Rugby Union: Bath face early exit after late try from Thomas

Swansea 10 Bath 9
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The Independent Online
ARWEL THOMAS put weeks of agony behind him to conjure up a last- gasp Heineken Cup victory for Swansea last night.

Discarded by Wales earlier in the year, Thomas was even dropped to his club's second string in recent weeks. On top of that he has had a number of sleepless nights following the birth of his first child.

But last night the mercurial All Whites stand-off put all his troubles behind him with an heroic performance. With his side almost literally all at sea on a rain-soaked pitch, he transformed the game in their favour after coming on as a 50th-minute replacement for the completely out-of- sorts Lee Davies.

Having given Bath first use of the driving wind and rain, Swansea spent the opening 40 minutes almost exclusively locked in their own half. Jon Preston kicked two penalties to give Bath a slender lead in this crucial Pool 2 clash, and then added a third shortly after Thomas had entered the fray.

That was the signal for the real drama to begin. The Swansea forwards began to win some ball, Thomas put it to good use and suddenly it was the West Country men who were back-pedalling. Thomas kicked a penalty with 15 minutes to play and right on the stroke of time he weaved his way through the Bath defence to score a try at the posts, which he also converted.

Even then, however, the game could have taken one final twist. Bath were given a penalty three metres inside the Swansea half and opted to kick for goal. It was well out of the reach of Preston's boot, so Mike Catt came off the field to allow Jon Callard to have one final stab at snatching the glory.

The former England fullback was on target with his effort, but it fell short of the posts and Thomas caught it and cleared to touch to end the game.

The Bath coach, Andy Robinson, claimed it was "daylight robbery" but his team will now have to beat Swansea at the Recreation Ground next weekend to stand any chance of progressing in the tournament.

Swansea: Try A Thomas; Conversion A Thomas; Penalty A Thomas. Bath: Penalties Preston 3.

Swansea: K Morgan; R Rees, M Taylor, S Gibbs (capt), M Robinson; L Davies (A Thomas, 50), R Jones; D Morris, G Jenkins, B Evans, T Maullin, A Moore, P Moriarty, C Charvis, L Jones (D Thomas, 55).

Bath: M Perry; I Balshaw, S Berne, M Tindall, K Maggs; M Catt (Callard, 79), J Preston; C Boyd (J Mallett, 11-12, 74), M Regan, V Ubogu, M Haag (capt), S Borthwick, G Thomas, N Thomas, B Sturnham.

Referee: A Lewis (Irl).

n Ulster's faint hopes of retaining their European crown were destroyed last night as they went down 29-6 to the Welsh champions, Llanelli, in a Pool 3 clash in Belfast watched by 8,000 fans. The result left Ulster bottom of their section without a point for their efforts.

Llanelli's win, which elevated them to the top of the pool, came thanks to tries from their Welsh international back row player Chris Wyatt and Salesi Finau. Stephen Jones had an impressive outing with the boot for the Welshmen, kicking both conversions and landing five penalties.