Thomas deepens the gloom at Cardiff

Cardiff Blues 10 Celtic Warriors 26
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The Independent Online

The Blues' miserable season staggered on as a reshuffled side failed to gel in damp conditions last night.

The international-laden Warriors were never in danger of losing, and their 16-point victory cements the hapless Blues' position in the bottom three of the Celtic League. The Warriors move from eighth to fifth on the back of a hat-trick of tries from in-form skipper Gareth Thomas.

Cardiff's coach, Dai Young, reshuffled his back line and left big forwards Ben Evans and Craig Quinnell on the bench, but the home side never looked like producing the quality of rugby required. It was 17 minutes before the scorers were troubled, with Thomas bursting on to a flat pass 25 metres out and brushing aside two Blues defenders to score near the posts.

The home side hit straight back with a Iestyn Harris penalty after the Warriors flanker Corey Harris was yellow-carded for a professional foul. It was a tough call from referee Nigel Williams, who punished Harris for the previous deeds of his team-mates. But the Warriors shrugged off the setback, with fly-half Ceri Sweeney kicking ahead and Cardiff centre Matt Allen losing control of the bouncing ball - Sweeney pounced to score and added the conversion.

Thomas scored his second immediately after the break, brushing off Rhys Williams's weak tackle and dragging the Blues full-back, Nick Robinson, over the line in the corner. Sweeney's superb sideline conversion was the final nail in the coffin, and several Blues fans decided they would rather watch their side's dismal efforts in a nearby pub. Young threw on lookalike forwards Quinnell and Evans to add some grunt to the pack, but his side still lacked the finishing bite out wide.

The Warriors scrum-half, Gareth Cooper, made a nippy break to set up his side's fourth and bonus-point try, Thomas reaching out to complete his hat-trick. The home side finally breached the Warriors' defence when replacement hooker Rhys Thomas was pushed over in the 75th minute, but it came far too late for the beleaguered Blues.

Cardiff Blues 10 Celtic Warriors 26

Half-time: 3-15 Attendance: 6,000

Cardiff: N Robinson; R Williams, T Shanklin, M Allen (N Walne, 51), C Morgan; I Harris, A Moore; J Yapp (K Fourie, 62), G Williams (R Thomas, 72), D Crompton (B Evans, 48), H Senekal (C Quinnell, 48), A Moore, J Brownrigg, N Thomas (D McShane, 67), M Williams (capt).

Celtic Warriors: K Morgan; D James, G Thomas (capt), S Parker, G Wyatt; C Sweeney, G Cooper; C Loader (G Morris, 84), M Davies, G Jenkins, B Cockbain, D Jones, M Molitika, R Parkes, C Harris.

Referee: N Williams.