny is off.
14
Alex Cuthbert
6
/10
A little less involved this week as the game was less fluent. Cardiff really do need to work out how to use him far more often in midfield, however, in the way that Mike Rayer used to be. He’s keen to be involved but they just can’t get the ball to him.
13
Richard Smith
6
/10
This was a really solid and busy performance where he isn’t physically intimidated by his opposition, so he really does get stuck in. A couple of diagonal dancing runs, but this wasn’t the day for ball in hand stuff.
12
Rhys Patchell
8
/10
This guy has it all from a huge turn of pace, a 60m penalty kicking boot, a huge punt and a real love to clear out and protect ball carriers. For a man with so little experience of playing centre, he certainly knew how to protect his team’s possession, proving that it is not just the pretty stuff that he is interested in.
11
Harry Robinson
4
/10
A little underused with the ball in hand and a little like a scared rabbit with it. There’s something not quite right there as he’s not kicking on as much as his talent allows.
10
Gareth Davies
6
/10
This was a comfortable, if not outstanding, performance of decision making and keeping it simple. With the conditions as they were then it was just what was needed if, perhaps, more could have been made of the wind in the first half.
9
Lloyd Williams
5
/10
He’s improving, but from a very, very low base, but there really is more that can be done. He is now of the age and experience to be grasping a game and controlling it but, in that regard, he has been given a lesson from his opposite number over the last two weeks.
8
Robin Copeland
7
/10
The nu-Owain Williams gave a typical Williams-esque performance of doing lots of headline grabbing antics but can’t quite be found doing the stuff that made Xavier Rush so bloody useful. Still, when you’re playing a team content to chuck it around then having a handling 8 like Copeland is useful.
7
Rory Watts-Jones
8
/10
We say “Bloody hell, Rory, what’s happened to you?” You’re playing like a man possessed and, boy, you are pretty good at it. This was an openside performance which belonged more to the 1990s than to modern rugby but there is something a little Tim Crothers about Watts-Jones. This guy is not the most talented but he sticks his head in where it hurts.
6
Macauley Cook
5
/10
We’re not convinced by him as a 6 but he’s too short for a 5 and not bulky enough for a 4. Like the best of the Academy graduates, however, he’s technically very sound. He needs to work on his ball carrying and offensive tackling, and he should start by eating a lot.
5
Filo Paulo
3
/10
This signing was heralded as the lump needed in the second row but we can’t see what he brings to the scrum, to ball carrying, to mauling, or to much of anything else, really. He certainly is no CQ.
4
Chris Dicomidis
5
/10
As expected, you really cannot knock the vigour which this man plays with or how he throws everything into his game. He’s not the most talented, or the biggest, or the most technically correct but he is presently getting by on energy and effort.
3
Taufa'ao Filise
6
/10
This guy is the only ball carrier in the team who can break a tackle and get over the gain line. Copeland will dance around a tackler, Dacey will just get tackled, but this septuagenarian is the only hope they have. He really is doing a remarkable job at the moment.
2
Kristian Dacey
7
/10
It’s really hard to fairly judge Dacey because he runs his body into the ground for the cause. The number of ball carries he made was 9 according to the ESPN stats* but it seemed far more than that. Add in the 13 tackles and you’ll see the effort. But he made 9 carries for 4 metres gained, which says it all. He is seriously underpowered for this level of rugby. Get him on the Hibbard diet.
1
Sam Hobbs
2
/10
Not only did he receive a yellow card, but he didn’t really do anything else positive either. A little more consistency is needed from Mr Hobbs and we don’t mean in how often he is penalised.