RUGBY UNION: Punch dashes Hall's hopes

Llanelli 12 Cardiff 16
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The Independent Online
Mike Hall is having one bad break after another, the latest being a painful end to his hopes of resurrecting his international career against Fiji on 11 November. He was operated on yesterday for a depressed fracture of a cheekbone suffered at Stradey Park on Saturday and is expected to be out of action for six weeks.

So two weeks after having his nose broken in Cardiff's victory at Neath, Hall is nursing an even more serious damage, suffered in his club's fourth straight win in their defence of the Heineken League title.

Tony Copsey was sent off for flooring Hall in an ugly 72nd-minute brawl. The irony was that the trouble erupted because of a set-to between Hall and Ieuan Evans, who are both directors of the Just Players company.

The difference of playing opinions between the business partners sparked the mayhem that resulted in Copsey facing a lengthy ban for his second dismissal in as many seasons.

The free-for-all, which had been an incident waiting to happen during a contest in which tempers were never far from spilling over, scarred a showpiece occasion that had attracted a 12,000 crowd.

A proportion of the blame for the match failing to live up to its billing was laid squarely at the door of the appointment of an inexperienced, and clearly nervous, referee for what was always going to be a rugged affair.

Gareth Jenkins, the Llanelli coach, said Mr White had got "really involved with his whistle, and nothing could develop at all. When you get a game blown up as quickly as that it is very disappointing. We spent six hours trying to get things right for this game and the referee ruined it."

But Jenkins backed the referee's action in showing the red card to Copsey. "He had to go. The only place you can expect to be after throwing a punch like that is in the showers. He deserved it."

But the match had already became a largely disappointing and stagnant affair, with the defences cancelling each other out. The one player to find space when it mattered was Hemi Taylor, the Cardiff captain, who surged away from the back of a scrum to create the prime position from which Cardiff scored the only try of the match.

Llanelli: Penalties McCarthy 4. Cardiff: Try Humphreys; Penalties A Davies 3; Conversion A Davies.

Llanelli: J Thomas; I Evans, N Boobyer, N Davies, W Proctor; M McCarthy, R Moon (H Harries, 26); R Jones, A Lamerton, S John, P Davies (capt), A Copsey, C Quinnell (J Williams, 28), O Lloyd, P Morris.

Cardiff: S Davies; S Ford, M Hall, M Ring, S Hill; A Davies, A Moore; A Lewis, J Humphreys, L Mustoe, K Stewart, D Jones, M Bennett, H Taylor (capt), V Davies.

Referee: C White (Cheltenham).

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