Jones' drop spares the Scarlets red faces

Pontypridd 17 Llanelli 19
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The Independent Online

Llanelli played their get out of jail card right at the death when their replacement fly-half Stephen Jones swivelled and imperiously stroked over a 50-metre drop goal in the final minute of a pulsating finish to a mediocre match, consigning Pontypridd to their fourth consecutive defeat in the Celtic League.

Jones, who is likely to fill the Welsh No 10 shirt against Romania later this month, arrived on the scene after an hour or so in an attempt to bolster his team's dwindling fortunes, and his magnificent strike robbed the home side of a deserved victory, which should have been sealed had they not fluffed three attempts at goal during the closing 10 minutes.

Resilient Pontypridd, a much-to-be-admired Valley club, always seem to suffer when it comes to retaining home-grown talent. Their more fashionable neighbours continually snatch the Sardis Road starlets, and it requires a successful process of identification and development for Pontypridd to survive, let alone flourish.

Much of the pre-match mutterings centred around the theory that Llanelli had not targeted this historically combative fixture as particularly challenging because of the relatively poor recent form shown by Pontypridd. Most of their star names, such as Scott Quinnell, Chris Wyatt and Wayne Proctor, were absent with leave, with the youngsters Gareth Bowen, Dwayne Peel, Scott Morgan and Dafydd Jones, being asked to prove their worth.

It was Peel who dominated the early exchanges with a barrage of deftly positioned box kicks. He is a pocket dynamo of a scrum-half, whipping out an immaculate service and already ready to snipe behind his forwards. His half-back partner Bowen opened the scoring after five minutes with an easy penalty following a Llanelli steal on Pontypridd's defensive line-out.

Ceri Sweeney levelled matters for Ponty with a superb 45 metre penalty after 12 minutes and the home side's impetus originated from No 8 Michael Owen and flanker Richard Parks, who surged through the first line of defence. Owen is an outstanding prospect. At only 20 he is already physically able to compete at the top level, and his innate skills provide a refreshing alternative to the straight up and down approach of most of today's forwards.

The first try came in the closing minutes of the first half when a Neil Boobyer chip ahead bounced awkwardly for Matt Cardey to gathered and pass infield for the supporting Salesi Finau to stroll over. Bowen converted.

Sweeney reduced the deficit on the restart with his third penalty and Owen's subtle offload gave Sonny Parker the time and space to carve a 60 metre run which sadly petered out just short of the line.

Llanelli are synonymous with open and attractive rugby but their continual killing of the loose ball angered the home crowd, and resulted in Phil Booth visiting the sin-bin. Sweeney obliged with his fourth penalty.

The improved second half saw home centres Parker and John Colderley create huge gaps in the stretched Llanelli defence and following Bowen's second penalty Colderley cruised through again to send Parks over and give Ponty the lead. Sweeney missed the conversion and two further penalty attempts which would have secured victory for the home side. It was thus left to Jones to show how it should be done.

Pontypridd: C Williams; G Wyatt, S Parker, J Colderley, D Feaunati; C Sweeney, P John; G Jenkins (S Sinara, 75), M Davies, D Bell, N Kelly, B Cockbain, D McIntosh (capt), R Parks, M Owen.

Llanelli: M Cardey; G Evans (B Davies, 11), N Boobyer, L Davies (capt), S Finau; G Bowen (S Jones, 60), D Peel (G Easterby, 60); P Booth, M Thomas, M Madden (J Davies, 40), S Morgan (L Gross, 58), C Gillies, D Jones, I Boobyer (S Easterby, 58), D Hodges.

Referee: N Whitehouse (WRU).