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Rugby Union: Tommy makes Hayes to bust Ponty hoodoo; Caley Reds 25, Pontypridd 23: FLY-HALF STEALS THE SHOW AS REDS RESTORE PRIDE.

Byline: Kevin Boyd

MAN of the match Tommy Hayes inspired in-form Caley Reds to a superb success over bogey side Pontypridd - at the eighth attempt.

The Cook Islander nipped in for two tries and landed a series of crucial kicks to help his side break their Heineken Cup duck and claim their first competitive victory over Ponty at the eighth attempt.

Now Reds will aim to restore even more Euro pride by beating English champions Leicester at Welford Road on Saturday.

Afterwards, chuffed skipper Andy Nicol paid tribute to Hayes.

Nicol declared: "Tommy has always had the physical attributes and skills to make a top-class No10 - but has has not always been able to turn it on when it matters.

"Over the past two or three months that has changed - and he has become a vital and effective cog in our wheel."

Reds were rocked minutes before the start when flanker Donnie Macfadyen pulled out of the line-out after going down with a tummy bug during the warm-up, giving Roly Reid the chance to impress the Scotland selectors.

The switch seemed to pray on Caley's minds as they made a jittery start, handing Ponty an instant 6-0 lead thanks to Lee Jarvis's boot

That was the cue for Caley to rouse themselves and they broke their duck with a Hayes penalty when the Welsh backline wandered offside.

Less than a minute later full-back Rowen Shepherd cruised in under the crossbar after fastening onto a long miss-pass from Hayes - who had no difficulty adding the simple conversion.

Jarvis struck again to keep Ponty in the picture, but soon Caley were back on the attack to claim their second try.

Gordon Simpson did the initial damage with a typical head-down charge before Steve Griffiths, Andy Nicol and Jon Petrie combined to carry the ball to within just a couple of paces of the target.

And it was the alert Hayes who was in the right place at the right time to get the vital touch.

Jarvis was on the mark with his third penalty to reduce the margin to just three points, but Hayes responded with a fine kick of his own.

Ponty reappeared after the interval looking a much more urgent and hungry team with only a series of last-ditch tackles keeping them out.

Jarvis struck another kick after an offside ruck but the alarm bells really began to ring when he repeated the feat in the wake of an identical offence under the posts.

Caley went for an attacking lineout five metres from the target - but the surge was halted when Shepherd knocked on.

The Reds effort at last paid off, however, as the impressive Hayes jinked through from close-range for his second touchdown - which he also converted.

Hayes was off-target with two penalty bids before a breakaway Ponty try by flanker Richard Parks put the match back into the melting pot.

And there was a huge sigh of relief from the home supporters when the conversion to level the scores drifted across the face of the posts.

Pontypridd coach Richie Collins said: "We almost sneaked it at the end, but I don't think we would have deserved it. All credit to both teams for playing fine rugby."

CAPTION(S):

FLY BOY: Hayes on a run; BULL CHARGE: Glasgow Caley's Gordon Bulloch is halted by Pontypridd's Ceri Sweeney as he takes off on another run through the Welsh defence
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 15, 2001
Words:569
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