Rugby Union: Thomas in harmony for title music

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Swansea 39 Cardiff 20

IT IS all over bar the shouting and the celebrating, the Premier Division title is on its way back to Swansea barring a miracle in the next 10 days by Cardiff.

The mathematics are simple, or fairly so given the complex nature of the crazy bonus points system that bedevils the domestic game in Wales. If Swansea gain one point from their final fixture at Pontypridd on Saturday, either through a draw or via a bonus point, they will be uncatchable.

Cardiff's only hope is that their arch rivals Ponty can do them a favour by beating Swansea out of sight while they themselves do the business on Llanelli and Newport at the Arms Park and go on big enough try sprees to finish at least six tries ahead of them both to secure maximum bonus points.

But with a new-found passion and confidence, it seems unlikely Swansea will leave the door open for Cardiff to snatch title away from them. The credit for that goes to their coach, John Plumtree. Swansea may have taken a gamble in bringing Plumtree from Natal to St Helens to replace the highly successful Mike Ruddock. He proved to be an inspired choice and his final words to his team before they took to the field for this pressure- cooker occasion were inspired. "Don't be afraid to lose and play with flair," he said.

Despite front-row problems, heightened at the eleventh hour by the withdrawal of their hooker and skipper, Garin Jenkins, the Swansea players followed their orders. Using the wind and sun at their backs in the first half they raced into a 13-point interval lead, all but crushing Cardiff's hopes of bridging the seven-point gap at the top of the table.

It was an occasion when the main men came to the fore. Paul Moriarty bristled with intimidation; Colin Charvis outshone everyone up front; Scott Gibbs terrified the Cardiff midfield and Arwel Thomas pulled all the strings.

The enigmatic Welsh outside-half had one of those red letter days. Not only did he end with 29 points, but with his half-back partner, Andy Booth, he dominated the game tactically. He grabbed the first try, made the second and converted all three home scores. Add to that six penalties and it is easy to see why he remains the darling of the home fans.

As for Cardiff, it is back to the drawing board for their high priced team. When they needed inspiration they did not know who to turn to, when they were asked to dig deeper than ever before this season they failed.

That is where championships are won and lost. Swansea wanted it more than anyone and next weekend it should be theirs.

Swansea: Tries A Thomas, Gibbs, Davies; Conversions A Thomas 3; Penalties A Thomas 6. Cardiff: Tries Ringer, Jarvis; Conversions Jarvis 2; Penalties Jarvis 2.

Swansea: D Weatherly; R Rees, M Taylor, S Gibbs (capt), S Davies; A Thomas, A Booth; I Buckett (J Evans, 74), C Wells, D Hinkins, P Arnold (T Maullin, 69), A Moore, P Moriarty, C Charvis, R Appleyard (D Thomas, 70).

Cardiff: J Thomas; G Thomas (P Williams, 51), M Hall, L Davies, S Hill; L Jarvis, R Howley; A Lewis (D Young, 70-75), J Humphreys (capt), D Young (L Mustoe, 68), T Rees, J Tait, G Kacala, E Lewis, J Ringer.

Referee: WD Bevan (WRU).