All Whites spoil the All Blacks' big night

Swansea 20 Neath 16
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The Independent Online

Neath all but blew their chance of winning the Welsh Scottish League after suffering defeat at the hands of Swansea at St Helens last night. Victory would have almost assured the Welsh All Blacks the title, but the All Whites gatecrashed the party to virtually seal their place in next season's Heineken Cup.

Neath have been grateful for the contribution of the fly-half Lee Jarvis this season and the former Pontypridd pivot delivered once again on 12 minutes – chipping ahead, collecting and dashing 40 metres to score and convert his own try.

Jarvis improved that slender advantage with a drop-goal three minutes later, but his opposite number, Gavin Henson cut the deficit with his first penalty of the evening after 20 minutes.

Neath dominated for long periods, but when Swansea cut loose on the right the visitors were chasing shadows until Shaun Payne knocked on a yard short of the line. Neath were powerless to rebuke Darren Morris when the former Wales prop muscled his way over for a try. Henson failed to convert from the touchline but the youngster added a second penalty on the half-hour mark to edge Swansea in front for the first time.

A drop goal from Jarvis in first-half injury time gave Neath a 13-11 interval advantage. But a rare penalty miss on 47 minutes increased the pressure and for the first time in half a dozen games they showed chinks in their armour.

The Swansea pack turned the screw and their success at a scrum 13 minutes from time gave Henson the chance to emulate Jarvis and drop a goal under the posts. A carbon copy four minutes later extended that lead and that left the way open for Newport, Llanelli or Cardiff to grab the title.

Swansea: Tries Morris; Penalties Henson (3); Drop goal Henson (2). Neath: Tries Jarvis; Conversions Jarvis; Drop goals Jarvis (3).

Swansea: K Morgan; S Payne, S Winn (M Taylor, 12), S Gibbs (capt), B Lima; G Henson, S Martens; D Morris, B Williams, A Millward, T Maullin, L Jones, G Lewis, D Thomas, H Jenkins.

Neath: S Connor; K James, D Tiueti, J Storey, D Dewdney (S Williams, 57); L Jarvis, P Horgan (A Moore, 53); D Jones, B Williams, A Millward (A Jones, 65), G Llewellyn (capt), S Martin, A Mocelutu, B Sinkinson, N Bonner-Evans (R Phillips, 63).

Referee: G Simmonds (WRU).