Rugby Union: Cardiff are keeping their fingers crossed

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Cardiff. .36

Newport. .20

AT THE start of the season, Cardiff's main aim was to finish well outside the relegation zone they had so ignominously been a part of last year. To improve their fortunes they scoured the world for a coach and uncovered, in Brisbane, Alex Evans.

The job he has done at the Arms Park this winter is well documented and, one faux pas in the Swalec Cup apart, almost everything he has touched has turned to gold.

One off the bottom last season, Cardiff lie second in the Heineken First Division and can still claim the title. True, they will have to beat the reigning champions, Swansea, at St Helen's on May Day and rely on Llanelli not securing a point from their final two matches, but anything is still possible.

That fact alone would be enough to comfort most Cardiff fans, but Evans is not interested in anything other than ultimate success. 'While the season has been successful in terms of points and tries scored there is no prize really for second and third place. We will have to go up a gear next season,' he said.

Ominous words for Cardiff, and the rest of the First Division. The first step in that process will come in August on a tough four-match tour to Australia. They start with a game against Sydney, the side who beat the All Blacks last year, and go on to play Australian Capital Territory, Queensland and Queensland Country.

Hardly the kind of itinerary for an easy summer spin, but Evans is not a man who looks for easy options. The tour is designed to help turn Cardiff back into one of the world's greatest club sides, a proud boast at the Arms Park over many of the past 117 years.

They did not have to be at their greatest to beat Newport, but they did need to be committed. The Newport forwards made life difficult for their arch rivals and not only made their mark in the contest but left their calling card all over the backs of a number of Cardiff players.

Cardiff: Tries Laity, Budd, Lewis, Palfrey; Conversions Davies 2; Penalties Davies 4. Newport: Tries Waters, Jeffreys; Conversions: Williams 2; Penalties Williams 2.

Cardiff: M Rayer; S Hill, A Palfrey, C Laity, G Lewis; A Davies, H Harries; K Matthews, J Humphreys, P Sedgemore, P Kawulok, D Jones, H Stone, H Taylor (capt), M Budd (J Allen, 74).

Newport: J Westwood (D Rees, 78); I Jeffreys, R Bidgood, M Yendle, A Lewis; J Williams, D Llewellyn; A Dibble, A Peacock, M Sibthorpe, A Allen, M Voyle, C Scott, D Waters, G George (capt).

Referee: C Thomas (Bryncoch).