No rhythm in new age

ROBert COLE Cardiff 12 Llanelli 30
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The Independent Online
The new age of professionalism is bringing more than a few problems to Cardiff. As if an annual wage bill of pounds 750,000 is not bad enough, they have a team of highly paid players who are simply not delivering the goods.

This was the third successive defeat for what was supposed to be "the Dream Team" in Welsh rugby. No wonder the fans began to chant "What a waste of money" after Llanelli's fifth try. The Cardiff coach, Terry Holmes, might feel it is open house on both him and his players, but that is now the name of the game. Injuries have played their part in the demise but so, too, has the selection of their squad.

Without three hookers and three scrum-halves to call on, the club will be forced this week to take players on loan to ensure they can field a side against Harlequins on Wednesday night in the Anglo-Welsh tournament. "We are struggling because of injuries and through a loan system that simply isn't working," Holmes said. "With all the injuries we've got, and the sending off of Jason Hewlett, we are in a bit of disarray.

"We've been five yards off the pace in each of our games. We are still very much a new side and we haven't gelled yet. We were well beaten again. We have lost crucial players in crucial positions and we are lacking in rhythm."

Llanelli, who had lost their two opening matches and were in similar disarray, showed no mercy as they endeavoured to make up for the shame of having lost 65-13 at the Arms Park on the final day of last season. Three first-half tries and two in the second spell more than made amends for that day, and it put Llanelli's season back on track.

The new recruits Mike Voyle and Hywel Jenkins were terrific up front, but it was the rejuvenated Rupert Moon who was the inspiration. How Cardiff must have wished they had a catalyst in their side like Moon. Instead, they looked like a team without a general and without a strategy.

The sending-off of the scrum-half Hewlett a minute before half-time added to Cardiff's problems, but by then the visitors had run in three tries and were preparing to change ends with a 17-3 lead. The international referee Derek Bevan had issued a yellow-card warning to all 30 players 10 minutes before Hewlett lashed out at a player who was holding his jersey at a ruck. That punch cost him the second half and his side any chance of a revival.

Cardiff: Penalties Jarvis 4. Llanelli: Tries Jenkins 2, Proctor, Boobyer, G Evans; Conversion S Jones; Penalty I Evans.

Cardiff: J Davies; S Hill, M Hall, G Jones, N Walker; L Jarvis, J Hewlett; A Lewis, J Humphreys, B Fisher, J Wakeford, D Jones, L Jones, H Taylor (capt), O Williams. Replacements: P Booth for A Lewis 13; R Howley for L Jones 41; J Thomas for N Walker 71.

Llanelli: W Proctor; I Evans (capt), N Boobyer, M Wintle, G Evans; S Jones, R Moon; R Jones, R McBryde, S John, V Cooper, M Voyle, H Jenkins, J Williams, I Jones. Replacements: C Davies for S Jones 46; J Griffiths for Boobyer 53; C Wyatt for Williams 65.

Referee: D Bevan.