Neath make important points

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The Independent Online
Neath 41 Llanelli 0

Neath could have done no more than the devastation they wreaked at The Gnoll last night. Bonus points being this season's new imperative in Welsh rugby, the simple winning of a match - even in the grand manner against fellow-challengers such as Llanelli - no longer suffices and they rattled up a maximum three.

This was a brilliant performance and Neath stand five ahead of Cardiff, who play at Newport this afternoon and will then still have a game in hand. The Heineken League is not destined to be decided until 14 May, a climactic day when Cardiff play Llanelli and Pontypridd, the fourth team in the title shake-down, are at Neath.

This match reflected this excruciating excitement, through the passion these encounters engender as much as Neath's quality. Neath have developed a reputation for ceaseless running rugby but for a long time they ran headlong into the brick wall of Llanelli's defence - which brought them plenty of penalties but fewer points.

As goal-kicking is not a Neath forte, this did not avail them. Patrick Horgan, the last-kick hero of the cup semi-final, missed a couple and Neath's territorial superiority would have counted for nothing if Matthew McCarthy, Neath's stand-off last season, had not likewise missed two on the intermittent occasions when Llanelli broke their defensive stranglehold.

Ultimately, Neath gained the modest reward of one first-half try, when the battering the Llanelli midfield had endured at last caused a hole to open. John Funnell went through it and served the outstanding Leigh Davies, who crossed at the posts for Horgan to convert.

Davies returned the favour as Neath augmented their lead with the second half hardly begun, Funnell receiving from his co-centre to score an exhilarating try as the ball went through a dozen pairs of hands - forwards' as well as backs'. Gareth Llewellyn went on to add Neath's 100th league try of the season and four more followed from Andrew Kembery, Chris Higgs, Richard Wintle and Higgs again.

Neath: Tries Higgs 2, L Davies, Funnell, Gareth Llewellyn, Kembery, Wintle. Conversions Horgan 3.

Neath: G Davies; C Higgs, L Davies, J Funnell, R Wintle; P Williams, P Horgan; D Morris, B Williams, J Davies, Glyn Llewellyn, Gareth Llewellyn (capt), A Kembery, J Burnell, I Boobyer.

Llanelli: J Thomas (J Griffiths, 63); I Evans (N Boobyer, 28), M Wintle, N Davies, G Evans; M McCarthy, R Moon; R Evans (H William-Jones, 68), R McBryde, S John, P Davies (capt), P Jones, C Quinnell, J Williams, C Wyatt.

Referee: C Thomas (Neath).

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