Rugby Union: Richards relishes Welsh dimension

Swansea 34 Leicester 22
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The Independent Online
WHEN YOU see a look of disappointment on the face of the Leicester coach Dean Richards then you know that something's wrong. Nothing in rugby is taken lightly by Deano.

But it was difficult to determine whether it was the fact that his side had conceded four tries that hurt more or the fact that he is facing the prospect of a new season without any fixtures against Welsh clubs.

This could have been the official "battle of Britain" rugby match. Instead it was the last of the unofficial Anglo-Welsh friendlies in a season of discontent for UK rugby.

Not that Leicester came down merely to make up numbers. They may only have paraded four of their internationals in a shadow side, but the English champions are not a team to turn it in.

They were hit by an early hat-trick of tries, and then a fourth to stretch the lead, but they showed remarkable resilience to hold on and no little skill in the second half to deny Swansea any further scores.

And at the end of it all Richards was bemoaning the fact that his players will not be exposed to official games against traditional Welsh rivals next season, other than in the European Rugby Cup.

"I think we need to look further afield in England than merely playing against our own. I think the Welsh clubs bring certain things to our fixture list," Richards said.

"If we can sort out a structured season that means our top players are playing no more than 30 games, and that includes internationals, then it would be great to have the best of the Welsh clubs playing against English sides.

"If there had been points at stake in a league of some sort in our matches against Swansea and Cardiff this season then they would have been humdingers."

This game was never likely to be a humdinger, with Swansea hoping to keep a clean bill of health before facing Llanelli in Saturday's Swalec Cup final, but there was just enough to keep the crowd happy.

Swansea started well thanks to the strong wind blowing in off the Mumbles and struck first with a try after only four minutes by their scrum half Rhodri Jones. Ten minutes later his namesake, the No 8 Leigh, drove over from close range and Arwel Thomas converted magnificently off the touch line.

Better was to follow two minutes later when the Wales wing Matthew Robinson intercepted for a 60-metres touchdown.

Leicester's revival began moments after the Wales centre Mark Taylor had blasted his way through for Swansea's fourth try. Canadian wing David Lougheed ran in two tries before the break, the second after joining a driving maul at a close-range lineout.

Thomas topped and tailed the second half with penalties and Leicester were awarded a penalty try when the referee spotted a Swansea forward pulling a rival by his jersey.

Swansea: D Weatherley (A Lawson 23), R Rees, M Taylor (L Davies 59), C van Rensberg, M Robinson, A Thomas, R Jones (A Booth 62), D Morris (C Loader 41), C Wells, B Evans (C Anthony 47), T Moullin (J Griffiths 41), A Moore, P Moriarty (capt, D Colclough 68), L Jones, D Thomas.

Leicester: G Murphy, J Ferris, M Read, G Becconsall, D Lougheed, J Stransky (capt), J Hamilton, P Freshwater (P Greenbury 55), D West, G Rowntree (D Jelly 55), A Innes, N Fletcher (B Hurrell 9-18), P Gustard, W Johnson (A Balding 41), L Moody.

Referee: G Bowden (Taffs Well).