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Rugby Union: KNUCKLES' CLOUT; SWANSEA................52 NEWPORT...............13.

JOHN "Knuckles" Connolly inspired Swansea to a five-try victory which may well have punched the lights out on Newport's championship bid.

Connolly - nicknamed Knuckles for his get-tough approach - arrived at St. Helen's in midweek to supervise his takeover as coach, which starts officially in June.

But Connolly's mere presence galvanised Swansea into producing their most impressive display of the season.

Arwel Thomas scored 32 points, including a try, to add to a brace of tries from scrum-half Sililo Martens and others for Mark Taylor and Brian Lima.

It all added up to a severe thrashing for Newport whose title dreams have been wrecked in the space of four days.

The home defeat to Neath appears to have drained all their confidence as they were unpicked by Thomas behind a ferocious Swansea pack.

Without their injured regular half-backs, Shane Howarth and Ofisa Tonu'u, Newport were a shadow of the team which has led the table for so much of the season. This defeat highlighted the weakness that have undermined campaign push of late, and the momentum is now clearly with rivals Llanelli.

All Newport could muster was a last-minute converted try by No. 8 Andy Powell and two penalties from Jason Strange.

In contrast Swansea were able to score two tries before the break, from Tongan scrum-half Martens, and three more in the second-half.

Thomas ran the show from No. 10 and finished with a try, three conversions, two drop goals, and five penalties in a brilliant individual display.

Swansea led 18-6 at the break before two rapid- fire Thomas strikes with the boot sent them out of reach.

Newport responded but they were ripped to shreds on the counter-attack as first Taylor and then Lima ran in tries from long range.

The last word deservedly belonged to Thomas who looped around Steve Winn and followed up his delicate kick to score in the corner.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 21, 2002
Words:314
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