Cardiff in control

Cardiff 28 Neath 8
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The Independent Online
THE NEW Wales coach, Kevin Bowring, turned up at the Arms Park to witness a number of fascinating personal duels as he prepared to make his selection for the international against Italy on 16 January.

The loss before kick-off of flu victim Derwyn Jones cost him the chance to see Wales's two best line-out men competing against each other, but instead he was treated to a battle royal in the back row.

Neath's Chris Scott has come from nowhere this season to be included in the national squad for the first time and, after a rampaging performance in the loose, he could be heading for big things. He was yards ahead of Cardiff's current Welsh open side flanker Mark Bennett, and a constant threat with ball in hand. The only thing going against him is his lack of size.

But he, along with the Neath skipper, Gareth Llewellyn, at least made their presence felt in a game which saw Neath lose their burgeoning reputation as one of the coming sides on the Welsh scene.

Llewellyn and Scott apart, their pack were largely ineffectual and it was the Cardiff eight, preparing for their Heineken European Cup semi- final showdown with Leinster on Saturday, who were the dominant force.

This game, too, was important because the reigning champions had lost their last two league outings. Both of those were at home and a third defeat would have cost them top spot in the First Division.

Neath struck first through a Chris Bridges' penalty, but two first half tries set Cardiff on the road to an impressive victory. Adrian Davies grabbed the first from under the nose of the covering Neath No 8, Steve Williams, after the forward had dived at the ball over his goal-line and missed, and then the Wales scrum-half Andy Moore got the second after a brilliant blind-side raid from 30 metres out.

Davies' penalty hoisted the advantage to 12 points at the interval and, at that stage, the only hope for Neath was for an early strike in the second half.

They got just that when Scott powered his way over from a line-out taken in the middle by Llewellyn, and all of a sudden the game was on again. Cardiff's response was merely to lock up Neath in their own half for the final 30 minutes and go closer and closer to registering a bonus point.

Moore knocked on at the heels of his pack following a pushover scrum, and both wings, Steve Ford and Simon Hill, were denied by desperate defence. Mike Rayer got over the line, but was called back for a forward pass. Two more penalties from Davies eased the frustration of the home fans, but there was great rejoicing when the replacement flanker, Owain Williams, finally ran in the third try on the stroke of time.

Cardiff: M Rayer; S Ford, M Hall, M Ring, S Hill; A Davies, A Moore; A Lewis, J Humphreys, M Griffiths, J Wakeford, K Stewart, V Davies, M Bennett, H Taylor (capt).

Neath: Richard Jones; C Higgs, L Davies, G Evans, R Wintle; P Williams, C Bridges; D Morris, B Williams, J Davies, Glyn LLewellyn, Gareth Llewellyn (capt), J Burnell, C Scott, S Williams.

Referee: T Rowlands (Treorchy).