Rugby: Jarvis flattens Saracens

Cardiff 40 Saracens 19
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The Independent Online
CARDIFF, WITH a highly impressive second-half performance, produced a victory which will have massive repercussions throughout the game.

Two of their three second-half tries were outstanding, and in destroying the English cup holders in what was billed as a friendly, but was nothing of the sort, they proved the gulf between the best in England and the best in Wales is far from as wide as many believe.

Saracens were already on the rack when first Rob Howley, then Matthew Wintle, scorched over to leave Saracens looking second-rate, which they most certainly are not. And with Lee Jarvis notching 25 points, no one among a 10,021 crowd was left in any doubt that these "rebel" matches are just what the game needs.

This was a real match, fiercely competitive and full of the thrills and spills of a top-class league clash. "There's no such thing as a friendly," both clubs brayed in the build-up. They certainly lived up to that. Right up to half-time, with Sarries leading 12-9, thanks to their stout defence and Gavin Johnson's kicking, anyone could have won.

But coming out for the second half like dervishes, Cardiff proceeded to wreck England's pride with sustained bouts of pressure that left Saracens soundly second best.

Jarvis had an outstanding match, not just because of his huge points tally. Facing Alain Penaud, Jarvis shook off a nervous start to prove that he must now be considered as a serious contender for the Wales No 10 jersey. As his confidence grew, Jarvis took control of the midfield, outwitting the defence and, importantly, wrong-footing Penaud to help with Wintle's try.

The new Wales coach Graham Henry was there to watch it, and the New Zealander must have been delighted that contrary to what he might have been told, there is plenty of life and ambition in Welsh rugby.

It is sad that Cardiff, and Swansea who play Wasps today, are in some senses in a state of limbo, having fallen out with the WRU. But in deciding to play English clubs instead of the premier league, they could not have hoped for more proof that they have done the right thing.

It is now up to the Union to patch up the differences, and get both teams back on side, as it were. Neither the chiefs, nor the clubs, can afford to let the rift widen further.

Saracens folded towards the end. They defended resolutely and stopped Cardiff several times in the first half. But under-pressure Sarries lost their way, lost their conviction and with Cardiff desperate to reward the Arms Park faithful, there to see the rebels at play, there was going to be only one outcome.

Cardiff: J Thomas; L Botham, L Davies, M Wintle, S Hill; L Jarvis, R Howley (capt); A Lewis, J Humphreys, S John (L Mustoe, 44), K Stewart, J Tait (D Jones, 73), O Williams, G Kacala, D Baugh.

Saracens: G Johnson; M Singer, R Constable, J Thomson, B Daniel; A Penaud, K Bracken (M Powell, 69); R Grau (A Olver, 77), G Chuter, P Wallace, C Yandell (K Chesney, 74), D Grewcock, T Coker, T Diprose (capt), R Hill.

Referee: A Ware (Pontypridd).