Rugby Union: Davies proves the difference

Swansea 31 Cardiff 15
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The Independent Online
IT MIGHT not have been the friendly that our fixture list suggested, but Swansea left St Helens in good spirits after defeating fellow rebels Cardiff in this latest Anglo-Welsh tie.

Unfortunately, the next time these two clubs meet it will be at Thursday's specially convened meeting of the Welsh Rugby Union, when both will almost certainly be punished for leaving this season's Premier Division.

The level of that punishment has yet to be agreed, and considering that both clubs have already been invited to bid for a place among Welsh rugby's four Super clubs in the proposed British League for next season, there is a school of thought suggesting that the union would be well advised to brush the whole sorry matter under the carpet.

Hopefully common sense will prevail as it did at St Helens yesterday, albeit belatedly. After a furious opening 10 minutes in which the referee Fred Howard was forced to hand out a stern lecture to both sides' warring forwards, the game settled into a passionate and entertaining affair.

It took just six minutes for the first brawl to break out and two minutes after that the 10,000-strong Swansea crowd was calling for Mr Howard to take action against at least one of the over-exuberant Cardiff forwards.

The unofficial official, however, chose to diffuse the situation with his voice rather than with his red card and after that both sides treated the crowd to some decent rugby, especially from Swansea.

They trailed early on to a Paul Burke penalty, but once the fly-half Lee Davies had levelled matters with the first of his three, the home side took control and established a firm platform on which they struck up a 19-3 interval lead.

Davies, with two more kicks and a pair of tries from the winger Matthew Robinson provided that cushion and though Cardiff had their moments they were never able to wrestle control from a Swansea pack that just gets better and better with each game.

Cardiff's plight was certainly not helped when Dan Baugh and Greg Kacala were sent to the sin-bin for persistently killing the ball at the end of the first half, but they did manage to pull back the deficit with tries from Craig Morgan and the returning Baugh within 10 minutes of the restart.

It should have set up a thrilling final half-hour. Instead it was Swansea who were spurred into action and they took control of the game with tries from Davies and the captain Scott Gibbs which extended the victory margin to 31-15.

Davies, in front of watching Wales coach Graham Henry, was an inspiration and his 16-point haul in the end proved the difference between the sides.

Welsh rugby hardly oozes fly-half talent at the moment and Davies can have done his chances no harm at all on a day when Swansea proved why they are the reigning Welsh champions.

Swansea: D Weatherley; R Rees, M Taylor, S Gibbs (captain), M Robinson (C Van Rensburg, 49); L Davies, R Jones; D Morris, G Jenkins, B Evans, T Maullin (P Arnold, 6), A Moore (J Griffiths, 75), C Charvis, D Thomas, L Jones.

Cardiff: J Thomas; C Morgan, L Davies, G Thomas (M Wintle, 70), S Hill; P Burke, R Jones; A Lewis (captain), J Humphreys, S John (L Mustoe, 70), S Williams, J Tait (D Jones, 41), O Williams, D Baugh, G Kacala.

Referee: Fred Howard (England).