Rugby Union: Swansea relish the boot route

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The Independent Online
Pontypridd. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15

Swansea . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25

THE BIG FOUR remain the big four, with ambitious Pontypridd staying on the fringes of Welsh rugby's elite band of clubs. Victory over Swansea could have altered all that, and given them the impetus to change the somewhat predictable order at the top, but they failed.

One defeat will not dent their ambition, but what it did was make life all the more difficult for them. Now the men from Sardis Road must play catch-up for the rest of the month rather than meet the remainder of the teams ahead of them in the First Division table, Neath, Llanelli and Cardiff, on more or less equal terms.

This weekend's trek to Llanelli will look a different proposition following a home defeat and the Pontypridd coach, Dennis John, will realise that another reverse would put them seven points behind the side currently in second place.

While defeat was a disappointment for Pontypridd, it was a huge boost to the morale at Swansea. In a game of little invention, no compromise and grinding forward play, it was the All Whites who showed they not only had the stomach for the fight, but also the gumption.

It was a poor spectacle, with the game moving from scrum to line- out to scrum, although the view of the visitors was that the end justified the means. Two league points won away from home, especially as they were secured at the ground at which every team hates playing, kept their title challenge intact, and will have gone a long way towards re-establishing the self-belief that made them the most powerful side in the land two seasons ago.

In a hard-fought forward battle, it was always likely to come down to the boot to find the winner and, hard as Neil Jenkins battled for the home side, kicking five penalties out of eight attempts, it was his opposite number, Aled Williams, who won the day. He bagged 20 points as he ensured Swansea never fell behind, kicking five penalties, a last-ditch left-footed drop goal and a conversion of Paul Arnold's try. It may not have been pretty, but it worked.

Pontypridd: Penalties Jenkins 5. Swansea: Try Arnold; Conversion Williams; Penalties Williams 5; Drop goal Williams.

Pontypridd: M Back; D Manley, S Lewis, J Lewis, O Robbins; N Jenkins, Paul John; N Bezani (capt), Phil John, M Powell, J Scarlett, G Prosser, M Spiller, M Lloyd, P Thomas.

Swansea: A Clement; S Marshall, S Gibbs, I Lewis, S Barclay; A Williams, R Jones; I Buckett, G Jenkins, R Shaw, P Arnold, R Moriarty, A Reynolds, S Davies (capt) (I Davies, 68), R Appleyard.

Referee: G Simmonds (Cardiff) replaced by B Brock (Bedwas), 79.