Wake-up call sets Ponty on track

9.1.2003 Parker-Pen Shield Quarterfinal

Parker says the Celtic League result means nothing
Parker says the Celtic League result means nothing
Parker says the Celtic League result means nothing

[BBC] Pontypridd centre Sonny Parker says that last week's shock Welsh Premiership loss to Ebbw Vale was a wake-up call ahead of their important European tie.

"It was a slap in the face, but it's done us good," said the Wales midfield star, "we played shockingly but you have to move on."

The match could turn out to be Connacht's last home fixture at the top level of European or Celtic competition.

The Irish Rugby Union meet on Thursday to discuss whether to continue funding Connacht as a professional side.

Connacht, playing away from their usual home because Galway Sports Ground is undergoing refurbishment, have made four changes from the team that started against Narbonne in the last round.

Gavin Duffy replaces the injured Ted Robinson on the right-wing, Mark McHugh starts at full-back, Jerry Flannery plays at hooker and Johnny O'Connor comes in for the injured John O'Sullivan in the back row.

Pontypridd injury worry Neil Jenkins has been passed fit, so the World record points scorer starts at outside-half, with Ceri Sweeney on the bench.

The Welsh team thrashed Connacht 0-40 at the Galway Sports Ground in their Celtic League encounter in October, but Parker says that nothing can be read into that result.

"They had a few changes that day and they've been playing well recently.

"They're a formidable team. We've got to go there and impose our game plan and stop theirs."

Parker's view was endorsed by his coach Lynn Howells:

"They will be more physical than when we beat them by 40 points in the Celtic League and that result will certainly motivate them," he said.

Parker Pen Cup Quarterfinals - First Leg, Connacht v Pontypridd, Ericsson Park, Athlone, Saturday, 11 January, Kick-off 1730 GMT, Live on S4C, BBC Radio Wales (MW) and Radio Cymru, and BBC Sport Online

Connacht: M McHugh; G Duffy, D Yapp, S Moore (capt.), W Munn; E Elwood, E Reddan; R MCormack, J Flannery, P Bracken, D Browne, R Frost, M Swift, C Rigney, J O'Connor.

Reps: D McFarland, M Uijs, E Peters, J Muldoon, C Keane, M McPhail, J Norton.

Pontypridd: B Davey; G Wyatt, S Parker, J Bryant, E Lewis; N Jenkins, P John; G Jenkins, M Davies (capt), D Bell, B Cockbain, R Sidoli, M Owen, R Parks, G Lewis.

Reps: C Sweeney, G Baber, S James, S Cronk, M Rees, N Kelly, W O'Connor.

Ref: Tony Spreadbury (England).

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