Swansea sweep into title race

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The Independent Online
Swansea 26 Llanelli 20

They don't come much better than this - seven tries, unflinching commitment and pace and flair aplenty. It was Welsh rugby at its best, and perhaps the pick of the club scene in Europe, given that Swansea have moved into the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup.

The 18-9 triumph by Toulouse over Benetton Treviso last night means that the Welsh cup holders have to travel to the south of France on 30 December to try to gain a place in the inaugural European Cup final.

On this showing, they are capable of repeating their victory over another French club, Castres, and are beginning to live up to their billing as outsiders for a third Heineken League title.

Although they conceded four tries to a Llanelli side seeking a quick- fire double over their oldest rivals, having beaten them 13-3 10 days earlier they were able to keep their cool and their shape, and hit back with two tries in the final five minutes to clinch a marvellous win.

It may have been the first time this season in six home outings that they failed to secure maximum bonus points, but everyone at St Helen's was more than willing to settle for one bonus point and a leap of two places up the table into third as a result.

Llanelli struck in the opening five minutes with a pushover try from flanker Gwyn Jones, but by half-time the sides were level thanks to a Aled Williams try for Swansea. That was the first contribution of a 16- point match haul for the home outside-half.

Two Williams penalties edged Swansea ahead twice in the second half, coming either side of a Justin Thomas try for Llanelli, but then Wales' greatest try scorer, Ieuan Evans, rounded off a spectacular 60-metre move to cross for his 56th league try to give the Scarlets the lead.

As the game moved towards its close, it seemed as though the visitors had done just enough to clinch that double, but Swansea conjured up an opportunity for their flying wing Alan Harris. He needed no second invitation to speed away to claim his 12th try of the season and moments later his fellow wing, Simon Davies, charged down a clearance kick to bag another.

Swansea: Tries A Williams, A Harris, Simon Davies; Conversion A Williams; Penalties A Williams 3. Llanelli: Tries G Jones, J Thomas, I Evans, W Proctor.

Swansea: G Thomas; A Harris, D Weatherley, M Taylor, Simon Davies; A Williams, R Jones; K Colclough, G Jenkins, C Anthony, S Moore, A Moore, A Reynolds, Stuart Davies (capt), R Appleyard.

Llanelli: J Thomas; I Evans, M Wimple, N Boobyer, W Proctor; M McCarthy (G Evans, 50), R Moon (H Harries, 58); R Evans, R McBryde, S John, P Davies (capt), P Jones, P Morris, J Williams, G Jones.

Referee: D R Davies (Llanbradach).

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