Rugby Union: Pontypridd's resistance broken by Walshe's try

Pontypridd 18 Saracens 22
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The Independent Online
SARACENS COMPLETED the double over Pontypridd at Sardis Road last night to keep their European Cup hopes alive. But, as they would have expected, it was a hard-earned success in the Valleys, with the lead changing hands four times.

After the 10-try thriller at Vicarage Road last Sunday, more of the same was predicted with Pontypridd hoping to build on their enterprising home win over Colomiers earlier in the tournament. It was a question of whether the home forwards could win enough ball to give their backs the chance to add to the four tries they conjured up six days earlier. Dale McIntosh was brought in to add more fire-power to combat Saracens' much-vaunted back row.

Whatever the plan, it did not stop the Saracens pack scavenging successfully in the loose and robbing the home side of much needed possession at crucial times. Lee Jarvis gave Pontypridd the lead with a fifth-minute penalty and it certainly helped the home cause that Mark Mapletoft sprayed three simple kicks wide of the mark in the first half.

But when it came to matching the Saracens pack at close quarters, the home eight found it as hard as they had the previous weekend when five of the six Saracens tries came from their back row.

Pontypridd were relieved when the referee, Rob Dickson, penalised Julian White for shielding at a visitors' line-out at the other end. Yet having survived that, the Welshmen were punished after 25 minutes when Danny Grewcock took the ball and Richard Hill went over at the right corner.

Thanks to two penalties and a drop goal from the ever-reliable boot of Jarvis, Pontypridd had snatched a four-point lead by half-time and when the outside-half added another penalty three minutes after the break revenge looked possible.

But the same mistakes that undid Pontypridd at Saracens came back to haunt them as they lost the ball in the tackle, failed to clear to touch or knocked-on at the restarts. Something had to give and after twice creaking under the weight of the Saracens pack, the home side conceded a try on the narrow side of a ruck to Mapletoft.

Jarvis regained the lead with a penalty after 63 minutes, but the scrum- half Nick Walshe had the final say for Saracens when he dived over for a try which his half-back partner, Matthew Leek, converted.

Pontypridd: Penalties L Jarvis 5. Drop L Jarvis. Saracens: Tries R Hill, M Mapletoft, N Walshe. Penalties M Mapletoft; Conversions M Mapletoft, M Leek.

Pontypridd: B Davey; G Wyatt, J Lewis, S Parker (R Greenslade-Jones 43), J Colderley; L Jarvis, P John (capt); N Tau, A Lamerton (G Williams, 61), S Cronk (C Loader, 51), W James, I Gough, M Lloyd (R Field, 67), G Lewis ( R Greenslade-Jones 20-29), D McIntosh.

Saracens: M Mapletoft; R Constable, J Thomson, K Sorrell, D O'Mahony; M Leek, N Walshe; D Flatman, G Chuter (R Russell, 41), J White, S Murray, D Grewcock, R Hill, F Pienaar, T Diprose (B Cole, 41).

Referee: R Dickson (Scotland).

Northampton in seven-try cruise, page 23