Rugby Union: Walker fails to impress

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The Independent Online
Llanelli. . 20

Cardiff. . .16

THE hurdler Nigel Walker must have wondered why he ever bothered to make the switch from the relatively gentle exertions of top- flight Olympic running to the rougher trials of Stradey Park.

He touched the ball for less than 10 seconds in the whole game. And he was beaten virtually on the final whistle when the Llanelli wing, Ieuan Evans, squeezed past him to score the winning try.

It was the only time the two wings met eyeball to eyeball in the game, despite its big earlier billing as the duel of the season.

The cries from Cardiff had been 'Walker for Wales'. Not only, they said, was the surname completely inapposite - Walker has actually sprinted 100 metres in just over 10 seconds - but he was also a first- rate footballer. That he may be, although there was scant evidence of it at Stradey Park yesterday.

Cardiff went west simply to do the job of remaining unbeaten at the top of the league. There were to be no frills, no finesse, simply rolled-up sleeves and plenty of workmanlike effort. The result was an ill-tempered shambles of a game that rarely broke out of a routine grind, perpetually punctuated by the whistle.

So the crowd unfairly chose to take the usual British option and blame the perfidious foreigner. Frenchman Patrick Thomas had crossed the Channel to officiate and was greeted by slow- handclapping for the alacrity with which he stopped play.

Out of the resulting mess, no one player really stood out. Cardiff relied on the collective strength of their pack - for the first scrum, they bulldozed the Scarlet forwards backwards like a light scrummaging machine.

For much of the game this dour forward method looked enough to vanquish Llanelli. The Cardiff outside-half, Adrian Davies, steadily piled up points with his boot to nullify Llanelli's tries - the first, a bizarre one when the Cardiff winger, Steve Ford, tried to volley the ball clear as it bounced on his own line, only for it to land nicely in Simon Davies's lap. The Llanelli centre simply fell on it. The second Scarlet try came when Davies strode over half the field to release Mark Perego.

Despite the tries, Cardiff then put a stranglehold on the game. Ieuan Evans was the man to break it. All options looked closed, but he managed to squeeze past Walker through a tight gap.

Llanelli: I Jones; I Evans, N Davies, S Davies, W Proctor; C Stephens, R Moon (capt); R Evans, A Lamerton (D Fox, 62 min), L Delaney, G Jones (P May, 59 min), A Copsey, M Perego, P Davies, L Jones.

Cardiff: M Rayer; S Ford, M Hall (capt), M Ring, N Walker; A Davies, A Booth; M Griffiths, J Humphreys, P Sedgemore, P Kawulok, S Roy (M Edwards, 62 min), H Taylor, O Williams, M Budd.

Referee: P Thomas (France).

Scores: Stephens (pen, 4 min) 3-0, A Davies (pen, 16 min) 3-3, S Davies/Stephens (try/conv, 18 min) 10-3, A Davies (try/conv, 41 min) 10-10, A Davies (pen, 61 min) 10-13, A Davies (drop goal, 64 min) 10-16, Perego (try, 75 min) 15-16, Evans (try, 82 min) 20-16.