Rugby Union: Cardiff chase second place

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Cardiff. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .36

Newport. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20

SO MUCH to see, so much to say, about this local derby League match. Cardiff's victory and Swansea's surprise loss to Aberavon further down the coast mean that when Cardiff and Swansea meet in two weeks the winner will almost certainly be the runner-up to Llanelli in the First Division of the Heineken League.

Some observations about Welsh Rugby as played by these two famous clubs on a sunny spring afternoon at the famous Cardiff Arms Park; the first is that if this was a typical League match, then praise be to both sides for scoring a total of 56 points. Six tries in all and a commitment by each team to run with the ball were surprises, and none the less welcome for that.

The fierceness of the exchanges was striking. Referee Clayton Thomas issued three severe warnings. One Cardiff player, Howard Stone, was fortunate not to be sent off for a head-high tackle that laid out Andrew Lewis. Again and again, one saw an eagerness to trample on a man lying on the ground. Mike Budd, Cardiff's flanker, was replaced after one such going-over, but several other men rose to their feet shakily rubbing their back and no doubt had stud marks imprinted in their flesh. The turnover law? Seemingly, no problem. Both sides used the ball well, so they did not lose it at a subsequent scrum. As they worked it clear, they seemed to want to show it its passage to the referee, so that he could chart its progress. A few English clubs might well adopt this tactic and save themselves some frustration.

Fitness? It looked good. Play crackled and fizzed at a pace that was highly acceptable on a muddy pitch and was no doubt physically tiring. Would they have sustained this pace five years ago? Almost certainly not.

Finally, a word in praise of Adrian Davies. It is said that the Cardiff stand-off is not as stout a tackler as the current resident of Wales' No 10 shirt, Neil Jenkins. That is as may be. He did more than his share of the donkey work yesterday. Furthermore with one searing break he proved he can run. There were no apparent weaknesses in his overall generalship and as for his kicking, well, four penalties and two conversions would suggest that he is pretty competent in this department too. What more, pray, does he have to do to become Wales' stand-off?

Cardiff: M Rayer; S Hill, A Palfrey, C Laity, G Lewis; A Davies, H Harries; K Matthews, J Humphries, P Sedgemore, P Kawulok, D Jones, H Stone, M Budd (J Allen, 75 min), H Taylor (captain).

Newport: J Westwood (D Rees, 79 min); I Jeffreys, R Bidgood, M Yendle, A Lewis; J Williams, D Llewellyn; A Dibble, A Peacock, M Sibthorpe, A Allen, M Voyle, C Scott, G George (captain), D Waters.

Referee: C Thomas (WRU)

Scorers: Davies (pen, 10 min, 3-0); Laity (try, 18 min, 8-0); J Williams (pen, 30m, 8-3), Waters/Williams (try / conv, 33 min, 8-10); Davies (pen, 42 min, 11-10); Davies (pen, 46 min, 14- 10); Williams (pen, 47 min, 14-13); Davies (pen, 51, 17-13); Budd / Davies (try / conv, 54 min, 24- 13); Jeffreys / Williams (try / conv, 60 min, 24- 20); Lewis / Davies (try / conv, 66 min, 31-20); Palfrey (try, 78 min, 36-20).