Rugby Union: Imminent shake-up revitalises Cardiff

Cardiff 47 Neath 16
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Cardiff 47 Neath 16

The return of Alex Evans has got even Cardiff's most senior players looking over their shoulder for next season.

With the Arms Park due to raise pounds 500,000 from its members in a share flotation this summer, to back the pounds 500,000 due to be put in by Peter Thomas, Evans and his coaching partner, Terry Holmes, should have a tidy sum to spend in a high-priced summer recruitment campaign aimed at improving on this season's Heineken Cup semi-final and last year's runners-up spot.

"Alex coming back has proved a real boost to the players. It's pretty hot in the dressing-room since he returned," said the Wales skipper and Cardiff hooker, Jonathan Humphreys.

"We all know that next season there is going to be a big shake-up at the club in terms of personnel and everyone realises they are playing for their places in the squad."

If the triumph over Neath, the reigning champions, was an improvement on their midweek victory over Newport, it was still a long way short of the trophy-winning days over which Evans presided in his former tenure at the club.

Having sped into a 29-3 interval lead, thanks to an immaculate goalkicking display by outside-half Lee Jarvis, Cardiff coughed and spluttered their way to a single bonus point after the break.

Neath twice hit back with tries in the closing 10 minutes to wipe out the three-try advantage Cardiff required to secure a bonus point. In the end it took a brilliant break by Jarvis with the last move of the game to pave the way for Jamie Ringer to romp over unopposed for the try which regained the bonus.

Cardiff's best hope of winning silverware this season looks like being in the Swalec Cup - they meet Llanelli in the semi-finals on Sunday - and Evans' greatest concern as the season comes to an end will not be to close the 12-point gap at the top, but to maintain the seven-point advantage the Arms Park side have over Bridgend in fourth place.

Cardiff: Tries Hill 2, Walker, Ford, Ringer; Conversions Jarvis 3; Penalties Jarvis 5. Neath: Tries Bridges, Williams; Conversions Case 2; Penalty Case.

Cardiff: J Thomas; S Ford, L Davies, S Hill, N Walker; L Jarvis, R Howley (J Hewlett, 57); A Lewis, J Humphreys (capt; P Young, 66), L Mustoe, K Stewart, D Jones (L Jones, 52), M Bennett, O Williams, J Ringer.

Neath: D Case; C Higgs, D Hawkins, J Funnell, Richard Jones; Darren Morris (G Davies, 43), C Bridges; Darren Morris, B Williams, J Davies (capt; L Gerrard, 56), S Martin, N Watkins, Robin Jones (S Gardner, 66), S Williams, I Boobyer (G Newman, 62).

Referee: R G Davies (Dunvat)