Rugby Union: Cruel luck for Ponty

Swansea 20 Pontypridd 19
Click to follow
The Independent Online
And so the long wait continues for Pontypridd. Without a win at St Helen's since 15 March 1972, they arrived for this seventh-round Swalec Cup tie with as good a chance as ever of laying the bogie.

But if the omens looked good for the Cup holders, they found their luck was as bad as ever. The first turn against them came before the game started when the Swansea skipper, Garin Jenkins, won the toss. By giving Ponty first use of the near gale-force wind he was inviting them to open out from the start and build up a handy first-half lead.

After weathering a few early moments of home bravado, Pontypridd found little difficulty in taking the lead. Their only problem was holding on to it.

The visiting captain, Neil Jenkins, was the almost inevitable first scorer as he kicked penalties after 5 and 10 minutes to steady the Ponty nerves. On top of that, he directed proceedings expertly from outside-half in a fascinating duel with the present Welsh stand-off, Arwel Thomas.

Better was to come for the visitors when a Jenkins pass to his centre Steele Lewis put him into space and paved the way for a 80-metre move which eventually ended with the loose-head prop Neil Eynon galloping 15 metres to score a notable try.

That score epitomised the endeavour shown by both teams, the outstanding outfits in Wales this season. Jenkins added the conversion and Ponty had grabbed the initiative in the opening quarter.

It looked as though Swansea could fold at that stage and their hopes of securing a League and Cup double looked very remote. But in front of a near- capacity 10,000 crowd, the All Whites galvanised themselves and a moment of good fortune turned the game on its head.

Once again it was cruel luck for Ponty as they became victims of their own enterprise. A midfield mix-up between the Lewis brothers, Steele and Jason, allowed the Swansea centre Mark Taylor to intercept 70 metres out and race to the posts without a hand being laid on him.

Arwel Thomas converted and then added a penalty to reduce the deficit to three points. Now it was Ponty's turn to panic as half-time neared, although they eventually established a nine-point advantage when Jenkins landed two more penalties.

But was their lead enough? The home fans thought not and when Stuart Davies barged over for Swansea's second try five minutes after the restart it looked as though the locals were right.

Thomas converted that try and four minutes later notched the penalty that brought Swansea the lead for the first time. From there on it was a case of keeping cool and banging the ball downwind.

Thomas and his half-back partner, Andy Booth, ensured that was done when required and despite one or two searing three-quarter line moves, and a forlorn 38-metre penalty attempt by Jenkins, the Cup holders were unable to breach the gap.

Swansea: M Back; W Leach, M Taylor, S Gibbs, Simon Davies; A Thomas, A Booth; I Buckett, G Jenkins (capt), C Anthony, S Moore, P Arnold, D Thomas, Stuart Davies, C Charvis.

Pontypridd: K Morgan; D Manley (C Cormack, 40), J Lewis, S Lewis, P Ford; N Jenkins (capt), Paul John; N Eynon, Phil John, A Metcalfe, G Prosser, M Rowley, N Spiller, R Lumkong (M Lloyd, 40), M Williams.

Referee: G Simmonds (Cardiff).