Rugby: Bishop keeps battling

Llanelli 59 Pontypool 17
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The Independent Online
Two great clubs, one comfortable win, yet the same problems for both sides - money.

Llanelli's board of directors are considering selling their birthright by allowing the local authority to buy up Stradey Park to help ease their near pounds 500,000 overdraft. The plan is to buy it back from them at a preferential rate in five years time.

For Pontypool, the financial plight is even greater. They simply do not have the money or backing to even contemplate competing at the highest level but all that could change if their player-coach David Bishop has his way. Contracted until May 1999, he is determined to restore his club to the forefront of the British game where he and so many others helped put them a decade ago.

This Swalec Cup quarter-final may have been a predictably one-sided affair but Bishop's battlers proved there are some good players in the Second Division. The winger Lennie Woodard, who scored two of Pool's three tries, looked the part, as did the tight-head prop Martin Madden.

"People used to play for the jersey at Pontypool, but now the game is all about money. Our problem is that we don't have enough of it," Bishop said.

"If the WRU are going to invest in clubs then they should certainly consider Pontypool as a top option. Welsh rugby needs a strong Pontypool."

Strong words from one of the game's strongest and boldest of players. At 36, Bishop maybe a little larger, slower and greyer than in his heyday, but he was still able to do himself justice for the hour he was on the pitch.

Llanelli took 15 minutes to begin their first half onslaught of five tries and were further stymied for 26 minutes in the second half, during which time Pontypool scored two of their three tries but in the end the Scarlets reached their 19th semi-final in the 26 years of the trophy.

Llanelli: Tries Evans 3, Boobyer 2, Jenkins, Botica, Gibbs, Moon; Conversions Botica 4, Warlow 3. Pontypool: Tries Woodard 2, West; Conversion Jones.

Llanelli: S Jones; G Evans, N Davies, N Boobyer, M Wintle (C Hughes, 68); F Botica (C Warlow, h-t), R Moon (capt; A Thomas, 55); S John (S Gale, 64), J Hyatt, H Williams-Jones, S Ford, M Voyle, A Gibbs, H Jenkins, P Morris.

Pontypool: M Jones; L Woodard, D Lynch (capt), N Chapman, (M Day, 64), I Farr; S Lawrence, D Bishop (N Hope, 58); D Smith (I Thomas, 50), J Thomas (W Williams, 72), M Madden, A Newbury, J Sulway, S Clarke (C Trayhern, 73), C West (J Reed, 69), G Green.

Referee: T Rowlands (Treorchy).

Neil Jenkins, now playing for Wales at full-back, will know on Thursday whether his arm, broken against England nine days ago, will mend in time to tour with the Lions to South Africa.