UNTIL the final quarter of a hugely physical game this was as tense and exciting a cup semi-final as you could wish to see. The final score was somewhat misleading as the teams were deadlocked at 17-17 midway through the second half.
Llanelli were the star-studded team with five Welsh caps behind the scrum and six in the forwards, compared with Pontypridd's two in the backs and two up front. Nevertheless, they fell to the togetherness and the hard graft of the tenacious Pontypridd pack, bravely led by their grizzled captain Nigel Bezani who, at 40, is finally calling it a day at the end of the season.
The outstanding Pontypridd forward, however, was another great veteran, that Peter Pan of Welsh rugby Richie Collins. Yet the real star of the game was Neil Jenkins, whose influence was profound as he orchestrated the running attack and gathered 15 points.
Llanelli did not seem to have a tactical plan to cope with the commitment of the Pontypridd forwards and, although they comfortably won the lineouts, they were always too loose in every other area.
Llanelli did apply all the early pressure but dissipated their efforts by giving away the first six penalties. From one of themPontypridd, who took eight minutes to get out of their own half, took the lead from the boot of Jenkins. However, Stephen Pearce, with two penalties, put Llanelli ahead.
The game then took on a pattern of successive line-outs and penalties and it was 20 minutes before a set scrum formed. There was huge pressure on Llanelli to pile on some first-half points as they knew that in the second half there would be retribution from Jenkins, with the wind behind him.
Llanelli kicked away far too much possession which was gobbled up and recycled in Pontpridd counter-attacks. Nevertheless, Llanelli got nearer to the comfort zone with a penalty by Pearce followed by a beautiful drop goal. Jenkins reduced the lead with a penalty and at half-time it was evident that Llanelli might not have enough in hand.
Immediately after the restart Jenkins made it clear that the game was to be played deep inside Llanelli's half and reduced the arrears with a penalty. But Llanelli hit back in some style to lead 17-9 when Rupert Moon scored a try from a Pontypridd put-in on their own line.
Pontypridd's response was instantaneous. Geraint Lewis came off the wing and chipped for the corner and David Manley beat Proctor to the touchdown. Jenkins kicked a penalty for Pontypridd to level at 17-17.
It was Jenkins again who regained the lead with a tremendous cut to the middle to feed Manley, who scored in the corner. Paul John followed it with another and at 27-17 with 10 minutes to go Llanelli were undone.
There followed another penalty by Jenkins and a try by Geraint Lewis and Pontypridd were through to their third final of a cup which they have never won.
Llanelli: J Thomas; I Evans, N Boobyer, N Davies, W Proctor; S Pearce, R Moon; R Evans, R McBryde, S John, P Davies (captain), P Jones, M Perego (P Morris, 50), C Wyatt, G Jones.
Pontypridd: G Jones; D Manley, J Lewis, C Cormack, G Lewis; N Jenkins, P John; N Bezani (captain), Phil John, N Eynon, G Prosser, M Rowley, M Spiller (M Lloyd, 69), D McIntosh, R Collins.Reuse content