Neath. . .20
FROM THE pits to high hopes, the climb has been a dizzying one for Cardiff and yesterday provided the perfect yardstick to measure their improvement since the 'under new management' signs went up at the Arms Park. Neath, after all, were in town and promised a drop of the hard stuff.
Now, things could be said to have turned full circle. It was back in May that the dark destroyers from The Gnoll last made a First Division visit, winning 23-12 to finish fourth in the table. Had there been relegation, Cardiff would have taken the drop at the end of the worst season in their history.
Yet, by the completion of this pulsating game Cardiff were celebrating their own new brand of destruction. They are a revelation, a tribute to the impact made by Alec Evans, the former assistant coach of the Wallabies.
Backed up on the coaching front by the former internationals Terry Holmes and Charlie Faulkner, Cardiff have come alive. This was their sixth League win in seven outings and one glorious moment demonstrated their determination to come out on top.
Leading 19-15 just after the hour, they left Neath for dead with a remarkable effort from Paul Kawulok. The lock took off at the front of a line-out on the right to win the ball and, once Mike Rayer had punched a hole through the centre for Phil Sedgemore to set up a ruck, arrived in a rush on the left for the scoring pass.
Up to this point Neath had been in contention and there was a chance that their forwards might wrest control after Paul Thorburn had given them the edge at half- time with a try when a clearance attempt from Adrian Davies was charged down.
Cardiff, though, had a rousing last 40 minutes. Davies, the League's leading scorer with over a century of points, dropped a goal, as did the old hand, Mark Ring. As for tries, the tearaway flanker Mike Budd ran in two either side of Kawulok's confirmation that Cardiff are fit and raring to go places.
Cardiff: M Rayer; S Hill, M Hall (capt), M Ring, N Walker; A Davies, A Moore; M Griffiths, J Humphreys, P Sedgemore, P Kawulok, M Edwards, H Taylor, O Williams, M Budd.
Neath: P Thorburn; S Barclay, J Bird, S Bowling, J Reynolds; M McCarthy, C Bridges; B Williams, A Thomas, J Davies, Gareth Llewellyn (capt), Glyn Llewellyn, M Morris, P Jones, I Boobyer. Replacement: T Bumford for Williams (67 min).
Referee: R Yeman (Port Talbot).
Scorers: Thorburn (pen, 1 min) 0-3, Davies (drop goal, 3 min) 3-3, Davies (pen, 11 min) 6-3, Thorburn (try/conv, 37 min) 6-10, Davies (drop goal, 42 min) 9-10, Budd/Davies (try/conv, 49 min) 16-10, McCarthy (try, 52 min) 16-15, Ring (drop goal, 55 min)
19-15, Kawulok (try, 64 min) 24-15, Budd/Davies (try/conv, 76 min) 31-15, Glyn Llewellyn (try, 80 min) 31-20.