Rugby Union: Swansea scalp at last for debutant Jenkins

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The Independent Online
Swansea 25 Cardiff 34

NEIL JENKINS, making his debut in a Cardiff shirt, helped his new club to their first win at Swansea for four years and his own first win at St Helens.

The stand-off, who moved to the Arms Park club in the summer, had never won at Swansea with his old club, Pontypridd, before Saturday's victor as he joined a number of players who returned to the domestic scene for the first time after World Cup duty with Wales.

He rattled up an impressive 19 points and, under his cool and calculated guidance, the Blue-and-Blacks survived a second half onslaught by their arch-rivals from west Wales.

Cardiff, who lost scrum-half Rob Howley for 25 minutes with blood gushing from a head wound, dominated the first half and were 24-9 up at the interval.

While Howley was being patched up with six stitches to a cut above his right eye, Cardiff scored the game's first try. A deft inside pass by Jenkins found the centre Leigh Davies, whose slick handling out of the tackle in turn found his centre partner Gareth Thomas outside him.

The Wales wing burst free, showing a scalding turn of pace, and side- stepped past the Swansea full-back Alex Lawson to score under the posts.

The Cardiff centre pair of Davies and Thomas consistently outshone their Swansea opposite numbers, the Wales pair, Scott Gibbs and Mark Taylor, in a compelling encounter in front of a 6,000 crowd.

Just before half-time, things went from bad to worse for the All Whites when Howley, with his head bandaged, scored a poacher's try after a comedy of errors in the Swansea defence.

The full-back Lawson, who was replaced at half-time, had a kick in his own 22 charged down by Cardiff wing Simon Hill. It was Howley who was on hand to pick up the loose ball and score in the corner as Swansea looked out on their feet at half-time.

But Swansea, with the words of their Kiwi coach, John Plumtree, ringing in their ears, were a different side after the break. From the restart they were on the front foot and scored a well-worked try with the second period only a minute old.

Robert Jones, the former Wales and Lions scrum-half, changed the angle of attack with a flip pass to the lock Andy Moore just inside the Cardiff 22 and the big second row galloped in to score under the posts.

It was just what the home side needed as they clawed their way back into the game. With the outside-half Arwel Thomas kicking three penalties, Swansea closed the gap and were tantalisingly within two points of Cardiff with the score at 27-25.

There were still 20 minutes to go, Swansea had their tails up, and there was a genuine feeling they were going to come away with all the spoils. The wing Richard Rees, on for the out-of-sorts Lawson, launched a raid down the right-hand side, and it needed Jenkins to pull off a try-saving tackle for Cardiff with five minutes to go.

Jenkins then sealed the win with a beautiful pass to find his winger, Hill, who crashed over in the corner for the Blue-and-Blacks to seal a deserved victory in injury time.

Swansea: Try Moore; Conversion A Thomas; Penalties A Thomas (6). Cardiff: Tries Hill, Howley, Thomas; Conversions Jenkins (2); Penalties Jenkins (4); Drop Goal Jenkins.

Swansea: A Lawson (R Rees 40), S Payne, M Taylor, S Gibbs (capt), M Robinson, A Thomas, R Jones, D Morris (J Evans, 17, C Wells 25), G Jenkins, B Evans, T Maullin (D Thomas, 70), A Moore, P Moriarty, L Jones, C Charvis.

Cardiff: M Rayer (capt), L Botham, G Thomas, L Davies, S Hill, N Jenkins, R Howley, A Lewis, J Humphreys, A Yates (G Powell, 76), C Quinnell, J Tait (M Voyle, 50), D Baugh, E Lewis, M Williams (O Williams, 70).

Referee: C Thomas (Bryncoch).

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