Little hands out an early warning to Saracens

Caerphilly 16 Pontypridd 36
Click to follow
The Independent Online

While the top dogs of the Welsh-Scottish League had a Saturday off the focus of attention was redirected on to the basement battle between these two neighbouring Valley clubs. Pontypridd's victory can be attributed to greater cohesion and drive at forward and to superior use of the prevailing conditions. Both fly-halves were also influential with Pontypridd's Nicky Little edging home on points, 21 against 11 for Luke Richards.

Domestically, Pontypridd have stuttered and stumbled somewhat, but by comfortably dispatching Beziers last week at Sardis Road, they now find themselves in the quarter-finals of the Parker Pen Shield, facing Saracens at Vicarage Road next Sunday, and this run-out will have served them well as preparation.

Caerphilly is best recognised for the majesty and enormity of its mighty castle, which proved to be an immovable object centuries ago in the face of numerous attacks from marauding forces. Not so Virginia Park, lying in the shadows of the lofty fortress, as Pontypridd proved to be the irresistible force soaking up all Caerphilly could throw at them before comfortably escaping with the spoils.

The home side were first off the mark in the opening minute with a well struck 30-metre penalty from Richards. Little negated this advantage with a similar success of his own. Both players repeated their efforts by the 10th minute, with the match proving at this stage a goal-kicking contest. Richards nudged Caerphilly ahead with his third penalty before Pontypridd's centre Sonni Parker, the classiest player on show, first sliced through only for the move to break down in the corner. From the line-out, quickly recycled ball allowed Parker a glimmer of an opening which he exploited cleverly to race over at the posts. Little converted and soon added his third penalty after a rousing 40-metre drive by his forwards which was halted unlawfully under the posts.

On a tacky surface Pontypridd played a more cerebral game, securing line-out and driving the ensuing mauls, and using Glen Remnant and Dale McIntosh on the charge. Caerphilly were more inclined to spread the ball, which occasionally proved entertaining, but rarely troublesome for the visitors' defence. The half finished as it started, with a penalty, although this time to Little and a 10-point interval lead for Pontypridd.

The first may have had penalties, but the second half started with a rush of three tries. Pontypridd crossed twice, or more accurately once as Parker claimed his second from a great kick and catch by full-back Brett Davey, and they were then awarded a penalty try for hands in a retreating five-yard scrum. Little converted twice. Caerphilly's try was a classic example of skills from Holo Taufahena who dribbled and controlled the ball for fully 50 metres before crashing over wide out for Richards to convert.

Little slotted his fifth penalty with 20 minutes remaining and the bright start to the half had only flattered to deceive with very little action of note. The match finished on a worrying note as home lock Neil Watkins was carried off on a stretcher with a serious-looking spinal injury. Caerphilly announced later that they would cite prop Gethin Jenkins for a head-high tackle.

Caerphilly: J Thomas; H Taufahema, D Hawkins (capt), S Tuipolotu, K Morris; L Richards (L Griffiths, 56), A Jacobs (A Chiltren, 78); L Mooney (M Bolton, 74), J Hughes (D Colclough, 56), G Thomas (C Fitzpatrick, 74), N Watkins, P Jones (N Jones, 72), B Watkins, M Workman (D Davies, 56), F Grainger

Pontypridd: B Davey; G Wyatt (M Rees, 72), S Parker, J Bryant, G Jones; N Little, P John (G Baber, 70); G Jenkins, M Davies, D Bell (S Cronk, 65), B Cockbain, R Fidoli, D McIntosh (capt), R Parkes, G Remnant (M Owen, 68).

Referee: K Evans (Cardiff).