Rugby Union: Excitement missing as stand-ins stand out for honest endeavour: Cardiff frolic past Pontypridd

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Cardiff . . . .35

Pontypridd. . .13

GIVEN the turgid goings-on between these teams 26 days earlier it was a surprise that anybody bothered to turn up to watch. That was the Heineken League at the peak of its pressure, and displaying all its restrictive tendencies, while this was the traditional Boxing Day frolic.

Although they may be poles apart, not least in personnel, the players and coaches could still try to find some common ground between the two that might lead to greater entertainment. The standard might not have been very high in their third meeting this season, yet the near second strings from both clubs managed to serve up twice as many tries as in the previous two matches.

To the players and coaches modern rugby might be all about results, but for the punters it remains a game of passion, flair and excitement. Boxing Day encounters between two rivals that first met 115 years ago used to be packed with passion, both on and off the field, yet that precious ingredient was sadly lacking in the latest meeting.

Just as well that the rugby-loving public in Wales like nothing better than turning out in their thousands to watch a match at this time of year. There were almost 10,000 at the Arms Park, and no doubt they enjoyed seeing six tries being run in, but without the big-name players, and nothing at stake on the game, it has to be questioned whether what used to be one of the highlights of the season is fast becoming a thing of the past.

That said, a similarly large crowd attended the First Division fixture between the two teams at the start of the month, when Pontypridd ran out 15-10 winners, and what they witnessed was awful rugby. Anything would have been better than that, and this probably was.

There was honest endeavour throughout from Cardiff, not always matched by good handling, and at least Pontypridd managed to bag their first try in four hours of rugby against their arch rivals this season with the last move of the game.

That try, from the centre Richard Sheppeard, was the game's best and ensured the match ended on a high note. But will it be enough to bring the crowds back next year?

Cardiff: Tries Laity 2, Matthews, Baxter, S John; Conversions C John 5. Pontypridd: Try Sheppeard; Conversion Cormack. Penalty Cormack; Drop goal Williams.

Cardiff: S Davies; S Ford (M Price, 43), C Laity, S John, S Hill (G Baber, 57); C John, A Booth; A Lewis, J Humphreys (capt, B Wakefield, 78), K Matthews, J Wakeford, T Rees, N Baxter, P Ager, V Davies (H Merrett, 65).

Pontypridd: C Cormack; K Walker (O Robbins, 39), R Sheppeard, M Kehoe, G Jones; P Williams, G Bisp; M Smith, P John, M Powell, J Scarlett, G Prosser (M Rowley, 57), H Davies, C Jarman, R Collins (capt).

Referee: R G Davies (Dunvant).