Rugby Union: Pontypridd laid bare

Stade Francais 71 Pontypridd 14
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PONTYPRIDD'S European Cup dreams turned into a nightmare at Stade Jean Bouin yesterday as the French champions Stade Francais put them to the sword in a quarter-final that became a rout. The coup de grace may have been supplied by club captain Vincent Moscato. He carried the can for the defeat by Biarritz a week earlier and was dropped for this clash but he came on as a replacement to claim the 10th try against a Pontypridd team that was by then out for the count and staring at their biggest defeat in four years of the tournament.

The Welsh club made a decent fist of it for half-an-hour, but if Moscato had that final word then the real damage was done by two tries in as many minutes just when Pontypridd were clinging on by their finger-nails.

That twin strike signalled the end of matters as a contest, Pontypridd losing captain and stand-off Neil Jenkins among their several injured before they trooped off bruised, battered and brushed aside.

Stade Francais fancy themselves as the European champions and on this form that might not be such an idle boast. They are the complete side, colourful up-front and with bags of pace behind. By contrast Pontypridd were made to look pedestrian and ponderous.

And if prop Sylvain Marconnet wasn't the man of the match by a considerable distance then that would have been one of the few surprises on a day when everything went to the French club's script.

Marconnet was in everything, scrummaging like a bull and then rampaging around the field like one as well. He really is the epitome of your modern front-row forward.

Pontypridd had nothing to match him or, for that matter, most of his team-mates from early in the second quarter.

Pontypridd's shaky start suggested it simply wasn't going to be their afternoon, despite the Welsh standard bearers scoring a superb try of their own to level matters after 11 minutes. It initially came courtesy of a wayward French line-out throw but the rest was pure class.

Centre Dafydd James took a flat pass on the angle and sliced them wide open. He had Kevin Morgan and Gareth Wyatt steaming up in support outside him, winger Wyatt showing everyone a clean pair of heels at the end of a flowing 80-metre movement.

But their only other moment of joy came after an hour when flanker Geraint Lewis went over from close range for their second try. For much of the rest it was all about Stade Francais as Pontypridd were handed a painful European lesson.

Stade Francais: S Viars; A Gomes, R Dourthe, C Mytton, T Lombard; D Dominguez (capt), C Laussucq (L Loustau, 66); S Marconnet, L Pedrosa (V Moscato, 56), P Devilliers (T Mazet, 75), H Chaffardon, D Georges (D Auradou, 56), C Moni (S Keith, 75), R Pool-Jones, C Juillet.

Pontypridd: K Morgan; G Wyatt, J Lewis (S Lewis, 44), D James, GO Lewis; N Jenkins (S Enoch, 40), P John (M Taylor, 70); A Griffiths (M Griffiths, 65), A Lamerton, N Tau (N Eynon, 75), G Prosser (A Freeman, 57), I Gough, GP Lewis, M Williams, D McIntosh (M Lloyd, 75).

Referee: C Muir (Scotland).