Pontypridd 22 Sale Sharks 25
Dan Harris returned to his roots to break Pontypridd hearts as Sale carried off the European Parker Pen Shield in Oxford Harris came off the bench to win the day for the Sharks with a try nine minutes from time It capped a remarkable comeback for the Sharks who trailed Ponty 15-3 at half time.
But if the first half belonged to Ponty, the second was very much Sale's.Ponty made the best possible start to this highly charged occasion at the Kassam Stadium.
Around 12000 people flocked to the new-look stadium in the heart of student country - a record crowd for the state of the wonderful arena.And it was the 800 or so Ponty fans who were cheering their hearts out when Brett Davey stepped up to convert a second minute penalty when Sale were caught stamping at a ruck. Fly half Ceri Sweeney doubled that advantage with a drop goal four minutes
later and it was 9-0 on 13 minutes when Davey popped over his second penalty of the afternoon.
Charlie Hodgson, who finished with 10 points to his name pulled back three points with his first of two penalties but Davey made no mistake with his kick on 26 minutes as Ponty turned the screw.
Sale were finding it difficult to compete with a rampant Ponty pack and their plight was certainly hindered when Kevin Yates was yellow carded for tipping Brett Cockbain in the line out.
Davey kicked a fourth penalty eight minutes before the break and that was how the side's turned around.
With the wind behind them, Sale picked up the pace after the break and Hodgson's penalty on 42 minutes put Sale within nine points at 15-6. That was effectively the turning point as from that moment, the Manchester side took control.
Martin Shaw cut through to score his side's first try and though Hodgson missed that conversion, he was spot on with his next after Steve Hanley rounded the Ponty cover to score.
Pontypridd looked somewhat shell-shocked by the double whammy although on 67 minutes they struck back with a try that redressed the balance once again.
Choosing to kick a penalty to touch, they reaped the rewards when a rolling maul from the ensuing line out saw Mefin Davies bundled over for a try that Ponty converted through the reliable boot of Davey.
The Ponty masses went wild but after Harris was introduced 10 minutes from time, the centre was sent through a gaping hole in the Ponty defence to score the conclusive try that Hodgson duly improved.
It was a stunning occasion and a final to befit the competition.
Sale - Tries: M Shaw, S Hanley,
D Harris. Cons: C Hodgson (2).
Pens: C Hodgson (2).
Pontypridd - Try: M Davies.
Con: B Davey. Pens: B Davey (4).
Drop goal: C Sweeney.
Nearly 40 players were involved in the first Wales Under 18 training session of the season. WRU National Performance Manager Gethin Watts is excited at the potential shown by the group and expects the Regional Under 18 Championship to hone their skills even further.
The WRU officially unveiled the new pitch today in time for Wales to take on Australia in the first of the Dove Men Series autumn international matches this Saturday. Head Groundsman Lee Evans and colleague Craig Campbell reflect on the 15-week project and look ahead to a pitch perfect future at Millennium Stadium.