Rugby Union: Davies keeps Aberavon pinned down

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The Independent Online
Aberavon. . . . . .6

Cardiff. . . . . .15

CARDIFF'S bevy of coaches who sat side by side in the stand could only have been pleased with the result of this Heineken League game and not with the performance of their team. Alec Evans, the chief coach, scribbled on a notepad. Charlie Faulkner watched inscrutably and Terry Holmes gnawed nervously at his fingernails as their team scrambled to victory in their first game of the season, their first under the new laws.

One might be cynical and remark that Cardiff's warm-up routine, which lasted for 20 minutes, was more interesting than anything that followed. Anything, that is, until there was a massive punch-up soon after the start of the second half. When the dust settled and peace broke out, Mike Griffiths, Cardiff's loose-head prop, was sent off for use of the boot. It is not the first time. He was sent off in October 1990 in a game against Pontypridd.

In pedigree, the newly promoted Aberavon should not have been a match for Cardiff. But times have been hard for both clubs. And, at the very least, their meeting got the season off to a serious start. In Wales, the first Saturday of the season is marked by the beginning of League matches whereas in England, rugby drifts into action half-heartedly in what might be described as an outdatedly Corinthian manner.

The new laws? With each match programme came a helpful summary of the changes, approved by Clive Norling, the international referee. The first manifestation that the rugby we will see this season is not the same as that which we watched in the last came after 30 minutes. Aberavon's Richard Diplock threw in quickly from behind where Cardiff's line-clearing kick had crossed into touch. It was a ploy and it worked. Cardiff were still struggling to the touchline and were caught, if not napping, then dozing. David Love darted mischievously towards Cardiff's line only to be tackled dangerously by Richie Collins. Love kicked the penalty.

When Griffiths was sent off his team-mates rallied as if they had their faces slapped and each had been given a dig in the ribs. The obvious imbalance between the two sides worked better for Cardiff, the miscreants. Cardiff moved Paul Kawulok to prop and their No 8 Hemi Taylor packed down on the blind side of scrums. There were occasional flurries of movement but in the main it was a kicking contest.

At this, Cardiff's Adrian Davies was more successful. He kicked five penalties in all whereas Love could manage only two. But the man who created as much interest as anyone for Cardiff was their former international hurdler, Nigel Walker. He wore a haughty look on his face and he appeared as though he felt he did not belong on the field. It is early days for him, and that feeling will lessen as the season goes on - and if he can avoid the injuries to which his frail-looking physique will surely be suspect. At this stage it is sufficient to say that he looked something of a footballer twice at least, catching and kicking sensibly when hemmed in near his own left touchline.

Alec Evans said afterwards that Aberavon should be pleased that they proved they could compete with Cardiff. He added that he was happy to have won and got two points. It is all beginning to sound a bit like football.

Aberavon: L Lewis (capt); D Griffiths, J Jardine, A Dragone, R Diplock; D Love, B Roach; M Smith, D Williams (A Jones, 16 min), G Richardson, M Evans, L Williams, S Richardson, D Edwards, P Middleton.

Cardiff: M Rayer; S Ford, M Hall (capt), S Hill, N Walker; A Davies, A Booth; M Griffiths, J Humphreys, P Sedgemore, T Rees, S Roy, P Kawulok, R Collins (K Matthews, 72 min), H Taylor.

Referee: R G Davies (Dunvant).

Scores: A Davies (pen, 4 min, 0-3); D Love (pen, 39 min, 3-3); A Davies (pen, 56 min, 3-6); A Davies (pen, 58 min, 3-9); D Love (pen, 62 min, 6-9); A Davies (pen, 78 min, 6-12); A Davies (pen, 84 min, 6-15).

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