Rugby Union: Swansea are walking a familiar tightrope

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SWANSEA have walked this way before, only last season in fact, and lost their grip on the Heineken League title when it seemed to be tightly in their hands. So the last thing they are taking as they travel to Newport for today's critical fixture is anything for granted, writes Steve Bale.

On Wednesday, the All Whites' 15-0 defeat of Neath, still their closest challengers, was euphorically received. It gave them a three-point cushion with four games to play so even if Pontypridd, who are third, win at Swansea on 9 April someone else, most likely Cardiff three weeks later, will have at least to take another point from the leaders. And even that may not suffice.

As it happens, a Pontypridd win at St Helen's is entirely possible. Ponty it was who put Swansea out of the cup, a helpful stimulus to the Whites' First Division campaign one would have thought, and Neil Jenkins and company are Welsh rugby's form team. Home victory over Cross Keys today is a formality.

A Swansea win is less straightforward at Newport, who now have the Canadian Gareth Rees installed as their outside-half. Not the least impressive feature of the White-wash of Neath was that they played so well without the injured Aled Williams, their own stand-off playmaker, but it would be expecting a lot for that type of performance to be constantly repeated in his certain absence for the rest of the season. Neath, meanwhile, face Newbridge at The Gnoll - a match they dare not, but might, lose.

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