Swansea dream on after their nightmare

Swansea 17Pontypridd 12
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"Your dreams," Mike Ruddock said, "have got to be bigger than your memories." The Swansea coach was referring not to the Swalec Cup final, of which there was hardly anything memorable, but to the humiliation heaped upon the club in conceding 70 points to South Africa in November.

After that rude awakening Ruddock wrote to every player in his squad explaining that they were simply not fit enough. "Against the Springboks we were in the game for 40 minutes," Ruddock said. "We had the skill but we couldn't sustain it. We began to monitor the players' fitness levels. We had to be more determined, more committed. I was confident that against Pontypridd our superior fitness would pay off."

"It was appropriate that Swansea's two tries were scored by back-row forwards for it was in that area that they took the game to Pontypridd. It was a low risk, exceedingly dull approach and it probably would have failed, perhaps deservedly so, had Neil Jenkins been on form.

Averaging more than 20 points a game in the Cup, Jenkins lost his Celtic swing and rhythm on Saturday. His first penalty attempt fell inches short but then he missed three more which he would probably reckon on getting with his eyes closed. As the ball flew wider and wider of its mark Jenkins became increasingly exasperated. At the end he sat on the Arms Park, the most disconsolate figure on the field.

Pontypridd, runners-up to Cardiff in the Heineken League, led 7-0 at half-time after Roddy Boobyer, with his back to his intended target, flicked a back- pass into the arms of David Manley. At the interval - it was so hot the teams took their drinks in the shade of the stand - Swansea decided to play it tight. In effect they employed wet weather tactics.

"The only way we could get back into the game was for the big men to do the ball-carrying," Stuart Davies said. Nobody carried it more effectively than Davies although Swansea were even more indebted to the line-out work of Paul Arnold. When Swansea really needed possession Garin Jenkins invariably found Arnold at the front.

Arnold, however, is not in the World Cup squad although it is fair to assume that Ruddock, one of Wales's coaches, would have argued for his inclusion. "I wouldn't want to answer questions on WRU selection," Ruddock said. "It's not my place."

Alex Evans, the senior Wales coach, said: "Paul wasn't all that good six weeks ago. He's only just started to play well. We've got four outstanding line-out men for the World Cup." Evans suggested that if Arnold still had a future in international rugby it would probably be at blind-side wing forward rather than lock.

Crispin Cormack, after making a brilliant catch off his toes, would have scored but for a forward pass and then Robert Appleyard and Stuart Davies, beating Pontypridd at their own game, put Swansea 17-7 ahead. Appleyard said:"It was an absolute war out there."

Alex Evans admitted that it was not a game for the purist but described Swansea's forward play as superb. "It's easy to look at the negatives." Wales must hope that Evans's dream is bigger than his memory.

Swansea: Tries Appleyard, Stuart Davies; Conversions Williams 2; Penalty: Williams. Pontypridd: Tries Manley 2; Conversion Jenkins.

Swansea: A Clement (capt); A Harris, R Boobyer, D Weatherley, S Davies; A Williams, R Jones; C Loader, G Jenkins, K Colclough, P Arnold, A Moore, A Reynolds, S Davies, R Appleyard.

Pontypridd: C Cormack; D Manley, J Lewis, S Lewis, O Robbins (G Jones, 7); N Jenkins, P John; N Bezani (capt), P John, A Metcalfe, G Prosser, M Rowley, M Lloyd (M Spiller, 69), D McIntosh, R Collins.

Referee: C Thomas (Neath).

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