Rugby Union: Neath overwhelmed

Swansea 49 Neath 10
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The Independent Online
The serious business having been concluded, and maximum bonus points in the bag, Swansea suddenly remembered the rivalry that exists between the two clubs and aimed for goal from 25 metres out with what was virtually the last kick of the match.

Had it gone over the All Whites would have hit the half-century mark in what used to be one of the fiercest derbies in Welsh rugby. Even so, the margin of victory showed the lack of passion in the game.

Swansea, top of the First Division table on try count when the game started, knew they had to score at least six tries to hold on to their lead. The fact they felt confident of achieving such a goal against the reigning champions tells the story of Neath's demise this winter.

Not that it is all their own fault. Market forces have mitigated against them and their line-out went to Harlequins, their leading centre joined Cardiff and their current injury list included John Davies and Steve Williams.

The scrum-half Andy Booth gave Swansea the perfect start with a hat-trick of tries in 36 minutes and Simon Davies raced 50 metres for a fourth on half-time.

Ahead 32-3 at the interval, it looked plain sailing. Yet Neath kept plugging away, snatched a try of their own and at least forced their hosts to battle for the bonus points in the final quarter.

In the end the Swansea coach, Mike Ruddock, had to substitute two key men, Arwel Thomas and Scott Gibbs, and introduce the wily Aled Williams to spread the ball wider to achieve the desired result. It was a gamble that paid handsome dividends. Three more tries flowed in the closing 12 minutes and everyone went home happy.

Swansea: Tries Booth 3, Davies 2, Taylor, Anthony; Conversions Thomas 3, Williams; Penalties Thomas 2. Neath: Try P Williams; Conversion P Williams; Penalty P Williams.

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 Lewis (Pontypridd).