Eddie Jones, the Pontypridd team manager, is travelling to Dublin for today's disciplinary meeting of European Rugby Cup Ltd rather more in expectation than hope. For those whose hopes rest on the expectation that Pontypridd and Brive will be dealt with in exemplary fashion, after the appalling scenes which disfigured their Pool C match in France last week, then they are likely to be disappointed.
At the core of this shabby tale is the realisation that no one wants to shoulder the blame for the on-field violence at Parc Municipal des Sports, nor for what followed in the Bar Toulzac, which led to five Pontypridd players being detained by police and questioned by the investigating magistrate, Brigitte Lesueur. Charges of assault and criminal damage were expected to follow.
"First of all," Jones said, without a hint of contrition, "What is supposed to have happened after the match has nothing to do with what happened on the field. Two players were sent off, one from each side, and as far as I am concerned that is the end of the matter.
"None of our players has been charged by the French police, and we don't expect them to be. So ERC must confine their disciplinary hearing to on- the-field stuff. Anyone would think that this was the only game in which there had been some fighting. We have videos from other European Cup games, where violence every bit as bad as at Brive went unpunished. So if ERC want to punish Pontypridd, they must punish all the others. They must be seen to be consistent. Without consistency from ERC we don't have a fair competition.
"All this talk of banning Pontypridd is nonsense. If ERC want to ban us, then we shall not hesitate to take legal action."
While there was plenty of fighting talk from Jones, there was, thankfully, no fighting during Saturday evening's close encounter with Borders at Poynder Park, Kelso. It was full-blooded all right, and though both sides made errors, either could have won an entertaining contest which Borders led 6-3 at half-time, thanks to two penalties from Scott Welsh to one by Ponty's captain, Neil Jenkins.
But for all their positive approach work, and the excellence of the Kelso open-side Adam Roxburgh - surely the best uncapped flanker in Britain - Borders let their guard drop in the third quarter, allowing Pontypridd to score two splendid tries which turned the game.
Jenkins and Steele Lewis set up the first for the full-back Kevin Morgan to arc across to the right of the posts. Paul John claimed the second with an unstoppable solo burst and, with Jenkins converting both and kicking another penalty, Borders were 20-6 adrift.
Michael Dods gave Borders a glimmer of hope with a fine try which Welsh converted. But Jenkins' third penalty, though countered by Welsh, put the issue beyond doubt.
Scottish Borders: Try Dods; Conversion Welsh; Penalties Welsh 3. Pontypridd: Tries Paul John, Morgan; Conversions Jenkins 2; Penalties Jenkins 3.
Scottish Borders: G Aitchison; S Nichol, T Stanger, K Utterson (C Chalmers, h-t), M Dods; S Welsh, B Redpath (capt); N McIlroy, J Hay, P Wright (S Ferguson, 69), R Brown, I Fullarton, R Kirkpatrick, A Roxburgh, C Hogg.
Pontypridd: K Morgan; G Whatt, J Lewis, S Lewis, D James; N Jenkins (capt), Paul John; M Griffiths, Phil John, A Metcalfe, G Prosser, S Roy, M Spiller, M Williams, G Lewis.
Referee: C. White (Cheltenham).Reuse content