Cardiff Blues

k.o. time: 7:30 pm

14 November, 2014

Cardiff Arms Park

Spectators: 6,284

Sean Bricknell
Ellis Jenkins (1)
Simon Humberstone (1)
Will Thomas (1)
Simon Humberstone (3)

Well, that was fun. It was pretty refreshing to see two teams wanting to show off their skillsets and talents, mostly aided by a referee who (bar a couple of glaring errors) allowed the game to flow. The weird thing about the game was that the players were mostly seemingly still in school, with each team allowed a teacher or two in its ranks to offer something of a physical threat.

McCusker was the Turk Teacher and he should be a shining example to his young team mates of how to put meat on a frame. The Turks turned up with a number of players who look like, once they’ve progressed beyond powdered milk onto solid food, they could become very tidy players. It was a characteristic of both teams that they youngsters looked well coached in how to play the game, proof indeed that the Academy programme is working well.

However, the warning to those youngsters came from Ellis Jenkins. He was head and shoulders above any other player on the pitch in terms of physicality and technique, yet he has been underused by the first team in the past two seasons and does seem small at the top end. He may be the evidence to suggest that most pro rugby players won’t make it as top class forwards until well into their early twenties because of the time it needs to physically progress before being able to compete at the top end.

The Cardiff back line resembled a series of rejections from a One Direction tribute band audition, augmented by a half back pairing of two players desperate to keep hold of their contract. Knoyle is an odd player, willing in effort but lacking in class. He should be perfect for a coach like Paul John, a wise old scrum half in his day, as Knoyle has the physical presence that John never did. Sadly, however, Knoyle has no clue as to what to do with it.

Humberstone at ten is clearly a Rob Andrew kind of player who Cardiff are trying to make into something he is not. Humberstone’s passing game is truly dreadful, labored and often inaccurate. He is slow with the ball in hand, he looks uncomfortable whilst distributing it, but if you allow him to take control with his kicking game then he looks a totally different player. He’s a very Andy Goode-esque round peg trying to be forced into a square hole and it seems unfair.

The first half of the game was unspectacular but full of effort and vigour from both sides. The passing was crisp, the running angles were pretty, but neither team had the grunt to break the well organised defensive lines. Cardiff looked to have scored a try at the Taff end but the well placed Referee instead awarded a penalty for a double movement. He was later to repeat the same action when a Llanelli player wriggled over the line.

As the point of these games is to expose the younger players to senior rugby, it is difficult to rate the game in the way that first team rugby is normally judged. We look for standout contributions, for players who look like they could make the first team jump and we look for the “senior” players to lead the team and to perform.

Sadly, bar Ellis Jenkins, there was a lot of mediocrity. The pairing of Smith and Summerhill in the centres simply doesn’t work as neither offers a physical thread. Indeed, Smith was often bumped in the tackle and looked physically unprepared even for this level. Summerhill looks a balanced runner but much more is needed at the top level.

Up front, the organization was good and the mauling better, but you would expect Dicomidis to shine through as a ball carrier and leader. Sadly, this was not apparent. What was also lacking was the reason why Jevon Groves returned to the club as his XVs ability is in inverted proportion to his desire to play 7s. Watts-Jones was evident but he is not a number 8.

All of the above means that we must use a yardstick to judge these players and that yardstick clearly is the play of Ellis Jenkins. He was the stand out player, he was the Captain on the pitch and played like a leader. He scored a well worked second half Cardiff try on the blind side in front of the Clubhouse and he was at the centre of everything. Yet, of course, he’s rarely played in the first team. The issue for us is that we’d prefer to see Ellis Jenkins instead of Sam Warburton in the first team as Jenkins will only improve with exposure to that rugby and, whilst today not being at the level Warburton CAN perform at, he could be within no time at all.

As for the other youngsters in the team, the message would be to put some weight on. They are technically very good but a long, long way from being ready for first team rugby.

Dan Fish
Tom Williams
Aled Summerhill
Garyn Smith
Owen Jenkins
Simon Humberstone
Tavis Knoyle
Rory Watts-Jones
Ellis Jenkins
Jevon Groves
Chris Dicomidis
Miles Normandale
Taufa'ao Filise
Rhys Williams
Tom Davies