Rugby Union: All Whites night for Plumtree

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Swansea 39

Cardiff 20

COACHES have been very much in focus in Wales in the past week and there were differing looks on the faces of the two overseas men currently in charge of the top two sides in Wales.

For Swansea's John Plumtree this victory was the moment he had dreamed of when he first took the job last summer. With one game to go his side need only to take a point against Pontypridd at the weekend to leave Cardiff in second place.

Even if they do not get it, Cardiff will need to take maximum bonus points from their two remaining home matches against Llanelli and Newport to stand any chance of overtaking them. No wonder there was an anxious look on the face of Cardiff's Australian coach, Alex Evans. In these days of hiring and firing of coaches the cost of not delivering a trophy when you are in charge of the highest-priced squad in the Welsh game is your cards. Watch out for an advertisement for a new coach at the Arms Park next season.

By contrast, Plumtree was all smiles, and justifiably so. When you are still cutting your teeth as a coach and you can galvanise such a happy- go-lucky side as Swansea into a team of champions, then you have proved a point. A lengthier contract must now be in the offing for the Kiwi-born Plumtree, although a third title is not quite yet in the St Helens trophy cabinet.

Not that the 7,000 or more fans who packed into the ground for arguably the biggest game of the fractured Welsh club season believed it is anything other than a formality for them to be crowned champions. They believe that any team that has Arwel Thomas in its ranks can win anything.

The Welsh stand-off was at his mercurial best as he inspired his side to a brilliant first-half performance that effectively ended the contest. In the end he finished with 29 points with a try, three conversions and six penalties. But while Thomas added the points, it was Paul Moriarty who provided the fire and direction. He comfortably won the battle of the hard men, against Cardiff's back-row powerhouse Greg Kacala, and epitomised Swansea's desire to take the title.

Cardiff could not match the home side's motivation and ended up being sunk without much of a trace. The first-half was a bit of a one-man show from Thomas, although his half-back partner Andy Booth did help in tactically crippling his former clubmates with some exquisite box-kicking, and he enabled his side to take a 13-point lead into the second half.

That was a good return for first use of the strong wind and the sun and left Cardiff chasing the game. In the end they could not catch up. Thomas opened with two penalties and then won the race for the touchdown as he chased Simon Davies's kick ahead. He converted his own try, added a third penalty and then sent Scott Gibbs through for a try at the posts with the deftest of passes. That made up for the stand-off's charged-down kick which brought a try for the Cardiff flanker Jamie Ringer.

That was the visitors' brightest moment in the first half, although penalties either side of the interval brought them to within 10 points. Briefly there was a hope of something for Cardiff, but Gibbs slammed the door shut again when he sent Simon Davies racing 40 metres for a definitive try. Thomas converted, added three more penalties and the game was over and the title more or less won.

Swansea: D Weatherly; R Rees, M Taylor, S Gibbs (capt), S Davies; A Thomas, A Booth; I Buckett (J Evans, 74), C Wells, D Hinkins, P Arnold (T Maullin, 69), A Moore, P Moriarty, C Charvis, R Appleyard (D Thomas, 70).

Cardiff: J Thomas; G Thomas (P Williams, 51), M Hall, L Davies, S Hill; L Jarvis, R Howley; A Lewis (D Young, 70-75), J Humphreys (capt), D Young (L Mustoe, 68), T Rees, J Tait, G Kacala, E Lewis, J Ringer.

Referee: WD Bevan (WRU).

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