Magical day for the elfin Arwel

Heineken Cup: Thomas the boot crafts downfall of French high-flyers to keep 14-man Swansea on a roll
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The Independent Online

This might not have been Swansea's finest hour - they have after all beaten the All Blacks - but it was very close. After trailing 11-0 and having Colin Charvis sent off early in the second half, they hit Stade Français, on the ground where Gary Sobers scored 36 runs in an over, for six and then some.

This might not have been Swansea's finest hour - they have after all beaten the All Blacks - but it was very close. After trailing 11-0 and having Colin Charvis sent off early in the second half, they hit Stade Français, on the ground where Gary Sobers scored 36 runs in an over, for six and then some.

The seven-man Swansea pack (a week earlier with eight they had destroyed Wasps) wreaked havoc in the scrums. The trio of Darren Morris, Garin Jenkins and Ben Evans put three French props in the treatment room in a key Pool Two match that spilled over into frequent bouts of violence. The return match in Paris in January should be covered by the Geneva Convention .

The English referee, Ed Morrison, was treated as Public Enemy No 1 by the crowd, but inadvertently he did Swan- sea a favour. In the 48th minute, Diego Dominguez, the Stade Français stand-off, put in a clearance kick as he was tackled by Charvis, who then offered to help him up. The little Argentinian reacted by aiming a boot at Charvis, which was a bit like a sparrow attacking a rhino. Instead of ignoring it, Charvis flattened Dominguez with a big punch and the flanker was duly sent off. Dominguez resumed after having his head bandaged. It did not, however, stop the French champions from collectively bleeding.

At that point Swansea, trailing 11-6, raised their game to epic proportions. At full strength they had disrupted the Stade Français front row, and they continued to do so even though a man short. Arwel Thomas, who scored 29 points last week, was having a bit of a struggle yesterday until he proceeded to kick Swansea in front. On a filthy day, in more ways than one, Stade Français, who had come into this match after putting 92 points over L'Aquila, were stymied.

They were unsure whether to run or kick, but it didn't really matter. The Swansea tackling was magnificent and the defence impregnable until the 10th minute of added time, when Fabrice Landreau was driven over from a line-out. The try cut Swansea's lead to 18-16, which meant that poor old Dominguez had the last kick of the match to level the scores. When he missed the noise could be heard across the Bristol Channel.

Mr Morrison had earlier been roundly booed when he came off at half-time. It hadn't been his most memorable 40 minutes, but he didn't deserve that. As the half went into injury time, Swansea came back into the match with two penalties from Thomas. It was the very most they deserved.

What really got up the crowd's nose, apart from the wind and rain at a stadium which could feature on the Antiques Roadshow - the plan is to share a new complex with Swansea City - is that Morrison had the temerity to send Garin Jenkins to the sin-bin.

It was a double whammy - which was not as huge as Charvis' single whammy - arising from a controversial call on Matthew Robinson. The left wing was tackled and got to his feet before releasing the ball and was penalised. When Jenkins obstructed Christophe Laussucq, who had taken a tap penalty, the hooker was sent to the sin-bin. The crowd went bananas.

And they got worse. Stade Français, who have never won in Wales, made all the early running. Dominguez kicked an early penalty and then had a big hand in a smart try for Franck Comba with a defence-splitting inside pass. When Dominguez added another penalty Swansea were looking for a lifeboat. Garin Jenkins was lucky to escape punishment for a kick which put Pieter de Villers off the pitch, as was Morris for an attack on Richard Pool-Jones. It was by no means a one-sided affair in the skulduggery stakes, and Swansea intend to cite Landreau for a kick on Andy Moore.

The backlash began when Thomas put over those two penalties to leave Swansea trailing by only five points at the interval. Thereafter, Swansea dug so deep they could have struck coal, and Thomas continued to torment the French by completing a hat-trick of penalties followed, even more remarkably, by a hat-trick of drop goals.

When Stade Français lost a third prop in the 70th minute they sent on a flanker, which meant that, under the laws, every subsequent scrum would be uncontested. In a phenomenal contest this was the final irony.

Swansea: D Weatherley; S Payne, M Taylor, S Gibbs (capt), M Robinson; A Thomas, R Jones; D Morris, G Jenkins (C Wells, 80), B Evans (C Anthony, 77), T Maullin, A Moore (J Griffiths, 80), G Lewis, H Jenkins (D Thomas, 76), C Charvis.

Stade Français: S Mason; B Lima, F Comba, C Mytton, R Poulain (C Dominci, 55); D. Dominguez, C Laussucq; S Marconnet (P Collazo, 17), F Landreau, P de Villers (P Noriega 39; P Tabacco, 70), D Auradou, M James, C Moni, C Juillet, R Pool-Jones.

Referee: E Morrison (Bristol).

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