Caerphilly spread thin and devoured

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The Independent Online

Celtic League quarter-finalists Neath overcame a spirited Caerphilly fightback in the Welsh Premiership with a late rally that snatched a 41-23 victory.

Caerphilly adjusted quicker to the atrocious conditions, but Shaun Connor settled the visitors' early nerves with a well-taken penalty after 15 minutes.

Adrian Durston's precise kicking allowed Neath to attack from close range and some effective forward play resulted in a penalty try. Durston added a further five points a few minutes later following some superb passing among the Neath backs.

Caerphilly bounced back with tries by No 8 Karl Hocking and centre Roddy Boobyer before the break, but Shane Williams and Dave Tiueti crossed to seal victory for Neath before Taunaholo Aufahema claimed a late consolation for the hosts.

Bridgend edged out Ebbw Vale 7-6 in equally inhospitable conditions at Eugene Cross Park. Persistent rain ensured the game was played in thick mud and both sides, unsurprisingly, struggled with their handling in driving rain.

Having beaten Swansea 16-13 at home last week, Vale were chasing their second consecutive win, and a penalty and drop goal from their Irish fly-half Mark Meenan put them 6-0 up at half-time.

But even without the injured international lock Andy Moore and their captain Gareth Thomas, who played for Wales in Friday night's victory over Romania, Bridgend put Vale under colossal pressure after the break.

Indeed, the pressure had to tell and a loose ball was eventually worked to the Lions centre Dafydd James, who broke through the tackle of Martin Riddle to dive over near the posts for the game's only try on the hour. Craig Warlow added the conversion.

Later, Swansea's home league encounter with Newport was called off because of a waterlogged pitch.

The Saracens coach Wayne Shelford regards today's Zurich Premiership visit to second-placed Leeds as a must-win game. Despite producing a battling display last weekend before going down 26-18 to champions Leicester, Saracens know that another defeat will push them down into the bottom four.

Saracens lost at home and away to the Tykes last term, and Shelford said: "I've watched videos of Leeds and we are expecting a tough game. They tend to rely on their kicker (Braam van Straaten) to win games, rather than scoring tries, but they do like to smash it up and they hold their defence well."

Gerald Arasa makes his first start of the season in place of Tom Shanklin, who also turned out for Wales against Romania. David Flatman and Christian Califano will team up at prop while in the back row Ben Russell is recalled at No 8 and Richard Hill switches to open side.

The Leeds director of rugby, Phil Davies, who has masterminded five wins in seven league games this season, has named an unchanged side following last weekend's victory at Bath.

London Irish, without the injured quartet of Pieter Rossouw, Geoff Appleford, Bob Casey and Declan Danaher, face a difficult encounter against Newcastle at Kingston Park this afternoon. The Exiles, beaten six times in seven Premiership starts, are just two points above basement club Bristol.

Worcester moved a point clear in National League One with a 30-12 success at Plymouth Albion. Second-placed Rotherham, for whom Ramiro Paz contributed 15 points, are just behind after winning 20-10 at Birmingham/Solihull.