Rugby Union: Swansea top after brutal battle

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The Independent Online
SWANSEA MAINTAINED their lead at the top of the unofficial Anglo- Welsh table with a 28-27 win over West Hartlepool yesterday but the game was marred with two sendings-off and several other players should have seen red.

Swansea's replacement prop John Evans and temporary West prop Paul Beal, only on the field because a team-mate was in the sin-bin, were dismissed by the Welsh referee, Alun Ware, after a 58th minute free-for-all in the middle of the field. Ware, one of the few "rebel" referees to officiate in the non-RFU sanctioned Anglo-Welsh games, had a nightmare.

The replacement Swansea forward James Griffiths kicked the grounded West centre Jamie Connolly in front of the Pontypridd referee 10 minutes from time, but the official waved play on. The Swansea prop Ben Evans was taken off on a stretcher in the 47th minute after a ruck in which JJ van der Esch, West's Dutch forward, was sent to the sin-bin for stamping.

Liam Botham scored four of Cardiff's nine tries as they raced to their highest score in this season's Anglo-Welsh friendlies, beating Bedford 57-14. The 21-year-old, son of the former England Test cricketer Ian Botham, was in form. Bedford were never in the match.

Cardiff, 21-7 ahead at half-time, cruised to a double, having won 27- 10 at Bedford. The Cardiff captain and full-back Mike Rayer, who rejoined the club from Bedford this season, scored his side's eighth try 10 minutes from the end. Rayer also provided the final pass as Botham went over for Cardiff's opening try after five minutes.