Rugby Union: Cardiff find the will to rise to Argentinian challenge

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The Independent Online
Cardiff 52

Cordoba 21

It could only happen in rugby. As the Heineken Cup, the one undisputed success story of the professional era in Europe, teeters on the brink of premature extinction, a meaningless tournament by the name of the Challenge Trophy continues to meander its anonymous way through Wales.

The Arms Park was like a ghost stadium last night as Cardiff endeavoured to work up a midweek sweat against the Argentinans of Cordoba, but as a symbol of the sport's tenuous grip on common sense, it was just about perfect.

Sides from South Africa, Namibia, Canada and Spain are participating in the competition as well as three battle-hardened outfits from the Pampas, but given the fact that all seven touring teams leave for home before the semi-final stage, only the Welsh are in a position to participate in the last four. Sadly, for the Welsh public the format is unlikely to be used in next year's World Cup.

Perhaps it was inevitable on such a low-key occasion that Kevin Bowring, the Welsh coach, should have found himself under the jurisdiction of Sod's Law. Within four minutes of the kick-off, Spencer John, Bowring's Five Nations loose-head prop, aggravated a persistent knee injury and hobbled dejectedly from the field.

Last night's proceedings were pretty much topped and tailed by the end of the first quarter, during which Cardiff registered tries through Mike Hall, Craig Morgan and Simon Hill. That little flurry gave the Welshmen a 17-point lead and there seemed nowhere for the Argentinans to go. However, Cardiff allowed themselves to be dragged into a dogfight and Frederico Grangetto put over two penalties before half-time.

Gareth Jones, Cardiff's left wing, restored a degree of authority two minutes into the second half, scurrying 60 metres to the line. Yet the touring pack were beginning to fancy their chances and they put Grangetto in range for a third successful penalty. When Gerardo Tomalino went over in the right corner they were back at 14-24.

Enter Lee Jarvis with two tries early in the final quarter. Cardiff marked the last rites with further tries from Kacala and Gareth Jones, while Cordoba contributed a second score from Tomalino. A busy, if irrelevant, 80 minutes.

Cardiff: Tries G Jones 2, Jarvis 2, Hall, Morgan, Hill, Kacala; Conversions Jarvis 6. Cordoba: Tries Tomalino 2; Conversion Grangetto; Penalties Grangetto 3.

Cardiff: C Morgan; S Hill, M Hall (capt), L Botham, G Jones; L Jarvis, J Hewlett (S Wake, 60); S John (P Booth, 4), H Bevan, L Mustoe, K Stewart, D Jones (A Rees, 71), G Kacala, O Williams, P Young.

Cordoba: M Calvo; G Tomalino, A Canestri, G Cagnolo, N Sosa; F Grangetto, C Barrea; P Alexenicer, J Trejo, D Munoz (J Garcia, 43), S Irazoqui, E Giaimo (R Baena, 50), M Menta, D Rotondo (capt), A Allub.

Referee: P Bolland (Wales).