SWANSEA resumed the leadership of the Heineken League last night after a sterling effort by a team shorn of two-thirds of their normal first choice, writes Steve Bale. In its way, it was as satisfying as many of the defending champions' more obviously impressive perormances.
The flu bug that had ravaged St Helen's would have had a seriously detrimental effect on title aspirations if Newport had better exploited their first-half territorial advantage. But it was not until the second half - when they had rather less of the game - that they eventually scored their tries.
Swansea had four, which in other circumstances would have been a disappointment since Llanelli have a massive tries' advantage of 44 over their rivals and even Cardiff, now down to third, are eight better off.
Still, no criticism should attach to last night's makeshift XV. Mike Ruddock, the admired Swansea coach, had called on his surviving fit players to 'die for the cause' and indeed they put their bodies on the line to resist Newport when they were winning most of the ball before half-time.
Ian Davies peeled from a line-out for Swansea's first try but there was no breathing-space until after Ian Jeffreys scored Newport's first. This generated the requisite urgency and produced tries for Jonathan Greenslade and Scott Gibbs. Newport had a further try by Andrew Lewis, but Swansea rode out in triumph with a late try by Richard Webster, their new Lion.
Swansea: Tries Davies, Greenslade, Gibbs, Webster; Conversions S Jones 3; Penalties S Jones; Drop goal Titley. Newport: Tries Jeffreys, Lewis; Penalties Westwood 2.
Swansea: D Weatherley; M Titley, J Greenslade, S Gibbs, S Barclay; S Jones, Robbie Jones; C Clark, I Watkins, K Colclough, A Sutton, P Arnold, Robin Jones, I Davies (capt) (R Appleyard, 33), R Webster.
Newport: J Westwood; I Jeffreys, K Orrell, M Yendle, A Lewis; J Williams, M Roderick; M Davis, A Peacock, M Sibthorpe, A Allen, M Voyle, A Carter (capt), K Withey, C Scott.
Referee: R Davies (Dunvant).
SWALEC CUP SEMI-FINALS DRAW: Llanelli v Swansea; Neath v Bridgend. Ties to be played on 24 April at neutral venues.