Jenkins' exit lets in Cardiff

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The Independent Online
Pontypridd 16 Cardiff 19

Pontypridd's worst two nightmares rolled up into one as Cardiff became the first Welsh club to beat them at Sardis Road for more than three years.

The first disaster struck in the 30th minute when the home captain Neil Jenkins was forced to retire with a badly bitten tongue, a self-inflicted wound, and damaged ribs. X-rays later revealed the Lions star had popped a rib cartilage, ruling him out of Wales' international against Romania on 30 August and probably out of his club's Heineken Cup tie against Bath a week later.

As if that was not bad enough, the league champions fell to pieces in the second half without their guiding light and lost to the team they most hate losing to.

You had to go back to 3 September, 1994 for the last time Ponty had been beaten in a league or cup game at Sardis Road. Once again it was Cardiff who did the damage, 12-6, and they went on to win the title that season.

Having overcome the odds-on favourites for this season's crown away from home it looks as though the Arms Park outfit mean business again this winter.

Despite surrendering a try through a schoolboy error in the first half, Cardiff came on strong in the second half. They looked well prepared, physically and mentally, survived the pace better and, most importantly, never gave in.

The introduction of the former Brive flanker Gregori Kacala into the Cardiff pack made a huge difference to the side and he could become the catalyst for bigger and better things both domestically and in Europe.

The battle between Kacala and the Ponty No 8 Dale McIntosh was more than a mere sideshow. The battle lines were drawn even before the kick-off as the man who is used to mixing it with the toughest of teams in France fronted up the whole home side as they emerged from the tunnel. For the next 74 minutes, when McIntosh was replaced, the two players were like magnets to each other.

The opening gambits saw Lee Jarvis put Cardiff ahead with a fourth-minute penalty, but Jenkins hit back with two of his own. Jarvis levelled matters with another goal and then came the first major strike.

Kacala was penalised for holding onto the ball on the ground following the re-start and the entire Cardiff team retired to their posts expecting Jenkins to kick for goal. Instead he tapped the ball, ran 10 metres and sent Gareth Wyatt racing in for a sucker try which he also converted.

That try could have spelt the end for Cardiff, and in previous seasons it would have done, but this time they worked even harder to make amends.

A Jarvis try and conversion 11 minutes into the second half, launched from a Kacala line-out take on the home 22, levelled the scores once again at 16-16 and then, six minutes from time, Jarvis stepped up to slot the winning penalty from 30 metres out.

Scorers: Pontypridd: Try Wyatt; Conversion Jenkins; Penalites Jenkins 2, Wyatt. Cardiff: Try Jarvis; Conversion Jarvis; Penalties Jarvis 4.

Pontrypridd: K Morgan; D Manley, D James, S Lewis, G Wyatt; N Jenkins (capt, S Enoch, 30), Paul John; N Eynon (M Griffiths, 64), J Evans (Phil John 25-28, 40), A Metcalfe, G Prosser, M Rowley, M Spiller, D McIntosh (M Lloyd 74), M Williams.

Cardiff: M Silva; S Hill, L Davies, M Hall, N Walker; L Jarvis, S Wake; A Lewis, J Humphreys (capt, H Bevan, 6-15), D Young, A Rees, D Jones, E Lewis, G Kacala, G Jones (M Bennett, 64).

Referee: Peter Bolland (Newport)