Rugby Union: Crackerjack Leslie's surprise for Neath

Neath 20 Edinburgh Reivers 31
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WITH THREE games still to come against the Reivers, it was more than tempting fate by the Neath coach, Lyn Jones, to describe the Scottish super-district as "the worst team I've ever seen" in the wake of his own team's Welsh-Scottish League triumph in October.

Ever since his damning verdict, Ian Rankin's men had been waiting for their return visit to The Gnoll. Bolstered by their World Cup players, most notably the back row Martin Leslie, they more than made their point as they held on to their unbeaten record in Pool 6 of the Heineken Cup.

No Scottish side has ever reached the knock-out phase of the Heineken Cup, but the Reivers look well-placed to break that sequence. Having beaten Grenoble at home and now Neath away, a victory at Northampton in two weeks' time would be priceless.

If they do win at Franklin's Gardens then their back row of Cameron Mather, Graham Dall and the irrepressible Leslie will have to match the job they did on Neath's much vaunted trio when they face the likes of Pat Lam, Tim Rodber and Budge Poutney.

You will not find many people at The Gnoll admitting to seeing their own Welsh international flanker, Brett Sinkinson, being outplayed in the loose, but for once the home hero ended up second best.

If the hard work for the Reivers was done up front, then the cutting edge was provided by the wings Conan Sharman and Cammie Murray. Sharman ended with all the glory, grabbing a hat-trick of tries, but one was made by Murray and another was laid on a plate by the full-back Derrick Lee.

Although Neath were able to take the lead with a simple Matthew Pearce penalty it was always the Reivers who looked more likely to score a try. By the interval, Sharman had crossed for two and Neath looked all at sea.

A tactical substitution at half-time, bringing on the more adventurous Cerith Rees for Pearce at outside-half, transformed the home side's approach in the second half and the daring Rees twice helped to cut the deficit to four points by figuring in the try of the match for Shane Willimas, a 70-metre special, and then crossing in the same corner himself. But nothing was going to halt Leslie when he drove for the line after a break by Iain Fairley from a line out on the home 22.

Neath: G John (R Johnson, 63); M Singer, D Tieuti, T Davies, S Williams; M Pearce (C Rees, 41), R Jones; Duncan Jones (L Gerrard, 60), M Davies, A Millward (David Jones, 70), A Codling, A Jackson, S van Rensburg, B Sinkinson, R Phillips (capt, G Newman, 70).

Edinburgh Reivers: D Lee; C Murray (S Lang, 68), C Paterson (A Tate, 50), G Shiel (capt), C Sharman; D Hodge, I Fairley; B Stewart, S Scott, M Proudfoot, N Hines, I Fullarton (A Lucking 73), C Mather (G Hayter, 60), G Dall, M Leslie.

Referee: D Tyndall (Ireland).