Rugby Union: Jenkins gives his critics a kick

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Pontypool . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18

Pontypridd. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .21

THE Irish rugby team would do well to learn a lesson from the Welsh fans and not anger Neil Jenkins, the Pontypridd and Wales stand-off. He played throughout this game as a man full of rage, angered to the point of distraction by criticism of his kicking performance for Wales at Murrayfield.

The 20-0 defeat at the hands of the Scots may have contained little to commend, but the role of Jenkins was hardly worthy of the condemnation he received.

'Before we played in Scotland we were all national heroes. After Murrayfield everyone wanted to get rid of everyone in the team,' Jenkins said. 'I'm sick and tired of people criticising. I just wish people would support us. I know I didn't do at all well in Scotland, but I don't need to be reminded of that every day by everyone I meet.'

Jenkins drop-kicked Pontypridd into the quarter-finals of the Swalec Cup with an exquisite goal from 40 metres with a minute remaining. It was a poignant strike, sportingly, and accurately, described by the Pontypool chairman, John Perkins, as 'a touch of class'.

The only blemish on Jenkins' performance came 12 minutes from time when a long, overhead pass in the Pontypool 22 was intercepted by Bleddyn Taylor. Instead of a try at one end, an 80-metre sprint resulted in a score at the other and an 18-8 lead for the home side.

That should have been a strong enough position for Pontypool to have held out, but Jenkins had other plans. From the kick-off, he sent the centre Ceri Jones racing through a gap to score a try at the posts which he converted, then a 35-metre penalty tied the scores.

But with five minutes to play the odds were still stacked heavily in favour of Pontypool, with their superior try count, until Jenkins made his recent drop-kicking practice pay dividends.

The posts may have been 40 metres away, but this angry young man had a point to prove. He did so in the best possible fashion, and intends to carry on doing so against Ireland on Saturday.

Pontypool: Tries White 2, B Taylor; Penalty Ring. Pontypridd: Tries G Jones, C Jones; Conversion Jenkins; Penalties Jenkins 2; Drop goal Jenkins.

Pontypool: A Carr; S White, P Taylor, L Jones, B Taylor; M Ring, C Bridges; M Crowley, N Meek, L Mustoe, N Jones, R Goodey (capt), C Crane, M Spiller, V Davies.

Pontypridd: M Back; G Jones (J Lewis, 33), S Lewis, C Jones, D Hughes; N Jenkins, Paul John; N Bezani (capt), Phil John, M Powell, G Prosser, M Rowley, N Jones, D McIntosh, M Rowlands.

Referee: R Yeman (Taibach).