Rugby Union: Ebbw Vale show value of team spirit

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The Independent Online
Ebbw Vale 29 Pontypridd 13

Pontypridd have long maintained they are not a one-man team, but the loss of Neil Jenkins before this comprehensive defeat showed there might be some truth to the charge.

The Lions full-back withdrew with a shoulder injury and is rated doubtful for Wales' Five Nations warm-up game against Italy at Stradey Park next weekend, although he insists he will be fit.

The title holders badly missed their outside-half's control and vision in a fast, fluid and open encounter where Ebbw Vale were quicker in thought and deed.

The Gwent side have no millionaire backer and share their ground, Eugene Cross Park, with a local football team (The Cowboys) but what they do have is great team spirit. They have been the surprise package in the Welsh Premier Division this season and this win puts them into fourth place in the table with a place in next year's European Cup beckoning.

Pontypridd took an early lead with a penalty kicked by Jenkins' replacement Andre Barnard from in front of the posts and his opposite number, Byron Hayward, levelled the score soon after with a penalty.

Ponty hit back in the 21st minute with a try from second row Greg Prosser after Pontypridd marched a rolling maul to the line.

Hayward kicked another penalty for Ebbw Vale, who were by now bombarding the Pontypridd line and winger Alun Harries took a tap-penalty to himself and barged over the line, with Hayward converting.

Hayward and his strong running partner at half-back, Dai Llewellyn, ran the show, causing an out of sorts Pontypridd side a whole host of problems.

Tongan second row Kuli Faletau stretched Ebbw Vale's lead with a try beneath the posts, which Hayward converted to give his side a 20-8 half- time lead.

After the break Hayward kicked two more penalties, but the replacement hooker Jonathan Evans scored a consolation try, with almost his first touch of the ball, for Pontypridd.

Hayward added his fifth penalty to another scalp to Ebbw Vale's growing collection, which this season includes Llanelli, Neath and Bridgend.

Ebbw Vale: Tries Harries, Faletau; Conversions Hayward 2; Penalties Hayward 5. Pontypridd: Tries Prosser, Evans; Penalty Barnard.

Ebbw Vale: S Taumalolo; A Harries, J Hawker, J Funnell, L Woodard; B Hayard, D Llewellyn; A Phillips, L Phillips (S Jones, 72), I Thomas, L Banks (C Billen, 53), K Faletau, R Collins, M Jones, K Jones (capt).

Pontypridd : K Morgan; G Wyatt, D James, S Lewis, D Manley; A Barnard (C Cormack, 57), Paul John; A Griffiths (N Eynon, 61), Phil John (J Evans, 61), M Griffiths, G Prosser, S Bundy (S Roy, 31), M Lloyd, D McIntosh (capt), M Williams.

Referee: W D Bevan.