11:01am Monday 16th September 2013
By Will Bain
Pontypool RFC 31 – 24 Bridgend Athletic
PONTYPOOL RFC made it back to back bonus point wins as they continued their perfect start to the Swalec Championship season.
But the comfortable final score belied what was a real battle for a Pooler side who were horribly sluggish in the first half.
At 21-3 down after half an hour, it was Athletic who looked like they were going to go on a secure the four try bonus point win.
But through almost pure heart the new resilient Pooler ground their way back into the game with three second half tries and conceding just a solitary penalty to stay joint top of the league.
While the quality of their play was still patchy, the character shown was immense and was yet more evidence of how far the side has travelled since last year’s dismal start to the campaign.
The whisper post-match was that new coach and club legend Leighton Jones had one or two views he wanted to air at half-time.
Whatever was said and by whoever it clearly worked as Pooler roared back into the game.
Three changes were made at the break and all three were seasoned campaigners.
Former club captain Jamie Jeune, a surprise return on permit from Newport, Sam Mills back from becoming a father for the first time, and Tom Organ can count their combined Pooler appearances well into the hundreds.
Their experience and work rate was key with Jeune and Organ carrying and crashing into rucks with abandon.
Organ was perhaps harshly sin binned in his over-zealous attempts to retrieve the ball from visiting scrum-half Ross Parsons as Pooler secured a penalty.
It wasn’t the first or last time the 9 attempted to slow the game and was something he himself saw yellow for just five minutes later.
Excepting his ten minute rest, where Organ led others followed as first winger Trevor James powered over, and then from a similar spell of sustained pressure Aaron Quick made a sniping break off the side of a ruck to strike.
All were converted by Niall Martin, who kicked beautifully off the tee on his club debut scoring 11 points in total and missing just one of his six shots at goal when a long range penalty rattled the crossbar.
Pooler now led for the first time in the game having found themselves behind after tries from winger Dan Howells, ex-Pooler front rower Dan Velu and Parsons had put Athletic in what looked like a winning position after outside half Steve Lewis converted all three to just a single Martin penalty.
But Pooler gave themselves a sniff when they struck out of nothing right on half time – the outstanding Josh Hurley chipping through and Ashley Norton, called into the Wales Sevens set up this week, showing great pace to get to the ball before it went dead.
That meant they went in 21-10 down and after James and Quick had given them the lead for the first time, the impressive Ben Sparks cut a lovely line in midfield to go under the posts and complete the dramatic turnaround and secure the bonus point.
Free Press Man of the Match: Josh Hurley
Pontypool: Hurley, Lang, Thorley, Norton, James, Martin, Quick, Powell, Parry, Walker, M Thomas, D Jones, Williams, Sparks, Dyckhoff
REPS: Jeune, Palmer, Organ, Guy, Mills, Macey
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