Welsh fans will salute their latest European hero's tonight as Pontypridd produced the European performance of a lifetime to book their place in next month's Parker Pen European Shield final.
The valley commandos who were heavy underdogs ahead of this semi-final at the Kassam Stadium, Oxford, defied the odds as they turned over newly crowned Powergen Cup holders London Irish.
Pontypridd made the perfect start when Gareth Wyatt scored the most wonderful of tries. Having stolen the line out, Ponty moved the ball wide to Jon Bryant who broke he first tackle and fed Sonny Parker. Parker in turn released Gareth. Baber and the former scrum half fed back inside for Wyatt to scamper over for Brett Davey to convert. Ceri Sweeney might have improved that lead on five minutes but his dropped goal attempt went wide.
The valley side were simply wonderful from start to finish, eclipsing a London Irish side who didn't know what had hit them The travelling hordes from Wales were certainly making themselves known to the Exiles and as a deafening rendition of Bread of Heaven rang around the
Davey soon found himself converting a second try - this time from prop Gethin Jenkins. The Ponty forwards drove deep into the heart of the Irish defence and after 10 rucks, Jenkins was sent over for a try that made Ponty believe they really could do it.
Ponty have defied the odds before, but they knew that this was arguably
their toughest European task since the Battle of Brive. This was a game not for the faint of heart, and the Exiles struck back straight away when Eddie Halvey popped up on the right wing to end a movement that Barry Everitt converted.
Straight from the kick off Ponty won a penalty when Richard Kirke was
offside at a ruck. Ponty kicked for touch, Brent Cockbain caught and fed
Mefin Davies and the Wales A skipper muscled his way over with half of
Ponty on his back. Davey converted from the touchline to extend the Welsh side's lead. The next five minutes was all Irish as Ponty desperately held on in front of their own posts.
Last stands can only last so long, and the weighted pressure the Exiles were exerting on the Ponty try line eventually paid off. A try from Richard Kirke kept the Irish in touch and the crowd on the edge of their seats. And it was all green a minute later when a charged down kick gave Venter a chance to break and the South African fed Michael Horak who strolled behind the posts for a try that Everitt again converted.
Hitman Brett Davey gave Ponty the advantage, both psychologically and on the scoreboard , with the last kick of the half to put
Ponty 24-21 ahead at the interval.
Just as they had in the first, Ponty made a scoring start to the second
when the Irish were called offside at a ruck. Davey stepped up, as he has on so many occasions this season, and converted with ease from 40 metres. When the Irish stepped offside again in front of their own posts, Scottish referee Rob Dickinson had no second thought about awarding another penalty which Davey dispatched.
The full back missed his next effort after Venter was pulled up for mouthing after being dumped on his backside by powerhouse centre Jon Bryant. Bryant just smiled.
Everitt cut the arrears with his first penalty of the game but seven minutes
from time, Davey banged over another penalty to restore Ponty's nine point lead. And though Everitt struck back with a late kick, it was all too little too late. Today was Ponty's day.
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