Battling Swansea do University proud in Varsity game

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A valiant effort by Swansea was not enough to prevent an in-form Cardiff side from securing a 33-13 victory - only their fifth in 16 years - in the Welsh Varsity rugby match at the Millennium Stadium.

The green of Swansea and the red of Cardiff had been going head to head all day, in everything from fencing to Tae Kwon Do.  But this was the climax.

Clips from the build-up and from the day's action

The streets of Cardiff city centre had been a sea of green and white from late afternoon onwards, with the red of Cardiff scarcely to be seen.   By kick-off time, however, both sets of fans were there in force, a riot of green and red, with 15,000 making easily as much noise as 60,000.  With the roof closed, the noise and the pressure building, the stage was set for a great Welsh occasion.

The teams didn’t disappoint.  Swansea made the brighter start, looking adventurous from the outset.   The forwards were delivering quick ball, and although much of the play was in a narrow channel along the middle of the field, the Swansea backs had the confidence to move the ball out wide when the chance came. 

Their sense of purpose was rewarded with territorial advantage which, crucially, they converted into points, with outside-half Aled Lewis kicking two penalties to give Swansea a 6-0 lead after 20 minutes. 

Cardiff showed signs of being unsettled by the Swansea pressure, making unforced errors and looking ragged.  However, as the game moved into the second quarter, they began to find a fluency and pattern to their game, enjoying sustained periods of possession, with neat interplay and clever angles of running from their backs.  Quick ball from the breakdown in the Swansea 22, and a startling burst of speed from the Cardiff winger, set up their lock forward to crash over for a try.

There was more width to the game now, and it was Cardiff who were benefitting most.  Both teams’ line-outs were excellent throughout the game, and it was from a well-executed long throw to the tail that Cardiff’s second try came, with good support play allowing the flanker through to score.  

A drop goal provided further reward for Cardiff’s period of dominance, but Swansea ended the half showing more signs of their earlier enterprise, counter-attacking and breaking through to the Cardiff 22.

Though a drop goal gave Cardiff the first points of the second half, it was Swansea who began to enjoy more possession and territory.  A tap penalty took Swansea to the Cardiff 22, where they set up camp for around 10 minutes, applying enormous pressure to the Cardiff line. 

Heroic defence by Cardiff kept them out, but eventually the dam broke.  Quick ball from the base of a Swansea scrum, followed by a looping missed pass in the backline put through winger Jackson Szabo in the corner for a Swansea try, which Lewis converted with a truly majestic kick from the touchline. 

The score gave new heart to the green and whites, on the pitch and around the stadium.   But with both teams tiring, some slick passing by the Cardiff backs allowed them to break through Swansea lines for two late tries to seal their victory.

After the game, back-rower Reuben Tucker was named as the star Swansea player by Swansea staff.   Swansea University Vice Chancellor Professor Richard B Davies paid tribute to the entire team, and added how impressed he was by the thousands of fans who had made the trip from Swansea to cheer on the Varsity teams:

The Vice Chancellor said:

“Over the years the Varsity has grown to become one of Wales’s great sporting occasions.  It is a highlight of the year for students, staff and alumni alike.   Every player who steps up to represent their university can count themselves part of Wales’s long tradition of sporting excellence”.

Swansea rugby squad organised a sponsored 300km row at the end of April to raise money for Macmillan.  Pictures.