Rugby Union: Eurosceptic field day

Swansea 66 Padova 19
Click to follow
The Independent Online
IN MANY quarters the European competitions in place for this season and the next three years are seen as the first major step in creating a degree of stability for club rugby in the northern hemisphere. The Heineken Cup and its more junior partner, the European Shield, are regarded as some kind of panacea to cure the rugby ills that have beset the domestic game, and to help to build the footings of a properly organised and managed professional club game.

The interest in New Europe has been at fever pitch all week, providing a comforting antidote to those suffering from World Cup withdrawals. The hope is that European competition will shatter xenophobic tendencies, ushering us away from the dom-estic game's incestuous nature.

Thousands flocked to Cardiff on Friday evening for the exciting draw against Harlequins, and the grounds at Bath, North-ampton, Limerick and Colom-iers will doubtlessly be full to the rafters over the weekend.

The Swansea faithful did not turn up in their masses. They knew what was on offer. Italian rugby lacks the strength and ability to justify two teams at this level. I question whether the Six Nations tournament will be strengthened by Italy's presence and wonder whether the Five Nations committee have jumped the gun - even though Rome, Milan and Treviso should be great trips.

Swansea's form has been surprisingly lacklustre and mercurial fly-half Arwel Thomas did not start. The score suggests a handsome win but the performance will not cause Bath or Toulouse any sleepless nights.

Ancient Padova, renowned as a bastion of academia, lies in the heartland of Italian rugby 50km from Venice. They traditionally play a forward- orientated game with kicking half-backs. The Australian coach Mike Cheika's arrival has expanded their ambition, but perhaps he should have directed his energies to on-field patterns of play instead of venting frustration on the vociferous Whites supporters.

Padova crept offside in the first 30 seconds, an act of ill discipline that characterised their play. Fly-half Lee Davies scored the penalty, and from the restart Davies set off on a run that saw the outstanding Colin Charvis crash over for the opening try.

Swansea meant business and pressed home their advantage when Davies' slide-rule kick enabled the former Welsh scrum-half Robert Jones to scamper over for a simple try.

A 15-0 advantage after only 10 minutes can work to a side's benefit when confidence is low, or conversely encourage sloppy play and concentration. Swan-sea's initial response was a further try out of the top drawer. Jones instigated a complicated move for flying winger Matthew Robinson to round off in style in the corner. Scott Gibbs and Robinson added further tries before the interval with Piergiorgio Menapace and Philippo Rampazzo crossing over for the visitors as the sloppiness crept in. Padova improved after the game had been lost, reflecting Swansea's lack of killer instinct more than any meaningful level of competition from the Italians.

Swansea: R Jones; A Lawson, M Taylor, S Gibbs (capt), M Robinson; L Davies, R Jones; M Jones, G Jenkins, B Evans, T Maullin, A Moore, P Moriarty, L Jones, C Charvis.

Padova: M Baroni; V D'Anna, F Rampazzo, D Soper, B Williams; L Pasqualin, F Gomez; P Menapace, A Moretti, A Muraro, A Giacon, R Saetti, M Devin, R Rampazzo (capt), M Bergamasco.

Referee: C Whyte (Eng)