Pontypridd gave Welsh rugby something to smile about as they cantered to an 83-8 victory in the second leg of their Parker Pen Challenge Cup first-round tie against the Italian minnows Roma at Sardis Road yesterday. But when the visitors took a shock early lead, it seemed that the weekend of doom, which began with Friday night's European defeats for Llanelli, Newport and Cardiff, might worsen.
In the end, Pontypridd, who won 60-18 in the first leg last weekend and were in little danger of being ousted from the competition at the first hurdle, ran in 13 tries – four of them by the 25-year-old international wing Gareth Wyatt.
Leeds Tykes have recalled their exciting wing Dan Scarbrough for today's Parker Pen encounter with Petrarca Padova at Headingley. Leeds are defending only a six-point advantage after arriving at their hotel in Italy in the middle of the night before the first leg last weekend. Their Italian opponents took full advantage, but the Leeds director of rugby, Phil Davies, insisted: "Even allowing for the circumstances, we were poor and we will have to play a lot better." Apart from recalling Scarbrough for Chris Hall, who ran in a hat-trick of touchdowns in Padua, Davies has made two other changes. Alan Dickens returns for Derek Hegarty at scrum-half and Isaac Feaunati replaces Cameron Mather in the back row. Tom Palmer, Dan Hyde and Braam van Straaten also return to the bench.
Epi Taione makes his Newcastle comeback against Grenoble at Kingston Park this afternoon after four weeks on the sidelines with a knee injury. The Tongan flanker has been named on the wing as the Falcons seek to build on their seven-point lead from the first leg.
Wasps, despite holding a 40-24 advantage over Overmach Parma, have recalled Lawrence Dallaglio, Rob Howley, Alex King and Josh Lewsey to their starting XV for today's game at Wycombe.
Meanwhile, Saracens, already assured of a place in the second round, retain their 21-year-old lock forward, Stuart Hooper, as captain against Dinamo Bucharest at Vicarage Road. The former French international prop, Christian Califano, is set to make his much-delayed full debut after recovering from an ankle injury.
The Toulouse centre, Xavier Garbajosa, was given a two-match ban after receiving two yellow cards in his side's 34-19 Heineken Cup victory over Newport on Friday night. The French international was penalised by the English referee Chris White for two technical offences.
In the third round of the Powergen Cup, three former winners fell by the wayside. Coventry were swept aside 61-12 by National League One leaders Rotherham while Bedford lost at Halifax 27-17 and Moseley surrendered 28-25 to former finalists Waterloo. The day's biggest win was Worcester's 73-5 romp at Bracknell.
Papua New Guinea took a step nearer next year's World Cup finals with a 29-14 win over Cook Islands in Port Moresby. If they hold an advantage after the second leg, Papua New Guinea will meet Tonga for one of the two spots still to be filled in the 20-team tournament – in Pool D alongside New Zealand, Wales, Italy and Canada.
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