Jenkins takes control

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The Independent Online

Cardiff, the defending champions, made it three out of three in the Welsh/Scottish League at Sardis Road yesterday, thanks to the phenomenal scoring fire-power of Neil Jenkins and Craig Morgan.

Cardiff, the defending champions, made it three out of three in the Welsh/Scottish League at Sardis Road yesterday, thanks to the phenomenal scoring fire-power of Neil Jenkins and Craig Morgan.

Jenkins, international rugby's record scorer, put the boot into his old club with 23 points - boosting his tally in those three League victories to 79 - while Morgan ran in a try for the 15th successive outing.

The left wing went over after 70 minutes of a dour,forward-oriented contest played in a light drizzle that made handling something of a lottery. It may have taken until the dying minutes, but when it came it was an absolute gem.

Just when it looked as if the only scoring for a 7,000-strong crowd to appreciate would come from the kicking contest between Jenkins and his rival fly-half Lee Jarvis, Morgan proved it could be done with the ball in hand.

It all began with Pontypridd sounding the alarm bell for the visitors when Jarvis put in a crossfield kick for his right-wing Lenny Woodard. But Morgan claimed possession right on his own line and his first instinct was to turn defence into attack. He covered the best part of 40 metres and evaded the despairing tackle of Robert Sidoli before kicking ahead.

It was an inch-perfect effort, rolling just over the Pontypridd line, and Morgan proved he had the pace to outstrip what was left of the Pontypridd defence and dived over gleefully in the corner. It was a score to savour, Cardiff already having as good as banked the three points through the boot of Jenkins.

The player who graced Pontypridd's colours for the best part of 12 years knows Sardis Road like the back of his hand and punished his old club not only with a 100 per cent goal-kicking return but some pinpoint tactical kicking.

Jarvis opened the scoring with his first penalty after just two minutes but when Pontypridd failed to score again in an opening quarter despite holding the whip hand, the signs were ominous. Jenkins went about his business with two penalties of his own as the Cardiff pack refused to concede an inch, though the scrum was a constant source of aggravation from start to finish.

Pontypridd began the second half as they had the first, going flat out to rattle the champions, but persistent infringements cost them dearly as the deadly boot of Jenkins steered them into a commanding lead. Just for a dash of variety, he punctuated his four second-half penalties with a 57th-minute drop goal, and poured more salt into home wounds by converting Morgan's try from the touchline.

Yellow cards for the Pontypridd forwards Brent Cockbain and Michael Owen, along with Cardiff's Jonathan Humphreys meant there were just 27 players involved for several minutes, but still the gaps didn't appear. Cardiff may have stuttered at the start of their title defence, but their demolition of Edinburgh Reivers and this taming of Pontypridd have given them the ideal start.

Pontypridd: B Davey (C Williams, 72); L Woodard, S Parker, J Bryant, R Johnston; L Jarvis, P John (capt); N Tau, F Vunipola (J Evans, 65), S Cronk, R Sidoli, B Cockbain, D McIntosh, R Field (R Parks, 44), M Owen.

Cardiff: G Thomas; N Walne, J Robinson (P Jones, 78), P Muller, C Morgan; N Jenkins, R Howley; S John, J Humphreys (G Powell, 72), G Powell (A Lewis, 57), J Tait (S Moore, 53), M Voyle, D Baugh (P Wheeler, 80), G Kacala, O Williams (G Powell, 60-70).

Referee: R Dickson (Scotland).

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