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Rugby Union

Thomas treble stuns Cardiff

Cardiff 10 Celtic Warriors 26

Gareth Thomas scored a hat-trick of tries to lift the Celtic Warriors to a convincing victory at the Arms Park yesterday and condemn the Cardiff Bluesto their seventh Celtic League defeat of the season.

Dai Young, the Cardiff coach, reshuffled his backline, leaving his big forwards Ben Evans and Craig Quinnell on the bench, but his side never looked like unsettling a Warriors team so full of talent thatNeil Jenkins started on the bench.

Thomas opened the scoring on 17 minutes when he burst on to a flat pass 25 metres out and brushed aside two Blues defenders before touching down near the posts. The home side hit straight back with a Iestyn Harris penalty after the Warriors' hard-working New Zealand flanker, Corey Harris, had been shown a yellow card for a professional foul.

The Warriors shrugged off that setback - and a heavy penalty count against them - to score their second try. The fly-half, Ceri Sweeney, kicked upfield and when Matt Allen lost control of the bouncing ball Sweeney pounced to score against the left post. His conversion gave the 14-man Warriors a 14-3 lead on 32 minutes.

Sweeney almost crossed the the try-line in the same spot moments later, but Thomas held on to the ball and was brought down inches short.

Thomas made amends immediately after the resumption by brushing off Rhys Williams' weak tackle and dragging the Blues' full-back, Nick Robinson, over the line to score in the corner. Sweeney's superb sideline conversion put the game out of Cardiff's reach, before the Warriors added a fourth try to earn a bonus point.

The scrum-half, Gareth Cooper, broke up the middle to set up the score and Thomas was twice in the movement before reaching out to complete his hat-trick.

The Blues finally breached the Warriors' defence when the replacement hooker, Rhys Thomas, was pushed over on 75 minutes, but it came far too late for the struggling Welsh side.

Cardiff: Try R Thomas; Penalty Harris; Conversion Harris. Celtic Warriors: Tries G Thomas 3, Sweeney; Conversions Sweeney 3.

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 (Wales).