New era tainted

Llanelli 12 Cardiff 16
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The Independent Online
AFTER all the talk of the return of exciting open rugby in the Heineken Welsh League, this game degenerated into an unedifying display of bad temper, which resulted in Mike Hall, the Cardiff centre, having to go to hospital with a compressed fracture of the cheekbone.

The English referee Chris White ended a poor performance by sending off Llanelli's Tony Copsey. He also twice warned and then showed the yellow card to the Cardiff captain, Hemi Taylor.

The Cardiff coach, Gareth Jenkins, said of the fracas in which Hall was injured: "Copsey had to go, for you can't throw a punch as blatantly as that."

This eagerly awaited match started well as Cardiff took a tapped penalty within their own 22 in the first minute to launch an attack. It was the sort of gauntlet Llanelli love to pick up and immediately their forwards began to show some serious fire in the rucks, which had Cardiff conceding a penalty, kicked by Matthew McCarthy. Then a break by Taylor from 40 yards out brought a ruck from which Jonathan Humphreys went over. Adrian Davies converted.

However McCarthy landed another penalty, given when Humphreys tackled Copsey from behind after he had kicked ahead and after half an hour there was nothing in it. Then Llanelli lost Rupert Moon with injured knee ligaments, and two minutes later they lost Craig Quinnell with a leg injury, but unperturbed they regained the advantage with two penalty goals by Moon's replacement, Huw Harries.

By now the game had become disjointed by injuries and infringements and half-time arrived with the props Rhys Jones and Lyndon Mustoe warned for fighting and with Llanelli holding a precarious lead.

Early in the second half, Davies kicked a penalty for Cardiff and it became evident that they had lost their early ambition of playing a running game, as Davies applied himself to tactical kicking.

Another penalty by Davies for offside saw Cardiff snatch back the lead, but by now the game had gone to the dogs with more passion than composure and the two teams became increasingly frenetic. Davies kicked another penalty with 11 minutes to go, leaving Llanelli needing a try to win, but then came the final free-for-all. It mainly involved Ieuan Evans and Hall but Copsey ran in to fell Hall and was sent off.

Llanelli: J Thomas; I Evans, N Boobyer, N Davies, W Proctor; M McCarthy, R Moon (H Harries, 30); R Jones, A Lamerton, S John, P Davies (capt), A Copsey, C Quinnell (J Williams, 32), O Lloyd, P Morris.

Cardiff: S Davies; S Hill, M Hall, M Ring, S Ford; A Davies, A Moore; A Lewis, J Humphreys, L Mustoe, K Stewart, D Jones, M Bennett, H Taylor (capt), V Davies.

Referee: C White (Cheltenham).