Cardiff

29 March, 2014

Cardiff Arms Park

Spectators: 7,084

Ulster
referee
Marius Mitrea
5
/10
All over the shop. Ultra-home at one moment, awol the next. So much experience, and so much inconsistency. It really is difficult to fathom. Maybe someone had a word at half time, because suddenly the avalanche of penalties started to flow in the opposite direction. Either that, or he can only raise his right arm above his shoulder.
weather
Dry
worth annoying the wife factor
4
/10
our man of the match
Gethin Jenkins
general comment

Plenty of endeavour

scorers
Robin Copeland (1)
Gareth Davies (1)
Gareth Davies (7)

This was some victory for Cardiff in the midst of a miserable season where they are in danger of finishing last amongst the four Welsh pro-teams. They squeezed out a victory in the last game of the season through a mixture of obdurate determinate compounded with a poor performance from Ulster who seemed to think all they had to do was turn up to win.

Some good continuity with Copeland's handling skills the fore as Cardiff battered their way into the Ulster half. But it was Ulster who took the lead through centre Darren Cave who exposed some pretty shoddy tackling from Dan Fish in the Cardiff back line. Jackson missed the conversion, but Ulster tails were up after a bright start to the game.

Industrious, but lacking in control, the home side continued to take the battle to the Ulstermen with limited success. By way of contrast, the away team opted for a more controlled approach and were happy to bide their time - waiting for gaps to emerge and not forcing the issue.

Ulster pressed hard at a well-contructed scrum, but gutsy defence held out. Bowe's clever kick to the corner, but poor discipline from Ulster helped the home side clear their lines. More sloppiness from Ulster at the line out and the early precision was slipping out of their game.

Lacking a presence that could straighten the line, far too many of Cardiff's attacks ended up crabbing across the pitch, with Gareth Davies particularly guilty of not committing defenders and not running straight. Still, it was the outside half who had Cardiff's first shot at goal and the home team reduced the deficit to 2 points as the quarter of an hour mark approached.

More aimless kicking from both sides and the Jared Payne hoofed the ball directly to touch. Then Payne made up for his error with a nice break following a grubber kick from Gareth Davies.

Ulster's tactic of peppering Cuthbert with a variety of kicks wasn't really yielding too much success, but they seemed intent on preservering with it.

More good work from a driving line out was again undone as Gareth Davies continued to crab across the pitch. The ref was by now getting tired of Ulster tacklers refusing to roll away from the tackler and slowing the game down. From yet another penalty, Gareth Davies put his side ahead for the first time in the game as Cardiff took a 6-5 lead on the 25 minute mark.

Navidi made a forceful break, but more ill directed kicking blighted the performance of both sides. Tuohy eventual felt the ref's wrath with a particularly dumb piece of play at the tackle - flipping the ball off the floor with his hand and he took a rest for 10 minutes. Gareth Davies had another fairly straight forward three points and Ulster were their own worst enemies. They looked as if they'd expected to win this game fairly easily and were shocked to find that although their hosts may be near the foot of the table, they still had plenty of determination about them.

Cardiff's maul was now on top and their enjoyed a particularly fruitful rumble right through the increasingly fragmented Ulster pack. Now the penalties were raining like a wet night in Belfast and the momentum was all with the home team. Jenkins eschewed the chance to ram home the advantage with the opposition a player short, but Davies successfully converted his fourth penalty of the game.

A fairly aimless high kick from Ulster saw Fish spill the ball in the tackle (backwards?), but instead of waiting for the obvious knock on, Copeland fed the ball to Cuthbert who sped off down the tough line. Deftly flipping the ball behind his back he returned the ball to Copeland who crossed near the left upright. Cardiff were now well on top and had raced to a 19-5 lead.

And still the penalties kept raining down for the home team. Tuifua seemed to knock the ball forward after a crunching tackle on Wallace, but another terrific kick from Gareth Davies extended the lead still further to 22-5.

Ulster started the second half with a gift from the ref who somehow managed to miss Heany climbing all over Lewis Jones at a defensive scrum. Paddy Jackson converted a simple penalty from under the posts. But there was more. Now it was the home side's turn to feel the wrath of Marius and Ulster closed the gap to 22-11 with another daft penalty.

Trimble made a nice break down the left wing, skipping past the invisible man at full back. But the tide was turning. Nick Williams bulldozed through Navidi and then barely stopped as he brushed off Gareth Davies. Only a despairing tackle from Melon saved the day as the ex-Blues player was just hauled short of the Cardiff posts. And then it was Gethin again making a huge tackle as Ulster were powering towards the Cardiff line.

Then Marshall charged hard and only a desperate tackle from Navidi saved the day as Gareth Davies' defensive weaknesses were again exposed. No matter super-Marius found another penalty for the visitors and the score was 22-14.

Then, straight from the kick off, with Cardiff reaching new heights of lethargy, Trimble raced through gaps as wide as those on the North Terrace. Now it was all one-way traffic with Cardiff missing more tackles than they were making.

Matthew Rees' introduction at the hour mark seemed to lift the pack and with Filise carrying well, another dumb penalty from Ulster (hands in the ruck) gifted Mr Davies another three points. Only Marius knows why that one was only a penalty, whereas an identical offence in the first half was a yellow card.

Exposing Fish's defensive frailties was now an east task for Wallace and sure enough the errors and penalties kept flowing. From yet other lost catch, Wallace again reduced the deficit to eight. 25-17.

Now Cardiff were handing on and shedding penalties to Wallace who took Ulster to within five with another three points. Now the breakdown was becoming a lottery with players having no idea of when the ball was out and what was going on. A strange decision to kick yet another three points, meant that Ulster really couldn't get any momentum going. 25-23 looked good, but surely the option to kick to the corner would have been a better choice?

Then, with time almost up, ironies of ironies, yet again Ulster gave away a dumb penalty - the same penalty that had plagued them all game - failing to roll away after the tackle. Say what you like about the rest of Gareth Davies' game, his goal kicking was excellent and he took the crucial three points to take Cardiff to a 28-23 lead.

15
Dan Fish
2
/10
Another powder puff performance in defence as Fish was all at sea - his defensive frailties exposed far too often for comfort. Weak in contact and fragile under the high ball. He looks like a typical sevens player - agile and athletic, but flakey and physically not cut out for XVs. He also seems to have no right boot - which at one point almost cost Cardiff a try.
14
Alex Cuthbert
5
/10
Industrious always looking for work in the first half. AWOL in the second. Trimble looked by far the better player, even amongst the half-hearted first half performance by Ulster.
13
Cory Allen
3
/10
Tendency to hold onto the ball too much. Strong physical presence in mid field which Ulster struggled to break down. Telegraphed dummies just don't work.
12
Isaia Tuifua
3
/10
Made a few good touches, but linked poorly with Davies.
11
Chris Czekaj
1
/10
Hung around a bit and waited for the ball.
10
Gareth Davies
3
/10
Running hard is good. Running hard across the pitch, isn't. Straight out of the Dan Fish of resilient defending. A wonderful goal kicker.
9
Lewis Jones
8
/10
Bright and sparky - always looking for the gap but a bit too lightweight. Far busier than his opposite number and a continuing threat. Mixed his tactics up well Always a threat. Spark and positive.
8
Robin Copeland
5
/10
What is it with Irish show ponies? When there's a chance to shine, he's all over it, but when there's dirty work to be done, it's a case of, "After you".
7
Josh Navidi
7
/10
Mr 100%
6
Macauley Cook
7
/10
A lot of silent hard-grafting from Cook.
5
Filo Paulo
4
/10
Meh.
4
Lou Reed
3
/10
Would be more effective if he didn't have to carry that tyre around with him.
3
Taufa'ao Filise
6
/10
A few trundles proving there's still life in the old dog yet.
2
Kristian Dacey
5
/10
Busy without being too prominent
1
Gethin Jenkins
8
/10
Led from the front in a very strong defensive performance.