Cardiff equal to Tigers' challenge

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Two tries in each half were enough to earn Cardiff the Jewson Challenge Trophy, which they collected from the First Secretary of the Welsh Assembly, Rhodri Morgan, after a match that went a fair way towards living up to its billing as the battle of Britain.

Two tries in each half were enough to earn Cardiff the Jewson Challenge Trophy, which they collected from the First Secretary of the Welsh Assembly, Rhodri Morgan, after a match that went a fair way towards living up to its billing as the battle of Britain.

Mr Morgan, apparently, has been a Cardiff supporter for 54 years, so he will know as well as anyone in the 6,241 crowd at the Arms Park yesterday not to read too much into this entertaining contest between the league champions of Wales and England.

Cardiff enjoyed themselves hugely in the scrums, which will give Leicester food for thought, but suffered in equal measure from some wayward line-out throwing from Jon Humphreys and his replacement, the prop-turned-hooker, Andrew Lewis. Overall, there was enough sweat and toil, and the odd punch, from the two packs to elevate the contest above that of a pre-season limber-up. Leicester had downgraded their squad at Twickenham's Middlesex Sevens in order to put on a show of strength here, but Cardiff have a fine home record in recent years and never looked in much danger of a morale-sapping setback.

Somewhere down the line in this longest of seasons, the pair might just meet again in the Heineken Cup. As is their wont, Cardiff have a wealth of Welsh talent to pick from. They left the promising full-back Paul Jones on the bench and, in the absence of the injured Rhys Williams, handed the No 15 jersey to Gareth Thomas, who has won all his 45 caps for Wales in the threequarters. Thomas had an encouraging start to his first senior appearance in the position, roaring into the line and on to a pass by Jamie Robinson to run in the opening try from 45 metres out after 23 minutes. But he soon got a taste of the downside of being the last line of defence when Leicester's rangy wing Geordan Murphy, capped by Ireland during the summer, rounded him with ease for the Tigers' first try, this after Craig Morgan had got Cardiff's second following a shambolic mix-up among the visitors.

That burst of three tries in seven minutes livened things up after a single penalty goal apiece in the first quarter by Neil Jenkins and Tim Stimpson. Neither man looked unduly worried by the new 60-second rule for goal-kickers although there was a perceptible quickening in Jenkins's trademark swing of the arms in his famously methodical approach to the ball. As the world record Test points scorer himself points out, the pressure will really be on when the chips are down in the dying seconds of, say, a Six Nations match.

At centre, Cardiff have a useful looking combination of youth and experience in Robinson, who excelled on the Wales Development tour of Canadain June, and the formerSpringbok Pieter Muller. Leicester, albeit that they showed a greater tendency than usual to throw the ball around, found it tough to make headway. The back-to-back English Premiership champions will tighten that up in the months to come.

Halfway through the second half, Robinson's break created a try for Nick Walne. Leicester responded with a trademark catch-and-drive try for Derek Jelley. But man-of-the match Robinson had the last word on the end of good work by the supremely energetic Dan Baugh.

Cardiff: G Thomas (P Jones 50); N Walne, J Robinson, P Muller (L Davies 57), C Morgan (R Newton 72); N Jenkins, R Howley; S John, J Humphreys (A Lewis 45), D Young (capt, G Powell 52)), S Moore (M Morgan 76), M Voyle, O Williams (M Williams h-t), D Baugh, M Griffin (O Williams 63)

Leicester: T Stimpson; G Murphy, L Lloyd (G Gelderbloom 27), P Howard, W Stanley; A Healey, J Grindal (A Goode 60); G Rowntree (D Jelley 21), R Cockerill (D West 50), D Garforth (R Nebbett 50), M Johnson (capt), B Kay (L Deacon 76), P Gustard, N Back, A Balding (M Corry 66)

Referee: David McHugh (Ireland)

Comments