Bath left crying in the rain

Pontypridd 19 Bath 6
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The Independent Online
Real rugby at last at Sardis Road; a chance for Pontypridd to prove to a wider audience that they are there or thereabouts with the best sides in Europe.

Successive Pool A Heineken Cup wins over Treviso and Edinburgh had put the Welsh Cup holders in with a great chance of reaching the quarter-finals, if they made it three in a row.

More than that, it was another chance for a Welsh club to strike a blow against the mightiest of English clubs. The Pontypridd skipper Neil Jenkins had claimed after the previous weekend's narrow squeak against Treviso that "beating Bath may be a bit beyond us at the moment". His team obviously wanted to prove him wrong.

Bath may have run out at 2.30pm but they simply did not arrive for the first half. They came to play a fluid game on a wet day and found themselves playing second-fiddle to a Pontypridd side prepared to take the game to the visitors, Bath having to play defensive rugby throughout the opening half.

Jon Callard gave them an encouraging start with a fifth-minute penalty goal, but Pontypridd were in no mood to be intimidated. They went straight back down the other end and hit Bath with a stunning try from the scrum- half Paul John.

The hard work had already been done by the home backline, with two previous runs back into the forwards to set up a series of rucks that edged towards the Bath line.

In the end it was simplicity itself as the Welsh international ran round the fringe of a ruck 20 metres out and found no one ahead of him. Jenkins added the conversion points and then proceeded to give Mike Catt a lesson in how to play flyhalf in the rain. He also added two penalty goals to give the Welshmen a deserved 13-3 lead at the interval.

Bath's season-long problems at the line-out continued but their biggest weakness was in coming to terms with the urgency of the home side. The back-row battle between the Welsh hopefuls Dale McIntosh and Richard Webster turned into a fascinating duel, with the Pontypridd No 8 taking the honours thanks to the support around him.

Catt's attempts to get his backline moving in the first half were in vain. Every time a Bath player had the ball he attracted a swarm of Pontypridd tacklers.

Jenkins surprisingly failed to convert his side's pressure into the points needed to see off Bath in the second half but he still did enough to guide them to victory with two more strikes.

The roar from the home fans nearly lifted the roof off the stand as they realised they were watching another landmark in the club's history.

It also preceded a colossal tackle by McIntosh on the Bath captain Andy Robinson that left the former England flanker down and almost out.

That moment summed up the whole afternoon for Pontypridd. It also won the New-Zealand- born, former Scotland A and prospective Welsh cap the man-of-the-match vote.

Pontypridd: K Morgan; P Ford, J Lewis, S Lewis, S Enoch; N Jenkins (capt), Paul John; N Eynon, Phil John, A Griffiths, G Prosser, M Rowley, M Lloyd, D McIntosh, M Williams (R Collins 40-41).

Bath: J Callard; J Sleightholme, A Adebayo, M Perry, J Robinson; M Catt, C Harrison; K Yates, G Adams, J Mallett, M Haag, N Redman, A Robinson (capt), E Peters, R Webster.

Referee: J Fleming (SRU).