Travers' try lets Brive get even

Pontypridd 29 Brive 29
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The Independent Online
There wasn't a drop of blood spilled, nor a punch or boot moved in anger. Peace broke out in a big way at Sardis Road. If the capacity crowd of nearly 8,000 had come to see a repeat of the atrocities of the two club's earlier meeting in Pool C of the Heineken Cup in Brive two weeks ago then they were to be disappointed.

The hysteria which had surrounded the build-up to the return of the "Battle of Brive" had been unprecedented in rugby terms. There had even been a message from the office of the President of France, Jacques Chirac, to the Home Office asking them to guarantee the safety of the men from his home town when they were in Pontypridd.

It all went back to a particularly brutal brawl during the earlier encounter and then a series of alleged later battles at a bar in Brive after the game. At first Brive said they would not travel to Pontypridd for fear of their lives. The tournament organisers eventually told them they had to fulfil the fixture and fined both the Heineken champions and Pontypridd pounds 30,000 each for the events during the game.

Half of the fine was suspended against their future behaviour and the five directors of European Rugby Cup Limited who attended the game could not have hoped for a more sporting occasion. While two weeks ago the players were all too ready to knock each other down, this time they were rushing to pick each other up. After you - no, after you!

The game itself was a little bit false because of the emasculation of the two sides, though it did turn into a thriller for the crowd. In the end it was the boot of Christoph Lamaison, one of the players alleged to have been at the centre of the bar room brawl, who kept the champions in the hunt with some immaculate goal-kicking.

By the end Lamaison, playing at full-back rather than centre, had kicked eight out of nine penalties to keep his side on track with their Welsh rivals. Without his golden boot, the points would surely have gone to the more creative home side.

The topsy-turvy nature of the game was illustrated by the fact the lead changed hands no fewer than seven times. It could even have swung completely in Ponty's favour with the last movement when Dafydd James broke away and hared into the Brive 22.

Yet it was as though the game was destined to end as a draw so that no honour was lost or gained. Brive were relieved to recover from their defeat at Bath the previous weekend and still look certain to qualify for the knockout stages.

They did not hang around, and even refused to join their opponents in the communal showers after the game - just another illustration of the over-reaction to what they were likely to face at the gateway to the Rhondda Valley.

On the field Ponty did all they could to make life as difficult as possible for the visitors and an eighth-minute try by Gareth Wyatt set out their stall. By the end they had run in two more to at least gain the satisfaction of out-scoring the European Champions by three tries to one.

Ponty's second try came on the stroke of half-time when James ran 40 metres to cross at the corner and then six minutes into the second half the left wing Geraint Lewis put on his skates after picking up a loose ball in his 22 to run unhindered to the posts.

Brive's only try came midway through the second half when hooker Laurent Travers crossed at the corner and it was left to that man Lamaison to kick the final goal to tie the scores.

Pontypridd: K Morgan; G Wyatt, D James, S Lewis, Geraint Lewis; N Jenkins (capt), Paul John; N Eynon, Phil John (J Evans, 74), M Griffiths, G Prosser, S Roy, M Williams M Spiller, M Lloyd (P Thomas, 66).

Brive: C Lamaison; S Viars, D Venditti, L Arbizu, J Carrat; A Penaud (capt), S Bonnet; D Casadei, L Travers, R Crespy (D Laperne, 55), Eric Alegret (P Lubungu , 58), Y Manhes, L Van der Linden, O Magnes, R Sonnes (F Duboisset, 63).

Referee: G Black (Ireland)