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Pontypridd RFC vs Leinster 'A'
British & Irish Cup Semi-final
Sardis Road, Pontypridd
Saturday, 26th April 2014, 14:30

It's a European knock-out weekend and for the first time since May 2010, Leinster's senior team have nothing to do with themselves. Though they went out at the pool stages last season, they at least had the consolation of the Amlin Cup. True, the cup meant little or nothing in itself, but at least it was something to do to pass the time. However this time the Leinster first team have nothing to do except jealously watch the other teams in the semi-finals.

However hopefully a few Leinster fans will banish the blues and make the trip to support Leinster's A team as they strive to reclaim the British and Irish Cup. After hammering Munster in the quarter-final, they travel to Wales to take on Pontypridd. Leinster played Ponty last season in the pool stages and they brought a noisy and colourful bunch of fans to Donnybrook for the home match.

Pontypridd are currently top of the Welsh Premiership but it's a measure of how seriously they are taking this match that they chose to put out an understrength team when they lost to Newport on Tuesday evening. Their coach Geraint Lewis has described the match as "arguably the most important game in 10 years" and they are hoping for a big and noisy crowd.

Since being shut out of the regional rugby scene with the collapse of the Celtic Warriors ten years ago, Pontypridd have felt somewhat abandoned by the Welsh Rugby Union. There have been political moves to get regional rugby back to the area and showing there's a fervent rugby fan base already there could help achieve that.

Pontypridd have named a strong team captained by Dafydd Lockyer in the centre.

There are not too many names which would be familiar to Irish fans but fly-half Simon Humberstone and lock Chris Dicomidis have both played for the Cardiff Blues this season and centre Adam Thomas is the captain of the Wales sevens team. In any case Leinster know how tough they are to beat, especially at home, as Leinster lost 25-23 there last season. The return match back at Donnybrook was no easy run either and the 21-9 winning score-line flattered Leinster somewhat. Ponty went to the Cornish Pirates and won in the quarter-finals, which is no mean feat, so Leinster will really have to be on top of their game to win.

Girvan Dempsey has picked a team that shows three changes from the one which started against Munster. Brendan Macken comes in on the wing for Andrew Boyle, who drops to the bench. He makes up the back three with full back Darren Hudson and Sam Coghlan-Murray. Noel Reid, who is the senior team's joint top try-scorer this season, is paired in the centre with Clontarf team-mate Collie O'Shea. Cathal Marsh, who was superb in the quarter-final, starts again at out-half with Luke McGrath, who was very impressive coming off the bench last week against Treviso, starting at scrum-half.

The other two changes to the team concern the props as Ed Byrne and the fit-again Tadhg Furlong come in for Jack O'Connell and Martin Kelly. Hooker James Tracey was in excellent form in the loose against Munster and he will again have locks Tom Denton and Quinn Roux to aim for in the lineout. The massively physical backrow of Ben Marshall, skipper Dominic Ryan and Jack Conan is unchanged.

For Leinster there is the motivation of a home final should they win, presumably in the RDS. Since they won the cup last season away to Newcastle, in a match played at the same time as the Amlin Cup final, they would dearly love to win the trophy in front of the home fans this time. To do that though, they will have to get past a very hungry Ponty team in front of a fervent crowd.

Hopefully Leinster's superior fitness to the part-timers will get them over the line in the end.

Team Lineups

Pontypridd

Leinster 'A'
Teams Geraint Walsh 15 Darren Hudson
Lewis I Williams 14 Brendan Macken
Adam Thomas 13 Collie O'Shea
Dafydd Lockyer (C)
12 Noel Reid
Owen Jenkins 11 Sam Coghlan-Murray
Simon Humberstone 10 Cathal Marsh
Joel Raikes 9 Luke McGrath

James Howe 1 Ed Byrne
Liam Belcher 2 James Tracey
Keiron Jenkins 3 Tadhg Furlong
Craig Locke 4 Tom Denton
Chris Dicomidis 5 Quinn Roux
Wayne O'Connor6 Ben Marshall
Rhys Shellard 7 Dominic Ryan (C)
Dan Godfrey 8 Jack Conan

Replacements Lloyd Williams 16 Bryan Byrne
Dai Flanagan 17 Jack O'Connell
Aled Summerhill 18 Ross Molony
Aled Morris 19 Leo Auva'a
Jordan Sieniawski 20
John Cooney
Owen Sheppeard 21 Steve Crosbie
Chris Phillips 22 Andrew Boyle

by Jim O'Connor, © 2014-04-25

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