Pooler show grit and aim to edge forward by Hook or by crook – match report Pontypool 6 Ebbw Vale 44
THAT both head coaches were reasonably content at the final whistle of a pretty one-sided Gwent derby emphasises that Ebbw Vale and Pontypool are currently moving in different circles.
It was no surprise that Jason Strange, boss of the Steelmen, was happy after a five-point haul that kept them well-placed in their bid to win the inaugural Championship.
And for Mike Hook, in charge of Pooler, to not be tearing his hair out after a 44-6 home defeat shows what he and his coaching staff have had to deal with of late.
While Vale are a side that would back themselves against anyone in the Premiership, one-from-bottom Pooler are a side that would be pushed hard by those in Division One East.
Torn apart by a summer legal battle with the Welsh Rugby Union, they have just one win to their name this season and a horrendous defensive record – 457 points conceded (an average of 30 a game) and 65 tries shipped (4.3 a game).
But their performance against the Steelmen plus that seven days earlier in defeat to leaders Bargoed has left their coach confident of adding to that tally.
“The last couple of weeks have shown that we are moving forward,” said Hook, whose side’s points came from a pair of Sam Mills penalties.
“We’ve got to take the positives, especially with a massive game against (11th-placed) Bridgend Athletic coming up.
“I’m not happy about the result but for us it’s about moving forward as a team and raising the bar.
“We are not looking to next season at all, we are looking to get wins.
“We have been close but that’s not good enough any more, it’s about developing an edge in the back end of the season.
“We now go into a run of games against teams that are in and around us and if we want to show that we have improved in the last six months then we need to start beating them.”
It was predictable that Pooler would fail to add to their total of 10 Championship points against the Steelmen.
Ebbw Vale, back-to-back Division One East winners before the rejigging of the leagues, are the standard- bearers for the Championship.
While they weren’t at their best, they still had way, way too much quality and bulk for their hosts to handle.
They were able to crank it up a notch or two with the second-half introduction of no-nonsense lock Damien Hudd, a man who demands that his team-mates show the same application.
“Damien, get them back,” shouted Strange from the stands after the fifth try and the club captain, who had trotted back to the 10-metre line, duly barked at his colleagues to join him and get ready for the restart rather than amble back having a chinwag.
Vale led 18-6 at the break thanks to a pair of tries that were down to their impressive driving lineout.
A move off the back of the forwards’ efforts allowed wing Wes Cunliffe to brush off a number of tackles for the first before flanker Ronny Kynes barged over from close range just before half-time.
The Steelmen started the second half with plenty of fire but Pooler, with captain and number eight Luke Dyckhoff getting through a mountain of work, stood firm.
It would have been interesting had a routine penalty gone through the sticks to make it 18-9 rather than drifting wide, but instead it became a one-sided romp.
Wing Polu Uhi crossed for a brace, Kynes was driven over for his second before a disastrous – and frankly comical – wild Pooler pass on their own line hit the post and allowed centre Josh Lewis to score and convert with the last play.
“It was always going to be physical but we showed a lot of composure and patience,” said Strange.
“I thought that we played some really good stuff at times in the second half.
“The tactic was to wear Pontypool down, but full credit to them because they kept flying into us.
“If we had allowed them to build some momentum it could have been difficult but we did a professional job.”
Job done for Vale, but in a bizarre way it was also job done for Pooler, who have their toughest tests behind them this season.
Pontypool scorers: Penalties – S Mills (2).
Ebbw Vale scorers: Tries – W Cunliffe, R Kynes (2), P Uhi (2), J Lewis; conversions – D Haymond (2), J Lewis (2); penalties – D Haymond (2).