Cardiff stumbling into crisis

Cardiff 12 Llanelli 30
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The Independent Online
Cardiff's poor start to the season was sent lurching towards calamity by a reconditioned Llanelli who ran five tries past the team whose pre- season spending made them favourites for the top prizes in Wales.

Cardiff took all last season to suffer three defeats and now they've lost three out of the first three and face Harlequins in the opening battle of the Anglo-Welsh League on Wednesday with their composure shattered and their resilience so wretched that Llanelli could have compiled a more ignominious scoreline.

That it should be Llanelli to administer this beating added to the anguish because the Scarlets had also lost their first two games and their coach, Gareth Jenkins, made eight changes from the team beaten by Neath in midweek, bringing in three 19-year-olds. One of them, flanker Hywell Jenkins, scored two of the tries that earned Llanelli a bonus point.

It didn't help Cardiff that they lost their scrum-half Jason Hewlett just before the interval after he launched a haymaking punch at the jaw of Mike Voyle. Not only was it a piece of unforgivable indiscipline, it was a lousy punch and had more chance of connecting with the referee, Derek Bevan, who was standing right behind and had no option but to send him off.

Cardiff's 14 actually assembled a few fleeting periods of hope in the second half but their handling was so jittery and their defence so uncertain they were always scrambling to keep Llanelli out.

Cardiff fans had to think back to the first minutes to remember the only time in the game when they looked accomplished. A movement that rippled across their threequarter line saw Nigel Walker almost through and from the resulting ruck Cardiff earned a penalty that Lee Jarvis put over to give them a lead no one expected to see challenged.

But within minutes Llanelli began to punch deep channels through Cardiff's defence for Wayne Proctor, then Neil Boobyer and then Jenkins to score the first-half tries. Had 19-year-old Stephen Jones been as sure with his goal kicking as he was with the rest of his game, Llanelli would have been a lot more comfortable than 17-3 up at the interval. Although Jarvis kept Cardiff in touch with three second-half penalties there was little to punctuate Llanelli's progress. Jonathan Griffiths set up a splendid movement with an underhand flick that led to Darren Evans scoring the fourth try, and Jenkins scored the fifth just before the end, by which time Ieuan Evans had taken over the goal kicking. He, too, was kind on Cardiff, scoring with only one out of three.

Cardiff: J Davies; S Hill, M Hall, G Jones, N Walker (J Thomas, 72); L Jarvis, J Hewlett; A Lewis (P Booth, 12), J Humphreys, B Fisher, J Wakeford, D Jones, L Jones (R Howley, 40), H Taylor, O Williams.

Llanelli: W Proctor; I Evans, M Wintle, N Boobyer (J Griffiths, 53), G Evans; S Jones (C Davies, 45), R Moon; R Jones, R McBryde, S John, V Cooper, M Voyle, H Jenkins, J Williams (C Wyatt, 65), I Jones.

Referee: D Bevan.