Rugby Union: Neath go under to Pontypool

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PONTYPOOL, ONCE Wales's most feared club side, turned the clock back with their finest result in years yesterday when they held off Premier Division Neath 15-14 to qualify for the quarter-finals of the Swalec Cup. The First Division side owed their success to tries from Alex Brown and Martin Cawley while Matthew Silva weighed in with a penalty and a conversion.

The holders, Llanelli, ran in 15 tries as they thrashed minnows Llanhilleth 91-0 with the internationals Wayne Proctor and Robin McBryde helping themselves to four and three apiece. Swansea, Cross Keys and Tredegar also prevailed in sixth-round ties of varying difficulty.

Bristol returned to the top of Allied Dunbar Premiership Two with a thrilling 34-32 win at Orrell, for whom Kirk Johnston went over three times and Simon Verbickas supplied 17 points, while the previous leaders Worcester slipped to a surprise 27-23 defeat at Exeter despite an 18-point contribution from their fly-half Richard Le Bas.

Bristol's lead, however, will last only 24 hours if third-placed Rotherham win their game in hand at Blackheath this afternoon by 26 clear points. Fourth-placed London Welsh kept up their title interest with a 42-34 home win over Coventry in which their former Great Britain rugby league centre Andy Currier claimed a hat-trick of tries to boost his season's tally to 12.

Manchester finished 13-7 to the good in their top-of-the-table match at home to Henley in Jewson National League One. Manchester now hold a one-point lead, but they have played a game more than their rivals.

Heriot's FP lead the Tennent's Velvet Premiership by two points after a 47-21 win at Hawick which featured three tries by Stuart Walker and 22 points from Gordon Ross. But their only rivals, Glasgow Hawks, kept their Scottish title hopes alive by beating Watsonians 30-10.

Gerald Merceron kicked 20 points as Montferrand beat Bourgoin 35-16 in the European Shield final in Lyons, but French rugby received a double blow when the centre Franck Comba (rib) and the flanker Marc Lievremont (collar bone) suffered fractures in Stade Francais' Cup victory over Perpignan. They are both out of Saturday's international against Wales in Paris.