Rugby Union: Ford's model finish

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Cardiff. . .8

Swansea. . .6

IT MAY not have been the finest display of elegant, running rugby but a last-minute try by Cardiff introduced some drama. It decided the game with no play remaining and transformed the championship race, forcing Swansea to fight every inch of the way when they had hoped to be out of sight.

With the final move of the match, the outside-half Adrian Davies made a break with defeat against the league leaders staring his side in the face - and defeat would end any hopes of the championship.

He kicked neatly; onward the ball trickled over the Swansea line; defenders tried frantically to hack it clear. They failed. The Cardiff winger Steve Ford got the touch that won the game, so keeping Cardiff's hope alive.

Last season, they virtually propped up the First Division; this year, they may yet win it. For 84 minutes, Swansea had looked as though they would deny the home side the ultimate chance. Until that try it had been a relentless series of rucks and mauls with two well-matched packs slugging it out, neither giving any quarter.

The two outside-halves traded penalties with Cardiff's Adrian Davies taking the first and Aled Williams retaliating two minutes later.

This deadlock was then broken just before the half-time whistle when the Swansea centre Scott Gibbs finally found some space. He scythed through the gap but held on to the ball slightly too long. Cardiff transgressed in the ruck and the outside-half Williams easily kicked the penalty.

The game opened up slightly in the second half but fierce tackling snuffed out any chance of a try. The main interest was not the quality of the play but individual battles over who might fill places in the Welsh team. The game offered little illumination - neither Cardiff's Davies, despite his final flourish, nor Swansea's Williams gave compelling evidence that they can easily fill the vacuum at outside-half in the national side.

The Cardiff full-back Mike Rayer confirmed his growing stature with sure-footed kicking, faultless catching and tackling and a cool head. Perhaps the answer is to let him keep his Welsh jersey and move Tony Clement to national outside-half when he is fit again.

And Nigel Walker is yet to convince that he has the rugby skills to complete the translation from Olympic hurdler to Welsh winger. He is fast - very fast - but juggled the ball too readily yesterday and never looked likely to beat his man.

All the same, there is no boost for a prospective international quite like playing in a side that might win the league. And Cardiff are certainly in with a chance after yesterday's passionate reluctance to lie down and die.

Cardiff: M Rayer; S Ford, M Hall (capt), M Ring, N Walker; A Davies, A Moore (A Booth, 19 min); M Griffiths, J Humphreys, P Sedgemore, P Kawulok, S Roy, H Taylor, O Williams, M Budd.

Swansea: J Ball; M Titley, K Hopkins, S Gibbs, S Davies; A Williams, R Jones; K Colclough, G Jenkins, A Metcalfe, P Arnold, R Moriarty, A Reynolds, S Davies (capt), R Webster.

Referee: R Yeman.

Scores: A Davies (pen, 24 min, 3-0); A Williams (pen, 26 min, 3-3); A Williams (pen, 42 min, 3-6); Ford (try, 85 min, 8-6).