Thomas makes it All Whites on the night

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The Independent Online

Arwel Thomas may be short on stature but in terms of big-match performances he has few equals in the Welsh game. Last night, the fly-half kicked 22 points to guide Swansea into next month's Welsh Challenge Cup final.

The holders recovered from a 16-3 deficit inside the opening 20 minutes to set up a repeat of last season's final against their arch rivals Llanelli. It was, perhaps, cruel luck on Pontypridd that they should bow out of the competition having played with such style and gusto, but in the end Swansea's greater class and the accuracy of the Thomas boot saw Swansea home.

Lee Jarvis gave Pontypridd the start they were looking for with a fifth-minute penalty and then, nine minutes later, the once-capped Wales fly-half followed up a speculative kick from his wing John Colderley to score a try that he failed to convert from wide out.

It was certainly no more than Pontypridd deserved for their early efforts and when Thomas was caught offside in front of his own posts, Jarvis was able to increase the lead to 11 with his second penalty.

Thomas redeemed himself with his first penalty on 13 minutes, but when a poor miss-pass popped up into the hands of Gareth Wyatt, the Wales A wing stepped inside the tackle of Kevin Morgan to score his side's second try.

It took 34 minutes for Swansea to find enough space in which to release the wing Matthew Robinson for a try of their own, that Thomas converted, and it was only then that the All Whites finally rediscovered the form and consistency that earned them the silverware last year.

Thomas levelled matters with his final kick of the first half and after the Pontypridd hooker, Faoe Vunipola, was carried off with a chest injury, Jarvis and Thomas swapped penalties once more to leave the sides level at 19-19.

It was always likely to take something special to separate the teams and that moment of magic came from the Wales centre Mark Taylor. Swansea drove first right and then left, before carving out an opening for Taylor to break two tackles and cross for Thomas to convert and put Swansea ahead for the first time in the 64th minute.

Thomas consolidated that advantage with his fifth penalty and although Brett Davey replied with a penalty two minutes from time, Swansea had the final word through Thomas to move within 80 minutes of snatching something from what has been an otherwise disappointing season.

Pontypridd: B Davey; G Wyatt (L Woodard, 66), J Bryant, J Lewis, J Colderley; L Jarvis (C Sweeney 74), P John (capt; M Taylor, 74); C Loader (S Cronk, 56), F Vunipola (A Thomas, 48), N Tau, R Sidoli (W James, 56), I Gough, R Parks (J Machacek, 16), R Field, G Lewis.

Swansea: K Morgan; S Payne, M Taylor, S Gibbs (capt; D Weatherley, 78), M Robinson; A Thomas, Rhodri Jones (A Booth, 73); D Morris, G Jenkins (C Wells, 58), B Evans (C Anthony, 72), T Maullin (J Griffiths, 58), A Moore, C Charvis, D Thomas, L Jones.

Referee: Clayton Thomas (Wales).

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