Rugby Union: Plumtree generous in victory

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The Independent Online
Swansea 60 Newport 38

IF GENEROSITY of spirit has been the first casualty of Welsh rugby's internecine war, then nobody told John Plumtree.

The first priority of the Swansea coach was to see his side safely into the last 16 of the Swalec Cup, and this he did, albeit at the somewhat preventable expense of five Newport tries. But with victory in the bag, and being mindful of the weekend's Five Nations match in Scotland, Plumtree also did the right thing by Wales.

Four of those tipped to play some part against the Scots - Scott Gibbs, Mark Taylor, Chris Anthony and Matthew Robinson - were withdrawn by Plumtree during the rare moments in the second half when a try was not being scored. In the wake of Swansea's spat with the Welsh Rugby Union, the club's refusal to sign the 10-year loyalty agreement and all that has ensued, Plumtree's attitude was a ray of light on a grey afternoon.

"All I'm concerned with is the rugby," said the New Zealander. "I wanted to help Graham Henry out and that is the most important thing."

Swansea's future is worryingly uncertain, with announcements on next season's structure expected in the next two days. The club's agreement with English First Division Rugby, which spawned this season's series of unsanctioned friendlies, has another season to run, but Swansea's preference is for a genuine cross-border competition. If that does not happen then both Swansea and Cardiff face some tough decisions.

Meanwhile, Plumtree's compatriot Henry is set to name the Wales team for Murrayfield today. Robinson's possible promotion to a first cap is due to an injury to the Cardiff winger Gareth Thomas and the doubts over Anthony Sullivan's readiness for the international stage.

Robinson would not have played at all against Newport, his former club, if Simon Davies had not stubbed a toe in training. Having created one of Swansea's three first half tries with a dashing lateral break, Robinson was withdrawn after only 50 minutes.

Gibbs, Taylor and Anthony followed in the last quarter, and Colin Charvis would have done so, too, but he chose to play on. The impressive Charvis has the ability to achieve true star status in the Five Nations.

Swansea; Tries M Taylor, Charvis, Rees 3, Weatherly 2, Gibbs, R Jones; Conversions A Thomas 6; Penalty A Thomas. Newport: Tries Watkins, Nichols 3, King; Conversions Connor 2, Mitchell 3; Penalty Connor.

Swansea: D Weatherley; R Rees, M Taylor (L Davies 67 mins), S Gibbs (capt), A Lawson 70), M Robinson (C van Rensburg 50); A Thomas, R Jones; D Morris, G Jenkins, C Anthony (B Evans 70), T Maullin, A Moore (P Arnold 52), P Moriarty (D Thomas 60), C Charvis, L Jones (D Thomas 13-20).

Newport: M Cardey (D Burn 75); A Harris, M Watkins, K Nichols, M Llewellyn (G King 12); S Connor (S Mitchell 67), S Moore; R Snow, G Hicks (I Jones 67), S Cronk (capt), G Taylor, S Roy, J Powell (G Lucas 79), B Clark, A Gibbs.

Referee: Tony Rowlands (Treorchy).