Rugby Union: Swansea's warning

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The Independent Online
Swansea 71

Bridgend 19

SWANSEA certainly know how to throw down the gauntlet. A week before their title showdown with Cardiff at St Helens they ran in 11 tries, including an opening burst of eight in 23 minutes, to rout Bridgend.

Their tries took them into a 54-0 lead, more than two points a minute, and everyone had to pinch themselves to make sure they weren't dreaming. In that purple patch the All Whites couldn't put a foot wrong. Every pass stuck, every break lead to a try and Bridgend could do nothing about it. At one stage it looked as though Bridgend might perish by more than 100 points. In the end they merely added a 71-point defeat to two 60-plus hammerings in their last two outings against Swansea.

If there were any Cardiff spies at the ground they would have noted the superb supporting skills of the Swansea back row, the fluency of the half- back unit of Andy Booth and Arwel Thomas and the menace of the centre pairing of Scott Gibbs and Mark Taylor. In short, look out Cardiff.

The fact that Newport cried off their game at Cardiff allowed Swansea to steal a few psychological points in the build-up to next Saturday's crunch clash. They wasted little time and the first of their 11 tries fell to the full-back David Weatherley after only three minutes.

A full house of bonus points means Swansea now lead the Premier Division by seven points with two games to play. Cardiff have three games to go, including Saturday's match at St Helens, and must win to stand any chance of taking the title. If they are to stop Swansea from taking their third crown then they will have to put the screws on them up front and not allow Swansea to run the ball around their home pitch. Once the ball gets into open play Swansea come alive and Cardiff could find themselves chasing shadows if they can't put the squeeze on in the forward battle.

Swansea showed just how good a side they can be with the ball in hand as they tore Bridgend apart in that epic opening period. The right wing Richard Rees picked up a first-half hat-trick and then gave the Welsh selectors another nudge by racing 70 metres for the try of the game in the second half.

The only criticism possible of the home side was that they lost their momentum and ruthless streak once they had scored eight tries. But when you see the scoreboard showing a 54-0 scoreline 17 minutes before half- time it must be difficult to keep concentrating. There were only three Swansea tries after the break, and two to gallant Bridgend, but by then all thoughts in Swansea had switched to next Saturday and the game that should determine the destiny of the title.

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).

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