Llanelli. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8
SO now we know. Having just won the Welsh cup for the first time since 1987, Cardiff are looking to the horizon and, more specifically, casting envious eyes in England's direction. Upsetting Llanelli at the Arms Park was but one small step in the plan of things. The really giant strides, though, would involve attaining standards of play set by the English champions.
No sooner had the dust settled on a rather frantic and disjointed final than Mike Hall, the Cardiff captain, was laying plans for the future. No inward-looking Welshman, this one. 'Cardiff should be looking now not to be one of the best clubs in Wales but one of the best clubs in Britain,' he said. It did not take a genius to guess what was coming next.
''The standards have been set by Bath and Leicester and that is what we have got to aim for. What is also important is that our players have tasted success and having done that they will want more.' Hall was also adamant in one area. 'Cardiff should start to invest in the players we've got.'
Investment, of course, is something of a familiar word to the Cardiff club's ears. It helps when you have a millionaire prepared to stump up for a players' trust fund and to pay the wages for a chief executive, a post which Gareth
Davies, the former Wales and Cardiff outside-half, has put in for.
Davies, apparently, is seeking a three-year contract worth in excess of pounds 200,000, whereas the club have been looking to employ their man over a five-year term at an annual salary of pounds 50,000. Big money, but then Cardiff have big plans. Someone jokingly said to Hall that perhaps he should put in for the job.
On the field, he certainly did a good one on Saturday. 'They played Neil Boobyer out of position at full-back so our tactics were to put up a bit of high ball early on to test him.' No sooner said than done, Cardiff winning a line-out after three minutes, Adrian Davies hoisting the ball to the heavens and Hall steaming in for the try when the luckless Boobyer was denied a clean catch.
The spoiling tactics set the tone for the afternoon. Apart from bombarding Boobyer - moved to his familiar centre role early in the second half when Simon Davies limped off to be replaced by Ian Jones, whose slow recovery from an ankle injury had denied him a starting place at full-back - Cardiff were determined to prevent Rupert Moon from bringing the Llanelli back row into play.
Cardiff did this brilliantly by imposing themselves in the tight, where their front row were responsible for bringing the Llanelli eight to their knees. So much so that little was seen of Lewis, Quinnell and Perego. If that meant denying a sell- out crowd the sight of this trio on the rampage, then Cardiff and their supporters were not complaining. Also, Cardiff secured a good deal of line-out ball from Derwyn Jones, the 6ft 10in beanpole who arrived at the Arms Park via Neath, Llanelli and Northampton. Jones is the tallest man in Welsh rugby and has so far made the A team, though there have to be questions asked about his fitness levels if he is to become a Five Nations force.
Saturday's action was relentless and, to be fair, Jones was not the only one to suffer in stamina-sapping conditions. Still, there were more drink stops here than a pub crawl, all of which prevented the game from flowing. It is an area that needs to be addressed because it appeared that a good deal of gamesmanship was being employed.
Every time the attacking side built up a head of steam, down would go a defender. On would come the sponge man and out would come the cycle bottles. Apart from a refreshing drink, these moments allowed pressurised players to regroup. It is high time referees insisted teams enter into the spirit of the game.
That apart, it was Llanelli who felt the heat. Having given so much to Wales during the international season, now they appear jaded, their hopes of a record-equalling fourth cup triumph dashed. At least Moon - whose opposing scrum-half, Andy Moore, was voted man of the match - was smiling. 'They did their homework,' he said. 'But we mustn't be too greedy. To lose now and again means you enjoy victory much more.'
Cardiff, on the other hand, just want to keep winning, wrapping up this one on the break with a try from Mike Rayer and then content to hold their own play out a scoreless second half.
Not quite as contented, though, was Tony Faulkner, Cardiff's forward coach. Mike Budd had to be temporarily replaced for running repairs to a ripped ear and underwent microsurgery in Chepstow on Saturday night. The flanker's
injury took him past 100 stitches for the season and Faulkner referred to a stamping incident, although no further action will be taken.
Cardiff: Tries Hall, Rayer; Conversion A Davies; Penalty A Davies. Llanelli: Try N Davies; Penalty Stephens.
Cardiff: M Rayer; S Ford, M Hall (capt), C Laity, N Walker; A Davies, A Moore; M Griffiths, J Humphreys, L Mustoe, A Rees, D Jones, M Bennett, O Williams, M Budd (V Davies, 22-28).
Llanelli: N Boobyer; I Evans, S Davies (I Jones, 51), N Davies, W Proctor; C Stephens, R Moon (capt); R Evans, A Lamerton, H Williams-Jones, P Davies (P Jones, 56), A Copsey, E Lewis, S Quinnell, M Perego.
Referee: R Yeman (Port Talbot).Reuse content