Rugby Union: Neath have ball in maul

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Bridgend. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15

Neath . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .33

CLIVE NORLING, recently supreme among referees and now the director of rugby at Bridgend, watched critically on television as Llanelli dismantled Swansea following his side's second-half demolition by the Neath forwards.

'On that performance, Neath could beat anyone,' he said, 'but they'll have to deny possession if they are to win the cup, for Llanelli score tries from anywhere.'

Indeed, Neath look vulnerable in the backs and are perhaps short of pace, although Paul Thorburn's experience and generalship partly makes up for this so that their familiar rolling mauls, which in this Swalec Cup semi-final grew even more powerful, will be crucial.

If they are halted, what then? Gareth Llewellyn, the Neath captain who leads Wales on their Namibian tour next month, has few doubts they will win the cup for a fourth time. 'It was the finest pack performance since I joined Neath,' he said, 'and we will do it again.'

Certainly the five tries to two victory over Bridgend inevitably brought back memories of 1989 and 1990 when Neath won the cup. There is, then, a familiar ring about the final for not only did Neath and Llanelli meet in the inaugural showdown in 1972, but Llanelli have also won for the past two years.

At Stradey Park, somewhat surprisingly, Bridgend were ahead at half time, the result of two tries from their maturing scrum-half Robert Howley, the majestic figure in a talented and promising young side.

Howley and others, however, are targeted by bigger clubs and Bridgend may not see his full development.

Bridgend: Tries Howley 2; Conversion Evans; Penalty Evans. Neath: Tries Bowling, Reynolds 2, Thorburn, McCarthy; Conversion Thorburn; Penalties Thorburn 2.

Bridgend: C Bradshaw; G Webbe, P Wintle, L Evans, G Wilkins; M Lewis, R Howley (N Flay, 78); D Rees, I Greenslade, R Shaw, S Jenkins, A Gwilym, S Bryant, D Bryant (capt; O Lloyd, 60), N Spender.

Neath: P Thorburn; J Reynolds, A Donovan, H Woodland, S Bowling; M McCarthy, R Jones; B Williams, A Thomas, J Davies, Glyn Llewellyn, Gareth Llewellyn (capt), M Morris, A Varney, S Williams.

Referee: R Yeman (Port Talbot).