Toulon

k.o. time: 3:40 pm

11 January, 2014

Stade Allianz Riviera

Spectators: 31,170

Cardiff Blues
referee
Greg Garner
1
/10
Like a lovestruck teenager when faced with the Toulon team. Dreadful.
weather
Dry, warm and sunny.
worth annoying the wife factor
6
/10
our man of the match
Ellis Jenkins
scorers
Filo Paulo (1)
Sam Hobbs (1)
Leigh Halfpenny (2)
Leigh Halfpenny (2)
our choice for next week

vs Exeter

k.o. time: 3:40 pm

18 January, 2014

Cardiff Arms Park

15
Leigh Halfpenny
14
Alex Cuthbert
13
Richard Smith
12
Dafydd Hewitt
11
Harry Robinson
10
Gareth Davies
9
Lewis Jones
8
Andries Pretorius
7
Sam Warburton
6
Ellis Jenkins
5
Filo Paulo
4
Robin Copeland
3
Benoit Bourrust
2
Rhys Williams
1
Sam Hobbs

So Toulon and Laporte were paying attention after all and they fought their desire to run around the opposition in preference of running through them. The bigger ball carriers were used far better than they were in Cardiff, the pick and drive was to the fore and the obvious superiority in the scrum was the driving force in the difference between the two teams. For forty minutes, Cardiff were able to live with them but the huge difference in class and ability was shown in a short blast after the break.

Before we go into the match report, it is vital that we mention the referee Mr Greg Garner, a 33 year old who is aligned to the RFU but supposedly lives in Cardiff. Yes, that’s right, Cardiff. However, the way he refereed the game suggested that his residence was the Home Team dressing room at Sardis Road such was his zealous approach in penalising anything that Cardiff vaguely did incorrectly, let alone any law contraventions.

We need to mention Mr Garner not because he was the difference between the teams or that he in any way affected the result, but simply because Cardiff were always up against it because of his interpretations. It wouldn’t have come as a surprise to learn that Garner had collected the autographs of the Toulon team in order to complete his Panini Rugby World Cup 1999 sticker book collection.

It’s also worth noting that he has form.

It was vital for Cardiff to start the game well in order to be competitive and to knock the confidence out of Toulon. To that extent, the kick off allowed Rudi Wolf to run the ball back and to beat three tacklers (or, more to the point, tackle attempts) before feeding the ball inside to oncoming runners. Toulon were on the front foot and so was Garner as he soon penalised Navidi at the first breakdown for holding on in the tackle. The replay clearly showed that Navidi had let the tackled player go before competing for the ball, meaning that the penalty should have been Cardiff’s, but this was to be typical of the 30/70 calls that Garner always made to Toulon. In other words, this wasn’t even close and Garner made the wrong call.

It wasn’t to stop there, however. Next Garner penalised Bourrust for boring in at the only scrum in the game in which he had tried to go in straight. And then, after more woeful Cardiff defence in which Dicomidis was cruelly exposed by Giteau (think about that for a minute, Chris Dicomidis is on the same pitch as Matt Giteau), Garner yellow carded Czekaj for what can only be described as a rugby league offence. The crowd had whistled and jeered for a yellow card based on what they thought was a high tackle, Czekaj even apologised to Smith for the tackle, but Garner had penalised him for ripping the ball on the floor in the tackle. It was clear, as it was only the two of them involved, that Czekaj had made the rip before as part of the tackle and well before the players hit the floor.

In no time at all, it was Garner 2, Wilkinson 2, Toulon 6 and Cardiff down to 14.

It was then soon 6 all and then back to 12-6 as Garner flip flopped to some kind of attempt at equilibrium whilst he tried to control his excitement and urge to gain more autographs from the Toulon team. In fact, we wondered if he had brought on his mobile with him so that he could get a couple of selfies during an injury break.

In Garner’s defence, he was only as far out of his depth as was Dicomidis who seemed to enjoy tackling the jump supporter at line outs, only to be constantly penalised for it, only to do his surprised face at Garner each time he did it.

The farce then accelerated as Cardiff did something very rare for them - they scored a try. The attacking play of Cardiff had been so blunt and yawningly slow that Toulon were taken aback by a piece of tremendous footballing skill up the left touchline. This wasn’t JJ Williams in his pomp or even Hadrian Adley, but instead it was Filo Paulo putting in a grubber kick that caught Toulon unaware. An attempted clearance kick was charged down and fell nicely for Copeland on the hoof who fed Paulo to finish off his work with the score. The try was an inch in from the touchline, but that made no difference to Halfpenny as he made the conversion look easy.

Bloody hell, Cardiff were winning. This wasn’t right at all. And so it came to pass that Garner spotted Dicomidis doing another one of his “tackling the wrong bloke at the line out” tricks and so Cardiff were 15-13 down at half time.

Then came the avalanche.

The second half started with Halfpenny dropping a simple pass in his 22 to allow Toulon at attacking scrum. The power from the Toulon scrum saw Bourrust sin binned, after being warned, and then a penalty try awarded from the subsequent as 8 v 7 lead to a no contest. It was now 22-13.

Next, Breeze overthrew a line out and Toulon were on the attack again. Another penalty, another kick to the corner, another driving maul but this time it was Jenkins penalised for pulling it down and it was another penalty try. 29-13.

There were enough gaps in the Cardiff defence, mostly up the middle to be fair, in the first half when they had 15 on the pitch but now they had only 13 and the game resembled Teachers vs Pupils in a school match. It wasn’t long before Halfpenny put in the most passive of tackles to allow Smith to score in the corner. 36-13. Twenty one points had been scored in the blink of two yellow cards and now the game was over.

The question was to be how long until Toulon scored their bonus point try but, to the eternal credit of the Cardiff team, they held out for that until the final play. There is a real team spirit and guts in this side so that they never give up. It’s just a real shame that they don’t have the talent to match their effort.


That noted, Cardiff did score next on 70 minutes from a driving line out. They had put Toulon under great pressure and had won a number of ruck penalties in the lead up to the try. Hobbs, now on as Captain instead of one legged Gethin Jenkins, had even asked Garner as to why Toulon hadn’t been shown a yellow card, but it fell on deaf ears. This was the one passage of play which wrote large as to why Cardiff were never given a fair shot at the game as there were at least two fair offences which should have seen Toulon down a man or two.

From one such penalty Cardiff went into the corner and managed to rumble over for a score for Hobbs which Halfpenny converted. Now, had Toulon rightly been down a man or two at this stage then Cardiff might have been able, a la Glasgow earlier in the Group Stage, to go for a bonus point but that wasn’t to be. Instead, Toulon upped their efforts for that bonus point try and were rightly awarded it via another penalty try. This one came from another 8 v 7 scrum after Copeland had been an idiot at a ruck under his own posts.

There were three huge gulfs between these two sides:

Quality - the difference in ability of the players was enormous and Toulon were men against boys at times, in terms of individual skill.

And so it is on to the game against Exeter next week. Win that and they are in the Amlin and their effort alone deserves that.

15
Leigh Halfpenny
3
/10
It was his knock on in the 22 that led to the second half onslaught and that was pretty representative, bar his goal kicking, of his approach to the game. His line kicking was poor, he had little interest in running the ball back and his tackle on Smith was very passive and helped the try being scored.
14
Alex Cuthbert
4
/10
He rarely ventured off his wing to look for the ball as he had done in previous games, rarely took the responsibility of ball carrying and seemed content to wait out wide until it came to him. As the team’s best ball carrier, more is needed from him.
13
Richard Smith
5
/10
A player of significantly less ability than his opponents but he made life as difficult as he could for them with a really gutsy performance in defence. When he had the ball he again looked to make a run for space but he doesn’t get any good service at all.
12
Gavin Evans
3
/10
He’s clearly more comfortable at inside centre where his defensive awareness is better and he gave it a real go when tackling Bastereud head on. With the ball, however, he offers nothing.
11
Chris Czekaj
1
/10
Unfortunately, this was a yardstick in Czekaj’s career and it showed that his time at Cardiff must be coming to an end. From the first minute where he missed his first up tackle, to (harshly, we feel) being sin binned for ripping the ball on the floor, to punting the ball into touch on the full, it didn’t go well.
10
Gareth Davies
4
/10
Cardiff did enjoy some spells with the ball but the attacking alignment always made it so easy to defend against and, in that regard, Davies is struggling to set free his centres or to pick the correct runners. It looks like the scrum half runs the back line and that is doing Davies no favours.
9
Lloyd Williams
1
/10
This was back to his truly horrific displays of 2013 whereby he box kicked so abysmally and had no clue as to what to do with the ball at the base of a ruck. Williams has no concept of how to put pace on the ball or how to choose the best runner. He simply sets up players to be smashed. It’s a car crash.
8
Robin Copeland
5
/10
He’ll get the headlines, as ever, for some pretty ball carrying out wide and for following up well to help with the Paulo try. Copeland plays as Copeland does, which isn’t necessarily how we want our 8 to play but that’s not his fault. His inability to win a gain line in defence, however, is a real problem. He’s the anti-McIntosh number 8.
7
Josh Navidi
5
/10
Navidi did little wrong, despite Garner’s best efforts, in the ten minutes he was on but his injury did allow the excellent Jenkins to have 70 minutes against one of the best packs in Europe. Jenkins was a menace to Toulon, a stealer, a link man and a carrier, to show that he has the ability to play at this level but needs an extra stone on his frame. He paid the price for a collective inability to maul with a yellow card but so be it.
6
Macauley Cook
4
/10
A lock, definitely a lock. Not quite the new Tony Rees but that’s the player he could become with some good guidance and the correct gym work. He’s out of his depth at this level but he is young enough to learn from this.
5
Filo Paulo
4
/10
His footballing ability was to the fore in his kick up the touchline that led to the first Cardiff try but he is supposed to be a physical player to add bulk to the boiler house. However, he doesn’t carry, he doesn’t smash players in the tackle, he doesn’t control the advantage and he clearly can’t scrummage.
4
Chris Dicomidis
1
/10
A step too far. Just ineffective.
3
Benoit Bourrust
2
/10
It’s tough to judge him poorly because he was always the focal point of the huge difference in scrummaging power, but he couldn’t find a way to sort it out other than to get a yellow card.
2
Marc Breeze
1
/10
Sadly, like Czekaj, Dicomidis and Lloyd Williams, this was a man greatly out of his depth to the point of embarrassment. His line out throwing was poor, his carrying ineffective and his scrummaging non-existent. It’s not his fault, of course, but his skill set has no place in the professional game.
1
Gethin Jenkins
3
/10
His game ended on one leg at half time but we do question whether he started the game in that state. A very odd signing for this season and, it seems, a complete waste of money.