Welsh double-header bonus for fans

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The Independent Online
The rugby season seems to have gone on for ever, but in Wales, tonight's double-headed finale to the Heineken League has been worth the wait: Neath and Cardiff, neck and neck at the top of the First Division, against Pontypridd and Llanelli, third and fourth.

That we are permitted such a thrilling culmination is down partly to the weather - the mid-season freeze-up that caused the Welsh Rugby Union to encroach as far as mid-May - and partly to the controversial bonus- point system which has enabled Neath, by piling up the tries, to keep pace with the defending champions Cardiff.

In any previous season, Car- diff would be going in against Llanelli with a two-point cushion which, though Neath's points-difference is superior by seven, would have made the title theirs to lose. Instead, both are on 67, Neath having obtained two more of the bonuses available for tries (one for three or four in a match; two for five or six; three for seven or more) and being ahead by vir- tue of having totalled 114 tries to the champion side's 108.

In fact, but for the injury-time converted try by Nigel Walker at Pontypridd last Friday which gave Cardiff a point for a draw and another for their third try, Neath would already have both hands on the Heineken trophy. Neath will only be certain of being champions by amassing a maximum against the most parsimonious defence in Welsh rugby, though in neither theirs nor Cardiff's case can victory be presumed.

On this score, Cardiff appear better placed. It is only 10 days since Pontypridd beat Neath in the Swalec Cup final, and as no opponents have managed to take even two bonus points from the cup winners this season, the leaders' chances will ultimately depend on whether Llanelli can avoid capitulating at the Arms Park as they did a couple of weeks ago at Neath.

Welsh League First Division


P W D L Bn Tr Pts

Neath 21 16 1 4 34 114 67

Cardiff 21 17 1 3 32 108 67

Pontypridd 21 16 1 4 27 94 60

Llanelli 21 15 0 6 29 87 59