Cardiff left licking their wounds

Cardiff 65 Llanelli 13
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The Independent Online
Cardiff were left to rue a lack of two tries over a 22-match season that ultimately left them without a trophy for the first time in three years as Neath ran away with their crown.

The Welsh rugby season had never before lingered on so long into May, and never before had it seen such a dramatic finish. With the top four sides playing against each other, something had to give.

Cardiff were determined to make it three major trophies in as many years, having won the Swalec Cup in 1994, the Heineken league title last year and now facing the chance of back to back First Division titles.

Theirs was always going to be the harder task, trailing as they did on try counts to the other title contenders, Neath.

Hemi Taylor's men set about trying to gain maximum bonus points against a team which had beaten them in three out of five in the league at the Arms Park.

The first target was to get a bonus point and that came after 32 minutes thanks to a brilliant solo try by Mike Hall, a second touchdown by Adrian Davies and a flamboyant third by the centre Gareth Jones.

Two penalties by the outside- half Matthew McCarthy at least kept Llanelli in touch going into the final 40 minutes of the season.

The target after the break were the second and third bonus points and they did not take long in coming. Despite a nervous opening to the second half, Owain Williams steadied the ship with the fourth try and then Davies got his second to secure the second bonus point.

Rayer's conversions mattered little and then the back row Chris Mills and the scrum-half Andy Moore clinched the full house with two more tries with 18 minutes left.

That meant it was all down to Neath to score seven against Pontypridd, and a nervous wait for the crowd at the Arms Park. It did not take long for the reports to filter through from The Gnoll that Neath had matched Cardiff try for try to take their three bonus points.

Cardiff: Tries: Davies 2, G Jones 2, Ford 2, Hall, Williams, Mills, Moore, Walker. Conversions Rayer 5. Llanelli: Try: Proctor. Conversion: McCarthy. Penalties: McCarthy 2.

Cardiff: M Rayer; S Ford, M Hall, G Jones, N Walker; A Davies, A Moore; A Lewis (M Griffiths, 78), J Humphreys (P Young, 67), L Mustoe, K Stewart, D Jones (H Stone, 70), C Mills, H Taylor (capt), O Williams.

Llanelli: J Thomas (J Hyatt, 66); W Proctor (D Evans, 66), M Wintle, N Boobyer, G Evans; M McCarthy (J Griffiths, 60), R Moon (capt); R Evans, R McBryde, H Williams-Jones, L Williams, P Jones, C Quinnell, C Wyatt, P Morris.

Referee: W D Bevan (Clydach).

Justin Thomas, the Llanelli full-back, may not be fit by the time the Wales squad leave for Australia next week after damaging medial ligaments in his left knee at Cardiff last night.