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Friday, 29 November, 2002, 15:44 GMT
Jarvis ends Ponty hopes
Pontypridd 12-13 Neath
Former Pontypridd favourite Lee Jarvis returned to haunt Sardis Road and kick Neath through to the Celtic League semi-finals.
The fly-half came off the bench midway through the second half to kick two crucial penalties and make it 13-12 to the visitors.
But equally vital was the measure of control that Jarvis brought to Neath, who had had the lion's share of attacking play without ever hurting Ponty.
The nervy, scrappy game was low on quality but was not helped by an over-fussy display from referee Ian Ramage, who also contributed to the general malaise after a bright start.
Perhaps his strangest decision was to award Neath a penalty try after Ponty pulled down a rolling maul.
It was certainly a penalty but it was doubtful whether a try would definitely have been scored.
Man-of-the-match Gareth Baber signalled Pontypridd's early intent by charging down two consecutive clearance kicks to put the visitors under pressure.
Neath tried to force their way into the game but Brett Sinkinson proved over-eager at a ruck and handed Ponty their first scoring opportunity after five minutes.
Neil Jenkins made no mistake from 48 metres and added what was almost a carbon copy 12 minutes later.
Opposite number Shaun Connor was not so accurate, missing his first opportunity in between Jenkins' two successes.
It was not an ideal start for Connor after being given a vote of confidence by Neath coach Lyn Jones, with his kicking metronome Jarvis sitting on the bench.
Yet Connor's next pot at goal couldn't have been easier after referee Ramage awarded Neath a penalty try.
Neath won a line-out close in and tried to roll towards the try line, only for the maul to be pulled down illegally at source.
Connor's conversion made it 7-6 to the visitors and Neath sensed their opportunity and upped the pace.
Back row Hywel Jenkins led the way with some thundering charges but Ponty were excellent in defence, often stealing the ball as well as stopping the man.
And of course Jenkins was always waiting to punish any Neath misdemeamour, adding another penalty to send Ponty in at half-time with a slim 9-7 advantage.
Ponty centre Jon Bryant didn't appear for the second half because of a bruised collarbone, being replaced by Shaun James.
Neath suffered their own injury blow soon after the restart, with a dislocated shoulder forcing Hywel Jenkins to be replaced by Alfie Mocelutu.
His namesake Neil missed an early chance to extend Ponty's lead as the game descended from the merely scrappy to the downright sloppy.
In an effort to regain some control for Neath, Jarvis replaced Connor at fly-half.
But it was Jenkins who got the scoreboard moving again after 60 minutes with his fourth successful penalty to make it 12-7.
Soon after, Pontypridd coach Lynn Howells opted to change his fly-half, bringing Ceri Sweeney on for Jenkins.
Both sides needed something to spark them, but there was little that Sweeney could do but watch helplessly as his backline took the wrong option and heaped pressure on themselves.
All Neath needed to do was pick up the pieces as Ponty scrabbled to dig themselves out of trouble.
The Sardis Road crowd know only too well how accurate former favourite Jarvis can be with the boot.
The Neath fly-half gave them two painful penalty reminders to put the visitors into a one-point lead with five minutes remaining.
Ponty could feel a place in the semi-finals slipping away from them and frantically tried to work their way upfield.
Neath gave away a penalty on halfway but Sweeney, without the kicking distance that Jenkins possesses, opted to drive the ball deep for an attacking lineout.
Unfortunately for the home side, the young fly-half misjudged his kick, sending it spiralling the wrong side of the corner flag and sending Ponty out of the Celtic League.
Pontypridd: Davey; Wyatt, J Lewis, Bryant, E Lewis;
N Jenkins, Baber; G Jenkins, Davies (capt), Bell, McIntosh, Sidoli,
Kelly, Parks, Owen.
Neath: Durston; G Morris, Storey, Tiueti, S Williams;
S Connor, A Moore; D Jones, B Williams, A Jones, A Newman,
G Llewellyn (capt), Jenkins, Sinkinson, Bonner-Evans.
Referee: Ian Ramage (Scotland).
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