Rugby Union: Victory is cold comfort for US

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Pontypridd 13 United States 15

The United States finally notched the first win of their Welsh tour at a freezing National Ground last night, though they struggled to beat a Pontypridd team reduced to 14 men for the final 52 minutes.

The full debut of the Argentinian-born prop Christian Martin for the Welsh Cup holders lasted less than half an hour before he was sent off for his part in an ugly melee by the English referee Stuart Piercey. Martin, a student at the University of Glamorgan, had made only one other appearance for Pontypridd - as a replacement - trudged off to leave his side a man short for the rest of a bruising game.

But Pontypridd could and should have still won it, only an intercepted pass 10 minutes from the end earning the Eagles victory in front of a crowd of around 2,000 hardy souls.

The tourists, who return to the same ground on Saturday to meet Wales in a full international, at least showed they had recovered from their Neath nightmare last Saturday when they were overwhelmed 39-15. But as warm-ups go it was hardly encouraging stuff against a side containing no more than a smattering of first-team regulars.

Pontypridd made all the early running with the hooker Jonathan Evans and the flanker Richie Collins prominent in the loose, opening the scoring after just eight minutes. They had already pounded the Eagles line before lock Paul Owen virtually strolled over from a tapped penalty.

The tourists replied with a penalty goal by the centre Mark Williams, who was brought up in North Wales before emigrating to the States, and a try by wing Chip Curtis after a laboured ruck on the Pontypridd line, the Eagles belatedly exploiting the blind side.

Pontypridd, with prop Andrew Metcalfe replacing No 8 Mark Edwards in time for the first scrum following the sending-off, regained the lead four minutes into the second half. The outstanding young wing prospect Gareth Wyatt, who scored four tries for the Wales Under-21 team last month when they beat Natal, again showed his burgeoning talents. Pontypridd ran a penalty from long range but Wyatt used some nifty footwork to beat two American defenders for his side's second try.

Stand-off Jason Strange increased Pontypridd's advantage before they threw it away in the 70th minute. Richard Tardits, normally a back-row forward who was previously a linebacker with gridiron side New England Patriots, latched on to Simon Enoch's loose pass and had the legs to cover the 40 metres against a Pontypridd defence who were all lined up for attack.

Williams kicked the conversion that took them ahead but they know they face a massive hurdle on Saturday if they are to stop Scott Gibbs celebrating his elevation to the Wales captaincy with a home win.

Pontypridd: Tries P Owen, G Wyatt; Penalty J Strange. United States: Tries C Curtis, R Tardits; Conversion M Williams; Penalty M Williams.

Pontypridd: K Morgan; G Wyatt, J Lewis (capt; C Cormack, 78), S Enoch, J Lee; J Strange, M de Maid; N Eynon, J Evans, C Martin, G Prosser, P Owen, M Lloyd, M Edwards (A Metcalfe, 32), R Collins (P Thomas, 74).

USA: C Morrow (Gentlemen of Aspen); C Curtis (US Combined Services), E Schram (OMBAC), M Williams (Gentlemen of Aspen, captain), B Hightower (Gentlemen of Aspen); I Stevens (Belmont Shore), B Howard (Life College); C Lippert, S Allen (both Rugby), S O'Boyle (Golden Gate), L Gross (Harlequins), C Vogl (Bridgend), R Randell (Old Blues), J Wilkerson (Belmont Shore), J Walker (Gentlemen of Aspen). Replacements: R Tardits (Life College) for Schram, 66; D Hodges (OMBAC) for Randell, 78.

Referee: S Piercey (RFU).

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