Rugby Union: Neath live on edge

By Clem Thomas
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Swansea 21 Neath 25 Neath, who are still in the chase for the League and Cup double, found Swansea, who had lost their last four games and conceded 151 points in the process, a far harder nut to crack than could have been imagined before the kick-off.

Swansea, who have suffered injury to 21 members of their squad during the season, for once played with commitment and were indebted to the return of Alan Reynolds, their hard man in the back row.

Neath almost sunk themselves when, in the search for points, they twice took tap penalties instead of three certain points. They got away with it, but that - together with the sight of Aled Williams dropping for goal in the dying minutes when his side needed four points to win - suggested that the captaincy on the field was at times suspect.

At the start you could sense that Neath were going for the championship as they played vivacious rugby and began to rip apart the Swansea defence as though it were tissue paper. Two two fine tries resulted, the first by John Davies from a rolling maul, converted by Chris Bridges; the second from the wing Geraint Evans, which was created by the strong running and swift passing of Leigh Davies and Hugh Woodman.

These tries were interspersed by a penalty for Swansea who, though looking extremely fragile, began to compete through strong play of Reynolds in the loose and through Paul Arnold in the line-outs. Two more penalties by Williams put Swansea into a 14-12 half-time lead.

John Davies scored a second try after the break, again from splendid approach work by Geraint Davies and Leigh Davies, to give Neath a valuable bonus point. It was followed by another penalty by Bridges, but Swansea rallied again and a try by Roddy Boobyer converted by Williams made it 22-21 with five minutes to go.

Bridges kicked a final penalty for Neath who, whisper it not, are beginning to look a little jaded.

Swansea: R Boobyer; A Harris, M Taylor, D Weatherly, S Davies; A Williams, R Jones; K Colclough, E Evans, C Anthony, P Arnold, M Evans, A Reynolds, S Davies (captain), C Charvis.

Neath: G Davies; C Higgs, L Davies, H Woodland, G Evans; P Williams, C Bridges; L Gerard, B Williams, J Davies, Glyn Llewellyn, Gareth Llewellyn (captain), R Jones, S Williams, C Scott.

Referee: RG Davies (WRU).