2005/2006 Principality Premiership
Swansea 29 v 17 Cardiff
12 April 2006 - St Helen's, Swansea

Match Report

Swansea 29 Cardiff 17

After the recent upturn in fortunes, the Blue & Blacks flattered to deceive at a new-look (some would argue old-look cum  terminally decaying)  St Helen's.

The resolution of the first half, when the team fought back from eight points down to lead by four at half-time, evaporated after the interval and in the end there could be no complaints about the result. In the second quarter of the game Cardiff had noticeably stepped up the pace, were rewarded with two fine tries, and seemed set to build on their work in a wind-assisted second half. Instead, it was the Whites who dictated the play, equally adept at keeping the ball alive, and more thorough in exploring and then exploiting weak points in their opponents' first-up defence.

Beforehand, there was a pleasant enough backdrop to the game. Both clubs are committed to young player development rather than big bucks and pot-hunting as their first priority, a principle ably articulated by Swansea coach Anthony Clement when he wrote, "I have nothing  but admiration for the way [Cardiff] have also embraced what the division is about. Having nervous moments is something that both sides this term have encountered, and have become used to and I am delighted that both sides have responded to this pressure by showing that similarly we can boast good character and resolve in our respective squads."

Clement's maturity and common-sense was largely echoed by the home crowd and smattering of travelling support, a welcome antidote to some of the nonsense encountered in other grandstands and on other terraces over recent weeks.

Whites' supporters had plenty to be relaxed about in the opening exchanges. With less than 90 seconds on the clock scrum-half Richie Rees caught the visitors napping (probably fast asleep) as he raced away from a scrum and scored a try with the creases in his shirt still in pristine condition. Though Stuart Thomas couldn't convert, he added a penalty goal five minutes later when Cardiff's backs were caught offside under their own posts.

The first sign of a fightback came in the 15th minute when Tom Isaacs made a clean break from a scrum on half-way only for him to be penalised when grounded without support. That gave Cardiff all the encouragement they needed. Another scrum on half way was worked beautifully when Gareth Gravell and Neil Coles created a classic back row move to the right as the backs decoyed left. It only remained for Leon Andrews to follow the forwards for the vital last pass and the try was a formality.

The game was now opening up and Cardiff were rewarded for their attacking intent in first-half injury time, again sparked by an Isaacs' break, and improved by impressive re-phasing of the ball, before Chris Jones crashed over for Lee Thomas to convert.

Thomas, though, was unusually out of sorts with his goalkicking. His Swansea namesake had converted Tim Evans'  rumbling try before he missed one of his speciality 45-metre efforts early in the second period. The Whites capitalised on their escape. An outburst of kicking ping-pong was always destined to end in disaster for one side or the other. Unfortunately it was the Blue & Blacks as one final crazy bounce fell into the arms of Jonny Vaughton and he had a clear 40-metre jog to the posts. Stuart Thomas' conversion stretched Swansea's resurgence to 22-12 on the scoreboard.

Cardiff made one more comeback. A lineout in the right corner set up the text-book catch and drive, finished off by Michael Leaman, but with the conversion again missed. With a glimmer of hope, Cardiff again spun the ball wide from all positions on the pitch but the thrust of the first half had gone. An injury time try by wing Leigh Bevan after more turnover ball - and again with Stuart Thomas adding the extras - was merely the icing on the cake for the hosts.


Official : Tony Rowlands (Wales)

Swansea Cardiff