Rugby Union: Davies gives Cardiff title hopes

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Cardiff. .14

Neath. . .8

PENCIL April 30 into your diaries, for it looks like the day the Heineken Welsh League will be decided. Cardiff play the leaders Swansea then and, on yesterday's exciting evidence, could give them a rude shock.

With all the top Welsh sides getting nasty nips from underdogs - and all set to play each other - the battle is destined to go to the wire.

At the Arms Park yesterday, outside-half Adrian Davies kept Cardiff's hopes alive. He kicked the penalties in a swirling wind and scored the last- gasp try that snatched the game from Neath.

The West Glamorgan side were only a point behind at the time, but gave the impression of achieving victory. Somehow Cardiff's scrum-half Andy Moore charged down Matthew McCarthy's attempted clearance. Prop Andrew Lewis collected the ricochet, lumbered on before wisely realising he wouldn't make the line.

Davies took the ball and exploited the space with a vengeance, tearing up the 50 yards to give Cardiff the lead and dent Neath's hopes of the title.

The Welsh All Blacks immediately bucked up, piling on the pressure and opting to run a string of penalties near the Cardiff line. But each time they met a granite wall.

It is this determination which is new at the Arms Park. There is now a backbone in the pack that has been absent over past seasons. There has not been any great change of personnel, but there is a new- found steel that stops them buckling where previously they would have bent and snapped.

Yesterday they could have succumbed. Neath attacked ferociously from the start, scoring a try using a familiar pat tern of fierce forward play with the backs liberated into space, the opposition run ragged.

A sideshow yesterday might have seemed but fine entertain ment to match the grander international event it turned out to be. Both sides put on a rare show of skill and fire which might convince the gloomiest Welshman that better times beckon, Saturday 30 April being a good starting point.

Cardiff: Try Davies; Penalties Davies 3 Neath: Try Woodland; Penalty Thorburn

Cardiff: M Rayer; S Hill, M Hall (capt), C Laity, N Walker; A Davies, A Moore; A Lewis (K Matthews, 81), H Bevan, P Sedgemore, J Wakeford, D Jones, M Bennett, O Williams, M Budd (H Stone, 6).

Neath: P Thorburn; A Harries, S Crandon, H Woodland, K Holifield; M McCarthy, C Bridges; Brian Williams, Barrie Williams, J Davies, Glyn Llewellyn, Garreth Llewellyn (capt), M Morris, S Williams, A Varney.

Referee: Huw Lewis (WRU).