John sees off the entertainers

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The Independent Online
Cardiff 23

Pontypridd 37

As A dress rehearsal for their Heineken Cup semi-final against Brive on Sunday this was nothing short of a disaster for Cardiff. It was also the worst possible result for them in their quest for another League title.

No wonder a grim-faced Cardiff coach, Terry Holmes, admitted after the game that his side had "lost the plot". He felt his team had tried too hard to entertain the 12,000-strong crowd at the National Ground.

"We tried too hard to be entertaining and lost any control we had. Sometimes you have to be negative to be positive and there were occasions we should have kicked the ball long behind them rather than try to run through them," Holmes admitted.

"It's all very well trying to play a fast game, but you have to build pace into your game rather than just try to manufacture it. Brive will be a different ball game.

"The whole key to next week is the control we showed against Bath and Wasps. We imposed our will on those matches and we must do that again in Brive."

The return of the captain, Hemi Taylor, to the side will be important this weekend and he will want to see a better return from his line-out, and fewer unforced errors, when his men travel to France.

When they return, they will find themselves more or less out of the reckoning for the Welsh title. Pontypridd, with only one defeat in 11 games, are now only three points behind Swansea and, on this showing, are comfortably the best team in Wales. There is no club around to match them for pride and passion. Few can match their organisation and nobody has a pair of half-backs to match Paul John and Neil Jenkins.

John was rightly voted man of the match and Jenkins won his outside- half duel with Jonathan Davies. Although he finished one point behind him in the match tally with 17, he scorched past him to set up a try for Jason Lewis in the second half and directed proceedings brilliantly.

This was Pontypridd's third win this year at the National Ground - the match was transferred from the Arms Park next door because of a frozen pitch - and they are now the team to beat.

Even though Cardiff managed to reach the interval with their noses in front, 13-10, Pontypridd hit back with three second-half tries to comfortably take the points and notch a huge psychological blow.

Jenkins maintained it was the fact Cardiff had 15 internationals in their side that spurred on his men to such a great deed. Perish the thought that anyone should suggest Ponty are an unfashionable side after a year in which they have won the Swalec Cup, the Champions Challenge and hammered Cardiff at the holy of holies.

Cardiff: J Thomas; S Hill, M Hall, L Davies, N Walker; J Davies (capt), R Howley; A Lewis, J Humphreys, L Mustoe (D Young, 69), J Wakeford, D Jones, M Bennett, E Lewis, G Jones.

Pontypridd: C Cormack; D Manley, J Lewis, S Lewis, G Lewis; N Jenkins (capt), P John; N Eynon, P John, A Griffiths (C Martine, 14), G Prosser, M Rowley, M Spiller, M Edwards (R Collins, 68), M Williams.

Referee: P Adams (Ebbw Vale).