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Last Updated: Saturday, 12 April, 2003, 16:22 GMT 17:22 UK
Wasps take advantage
Wasps scrum-half Rob Howley
Wasps (21) 34
Tries: Dowd 2, Penalty, Rudd. Cons: King 4. Pens: King 2.
Pontypridd (10) 19
Try: Sweeney. Con: Davey. Pens: Davey 4.
Wasps took charge of their Parker Pen Cup semi-final against Pontypridd with a 34-19 win in the first leg at Adams Park Stadium.

Two tries from former New Zealand prop Craig Dowd, plus one from wing John Rudd and a penalty try give Wasps a 15-point lead to take to Sardis Road for the second leg in a fortnight.

Pontypridd were limited to a fine solo try from outside-half Ceri Sweeney, plus 14 points from the boot of Brett Davey.

The visitors struggled to deal with the power of the Wasps pack, whose dominance allowed former Wales scrum-half Rob Howley to control the game for the English side.

Ponty were given an early scare, when Scotland international wing Kenny Logan collected a Sweeney kick and brushed off Gareth Wyatt.

But Sonny Parker was alive to the danger and the Wales centre did well to drag Logan into touch.

There was early concern for Wasps as well with Alex King needing attention to a leg injury, but the fly-half was soon up on his feet with the help of an ice pack.

Wasps exerted much of the early pressure and the visitors were forced to concede a penalty after 14 minutes.

It was more passionate out there than we're used to
Wasps flanker Joe Worsley

The Londoners opted for a lineout rather than take the penalty kick and former All Black prop Dowd eventually barrelled his way over in the corner, King adding a fine conversion.

Ponty took up the challenge, also opting for a lineout after winning a penalty from the restart, but the Wasps pack disrupted the drive and shoved the Welshmen into touch.

Things got worse for the visitors after 27 minutes, when Jon Bryant spoiled his fine break with a loose pass that fell to Wasps scrum-half Howley.

The former Wales No 9 has lost none of his dynamic acceleration and Howley chipped the ball intelligently down the line and set off in pursuit.

Opposite number Gareth Baber was in pursuit but was forced to drag Howley down illegally. Referee Alain Rolland was left with little choice but to award a penalty try and send Baber to the sin-bin.

Pontypridd fly-half Ceri Sweeney
Ceri Sweeney claimed Pontypridd's only try against Wasps

Trailing 14-0 and down to 14 men things looked bleak for Ponty, only for a moment of brilliance from Sweeney to hand his side a lifeline.

Robert Sidoli did the early good work, stripping possession from man-of-the-match Joe Worsley - one of the England flanker's few mistakes - before feeding his fly-half.

Sweeney set off on a jinking run, was half-held by two Wasps tacklers but pirouetted clear to dive over under the posts, Davey converting.

Stung by the set-back, Wasps hit back almost immediately thanks to a bullocking run from wing Rudd that sucked in the Ponty defenders.

Howley picked and sniped, only to be held just short by flanker Richard Parks, but Dowd was on hand to claim his second try, King having no problem with the simple conversion.

A Davey penalty just before the break got Ponty into double figures but Wasps still held a healthy upper hand.

The visitors had to weather another sustained Wasps onslaught after half-time, before breaking out to earn another penalty shot.

Mefin Davies is driven back by Wasps flanker Joe Worsley
Mefin Davies is driven back by Wasps flanker Joe Worsley

Wales prop Gethin Jenkins burst through from a lineout before giving a superb reverse pass to Michael Owen in support.

Wasps infringed as the backrow went to ground and Davey claimed another three points.

The Pontypridd full-back and King then exchanged penalties, as the defensive efforts of both sides limited scoring opportunities to long-range efforts.

Wasps maintained a stranglehold on territory though, and only a mixture of stout Welsh defence and poor handling from the Londoners kept the scoring down, King's second penalty the only reward.

But with seven minutes remaining, Lawrence Dallaglio produced a moment of pure quality to shatter Ponty's resistance.

The England No 8 burst away from the base of a scrum, popped the ball to full-back Mark van Gisbergen on the burst, who in turn gave the scoring pass to Rudd for a converted try.

Davey managed one last penalty in injury time after Wasps hooker Trevor Leota ignored the offside line, but the 15-point deficit will be a lot to claw back in the return at Sardis Road.

Wasps: M Van Gisbergen; J Rudd, F Waters, S Abbott, K Logan; A King, R Howley; C Dowd, T Leota, W Green, P Scrivener, R Birkett, J Worsley, M Lock, L Dallaglio (capt).
Replacements: M Wood, M Denney, A Erinle, P Volley, J Bearshaw, A McKenzie, B Gotting.

Pontypridd: B Davey; G Wyatt, S Parker, J Bryant, E Lewis; C Sweeney, G Baber; G Jenkins, M Davies (capt), D Bell, B Cockbain, R Sidoli, G Lewis, M Owen, R Parks.
Replacements: J Hooper, C Sweeney, S James, M Nutthall, M Rees, S Cronk, M Rees, N Kelly, W O'Connor.

Ref: Alain Rolland (Ireland)

Wasps flanker Joe Worsley
"It was very tiring but it was a great game"

Pontypridd skipper Mefin Davies
"The next time we're at home so we'll welcome them to Sardis"

Parker Pen 2002/3
11 Mar 03  |  European Club

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