Ruagby Union: Swansea title dreams turn into nightmare

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IT WAS probably the Swansea coach Mike Ruddock's worst nightmare, taking an understrength, below par side to Sardis Road to keep alive his club's hopes of retaining the Heineken League title.

What made it worse was that he had to witness the biggest hiding that Swansea have received in the three seasons of league rugby. Blame the flu bug that ravaged his squad this season, or blame the Welsh Rugby Union for not having a competitions' committee to appeal to for a postponement following the massive no confidence vote in the General Committee. Or better still blame the players for their attitude on the day.

Take away Richard Moriarty, and Richard Webster in patches, and Swansea fielded a side that did not want to put themselves on the line when it mattered most. Pontypridd, on the other hand, delivered a performance that any team in Wales would have struggled to keep pace with. They were superb and simply defeated a Swansea side containing eight internationals and four B caps.

Llanelli are now in pole position in the race for the title and need only three points from their remaining two matches to pip their arch-rivals after two seasons of finishing runners-up.

Not that their elevation to champions is guaranteed. On Saturday, without four players on duty for Wales at the World Cup Sevens, they play Pontypridd, and on 1 May they travel to Neath. Pontypridd might just cause another upset, although they will be without the Wales outside- half, Neil Jenkins, who has been called up to the World Sevens squad as a replacement for Scott Gibbs.

Apart from kicking 15 points, Jenkins helped to create three of the four tries against Swansea and looked international class. Pontypridd could still come to Swansea's rescue at Stradey Park at the weekend, but if not, it will be down to Ruddock to remotivate his troops to beat Llanelli in the semi-final of the Swalec Cup and stop the Scarlets scooping all the honours.

Pontypridd: Tries J Lewis, Earland, S Lewis, Hughes; Conversions Jenkins 3; Penalties Jenkins 3. Swansea: Penalties Williams 4.

Pontypridd: M Back; J Lewis, C Jones, S Lewis, D Hughes; N Jenkins, Paul John; N Bezani (capt), Phil John, M Powell, J Scarlett, M Rowley, G Owen, M Lloyd, D Earland.

Swansea: A Clement; M Titley, J Ball, K Hopkins (capt), S Davies; A Williams, Robert Jones; C Clark, R McBryde, K Colclough, P Arnold, R Moriarty, Robin Jones, I Davies, R Webster.

Referee: D R Davies (Llanbradach).