Rugby Union: Classy Cardiff over the Moon

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The Independent Online
Cardiff 24

Llanelli 20

So the All Blacks will, after all, be at Stradey Park on Saturday evening to take on Llanelli, 25 years after that famous victory over the 1973 side. And Cardiff, worthy if narrow winners of the play-off for a place in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals next weekend, have also gained a reluctant supporter.

As Wales' sole remaining representatives in the European tournament much will rest on Cardiff when they travel to Bath for a repeat of last year's quarter-final tie. On that occasion the Welsh club triumphed.

Rupert Moon, Llanelli's abrasive scrum-half will be watching their progress with interest. "I'll support them, even though it pains me to say that," said the converted Englishman. "It means a lot for Wales if they do well.

"Cardiff are a very forward orientated side, who are used to dominating up front. Whether Bath will allow them to is another matter."

But that is what Llanelli did at the Arms Park. They had bags of pace out wide and outscored Cardiff by three tries to two, but they were outclassed in the set pieces.

It was a hard match, which began with some furious fisticuffs and continued at a relentless pace for the next 80 minutes.

The price for both sides was heavy in terms of injuries. Cardiff have a worry over centre Simon Hill, who suffered a suspected fractured foot, while Llanelli face the prospect of taking on the New Zealanders without their own All Black, Frano Botica, as well as flying wing Garan Evans, who will be out of action for at least six weeks after breaking his right collar bone.

Botica, who won the last of his seven caps in 1989, had just returned to the side following a biceps injury. The latest setback is a shoulder problem which saw him leave the field after 15 minutes following a big tackle.

His replacement, Darryl Williams, was no slouch though. He moved to full- back and proceeded to pose a serious threat every time he got the ball in his hands, which as the match went on, was more frequently than Cardiff would have liked.

The home side had run up an 18-point lead by the time Llanelli decided they were not going to roll over. They pressed upfield and Cardiff conceded a penalty 12 metres from their line. The Scarlets ran it across the pitch, players queuing up for a touch, before Robin McBryde plunged over. That heralded a nightmare spell of seven minutes for Cardiff as their lead was chopped away.

Another penalty in a similar position. Another queue and this time Wayne Proctor flashed through. Then Williams broke away in midfield and found Steve Jones, who drew the cover and Evans burst up in support and steamed away.

The reliable boot of Lee Jarvis steadied things with his fourth penalty but Llanelli pressed for long spells before Cardiff regrouped and set up camp on the Scarlets line. "We were too prone to lapses in concentration," said their captain Jonathan Humphreys. "We made three silly mistakes and let them in. We must not do that against Bath." Indeed not.

Cardiff: Tries Thomas, Kacala; Conversion Jarvis; Penalties Jarvis 4. Llanelli: Tries McBryde, Proctor, Evans; Conversion Warlow; Penalty Warlow.

Cardiff: J Thomas; C Morgan, S Hill (B Ross, 42), L Davies, N Walker; L Jarvis, R Howley; S John, J Humphreys (capt), D Young, J Tait, D Jones, G Kacala, G Jones (J Ringer, 73), S Williams.

Llanelli: S Jones; W Proctor, F Botica (D Williams, 15), N Boobyer, G Evans (A Thomas, 77); C Warlow, R Moon; R Jones (S Gale, 51), R McBryde (capt), H Williams-Jones, D Hodges (S Ford, 51), M Voyle, A Gibbs, I Jones, H Jenkins.

Referee: E Morrison (Bristol).