Rugby Union: Welsh feeling the knocks

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The Independent Online
Llanelli. . . .19

Cardiff. . . . 19

WHEN the chips are down Cardiff are normally out, but on this occasion they beat the odds with as committed a rearguard action as you could ever wish to see. Their hopes of notching a first Heineken League victory at Stradey Park were 50-50 at the start, yet by half-time they must have been 100-1 outsiders for even a share of the spoils.

Having chosen to play into the teeth of a strong wind, it was imperative they contained the Llanelli pack and gave away as few penalties as possible. It did not help, therefore, when the lock Tony Rees was dismissed after only six minutes for an ugly tap-dance at a ruck and that a resurgent Colin Stephens kicked four penalties in the opening half.

At 19-3 the game, looked a lost cause for Cardiff. Their captain, Mike Hall, was complaining to the officials, grappling with some of his international colleagues and probably wondering if the season was going down the drain. The second half proved there is still a lot to play for.

'I think being realistic the league title is now beyond us, but we are still going to have a major influence on who does win the title,' Hall said.

With a full compliment of players, they might well have broken their league duck at Stradey Park. While Llanelli certainly did not surrender their advantage without a fight, they could not have been happy at allowing Cardiff to sneak a draw with a driving, solo try from Hemi Taylor two minutes from time.

With seven of this weekend's Wales team to face Ireland in their ranks maybe there were a few wayward minds. Certainly Hall was unhappy at having to play against so many of his Dublin-bound team-mates a week before an international.

'We haven't learned from our experiences last year following the win over England. We had a superb build-up to that game, with a training camp the weekend before, yet many of us had to play against each other in a similar match between Cardiff and Llanelli seven days before we met Scotland,' Hall said. 'If a few of the boys are a bit flat in Dublin it will be the players who get criticised when it should be the administrators who pack the fixture lists.'

No doubt the Irish scout Fergus Slattery would not agree with Hall. He must have been delighted to see so many Welsh players being forced through such a hard dress rehearsal that Rupert Moon required five stitches in an eye wound and Mark Perego limped off with a dead leg.

Llanelli: Try Simon Davies; Conversion Stephens; Penalties Stephens 4. Cardiff: Try Taylor; Conversion Davies; Penalties Davies 4.

Llanelli: I W Jones; I Evans, S Davies, M Wintle, W Proctor; C Stephens, R Moon (capt, H Harries, 33- 40); R Evans, P Young, H Williams-Jones, P Davies, A Copsey, M Perego (G Jones, 58), S Quinnell, L Jones.

Cardiff: M Rayer; S Ford, C Laity, M Hall (capt), S Hill; A Davies, A Moore; A Lewis, J Humphreys, L Mustoe, T Rees, D Jones, H Taylor, O Williams, C Mills.

Referee: D Bevan (Clydach).

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