Cardiff. . .6
THERE is now a black ribbon loosely tied around the championship trophy. Neath fiercely beat the nearest contender in the best and worst traditions of the club.
With their flanker Ian Boobyer sent off for kicking after only four minutes, the remaining seven forwards in the Welsh All Black pack simply revved up and ground Cardiff's pretensions to fine dust.
It was a classic display of Neath's age-old split personality. One moment they were more intent on finding the brawl rather than the ball, the next they would unleash a ferocious attack with the ball tossed around.
This sunnier side eventually came to the fore when Matthew McCarthy scored the only try, jinking through the smallest of gaps on the blind side. But it was on the pack that Neath's success was built, and especially on Adrian Varney. He spent much of the first half with his head in bandages, but was heroic in the loose until finally taken off, blood dripping from the wound. Only in the tight were Neath beaten, and then only by the eight-man shove and by Mike Griffiths' solid propping.
Cardiff put their hopes on three pillars: Mike Rayer, solid in defence; Mike Hall offering only glimpses of his incisive best; and Adrian Davies, who looked the man to fill the vacuum at outside-half for Wales.
But in truth, neither side looked the full 24 carat gold. Cardiff's ability to attract the best from other clubs has failed to bring them a coherent side.
Neath's forward fire has little skill behind it. The unattractive style never changes - it is just more successful some seasons than others.
Back in the Sixties there were the biting incidents where no local paper was complete without a picture of some poor forward into whose back Neath's fangs had been sunk. It was said then they did not sell programmes at the Gnoll, but menus.
It is not quite as bad as that now, but there is still a fear that their All Black way will not offer Wales the kind of success the genuine All Blacks have achieved.
Neath: P Thorburn; T Michael, S Crandon, A Shaw, M Singer; M McCarthy, C Bridges; Brian Williams, Barrie Williams, J Davies, Glyn Llewellyn, Gareth LLewellyn (capt), I Boobyer, S Williams, A Varney. Replacements: M Morris for Varney, 44 min.
Cardiff: M Rayer; S Ford, M Hall (capt), C Laity, S Hill; A Davies, A Booth; M Griffiths, J Humphreys, L Mustoe, P Kawulok, D Jones, H Stone, H Taylor, O Williams. Replacements: A Moore for Booth, 64 min.
Referee: Clayton Thomas (Swansea).
Scores: Thorburn (pen, 17 min, 3-0); A Davies (pen, 29 min, 3-3); A Davies (drop goal, 33 min, 3-6); McCarthy (pen, 43 min, 6-6); McCarthy (try, 51 min, 11-6).
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