Rugby Union: A game beset by tragedy

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The Independent Online
Cardiff 22

Swansea 31

A serious neck injury to the Wales captain Gwyn Jones and a heart attack suffered by the father of Swansea's international hooker Garin Jenkins overshadowed this bad-tempered encounter at the Arms Park.

Jones, a 25-year-old flanker who won his 13th cap last month against New Zealand, was trapped at the bottom of a pile of forwards in the 13th minute. The Cardiff open-side was stretchered from the field, unconscious and in a neck brace, and taken to Cardiff Royal Infirmary before being transferred to Heath Hospital.

Later, a spokeswoman for the hospital said that Jones, a medical student whose parents are both doctors, had "suffered a serious neck injury and will be at the hospital for a while". A further statement about Jones's condition will be made today.

Jones's father Alan said the injury had left his son "with some numbness in his limbs. He is now being intensively investigated in hospital under the care of a neurosurgeon. We hope that things will become clearer over the course of the next week. It is too early to give a definitive long- term prognosis".

Less than an hour later, 30-year-old Jenkins was on the point of throwing the ball in at a line-out when his mother, Anne, came down to the touchline to catch his attention. He immediately jumped into the crowd as his father, Ivor, received emergency treatment and then accompanied him in the ambulance to Cardiff Royal Infirmary. "We didn't know what was happening at first," said the Swansea manager Baden Evans. "For a moment we thought it was another Eric Cantona type incident but we soon realised how serious it was."

"These unfortunate incidents put the whole matter of the game on the back-burner," said the Cardiff captain Jonathan Humphreys, putting into context the bitter rivalry between the teams which at times during the match had led to some ugly incidents.

Swansea were the more composed side, and they increased their lead at the head of the Premier League with three tries to Cardiff's two. Indeed it looked as though they were going to pick up a bonus point as well until the last five minutes when the Wales wing Gareth Thomas, Cardiff's recent signing from Bridgend, denied them by going over for two spectacular tries. Until that point, when Swansea were still leading by 19 points, it looked as though they would have to rely on Lee Jarvis's four penalties to keep in touch with the game.

Cardiff created practically nothing and however much they depend on Jarvis's place-kicking they seem to lack momentum until they are provoked. It can't help their concentration that they are in dispute with the Welsh Rugby Union over television rights, and have refused to sign a 10-year contract. But, since the WRU's arrangement with HTV and S4C has only four years to run, the source of the quarrel seems obscure.

Although Swansea contributed their share of uncivilised behaviour, they were the more effective scoring machine. After a series of early attempts by Swansea to run the ball, Arwel Thomas landed a beautifully flighted drop-goal with his left foot. He went on to kick two penalties and two conversions, and also to animate the passing game which Swansea, although unusually defensive, tried to stick to. The tries came from Rob Appleyard in the first half, and then, crucially swinging the game in Swansea's favour, from their two power runners, the centre Scott Gibbs and the No 8 Stuart Davies, who was named man of this otherwise disappointing match.

Cardiff: J Thomas; G Thomas, M Hall, L Botham, N Walker; L Jarvis, R Howley; S John, J Humphreys (capt), D Young, J Tait, D Jones, S Williams, E Lewis, G Jones.

Swansea: M Back; A Harris, M Taylor, S Gibbs, R Rees; A Thomas, A Booth; J Evans, G Jenkins (capt), C Anthony, A Moore, P Arnold, R Appleyard, S Davies, D Thomas.

Referee: D Davies (WRU).

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