Bishop shows no fear

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The Independent Online
Llanelli 59

Pontypool 17

David Bishop has spent his sporting career battering against and, more often than not, beating even the heaviest of odds. This Swalec Cup quarter-final, however, was even too tough a task for the former Welsh rugby union international.

For the 36-year-old Bishop, who has returned from rugby league, where he also gained international honours, to act as player-coach to his beloved Pontypool, this was one final throw of the dice. Alas for him, the afternoon ended in disappointment, though his young Second Division side did themselves, and their club's glorious tradition, proud.

Drawing an away game against the in-form team in Welsh rugby, a side who had destroyed Cardiff and Swansea in recent encounters, was hardly Pontypool's dream tie. But if they arrived staring down the barrel, they showed no fear and managed to conjure up three tries of their own.

With Bishop barking the orders from scrum-half, the underdogs looked competitive and composed. There may have been a degree of inevitability about the result but there were long periods when the flying Scarlets were thwarted in their attempts to have an easy afternoon romp.

It took 15 minutes for Llanelli to open their account and there was a 26-minute period in the second half when they not only failed to score, but conceded two tries to their lesser opponents. Pontypool were camped in the Scarlets' half for the first five minutes of the match, but once the No 8 Hywel Jenkins opened the floodgates for Llanelli, the result was never in doubt.

Llanelli scored at nearly a point a minute in the first half, with the centre Neil Boobyer, the former All Black fly-half Frano Botica, flanker Andrew Gibbs and scrum-half Rupert Moon also crossing for tries. Pontypool rallied with two tries from the right-wing Lenny Woodard and another from Martin Mann, but a second-half hat-trick from the wing Garan Evans sealed the result for the Scarlets.

Llanelli advanced to the Cup semi-finals on a 42-point winning margin, but there will be no let-up in training this week. They will need to improve on yesterday's effort when they face the leaders Pontypridd in a crucial First Division match on Saturday. That projected improvement should be the best guide in assessing Llanelli's prospects of winning the Cup for a 10th time.

Llanelli: S Jones; G Evans, N Davies, N Boobyer, M Wintle (C Hughes, 68); F Botica (C Warlow, 40), R Moon (capt); S John (S Gale, 64), J Hyatt, H Williams-Jones, S Ford, M Voyle, A Gibbs, H Jenkins, P Morris.

Pontypool: M Jones; L Woodard, D Lynch (capt), N Chapman (M Day, 64), I Farr; S Lawrence, D Bishop (N Hope, 58); D Smith (I Thomas, 50), J Thomas (W Williams, 72), M Madden, A Newberry, J Sulway, S Clarke (C Trayhern, 73), C West (J Reed, 69), G Green.