There was a good deal of confusion over in Rome before the game kicked off, with a late change of venue, from the club ground at Stadio tre Fontane, to the national stadium at Stadio Flaminio, causing the late arrival of many of what was, at best, a sparse crowd of barely four hundred. Undeterred by any such problems, Ponty set off straight on the attack, with Neil Jenkins slotting over a penalty with barely a minute of play gone.
Roma responded with an unconverted try by winger Onori, but Ponty keeping up their early momentum, working the ball out wide for winger Emyr Lewis to cross for a try, superbly converted from near the touchline by Neil Jenkins. The Italian scoreboard operator was kept busy as a Neil Jenkins penalty extended the visitors' advantage to to 5pts to 13, with thirteen minutes gone. As Ponty again set up camp in the Roma twenty-two, a driving maul from a line out take resulted in lock Dale McIntosh muscling his way over for a try, converted by Jenkins. The Ponty forwards were getting the better of what was largely a pretty dour affair, keeping the visiting team in the driving seat. A leg injury to centre Jon Bryant saw him departing, replaced by Sonny Parker, as Ponty maintained their control on the game, and holding on to an interval advantage of 5 pts to 20.
An early second half substitution for Ponty saw prop Duncan Bell replaced by Gethin Jenkins, with the visitors maintaining their forward momentum, and benefiting from a superb long range try by Sonny Parker. Roma responded with a successful penalty attempt from Forrester, before a further substitution saw Nick Kelly replaced by Geraint Lewis. The turnover of personnel continued as Duncan Bell returned, as a temporary replacement for blood injury victim Neil Hennessy, with the game as yet still struggling to reach the heights as a spectacle. Ponty's forward dominance was underlined as their pack set off on a rolling maul, culminating in another try for Dale McIntosh, the conversion added by Neil Jenkins with fourty-nine minutes gone. Yet another substitution saw Richard Parks coming on for Wayne O'Connor, before Roma prop Faivaai was condemned to the sin bin for foul play. Ponty struck again as winger Emyr Lewis claimed a touchdown, converted by Jenkins, before captain Mefin Davies came off, replaced by Matthew Rees.
The home side now fought their way back into contention, a successful penalty attempt from Forrester quickly followed by a try for no 8 Mannato, with Forrester again on target with the conversion. Ponty were stung back into action, as Geraint Lewis crossed for a touchdown, converted by Jenkins, to increase their lead to 18pts to 46. With their young front row taking up a dominant stance in the set pieces, the visitors were finishing the game strongly, setting up a position for Sonny Parker to cut through for a try, with Jenkins once more slotting over the conversion. As the game moved into its final couple of minutes, it was left to the maestro at outside half, Neil Jenkins, to wrap things up for Ponty, crossing for a try which he also converted, rounding off the scoreline to 18pts to 60. Although hardly ever a classic encounter, this was an impressive enough victory for Ponty on foreign soil, to set them confidently on their way in the Parker Pen European Challenge Cup.
Copyright Pontypridd Rugby Football Club Limited October 2002
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Sut y gallwn hawlio yn ol ein gem genedlaethol? Oes angen newid y strwythur? How can we reclaim our national game? Is there a need for a restructure?