Rugby Union: Burke's peerless display

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Cardiff 23

Treviso 16

THIS WAS never a case of winner takes all, but for the vanquished it would quite pointedly be the end of the yellow brick road towards European glory. As it transpired Cardiff live to fight another day - just about, and that battle recommences on Saturday in Italy as this fixture is reversed.

The howling wind and a quagmire-like pitch only hindered play, but on the evidence of what was on display neither club appear to have the ammunition to trouble the best.

Cardiff, so disappointing to date in the Heineken Cup, after a home draw against Harlequins and a comprehensive thumping in Montferrand a fortnight ago, knew what was expected of them. They had to beat Treviso, and now have to win all three remaining games in their pool to stand a chance of making the knockout stages. The former they achieved and as a result extended a remarkable unbeaten home record past the two-year mark.

Treviso are the standard bearers for Italian rugby and had already won at Quins. They have a well-organised side, with a pack to be respected and good on the roll, but the slippery surface posed them problems as an attacking force.

The Arms Park can make or break reputations and, after Cardiff's aggressive summer recruitment drive coupled with their dismal start, some light debris already litters the smoke-filled board and selection rooms. Robert Howley and Neil Jenkins admit they have been injured, but World Cup players Craig Quinnell and Mike Voyle have already incurred the wrath of the coach Lyn Howells. They were not involved in Cardiff's starting line-up, with commitment and attitude the qualities under scrutiny. Playing for Cardiff, old fashioned or not, is more than just about money, and successful teams need star quality, but also honest grafters. Cardiff, awash with big names, appear sadly lacking in players who have a liking for getting their hands dirty.

Treviso took an early foothold in Cardiff territory and their fly-half, Jacques Benade, obliged with a penalty goal. His ambitions seemed rather limited, however, as he miserably failed with three attempted drop goals in the first 15 minutes.

Cardiff responded when the scrum-half Ryan Powell, a 19-year-old understudy to Howley, forced an infringement, enabling Paul Burke to equalise.

The greasy ball and Cardiff's rather pedestrian game prevented any sustained continuity and the Treviso full-back, Corrado Pilat, added a second penalty after 20 minutes.

The home crowd's frustration was fuelled five minutes later when Pilat extended his side's lead as Cardiff pulled down a Treviso rolling maul.

This stung Cardiff into belated action and the No 8 Emyr Lewis broke powerfully before they brought in Liam Botham from the opposite wing to score a try in the left-hand corner. Anything Cardiff could do, Treviso were determined to match, if not surpass. A mysterious technical-penalty award to the visitors was well used by the forwards for Adrian Richter to claim the try. Pilat converted, and it appeared grim for Cardiff at the interval.

But the break appeared to do the trick as Burke kicked a hat-trick of penalties after only five minutes and Cardiff led for the first time. It was a lead they were not to lose, although they flirted dangerously on occasions. Burke sealed matters with a couple of penalties at the death to kill off a valiant Treviso effort and keep Cardiff's hopes alive - at least for another week.

Cardiff: R Williams; L Botham, L Davies, G Thomas, N Walne; P Burke, R Powell (R Howley, 55); A Lewis, J Humphreys (capt), S John (D Young, 55), S Moore, J Tait (M Voyle, 78), D Baugh, E Lewis (S Williams, 70), M Williams.

Treviso: C Pilat; M Perziano, M Dallan, J Wright, N Mazzucato; J Benade, A Moore; G Grespan (G Faliva, 73), A Moscardi (S Saviozzi, 80), F Properzi, W Visser, A Gritti, C Checchinato (N De Meneghi, 80), A Richter, A Sgorlon (O Arancio, 65).

Referee: J C Gastou (Fr)