Rugby Union: Neath made to pay by Booth

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Swansea 49

Neath 10

The demise of the Welsh champions Neath this season has been caused by many things. They lost their line-out to Harlequins, their best centre to Cardiff and had to come into this derby match without the cornerstones of their pack, their injured captain, John Davies, and the Wales No 8, Steve Williams.

Hardly a recipe for success against the present league leaders and the side who have scored more tries than anyone this season, and who have made a speciality of putting teams to the sword at St Helen's.

The Swansea coach, Mike Ruddock, believes that December will determine whether or not his side is capable of winning the First Division title for a third time. He asked for maximum bonus points from this game and now wants his team to carry their home form away with them to Cardiff for a clash of the Welsh titans on 21 December.

For some reason, the All Whites have been unable to fire on all cylinders away from home this season. Ruddock put that down to the many injuries suffered to date, but with his pack fit and healthy once again he is now looking forward optimistically to the trek to Cardiff Arms Park.

Another player who will be excited by that prospect is the scrum-half Andrew Booth. He was the chief architect of Cardiff's defeat in the opening game of the season and warmed up for a clash with his former clubmates with a first-half hat-trick that paved the way for Ruddock's pre-Christmas bonus.

With no specialist tight-head prop to take over from Davies, Neath were always going to be up against it in the scrums. Swansea certainly weren't going to let them off in that phase and it was no surprise when Booth was able to claim his first try after 10 minutes when he dived into the back row to bag a pushover try.

His second came midway through the half when he was driven over from close range and his third was a solo run from 25 metres out four minutes before the break.

His monopoly of the scoring was broken with the last move of the half when the Neath full-back Alan Flowers made such a mess of an inside pass on the halfway line that the ball was gifted to Swansea and the ever-alert Mark Taylor was able to give Simon Davies the chance to show his class on the left wing.

Ruddock and Co must have felt pretty pleased at that stage sitting on a 32-3 lead, but the home coach began to grow nervous as the game progressed and no more points flowed. To their credit, Neath were able to frustrate the hitherto rampant Swansea for a full half-hour and it even took a couple of key substitutions to inject the urgency into the Swansea side needed to gain maximum points.

Off went the outside-half Arwel Thomas and the centre Scott Gibbs and on came Aled Williams and David Weatherley.

If it was a gamble by Ruddock, it certainly paid off. Three more tries flowed before the end and Swansea finished with one of their biggest scores on record against their arch-rivals.

Swansea: M Back; A Harris, S Gibbs (D. Weatherley, 75), M Taylor, S Davies; A Thomas (A Williams, 65), A Booth; C Loader, G Jenkins (capt), C Anthony, S Moore, P Arnold, A Reynolds, P Moriarty, C. Charvis (D Niblo, 78).

Neath: A Flowers; J Young, G Davies (D Hawkins, 40), J Funnell, D Case (C Bridges, 78); P Williams, P Horgan; L Gerrard, B Williams (capt), D Morris, S Martin, A Kembery (M Glover, 67), G Newman, R Jones (S Gardiner, 75), I Boobyer.

Referee: H F Lewis (Bridgend).