Williams hat-trick seals title for Cardiff

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The Independent Online

The new Wales full back Rhys Williams grabbed a hat-trick of tries as Cardiff were crowned Welsh/Scottish League champions with three games left to play. The 21-year-old ensured there was a fitting climax to his side's march to the title when he raced 70 metres to grab his hat-trick and make it four tries in his last two league outings.

Even so, it took a try 10 minutes into the second half to breathe life into Cardiff. The Neath forwards, with the Welsh international Brett Sinkinson, hooker Mefin Davies and the South African-born Shawn van Rensberg outstanding, took the game to Cardiff and made huge dents in the home defence. By half-time Neath had slashed an earlier eight-point deficit to only two, 24-22, and then 10 minutes later they hit the front. James Storey made the break in the centre and his long pass allowed Matthew Singer to cross for the try. With the gauntlet thrown down, Cardiff raised the tempo, Rob Howley called the shots and their first domestic league crown since 1995 was won with a flourish of three tries in the closing 25 minutes.

Going into the game Cardiff needed just one point to clinch a title they had turned their back on last season in order to play "friendly" fixtures against the top English clubs. Early tries by Williams and the inspirational Howley helped Cardiff build up that eight-point lead, but 14 points from the boot of the outside-half Matthew Pearce, a try by his half-back partner Andrew Jacobs and a Singer drop goal brought Neath racing back into contention.

After Neath took the lead it took two more tries from Williams, a late flourish from wing Craig Morgan and a match tally of 22 points from the Irish outside-half Paul Burke to make the title safe.

Cardiff: Tries R Williams 3, R Howley 2, C Morgan; Conversions P Burke 5; Pens P Burke 3; DG P Burke. Neath: Tries A Jacobs, M Singer; Con M Pearce; Pens M Pearce 4; DG M Singer.

Cardiff: R Williams; C Morgan, M Rayer, L Botham (S Hill, 6), N Walne; P Burke, R Howley; A Lewis, J Humphreys (capt), S John, S Moore, M Voyle (J Tait, 53), S Williams (O Williams, 27), E Lewis, M Williams.

Neath: M Singer; R Johnson (G John, 80), J Storey, T Davies, D Williams; M Pearce (C Rees, 56), A Jacobs; Duncan Jones (R Lehner, 80), Mefin Davies (S Jones, 73), David Jones (A Millward, 41), S Martin, A Jackson (Mark Davies, 65), R Phillips (capt, R Francis, 73), S van Rensberg, B Sinkinson.

Referee: G Simmonds (Taffs Well)