Cardiff the conquerors

Cardiff 50 Swansea 13
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WHEN the league champions meet the cup holders, you might expect a match out of the top draw, but not perhaps something as stunning as this.

The reigning First Division champions, Cardiff, simply blew Swansea away as they not only secured a maximum of three bonus points, but ensured that one of their strongest rivals for this season's crown left the Arms Park empty-handed.

With tries meaning points this season, it is critical not only to amass as many as possible, but also to stop the opponents from gleaning something from their afternoon's work. In restricting Swansea to two tries, Cardiff's victory was arguably worth more than the five points they gained. They sent a near 10,000 crowd away smiling, and proved it is possible to play entertaining rugby in the toughest of environments.

It was a mere six minutes before Cardiff got on the score sheet with some superb backline handling that allowed the Wales wing Simon Hill to cross at the left corner. While the Cardiff fans celebrated, the Swansea players protested that the scoring pass from the fullback Chris John to Hill was forward.

To add insult to injury, John converted off the touchline, and one of the most breathtaking scorelines and performances in the history of the First Division was underway.

The introduction of Simon Davies at fullback, in place of the injured John, after quarter of an hour, provided a sharper edge to the Cardiff backline, and by half time the newcomer had not only helped Mark Ring to score, but also grabbed one himself.

If Swansea looked sad to be 22-3 down at the interval, by the end of the match they were distraught. Their heaviest league defeat was accompanied by four nasty injuries, the worst of which required the hooker, Marcus Thomas, to go to hospital for a scan on his injured back.

The second half was full of further movement and a host of tries, two of which came from the wing Steve Ford. Cardiff played with a purpose and design that marked them a cut above their opponents. It looks like being an exciting season at the Arms Park, and a tough one for anyone coming up against the champions.

Cardiff: C John; S Ford, M Hall, M Ring, S Hill; A Davies, A Booth; A Lewis, H Bevan, L Mustoe, D Jones, K Stewart, O Williams, V Davies, H Taylor (capt).

Swansea: A Clement (capt) (G Thomas, 9-15); A Harris, M Taylor, D Weatherley (S McIntosh, 37), Simon Davies; A Williams, Robert Jones (Rhodri Jones, 46); C Loader, M Thomas (E Evans, 34), K Colclough, R Moriarty, P Arnold, C Charvis, R Appleyard, A Moore (D Thomas, 72).

Referee: W D Bevan (Clydach).