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Sunday, December 11, 2005


Lomu takes centre stage


Graham Clutton at Sportivo San Michele

IN THE shadow of the Italian Alps yesterday, Jonah Lomu brought a smile to the collective face of world rugby by making his long overdue return in this Heineken Cup contest. The iconic Kiwi, whose battle against a chronic kidney complaint and subsequent organ transplant left him on the verge of premature retirement, had originally pencilled in next weekend’s return fixture with the Italian champions for his comeback game.

However, in the humble surroundings of the Centro Sportivo San Michele, the 30-year-old former All Black was given a chance to remind us all of his unique power and supreme quality.

In the end, Lomu’s contribution to a second Blues success of the European season was fairly insignificant and after an hour he was taken off for a well-earned rest. However, in lasting 60 minutes, the great man had announced his comeback.

A crowd of 4,500 were glued to Lomu from the moment he took the field, but by the time he enjoyed the ball in his hands for the first time, the Blues were three points to the good, courtesy of Nicky Robinson’s fourth- minute penalty. A minute after Lomu’s initial catch and charge, the Wales lock Robert Sidoli upstaged the main attraction by crossing for the game’s opening try.
A try four minutes later from Apenisa Vodo, which Hercules Kruger converted, concentrated the minds of a rather carefree Blues side, but once they settled into a more careful mode of attack they improved their lead when Martyn Williams stepped inside on the overlap for Robinson to convert.

A spiteful punch on Martin Jones left the prop needing stitches below his right eye, but his temporary absence provided Wales prop Gethin Jenkins with his first rugby of the season. While he was on, Lomu was penalised for holding on in the tackle and Kruger added a penalty.

Cardiff’s laxity was proving their downfall and after Xavier Rush, the game’s most significant contributor, was held up short, flanker Andy Powell knocked on with the line at his mercy.

Despite ideal conditions, both sides struggled with their handling, so when the Blues were awarded a penalty 20 metres out, captain Rhys Williams handed the ball to Robinson, who duly hooked a straightforward kick wide.

The Blues were handed a numerical advantage on 52 minutes after Martin Castrogiovanni was yellow-carded for an elbow on Rhys Thomas. The extra man did little to improve matters and, with the lineout failing to function too, the Blues were concentrating more on hanging on, rather than seeking a bonus point for scoring four tries. However, when they at last held onto possession for more than one pass, Phillips and Robinson carved a hole in the tiring Calvisano midfield and Rhys Williams scored the try. A minute later, and with Lomu having been replaced by Robinson, Phillips tapped a penalty deep inside his own half and after being dragged down 15 metres out, Robinson chipped ahead for Chris Czekaj to cross. The cameras gathered as a smiling Lomu received his plaudits and, though there was 20 minutes still to run, the game was a passing irrelevance.

STAR MAN: Xavier Rush (Cardiff Blues)

Calvisano: J van Schalkwyk; E Mulieri, M Pratichetti, C Zanoletti, A Vodo; H Kruger, P Griffen (P Patelli 71min); S Perugini, G Intoppa (L Ghiraldini 66min), M Castrogiovanni (L Cittadini 73min), J Purll, M Ngaumo, R Mandelli (A Zanni 68min), M Zaffiri (capt), W Brosnihan.

Cardiff Blues: R Williams (capt); C Czekaj, M Stcherbina, T Davies (L Thomas 79min), J Lomu (J Robinson 60min); N Robinson, M Phillips (R Powell 70min); J Yapp, R Thomas, M Jones (G Jenkins 60min), D Jones, R Sidoli, A Powell (R Sowden-Taylor 68mins), M Williams, X Rush.
Watched the very end of this game. Man, Bad Boy Bros has still got it!

Who was this van Schalkwyk chap? Didn't recognise him.

Rob (D)

He was like Wikus Van Heerden in SA

Never to be appreciated in his own land.

Who is Van Schalkwyk?

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