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Vale head for Italy full of confidence; EBBWVALE RFC.

Byline: Simon Thomas

EBBW Vale head for the Italian town of Rovigo tomorrow looking to build on their famous victory over Cardiff.

The Steelmen's 22-20 league win at Eugene Cross Park last Saturday was the shock result of the season.

It was also the perfect confidencebooster ahead of this weekend's return to European action in the Parker Pen Shield.

Vale's hero against the Blue & Blacks was wing Gareth Cull, who kicked 17 points, including the injury-time matchwinning penalty.

It was the team's first victory since their Euro success at home to French side Montauban on October 27.

"We'd been waiting for the win for six weeks, " said Cull.

"There have been a few games this season we should have won, but let them slip away in the last couple of minutes.

"We've had a little bit of bad luck along the way.

"This time justice was done and we came up with the win that we thoroughly deserved.

"It has taken a bit of pressure off the boys and it's good for confidence.

"We were chuffed to bits with the result. It's always nice to beat Cardiff.

"In the first half, we didn't play the percentage game enough.

"After the break, we had the wind behind us and the plan was to get down there and play in their half.

"Fair play to Scotty Mitchell, I thought he played the kicking game very well.

"He kept them in the corner, kept the pressure on them and we got the points.

"We just chipped away and got our noses in front.

"When they went back ahead late on, I thought: 'Here we go again, that's just our luck.'

"But we kept our patience and got back down there and forced the penalty."

Then it was over to Cull, who made no mistake from in front of the sticks to secure a memorable win.

"It wasn't a very difficult kick, " he said.

"It's a little bit easier in front of the posts.

"But I felt fine about it and had no worries. I was confident from the other kicks I'd put over."

Cull, who will be 25 later this month, has proved to be a valuable acquisition for Vale following his move from Bridgend.

He's confirmed his reputation as one of the most reliable place-kickers in Welsh rugby.

And he's also demonstrated his versatility, appearing at wing, full-back and fly-half.

He'll be at wing again tomorrow as Vale look for their third Pool One victory.

The Steelmen have been boosted by the return of Welsh international Iestyn Thomas at loosehead prop, following a six-week absence with a broken toe.

And they also welcome back flanker Tyron Morris, who will make his first appearance of the season after being sidelined for eight months with a badly broken arm.

He takes over on the openside from trainee doctor Paul Williams, who is unable to make the trip because of his medical studies.

Ebbw Vale (v Rovigo, a, tomorrow, 1.30pm): M James; G Cull, R Shorney, P Matthews, A Wagstaff; S Mitchell, K Ellis; I Thomas, J Evans, D Penisini, C Billen (c), N Edwards, K Tuipolotu, W Thomas, T Morris. Replacements: A Takarangi, D Weatherley, M James, N McKim, M Jones, O Booyse, R Williams.

CAPTION(S):

STRONGHOLD Will Thomas, of Ebbw Vale, brings down Cardiff prop Peter Rogers during last week's famous Steelmen victory.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 5, 2002
Words:562
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