Rayer makes impressive case

Newport 19 Cardiff 29
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Mike Rayer is still fretting over whether he will be granted an extension to his painfully interuppted international career.

While many believe that come 10 May his inclusion in the 30-player Wales squad to tour Australia should be a fait accompli, the 30-year-old full- back is left sweating to see if the selectors have called time on his big times.

But if the Wales coach Kevin Bowring needed any convincing that Rayer is fully recovered from the horrific leg injury that took a year to heal and that he is still international class, then he surely got it on Saturday.

Rayer inspired Cardiff's great escape which keeps their hopes of retaining the Heineken League title alive, while doing his tour prospects a power of good into the bargain.

When the Canadian international stand-off Gareth Rees kicked Newport back in front in the 74th minute of a passionate, dramatic and tense contest between two old protagonists meeting each other for the 374th time, the match, and Cardiff's entire season, were left hanging in the balance.

However, the unflappable Rayer popped up for his second try to snatch victory, and just to rub salt into home wounds, the stand-off Adrian Davies raced over for Cardiff's fifth try at the death to snatch a vital second bonus point.

Neath still top the table by a point but Cardiff, with a game in hand, only have to keep their nerve - and keep the bonus points rolling - to make sure the trophy stays stays on display at the Arms Park.

However, they almost lost sight of the first essential of securing victory before chasing the extra points against Richard Goodey's Newport battlers.

The 41-year-old lock, David Waters, typified their effort, rolling back the years. He was desperately close to having a sensational win with which to celebrate his 700th appearance for the club.

"We left it late - call it value for money," admitted Hemi Taylor, the relieved Cardiff captain. "But our destiny is still in our own hands."

For all that, 11 points from the boot of Rees, including a monster 60- metre penalty goal, and an early try from Jake Lowry went close to handing Neath the inside lane with the title finishing line in sight.

To their credit, Cardiff got their act together with those late tries to go with earlier efforts from Gareth Jones, Rayer and Nigel Walker, but they had cut it mighty fine in keeping their title and pounds 31,500 jackpot hopes alive.

Newport: Try Lowry; Conversion Rees; Penalties Rees 3; Drop goal Hewlett. Cardiff: Tries Rayer 2, G Jones, Walker, Davies; Conversions Rayer 2.

Newport: S Davies; O Thomas, J Lowry, A Palfrey, C Arnold (C Ellis, h- t); G Rees, J Hewlett; S Duggan, A Peacock (I Jones, h-t), R Snow, N Jones, D Waters, M Workman, R Goodey (capt), D Gray.

Cardiff: M Rayer; N Walker, M Hall, G Jones, S Hill; A Davies, A Moore; A Lewis, J Humphreys, L Mustoe, K Stewart (J Wakeford, 68), D Jones, E Lewis, H Taylor (capt), O Williams.

Referee: D Bevan (Clydach).