Jenkins averts Welsh crisis

Pontypridd 28 Benetton Treviso 22
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The Independent Online
Welsh rugby got a nasty jolt from the Italians in Rome the previous weekend and at half-time the Welsh Cup holders were wrapped up in an equally physical and potentially embarrassing situation.

The Heineken Cup might pitch the best of club sides from around Europe into one tournament, but this had the look of a fairly safe home banker. Treviso obviously had other ideas.

They arrived with six of the Italian side that had run Wales so close seven days earlier and with a proud unbeaten run of six games this season. The boot of Neil Jenkins was always going to be their biggest obstacle and the home skipper did not disappoint the Sardis Road faithful. He stroked home five first-half penalties, chipped in with two more after the break and added a conversion for good measure. He topped 2,000 points for the club in only his 152nd game.

But for Jenkins, it could have proved to be another nightmare for Welsh rugby. Having been put to the sword in the Anglo-Welsh tournament to date, the clubs were in need of some good news in the Heineken Cup.

It helped the Pontypridd cause greatly that Treviso found huge difficulty in coming to terms with the early interpretations of the rules by the English referee Steve Lander. Nothing new in that, perhaps, but a penalty count in their favour of 14-6 was match-saving news.

Although Jenkins was his usual dead-eye dick in the goalkicking stakes, so too was his opposite number, Francesco Mazzariol. He landed three successive penalties before notching the first try of the game on the stroke of half- time.

The try had looked on the cards for a few minutes as the Treviso pack began to get on top. Mazzariol was left with the task of driving through one tackle two metres out. The conversion was a simple task for him. The Italians were a point in front at half-time, and all those connected with Pontypridd were scratching their heads.

Jenkins came to the rescue quickly, bagging his sixth penalty three minutes after the break and a try followed immediately. The Treviso restart seemed well placed on the 10-metre line, but it tipped off the fingers of their international lock Diego Scaglia and fell into the waiting arms of the home hooker Phil John.

He sped up the touchline and brought fellow front-five members Greg Prosser and Neil Eynon into the daring raid. By the time the prop Eynon had handed on to the flying flanker Martyn Williams there was no one in front of him, and nobody could catch him over the remaining 25 metres. Jenkins calmly added the touchline conver- sion and the game had been turned on its head in four minutes.

Pontypridd: K Morgan (C Cormack, 22-25); D Manley, S Lewis, J Lewis, P Ford; N Jenkins, Paul John; N Eynon, Phil John, A Griffiths, G Prosser, M Rowley, M Lloyd (R Collins, 27), D McIntosh, M Williams.

Benetton Treviso: P Dotto; L Perziano, I Francescato, P Donati, L Manteri; F Mazzariol, A Troncon; M Dal Sie, A Moscardi, A Castellani, D Scaglia, C Signori, V Christofoletto (S Rigo, 66), L Bot, A Sgorlon.

Referee: S Lander (England).