Rugby Union: Reivers show true extent of the cash divide

Caerphilly 22 Edinburgh Reivers 51
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The Independent Online
SHOESTRING RUGBY is fraying and may even be close to breaking point. That much was evident when the full-time professionals that are Edinburgh Reivers, ventured south and pillaged a half-century off Caerphilly's manful, but woefully underprepared part-timers on the opening day of the newly formed Celtic League, which features 10 Welsh clubs and the two self-styled Scottish Super Districts.

It is no fault of Caerphilly's director of rugby Don Llewellyn. He and his players lack two essential ingredients, without which professionalism just would not be: time and money.

So it is difficult to see just what can be gained by catchweight contests such as this one in the stunning setting of Virginia Park, other than that it serves as a reminder that there are haves and have-nots in rugby as well as in life.

"It would never happen in the soccer world," Llewellyn said. "You get Celtic playing Cwmbran or Manchester United against Barry Town, in a cup game, but they won't play each other on a regular basis but that is what we are being asked to do.

"You are up against it in terms of finance. The Union supports the likes of Cardiff and Newport to a far greater extent than they support this one. And I have no problem with that, but I would hope that the Welsh Rugby Union will put together a British-European League to cater for full- time professionals, keep a Welsh league for part-timers and return all other divisions to amateur status."

It certainly smacks of common sense. Llewellyn and his coaching team have the players for three training sessions a week and each of those lasts just two hours. Reivers are full-time, training all week and being given help and guidance on conditioning as well as honing their basic skills.

Even allowing for the fact that Caerphilly were ring rusty, their error count was frighteningly high. Perhaps if they were on upwards of pounds 30,000 per man, as are Reivers, instead of around pounds 10,000 each then it might have made a difference. But the Caerphilly squad still has to keep one foot in the real world, for five days a week they will toil on a factory floor, handle bank business, see their patients, cope with classes of schoolchildren, or pound a beat.

Reivers' coach, Ian Rankin, who was without seven first choice players who are on World Cup duty, admitted Caerphilly had not exactly tested his side.

Reivers dominated the line-out, had a vital edge in the scrum and looked to have a lot more nous and pace out wide.

That is not to say that Caerphilly did not have anything to offer. In addition to Jonathan Hooper's incisive and sometimes telling breaks, they had the mighty boot of Chris John, the former Cardiff and Wales fly-half, and a pack of forwards who were at least willing to lock horns with the fitter Reivers.

The Caerphilly front row made life extremely awkward until they ran out of steam. And it has to be said that Reivers feasted off their opponents' mistakes. Half the tries came courtesy of interceptions.

Reivers' problem was that they grew over-confident and Caerphilly were ever ready to charge upfield whenever the Scots slipped up, which was far too frequently for Rankin's liking.

Caerphilly: Tries Hooper, Marshall, John; Conversions John 2; Penalty John. Edinburgh Reivers: Tries Roxburgh, Shiel, Lang, Hayter, Sharman, M Lee, Milligan; Conversions Lang 5; Penalties Lang 2.

Caerphilly: P Armstrong; C Batsford, R Boobyer (C Murphy, 48), D Hawkins, S Marshall; C John, J Hooper; C Fitzpatrick, T Carless (J Hughes, 55), M Wilson, N Jones (capt), J Lougher (D Niblo, 55), B Watkins, P Ager (J Savastano, 62), C Brown.

Edinburgh Reivers: D Lee; K Milligan, K Utterson (C Sharman, 55), G Shiel, S Lang; S Welsh, G Burns (M Lee, 67); R McNulty (A Jacobsen, 55), G McKelvey (capt; S Scott, 45), B Stewart (M Proudfoot, 55), A Lucking, N Hines, G Dall, G Hayter (S Taylor, 62), A Roxburgh.

Referee: R Davies (Dunvant).

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