Rugby Union: Avenger Jenkins

Pontypridd 15 Cardiff 12
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The Independent Online
NEIL JENKINS was once again a match- winner for Pontypridd as they made it three major titles in as many seasons by beating Cardiff to the WRU Challenge Trophy.

If it wasn't pretty stuff, it was certainly gripping, although the injury to the Welsh captain, Rob Howley, will be a huge cause for concern in the build-up to Sunday's Five Nations finale against France. "Rob injured his left ankle but it is a question of waiting and seeing the full extent of the damage at this stage," the WRU doctor, Roger Evans, said.

The Pontypridd coach, Dennis John, in his team talk made much of the fact that Cardiff were the only Welsh side to win at Sardis Road in nearly four years. In fact they had the last two victories registered over the league champions on their own patch. There was no room for a third instance, John demanded.

As for Jonathan Humphreys' men, they knew that even though this trophy had been much maligned in its inaugural year, it represented their best hope of winning some silverware in this Cardiff's winter of discontent. The first explosion came in the opening minutes when Greg Kacala, the Cardiff back-row man, drove into the midfield. He brushed aside two men, but then bashed into Steele Lewis and came off a poor second.

That was the opening gambit in a no-holds-barred first half in which Jenkins had the major say for the home side. He notched two penalties in five minutes after Cardiff had hit the front.

Lee Jarvis had been the slayer of his former club, Pontypridd, in the 16-9 league win in August, yet he found himself among the replacements for this final. Yet, 23 minutes into the match, fate delivered him a chance to show what he can do. Three minutes later he crossed for a try, added a conversion and then kicked a 30-metre penalty.

The second half turned into an even more torrid affair and there was the sight nobody wanted to see when Howley was carried away after a clash with his teammate Justin Thomas.

Jarvis had the chance to put Cardiff back in front with a penalty from seven metres inside his own half, and then with a more realistic effort moments later. Both missed to perfectly sum up Cardiff's season - close, but never close enough.

Instead it was Jenkins who had the final say with his fifth penalty and everyone at Pontypridd will be hoping it will not be the last time he shows off a trophy at the club.

Pontypridd: A Barnard; G Wyatt, S Lewis, D James, D Manley; N Jenkins (capt), P John; A Griffiths, A Lamerton, M Griffiths, S Roy, S Bundy (G Prosser 59), G Lewis (M Lloyd, 69), D McIntosh, M Williams.

Cardiff: C Morgan (J Thomas 50); G Thomas, L Davies, M Hall, S Hill; B Ross (L Jarvis 23), R Howley (J Hewlett 51); A Lewis, J Humphreys (capt), L Mustoe, T Rees, J Tait, G Kacala, E Lewis, J Ringer (S Williams 23-33).

Referee: WD Bevan (Clydach).