Rugby Union: Demolition man Jarvis

Cardiff 26 Bourgoin 6
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The Independent Online
A pretty dreary day at the bomb-site. As heavy machinery could be heard at our backs pulverising what is left of the old Arms Park into oblivion, rain drifted across the adjoining Cardiff ground like smog. But Cardiff adapted to the conditions far more adventurously than Bourgoin, who beat them by one point at home but don't seem to travel that well.

So Cardiff successfully defended their second place in Group D, making sure of their place in the quarter-final play-offs. With their ability to score points through Lee Jarvis, and their steady pragmatism in most situations, they could go much further.

Except as a matter of self-esteem, simple victory was never going to be the significant factor in this match. At least it wasn't going to upset the established order in the group. For Cardiff to unseat Harlequins as table leaders, not only would the Quins have to lose today against Munster, the minnows of the pool, but Cardiff would need to beat Bourgoin handsomely to transform their match points balance; a 20-point lead was not enough. Munster now need to win by 27 points today to give Cardiff a straight route to the quarters, which is not likely. By the same token, to displace Cardiff as runners-up, Bourgoin had to win by an improbable margin.

So it was all down to pride and passion which, in the current state of French-Welsh relations, can be translated as blood and guts. And the state of the ground and the ball dictated that the forwards would be shedding and straining most of them.

Even so Cardiff moved the ball wide early and with surprising abandon, although an attempted jink by Nigel Walker, in which his feet slipped from under him, and a couple of dropped passes which invited counter-attack, exposed the danger of it. Still, Cardiff were committed to broad attack, and at least the policy brought a kickable penalty for Jarvis after eight minutes.

This confirmed to Cardiff that they were on the right track, and after an even more reckless handling movement from their own half, they next put Justin Thomas over on the right for the first try. Jarvis converted from close to the touchline, and moments later landed a penalty from even further out to score his 100th Heineken point. With his oppo, Nigel Geany, crucially firing wide with two penalty attempts, Cardiff were 13 points ahead after half an hour. The margin was the same at half-time, after Geany had managed one penalty from close quarters in reply to Jarvis's third from 40 metres.

By now, however, a little iron had entered into the soul of the game. The Irish referee, Leo Mayne, had spoken twice to the captains about acts of violence, and both the Cardiff captain and hooker, Jonathan Humphreys, and Robert Howley had gone off for attention, and in Howley's case for four stitches. Both returned after the interval, but it was getting a bit basic out there.

It was also getting more negative, another exchange of penalties between Geany and Jarvis having to fill the gap until the final moments when Gareth Jones went over on the blind side to give the excellent Jarvis his 16th point from the conversion.

Cardiff: B Ross; J Thomas, L Davies, Gareth Jones, N Walker; L Jarvis, R Howley; A Lewis (P Booth, 76), J Humphreys (capt), D Young (L Mustoe, 78), J Tait, D Jones (J Ring, 76), G Kacala, Gwyn Jones, S Williams (E Lewis, 62).

Bourgoin: D Janin (J Bohu, 54); L Leflammand, G Cassagne, S Glas, L Saunier; N Geany, N Guilhot; O Millou (D Morgan, 70), J-F Martin-Culet (J Frier, 73), P Peyron (L Gomez, 70), M Cecillion (H Dalde, 70; capt), F Nibelle, A Chazalet (F Grange, 73), M Malafosse, P Raschi.

Referee: L Mayne (Ireland).