Rugby Union: Rayer soothes Cardiff's early jitters

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Pontypridd 6

Cardiff 12

THE good news for the onlooking Welsh coaches Alan Davies and Gareth Jenkins was that Mike Hall negotiated his comeback match without any injury worries.

The bad news was the overall standard of proceedings in the Heineken League First Division's match of the day. Having gone to the game to check skill levels and tactical appreciation, Davies and Jenkins must have been alarmed at the lack of both.

For Davies, the poor performances of two of Wales' leading clubs merely underlined a point he has been worrying about in the build-up to his side's three pre- Christmas internationals.

'International players can't afford to make mistakes and there were a lot of mistakes today. It is always difficult in the early part of the season to get the forwards to gel,' Davies said. 'We can't afford for any of the Welsh players to have early-season jitters.'

There was certainly no lack of concentration from the four players selected last week for the Romanian match, although the Pontypridd outside-half Neil Jenkins did get frustrated. The week after crashing through the 800 league points barrier with a haul of 20 in the win over Pontypool, he hit a lean patch with his kicking.

Instead of his customary 70-80 per cent success rate, he fluffed three penalties, hit the post with another and gave Mike Rayer the opportunity to seal the game with some back-chat to the replacement referee, Chris Jones. Rayer needed no second invitation to slot over his third penalty, and with his

25-metre drop goal accounted for all Cardiff's points.

Yet no matter how dull and dreary it all was, it meant two precious league points for Cardiff. They remain many peoples' favourites for the title, but they will have to improve.

Pontypridd: Penalties Jenkins 2. Cardiff: Penalties Rayer 3. Drop Goal Rayer.

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

Cardiff: M Rayer; S Ford, M Hall (capt), J Hewlett, N Walker; C John, A Moore; M Griffiths, J Humphreys, L Mustoe, S Roy, D Jones, M Bennett, O Williams, H Taylor.

Referee: C Jones (Cwmbran).