Pride of Pontypridd

Rugby Union: Newport 29 Pontypridd 30
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The Independent Online
THIS was a truly remarkable and competitive contest in which two hugely determined teams slogged it out in the mud. At the end, it proved to be another well-grafted, not to mention crafted, win by Pontypridd, who struck a considerable blow for their championship aspirations.

They are only four points behind the League leaders, Cardiff, with a game in hand. Newport, who have only won one game less than Cardiff, but are nevertheless languishing in mid-table due to the bonus points system, gave notice that they are an improving team.

Their rugby director, Tommy David, said before the game that his team were far from playing to their potential. After winning the toss and choosing to play into the wind, Newport's aim in the first half was containment, so that their Canadian stand-off, Gareth Rees, could bombard them in the second half.

Pontypridd therefore began the match with an urgency which imposed heavy early pressure and Newport spent the first quarter grimly defending close to their own line. From the fourth of a series of scrums near the line, Paul John went on the blind side and put David Manley over for a try converted by Lee Jarvis.

However, Dale McIntosh then lost a ball in the tackle and Adam Palfrey picked up in midfield to feed inside to Rees, who raced 40 yards for a try which he also converted. In the meantime, open side flankers Ritchie Collins and David Gray were locked in combat on the floor, for which they both received yellow cards.

Jarvis kicked three penalty goals and Newport received a further setback when Geraint Lewis launched a crossfield attack which reached Manley and was brought back again across field for Matthew Lloyd to put Jason Lewis over for a superb try. Although Rees pegged away with two more penalty goals into the wind, Jarvis kicked another to make it 24-13 to Pontypridd at half-time.

The admirable Jarvis, who plays with a maturity and an enchanting skill which totally belies his 19 years, kicked another penalty and for all the huge upfield kicking of Rees, one sensed that Newport were undone.

However, Rees again gave them hope when he was bundled over the line for a try from a rolling maul which he converted. Newport kept up the pressure with another penalty from Rees. Kevin Moseley won the lineouts at will and, with Rees pumping the ball upfield, Pontypridd were on the rack. However, they showed their resilience and another driving maul saw Newport collapsing, giving Jarvis his sixth penalty out of six attempts.

Another two penalties by Rees, the man of the match, took Newport to within one point and his personal league tally for the season to 200, but he fell short on his final attempt to win the match with a penalty from five yards inside his own half.

Newport: D Smith; R Rees, A Palfrey, D Hughes, C Arnold; G Rees, J Hewlett; R Snow, I Jones, S Duggan, M Voyle, K Moseley, B Atkins, R Goodey (capt), D Gray.

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

Referee: H Lewis (WRU).