Thomas erases doubts

Paul Trow
Sunday 01 December 2013 06:30
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Arwel Thomas kept alive Swansea's hopes of reaching the knock-out stages of the Celtic League with a 22-point haul in a thrilling 37-32 eclipse of minnows Caerphilly at St Helens yesterday.

The 27-year-old fly-half, tipped to recapture the Wales No 10 shirt he first wore in 1996, helped himself to a try, four conversions and three penalties to catch the selectors' eye at St Helens. Shaun Payne ran in two tries and Sam Cordingley claimed the other touchdown as the home side battled hard with Pool A opponents who had not won a game this season.

For Caerphilly, Luke Richards matched his counterpart's points tally with six penalties and conversions to late tries from Geraint Lewis and Allen Chilten which earned the visitors a bonus point.

Swansea, who trailed 15-13 at half-time, will have to improve on this performance when they meet Llanelli on Friday night if they are to reach the last eight.

Connacht completed a stunning recovery to pip Bridgend 24-23 at Brewery Field in Pool B and maintain their 100 per cent Celtic League record. The Irishmen overturned a 17-point deficit through a controlled display from their abrasive pack, but Bridgend's hopes of qualifying for the quarter-finals now lie in ruins. The Welshmen had surged ahead through tries by the Tongan flanker Maama Molitika and British Lions wing Dafydd James. But the visitors' loss of their captain, Tim Allmutt, to a serious knee injury triggered a counterattack that saw Wayne Munn, Darren Yapp and Mark McHugh all cross the Bridgend line.

Ireland booked their place in next year's World Cup finals with a 63-14 victory over Georgia in yesterday's qualifying tie at Lansdowne Road. The hosts led 42-0 at the interval and ran in a total of eight tries, two of them from Brian O'Driscoll. Ronan O'Gara kicked three penalties and five conversions while Denis Hickie, Kevin Maggs, Simon Easterby, Guy Easterby, Girvan Dempsey and Alan Quinlan also went over for Ireland.

Georgia, hammered 70-0 in Dublin four years ago, fought back in the second half and scored converted tries through Vassil Katsadze and Bessik Khamashuridze. Meanwhile, Ulster's David Humphreys, who came on as a substitute and landed two conversions, equalled Jack Kyle's record of 46 caps at fly-half for Ireland.

Mike Shelley will complete 150th league appearances at prop for Leeds in today's Zurich Premiership game at Newcastle, while the England A lock Tom Palmer will make his 100th start in a Tykes shirt. For Newcastle, their captain, Jonny Wilkinson, lines up at centre alongside his older brother, Mark. Rob Howley and Shane Roiser return for Wasps away to London Irish, who prefer Justin Bishop to Pieter Rossouw. Champions Leicester are set to be unchanged at Bristol with Sam Vesty, 20, continuing at fly-half for Austin Healey, who has a groin injury.

In National League One, Worcester stayed within a point of Rotherham with a 66-22 romp at Manchester. The former Harlequins centre David Officer chalked up a hat-trick of tries and there were braces also for Leicester old boys Nnamdi Ezulike and Duncan Roke.

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