Jenkins inspired

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The Independent Online
Abertillery 10

Pontypridd 70

AFTER scoring 18 points and putting Pontypridd in full cry for the championship race, Neil Jenkins, restored to the Welsh team last week, left the field nine minutes into the second half with a cut eye after a clash of heads with the opposing full-back, Mark Williams.

This was only Jenkins' third game back after a seven-week lay-off with a cracked collarbone. But there seemed no doubt about his fitness or skill, for he not only converted five tries, kicked a penalty and scored a try before his departure, but he also orchestrated a lot of good play.

In the dressing-room after the game, having had seven stitches and holding an ice-pack to a huge swelling on his temple, he said: "You will have to cut my legs off for me not to play against France on Saturday. I guarantee I will be there."

Jenkins, nevertheless, is still seeking full acclaim from the Welsh public. Well as he plays for Pontypridd, he has never struck the same form for his country, even though on Saturday he will become the most capped fly- half in Welsh history, his 30 caps in that position beating Cliff Morgan's 29.

It is ironic that 12 months ago he was blamed for last season's wooden spoon and whitewash, and yet with Wales heading for their second consecutive whitewash for the first time in their history, having lost their last eight Five Nations games, he is back for Wales as the people's choice.

Jenkins more than anybody can appreciate what Arwel Thomas is going through. Thomas was seen as a catalyst for change in the Welsh approach, but buckled under the pressure in Dublin. Jenkins now has another chance to capture Welsh hearts on his own account.

Yesterday Abertillery, although swamped by the far greater fire-power of the Pontypridd forwards and backs, gave a brave account of themselves in the first half before giving up the ghost in the second as Pontypridd swamped them with tries.

Neil Jenkins set them on their way, kicking a penalty goal and then creating a try for Paul John, which he also converted. Mark Williams then kicked a penalty for Abertillery, but a try by David Manly, created by the evergreen Ritchie Collins and again converted by Jenkins made it 17- 3 after only 10 minutes.

Although Abertillery were outgunned they continued to play bravely, but Pontypridd were too strong and incisive. Another break by Jenkins brought a try by Crispin Cormack, swiftly followed by another for Steele Lewis. Jenkins converted both to make it 31-3 at half-time.

In the second period the deluge continued. Neil Jenkins scored a try and converted it before going off, and tries followed by Geraint Lewis, David Manly, Matthew Lloyd, Steele Lewis, Paul John and another by Lewis, with Cormack kicking two conversions. Abertillery's reply was a consolation try by Nick Prest converted by Mark Williams.

Abertillery are now deep in relegation trouble, while Pontypridd are happy in pole position. But Cardiff have two games in hand, Llanelli one - and Neath are coming up on the rails.

Abertillery: M Williams; A Richards, A Hillman, B Corlett, M Hassell; K Price, D Wright; D Jones, C Milkins, P Harriman, J Cicero, R McCorduck, D Duley, G Gladyn. L Phillips (capt).

Pontypridd: C Cormack; D Manly, J Lewis, S Lewis, G Lewis; N Jenkins, P John; N Bezani (capt), Phil John, A Metcalfe, G Prosser, P Owen, M Lloyd, D McIntosh, R Collins.

Referee: Nigel Whitehouse (WRU).