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Match Report
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12 Apr 2003: London Wasps v Pontypridd (S/F)

Please note there is a discount for season ticket holders for this game.

Please enquire about this discount on the ticket hotline number on 01494-769-471

All seasons' ticket holders' seats will be reserved until the Monday 24th February for this game.

Seasonal Car Park Passes are not valid for this game - parking is on a first come first served basis and is priced at £10 per car

The Roger Vere stand will be reserved seating for this game.
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Match Report
London Wasps's Badge London Wasps 34
Pontypridd's Badge Pontypridd 19
Fixture Type: Parker Pen Cup Venue: Adams Park
Match Date: Sat 12 Apr 2003, Kick Off: 17:30
Referee: Alain Rolland

A Wasp victory, but is it enough?

London Wasps took one step closer to a Parker Pen Challenge Cup final on Saturday when they beat Welsh side Pontypridd 34-19, in the first leg of a two legged semi-final.

Pontypridd fans arrived at Adams Park in their bus loads, and Welsh fans coming to support their team woke the normally ‘quiet’ town of High Wycombe up.

In all, their support and noise was very welcome and made for what turned out to be a great afternoon of rugby.

Wasps came into the game having dumped tournament favourites, Stade Francais out of the quarterfinals. The onus was now on The Men in Black to see if they could reach the final and ultimately book a Heineken Cup place.

Everything was going according to plan leading up to the game, team-wise, but on Friday morning news came in that Josh Lewsey and Phil Greening would be missing from the line-up due to injuries. Then on Saturday morning, Simon Shaw failed a late fitness test. In all, three key players were missing and the question was asked - can Wasps hold out this powerful Welsh side?

<1>

The game started at a very fast pace with both teams electing not to kick for poles early on. Tries were on the menu and Wasps got what they ordered, courtesy of former New Zealand prop, Craig Dowd. The kiwi scored the first try of the afternoon after his fellow forwards drove him over the line with a rolling maul in the 15th minute. Flyhalf, Alex King made no mistake with the conversion and Wasps lead 7-0.

One of the big hypes leading into this game would be the performance of Rob Howley. The Welsh wizard rose to the occasion and delivered a masterful performance. His neat little grubber led to a race between him and fellow scrumhalf and Pontypridd captain, Gareth Baber. It was a case of who ever got the ball would either score or save a certain try. Howley won the race but with Baber seeing the danger of getting outpaced and letting the Wizard score, pulled down his opposite number down to probably save the embarrassment of getting outpaced by a guy older than him. Referee Alain Rolland had no hesitation in awarding a penalty try which king converted and Wasps stretched the led to 14-0.

With Wasps looking very dangerous on attack, a lapse in concentration lead to Ceri Sweeney scoring a soft try for Pontypridd. Sweeney was tackled but not held properly and the flyhalf wiggled out and evaded three tackles before going over for the try. Brett Davey added the extra two points and the Ponty fans erupted with delight.

No sooner had Sweeney scored, Dowd added his second five pointer of the afternoon with another push over try. King converted and the healthy lead was once again restored to 21-7.

A penalty by Davey in the closing stages of the first half pulled the score back to 21-10 and made for an interesting second half.
The second half was not as quick as the first 40-minutes but both sides showed just how powerful they are and why they are in the semi-finals.

Then when King slotted his first penalty of the afternoon and John Rudd scored a breakaway try many supporters thought that it was game over for the Welsh side. However three penalties from Davey closed the gap to 34-19 and Wasps will go to Sardis Road with a 15-point lead.

Asked about the game, and about only winning by 15 points, Lawrence Dallaglio said, “I don’t know what people expect from a semi-final. All the games are going to be close. I thought that it was an excellent game of rugby. Both teams showed a lot of endeavour and both sides tried to score tries. Both teams recognise the importance of seven points as opposed to three in this competition. Therefore the sides chose not to go for goal early on and try and get points on the board. This contributed to a fast open game and this promises to be an excellent game in the return fixture”.

“If someone said to me before the game that we would have a 15-point advantage going down to Sardis Road, I would be pleased and take it”.

<2>

Many people were surprised at the Men in Black reaction after the game. The players looked very unhappy with the result while Pontypridd looked happy. Dallaglio said, “ We weren’t disappointed but a little frustrated. Players pride themselves on their performance. We felt that all the work we put into the game, we didn’t get what we wanted out of it”

Asked if the 15-points are going to be enough for the return leg, Warren Gatland said, “18 points would have been nice but the penalty in the last minute let us down. We did the same against Stade Francais, we were 16 points up and they scored a penalty in the last minute to narrow it to 13 points. I don’t know if it’s going to be enough. The first 10 minutes of the next game will be crucial. If they score a penalty and a try, it’s game on. If we can get a couple of penalties ourselves it might give us a bit of a buffer. I think for them to win and beat us by more than 15 points, they’re going to have to score more than one try and then stop us from scoring tries. However, we are capable of scoring tries”.