Rugby Union: Swansea having second thoughts

Swansea 30 Glasgow 22
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The Independent Online
Despite winning their Pool B match in the Heineken Cup yesterday, Swansea showed so little grace or simple proficiency in their play that they remain the great under-achievers of the competition. The victory allowed them to leapfrog Glasgow into second place, with a place in the quarter-finals on offer, on points difference behind the unbeaten Wasps.

But there the good news ends. Next weekend sees the final pool matches, and Glasgow are likely to overtake Swansea once again. Their concluding match is at home to Ulster, who are seemingly lying in a concrete waistcoat at the bottom of the pool. In stark contrast Swansea finish with an away game against a Wasps side who are unlikely to relax their guard just because they know they have secured a place in the quarter-finals.

The thinly sown spectators scattered across the cricket pavilion terrace of this all-purpose ground at St Helen's didn't suggest much local optimism. And there was even less when the Glasgow stand-off, Tommy Hayes, put his side a penalty goal in front after three minutes.

Spirits lifted a little when Swansea took the ball out to the right and then back to the left touchline, diligently looking for a gap in Glasgow's defensive hedge. Although the move brought nothing but an answering penalty from the stocky Aled Williams, it was followed by a more fruitful set of manoeuvres along the Glasgow goal-line, with mock attacks by two forwards, Danzi Niblo and Rob Appleyard, testing the defence before Scott Gibbs crossed in the corner for the real thing.

The relief was tempered by a second penalty from Hayes, but before the interval the Swansea scrum-half Rhodri Jones followed up his own kick ahead to score a try in the right corner. Williams made a fine angled conversion before kicking another penalty and, although Hayes dramatically kicked his third from the centre line, Swansea changed ends with a fairly cosy 18-9 lead. There had been no highly polished play from either side to reflect the boisterous enthusiasm of the game, but at least Swansea had been the more adventurous.

Unfortunately the All Whites did little to consolidate their advantage. The second half began with another ritual exchange of penalties between Williams and Hayes, then suddenly Swansea were under pressure again. A quarter of an hour into the half the Glasgow centre Matt McGrandles found surprising freedom to reach the Swansea line from 20 metres out and circle behind the posts to give Hayes, who needed little help, a simple conversion. The gap had narrowed to only two points and the game was still anyone's. In a dreary final quarter it was left to penalties - another three from Williams and one from Hayes - to make the winning margin a little more decisive.

Swansea: M Back; S Davies, M Taylor, S Gibbs (capt), R Rees; A Williams, Rhodri Jones (A Booth, 62); C Anthony, C Wells, I Buckett (C Loader, 55), D Niblo, J Griffiths, A Reynolds, R Appleyard, P Moriarty.

Glasgow: C Sangster; D Stark, C Simmers, M McGrandles, J Craig; T Hayes, F Stott; G McIllwham, G Bulloch (capt), A Kittle, S Begley, G Perrett, F Wallace, I Sinclair, J Shaw.

Referee: G Black (Ireland).

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