Rugby Union: Bishop resurrects Poola

Pontypool 14 UWIC 8
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THERE have been many famous days at Pontypool Park. Great triumphs for the local team and huge performances by many legendary international players.

In many ways yesterday's victory against UWIC was no exception. The win was vital and had Pontypool lost then they would have dropped into the Welsh Second Division and could easily have been consigned to oblivion.

When you think of the way in which Poola dominated the British game during the late Seventies and Eighties it is perhaps hard to imagine how far they had slumped. One man, though, was determined they should not fall any further.

That man was also responsible for a large part of his club's domination in the last decade, David Bishop. This was no labour of love for him - it was a matter of life or death.

Love him or loathe him, and there are plenty in both camps, the one thing you cannot fail to do with Bishop is admire him. The girth might be a little thicker, the hair a little greyer but the skill and commitment is as sharp and thunderous as ever.

What Pontypool's player-coach demanded from all his players in a game both sides had to win to avoid relegation was undying commitment. He got that and more and, along the way he picked up three penalties from the boot of his outside half Matthew Silver and a priceless try from the prop Wayne Williams.

Bishop almost walked out on Pontypool at the start of the season because he knew the quality of player was not there to keep his beloved club afloat. Thankfully for Pontypool his threats were heard in the right quarters and the former club captain Eddie Butler managed to put together a consortium of businessmen to back Bishop's pleas. Now that Bishop has delivered First Division status for next season, the consortium will have to come up with some money to keep his good work going.

If the quality of the game was nothing to write home about, the tension certainly was. In this winner takes all style of match the result hung in the balance right until the third minute of injury time.

The biggest crowd of the season flocked to the Park, around 4,000 of them, and having orchestrated a winning performance on the pitch an exhausted Bishop then led the fans in some riotous celebrations.

Just how much the victory meant to Bishop was confirmed in an emotional embrace after the game with his mentor, the former Pontypool coach Ray Prosser, in which the scrum-half broke down in tears on his shoulder.

That moment more then any encapsulated the enormity of the day. From that embrace should come a brighter future for Pontypool, if they can keep on backing Bishop.

Pontypool: G Curtis; M Cawley, D Lynch (capt), M McCarthy, C Landry; M Silva, D Bishop; D Thomas (R Siveter, 41), J Thomas, W Williams, W James, A Brown, D Hurford, R Harvey, I McKim R Field, 41).

UWIC: R Jones; J Williams, R Shorney, G Bowen, C Wall; G Vobe, G Cooper; M Bolton (I Poley, 41), S Jones (G Williams, 41), M O'Kelly, G Evans (M Howells, 41), S Gardner, A Davies (capt), A Carter, N Budgett.

Referee: W D Bevan (Clydach).