White light too bright for Neath

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Neath 24 Swansea 32

Swansea have resigned themselves to the fact they will be losing their coach of the past five years, Mike Ruddock, to Leinster at the end of the season and the players are clearly determined to ensure their boss goes out in style.

Three times the All Whites came from behind in this stirring, seven-try thriller of a tie to ensure they reached the semi-finals of the Swalec Cup and keep their hopes of a possible double alive.

Ruddock has delivered a lot of silverware during his five-year tenure as coaching organiser at St Helen's. There have been two league titles, one cup victory, a runners-up slot in the cup and a semi-final place in the inaugural Heineken Cup.

Not a bad return, especially when coupled with a comprehensive victory over the 1992 Wallabies. He will be a tough act to follow.

To that end, the Swansea management board are preparing to advertise for his successor and they are strongly contemplating taking on a player- coach.

"Mike has done a tremendous job both on and off the field at Swansea," Roger Blyth, the chairman of Swansea selectors, said. "He has built an impressive coaching team around him and it might be that we will be best served with a player-coach."

Back to the present, it took everything that the current Swansea team had to overcome their arch-rivals. They triumphed by four tries to three, yet did not take the lead for the final time until an hour of play had subsided.

Swansea got off to a fire-cracker start with a try after only two minutes from the left wing, Simon Davies, who won a kick-and-chase race with the Neath full-back, Darren Case, for a vital touchdown.

Having fallen behind to that early strike, Neath battled back to take a 17-12 lead by the interval as Patrick Horgan and Ian Boobyer came up with tries and Case kicked two conversions and a penalty.

The ding-dong nature of the game continued at the start of the second half as, first, Swansea swung back in front with a second try by the replacement wing, Warren Leach, from 50 metres out a mere 30 seconds after the restart, and then Steve Gardner rounded off a back-row surge with Neath's final try. That made it 24-22 to Neath, but Swansea swung it with an Aled Williams penalty and then a Mark Taylor try nine minutes from time.

Neath: Tries Horgan, Boobyer, Gardner; Conversions Case 3; Penalty Case. Swansea: Tries Leach 2, Simon Davies, Taylor; Conversions Williams 3; Penalties Williams 2.

Neath: D Case; C Higgs, R Jones, P Williams (G Davies, 50) B Grabham; Darren Morris, P Horgan (D Hawkins, 72); Darren Morris (L Gerrard, 72), M Thomas, J Davies (capt), S Martin (M Glover, 69), N Watkins, S Gardner, S Williams, I Boobyer (G Newman, 59).

Swansea: M Back; A Harris (W Leach, 27), M Taylor, L Evans, Simon Davies; A Williams, Rhodri Jones (A Booth, 60); I Buckett, G Jenkins (capt), C Anthony (K Colclough, 75), S Moore, P Arnold, A Reynolds, Stuart Davies, D Thomas.

Referee: N Whitehouse (Swansea).

Comments