Rugby Union: Neath have reason to believe

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The Independent Online
Neath 43

Grenoble 14

THE NEATH coach, Lyn Jones, saluted "six cracking tries in our best performance for some time" as the Welsh All Blacks kept alive their hopes of qualifying from their Heineken Cup pool.

It was Neath's highest score in 19 European matches over four seasons. Their previous best came when they lost 51-33 at home to Perpignan last season. It was also only their fourth win in European competition - all of them at home.

A notice in a Neath club office says "Believers are achievers". And the belief was there as the Gnoll club dispelled memories of their home defeat by Edinburgh Reivers earlier this month. Both sides moved the ball with some confidence - particularly Neath as they surged to a 36-0 interval lead.

Grenoble changed their props and replaced the former Scotland three- quarter Tony Stanger at half-time. The French pack certainly asserted more influence in the second half. This was recognised by Neath, who made substitutes themselves at prop in the final quarter.

Outside-half Cerith Rees was in his element as he sparked frequent three- quarter moves. Rees landed three penalties in four attempts and converted two other tries. His tactical control, however, caught the spotlight.

Grenoble were at a disadvantage as their half-backs, the South African Theo van Rensburg and scrum-half Olivier Beaudon, were playing together for the first time.

Grenoble were last night confident that they could turn the tables on Neath on Saturday. "Isn't it ironic that we have not met for more than 100 years and here we are facing each other twice in seven days," Jones said.

Jones had warned his side at half-time that the French would come back at them. His words rang true with Grenoble gaining a penalty try and then a try by their substitute prop Sebastien Rondinelli.

Full-back Franck Corrihons, who scored all the Grenoble points in their home win over Northampton, showed a penchant for attack.

The French trouble was that they could rarely put together a concerted handling move without error. What wind there was certainly did not blow for France. Wales flanker Brett Sinkinson again showed his authority in defence and attack, while Neath's wings, Delme Williams and Shane Williams, were a handful, with the latter scoring his 11th try of the season. Dave Tiueti was powerful in the centre and deserved his two tries.

Neath: M Singer; D Williams, D Tiueti, T Davies, S Williams; C Rees, R Jones (capt)(A Jacobs, 70); Duncan Jones (L Gerrard, 65), M Davies, A Millward (D Jones, 65), A Codling, A Jackson, R Francis, B Sinkinson (G Newman, 78), S van Rensberg (R Phillips, 58).

Grenoble: F Corrihons; P Villard, M Stanley, T Stanger (F Rimet, h/t), P Cooke; T van Rensburg, O Beaudon (capt); U Muaiava (A Tolofua, h/t), J-J Taofifenua (T Algret, 70), L Gomez (S Rondinelli, h/t), F Jolmes, P Lubungu (K Benazzi, 70), J Carre, S Pochon, D Adams.

Referee: E Morrison (Eng)