Rugby Union: Jenkins outkicks Cardiff

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The Independent Online
Cardiff. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10

Pontypridd. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15

CARDIFF'S league aspirations were reduced to virtually nothing by this miserable defeat at the Arms Park last night while Swansea were going three points clear of the rest by winning only 14-13 at Dunvant.

'The Greatest', as Cardiff's own club history calls them, are adept at rolling over inferior opposition by huge scores but they find it impossible against the upstart likes of Pontypridd.

If ever 40 minutes were designed to expose the shibboleth that Welsh club rugby is as good as the national team are bad, the first half was it. Kicking that was as tedious as it was aimless, running at men rather than space, hopeless tactical naivety - all were on lurid display.

The main interest was whether Pontypridd could continue their assault on the cabal of four clubs who are talking of forming an Anglo- Welsh premiership with four English counterparts. And having seen off Neath last Saturday, they were more than Cardiff's equal as the first half was ground out.

This is not necessarily a compliment, however. When, for instance, Cardiff provided the rare pleasure of a decent break, Mike Hall promptly gave the ball away to Matthew Lloyd. There was a grim inevitability about the absence of try opportunities; instead, Ponty's nine-point half-time lead came down to kicks.

Even in this area there was little to commend. Neil Jenkins, who recently kicked a world-record eight penalties in Wales's defeat by Canada, had so many first-half chances that he was going for goal on average less than every six minutes, landing only three from seven while Adrian Davies missed both of his penalties for Cardiff.

For determination, if nothing else, you could not fault the Pontypridd players. Their basic tactic - it might even have been a strategy - of hoofing the ball down the other end and waiting for a penalty, paid another dividend when Jenkins added his fourth early in the second half.

But the errors - and it would be hard, if not impossible, to imagine a match more replete with them - continued unabated. If this is an elite, one dreads to think what the standard is lower down. Cardiff were fielding seven internationals but none of them was capable of elevating the exchanges out of their mediocrity.

Eventually Davies pulled a penalty back, but this never looked like being the inspiration they so clearly needed and when the by now unerring Jenkins kicked his fifth, Cardiff's goose was cooked. A late try by Howard Stone was converted with the last kick by Davies, but it was too little too late.

Cardiff: Try Stone; Conversion Davies; Penalty Davies. Pontypridd: Penalties Jenkins 5.

Cardiff: M Rayer; S Ford, M Hall (capt), C Laity, S Hill; A Davies, R Howley; M Griffiths, J Humphreys, P Sedgemore, A Rees, D Jones, H Stone, H Taylor, O Williams.

Pontypridd: C Cormack; D Manley, S Lewis, J Lewis, O Robins; N Jenkins, Paul John; N Bezani (capt), Phil John, A Metcalfe, G Prosser, M Rowley, M Lloyd, D McIntosh, R Collins.

Referee: D Bevan (Clydach).