Rugby Union: JPR has view in perspective: Robert Cole assesses the bottom rank of the Heineken Welsh League

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The Independent Online
THE two teams emerged from their dressing-rooms breathing fire and brimstone and it did not take long for the two packs to get to grips with each other. In fact, it only needed the formality of the kick-off to launch the first of a number of nasty free-for-alls which only subsided with the sending-off of John Ralph, the Builth Wells lock, four minutes into the second half.

Life in the Fourth Division of the Heineken League is as tough as it is in the First, Tondu's last- gasp try enabling them to sneak a 17-13 victory and leapfrog over their opponents to the top of the table.

The view from there might make a pretty picture for the many followers of the mid-Glamorgan village side, but what is the general view of the role being played by the new order of emerging clubs in the Welsh game?

At least at Tondu and Builth they are able to keep a reasonable perspective on their respective roles and achievements, thanks to the presence of two former Welsh internationals, JPR Williams and Jeremy Pugh.

JPR may still be a god-like figure in the eyes of most Welsh rugby fans, but he has never been one to rest on his reputation. Instead, he continues to play an active part in the game as team manager at Tondu and a specialist adviser to the Welsh selectors.

Pugh is another doer. His international career may have been short, but he knows what it takes to win the league and cup from his days in the front row at Neath. Nowadays, he is captain, part- time coach and, above all, mentor to his home town club. He wants them to succeed, believes they can climb through the Heineken ranks and is delighted that Welsh rugby now has a system that rewards hard work and success.

JPR, however, is not so convinced that clubs like his and Pugh's will ever make it to the top. Nor does he think they should set their sights on the First Division.

'Regrettably we are moving towards a super league system that will involve the top four clubs from Wales, England and maybe Scotland and France,' Williams said. 'What clubs like Tondu must do is realise their position in the game in Wales and not hold back the players who can make it at the highest level.'

On that score, Tondu have an excellent record. While Roddy Boobyer was the toast of the club for the injury-time try that won the game, twin Neil was playing for Llanelli and elder brother Ian for Neath. 'You have to sort out those players who have the talent and ambition to make it to the top and point them in the direction of the best clubs,' Williams said. Cardiff, Swansea, Llanelli, Neath and Bridgend will be delighted to hear that, as will the Welsh selectors.

Tondu: Try Boobyer; Penalties: Watts 4. Builth Wells: Try Hamonds; Conversion Parry; Penalties: Parry 2.

Tondu: M Watts; R Boobyer, A Evans, M Tatchell, D Jones; M Miller, M Lewis; M Stonehouse, A Thomas; W Terry, N Pengilly, S King, J Purnell, M Thomas, G Brown (capt).

Builth Wells: R Davies; A Miles, F Lewis, K Davies, I Price; N Hopkins, P Parry; C Jones, C Morgan, J Pugh (capt), G Pembroke, J Ralph, W Mills, R Lawrence, L Hamonds.

Referee: D Parry-Jones (Griffithstown).

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