Rugby Union: Swansea throw down the gauntlet

Swansea 71 Bridgend 19
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WELSH rugby is heading for a grandstand finish when the destiny of the Premier Division title is, almost certainly, decided when the leaders, Swansea, host Cardiff at St Helen's on Saturday. The mathematics is simple - if Swansea can win and take one bonus point, then they will be the champions for a record third time.

While Cardiff were forced to take an unwanted break when Newport cried off from their weekend fixture because of a front-row injury crisis, the All Whites took full advantage by running in 11 tries in yet another massacre of the Bridgend innocents.

Swansea knew they had to bag all five points - three for the win and two bonus points for scoring six tries more than their opponents. In a whirlwind start, there were eight tries and seven conversions in 23 minutes of error-free rugby which took them into a 54-0 lead. The game was over and all thoughts from that moment on turned to the title decider against Cardiff.

For the record, Arwell Thomas kicked seven conversions in that purple patch and added an eighth in the second half, and Richard Rees grabbed a first-half hat-trick and then raced 70 metres after the break to notch the try of the match.

The build-up to Saturday's title showdown is bound to be a tense occasion, but it will also be an emotive day for all the players involved given what happened the last time the two clubs met. It was on 13 December, when Swansea triumphed 31-22, and the Wales captain Gwyn Jones broke his neck.

Swansea: D Weatherley (A Clement, 24); R Rees, M Taylor, S Gibbs (capt), S Davies; A Thomas (L Davies, 79), A Booth; J Evans (I Buckett, 51), C Wells (D Colclough, 75), K Colclough, P Arnold (T Maullin, 12-20), A Moore, P Moriarty, D Thomas, C Charvis (R Appleyard, 51).

Bridgend: D Jones; G Wilkins, R Boobyer (A Williams, 55), S Winn, O Thomas; G Cull, C Hammans; L Manning, M Kennedy (G Thomas, 26), R Shaw (D Francis, 59), S Ford, P Owen, C Stephens (capt), C Kinsey, O Lloyd.

Referee: P Adams (Ebbw Vale).