Cardiff warming up for title showdown

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The Independent Online

Lyn Howells, the Cardiff coach, believes next weekend's top-of-the-table game against Ebbw Vale will decide the destination of the first Welsh-Scottish League title.

After a comfortable 42-21 victory over Glasgow Caledonians on Friday night which stretched the Blue-and-Blacks' lead at the top to five points, Howells refused to accept that his club had virtually assured themselves of lifting the inaugural trophy.

"You've never got your hands on the trophy until you've got so many points that the others can't catch you," said Howells. "With four points at stake each time, one match can make a big difference."

Ebbw Vale, the club from the Monmouthshire valley, have played one game more, but can narrow the points gap with their fixture in midweek.

"Before they come here they've got a tough match," Howells points out. "Edinburgh away is a difficult game and they'll do well to win up there."

Despite twice leading early on Friday night, the Glasgow side were never able to contain Cardiff, who bounced back in style after last weekend's European Cup disappointment against Llanelli with a fine performance on a pitch turned into a swamp by torrential rain in the hour before kick-off.

"I thought both teams should be commended for trying to play open rugby out there," said Howells. "The conditions were never dangerous, they just stopped us having what could have been a super game of rugby."

Richie Dixon, his countepart at the Reds, agreed. "Both teams were up for it; I thought it was a very good game in the circumstances," he said. "We'd travelled a long way and so had our fans, and I think it was the right decision to go ahead.

"I thought our defence, in particular, was excellent, but we can't afford to make the mistakes we did and then expect to win the game. That said, the final score didn't do us justice."

In another game on Friday night, Neath notched up an impressive 43-7 victory over Bridgend to satisfy their coach, Lyn Jones.

"Once we settled we showed speed and skill against opponents who are not easy to subdue," Jones said. "We have been playing well for a few weeks. We have come good late in the season often in the past and it appears to be happening again."

For Neath, Kevin James and James Storey scored two tries each, with Duncan Jones, Adam Jackson and Tristan Davies also crossing. Teen-ager James went over for his brace in four minutes before half-time, showing power and pace to break the defence.

"He is a player with a big future," said the team administrator, Mike Cuddy. "He has come into the side and demonstrated tremendous promise. It is nice to see a youngster having such confidence."

In a Super-12 game yesterday Joeli Vidiri scored four tries as the Auckland Blues stormed to a 54-11 victory over bottom-of-the-table Northern Bulls.