Rugby Union: Cardiff overpowered

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The Independent Online
Cardiff . .13

Llanelli. .18

EVEN the passion of Wales against England seemed pale beside the full-blooded fury of this clash from which Cardiff emerged beaten in a magnificent game and with a more difficult route to the championship - if they had won, they would have been unstoppable. But Llanelli, for whom defeat would have meant relegation to the also-rans, knocked them out of their stride in a searing display.

Not a millimetre was conceded as tackles shuddered in. Sixteen forwards charged at each other like bulls while the backs behind sought to keep every ball alive.

In the end the result turned on two perhaps fortuitous charge- downs: in the first half, Llanelli's outside-half, Colin Stephens, was too leisurely in clearing for touch. Mike Budd, the Cardiff flanker, bore down on him as he kicked, gathered the rebound and hacked the ball on to score. In the second half, the roles were reversed. This time Stephens charged down, neatly catching the rebound to sprint a quarter of the field.

The lead changed hands five times all told. Rupert Moon broke the deadlock when he sprinted round a ruck and reached the line a fraction ahead of countless Cardiff pursuers.

But the real groundwork for the Scarlet victory was done by the pack. Tony Copsey, Scott Quinnell, Emyr Lewis and Phil Davies towered over Cardiff, particularly in the line-out. In the loose, they charged like American Footballers and handled like basketballers.

The other factor in Cardiff's defeat was the failure of Adrian Davies to kick five easy penalties. Stephens opposite him had one aberration, choosing to run into the Cardiff pack rather than kick a simple goal.

But at least for him there was the consolation of victory, and also of proving that he is not the spent force a growing band of detractors allege.

Any talk before the game that comrades at arms for Wales would be loath to knock bits out of each other proved idle chatter. An infectious commitment and passion now seems to pervade Welsh rugby. It may be enough to beat Scotland.

Cardiff: M Rayer; S Ford, C Thomas, C Laity, N Walker; A Davies, A Moore; K Matthews, J Humphreys, P Sedgemore, P Kawulok, S Roy, H Stone, H Taylor (capt), M Budd.

Llanelli: I Jones; I Evans, S Davies, N Davies, W Proctor; C Stephens, R Moon (capt); R Evans, A Lamerton, D Joseph, P Davies, A Copsey, E Lewis, S Quinnell, L Jones.

Referee: D Bevan (Trebanos).

Scores: Stephens (try, 4 min, 0-5); Stephens (pen, 27 min, 0-8); Budd (try, 30 min, 5-8); Thomas (try, 43 min, 10-8); Stephens (try, 60 min, 10-13); Davies (pen, 66 min, 13-13); Moon (try, 67 min, 13-18).

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