Rugby Union: Ring's tricks raise the spirits

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Cardiff. . . . .16

Pontypool . . . .6

THE ghosts of Christmas past on either side were surely in despair at the standard of rugby in this, the only First Division encounter of the first round proper of the Welsh Swalec Cup. For it was a game as drab and as grey as the day itself and did nothing to induce any seasonal good cheer.

The only pleasure was watching Mark Ring doing his utmost to create a closer encounter for Pontypool who, in their last visit to the Arms Park on 30 October, lost 78-0.

Ring might well have been playing his last game on the Cardiff ground which, before going to Pontypool, he graced for so long with his superb footballing qualities and excited with his elegance, sleight of hand and sheer effrontery.

He was Cardiff's principal tormentor with his high, tantalising kicks in the first quarter, designed to terrorise a Cardiff team currently groping to find form and confidence.

Pontypool began by not only gaining the first score, a penalty goal by Ring, after a couple of moves, but also by bombarding Cardiff with high kicks in an attempt to unsettle already taut nerves.

Another penalty by Ring made it 6-0 and it was nearly half an hour before Cardiff put together any semblance of a worthwhile attack, when Colin Laity broke through the centre. Cardiff then forced a five-yard scrum from which they attempted to push over, but forced Pontypool to collapse and concede a penalty try, converted by Adrian Davies, which made it 7-6 to Cardiff at half-time.

Davies added two penalties and a drop goal for Cardiff which, together with the fact that the only try was a pushover, was a measure of the quality of the game.

The only bright spot came late in the match, when the irrepressible Ring, who still knows where all the gaps are even if his legs cannot take him there anymore, rushed up to receive a quick throw-in. A Cardiff player dashed in to intervene and brushed Ring as he ran past. Delaying for a second, Ring then dropped to the ground to the utter consternation of the referee, but in a flash he was back on his feet, laughing with the referee. Ring was an entertainer to the end.

Cardiff: Penalty try; Conversion A Davies; Penalties A Davies 2; Drop goal A Davies. Pontypool: Penalties Ring 2.

Cardiff: M Rayer; S Hill, M Hall (capt), C Laity, N Walker; A Davies, R Howley; M Griffiths, J Humphreys, P Sedgemore, T Rees, D Jones, H Taylor, O Williams, C Mills.

Pontypool: A Carr (Reynolds, 18); H Jones, M Taylor, P Taylor, P Armstrong; M Ring (capt), M De Maid; D Othem, T Rogers, B Phillips, J Short, M Keenan, M Taylor, G Taylor, D Erland.

Referee: H Lewis (WRU).