Pooler fightback falls short after poor start in derby clash
4:04pm Thursday 17th October 2013 in Sport
Pontypool 13 Ebbw Vale 19
AT the end of a full-blooded, no-quarter-given Gwent derby, Pontypool had good cause to rue a mistake-riddled opening 10 minutes which ultimately cost them the points.
But head coach Mike Hook and his players can take many positives from a top-of-the-table clash which emphasised just how far the club has come from the dark days - not so long ago - when it was staring oblivion in the face.
Just as heartening as the fightback was the attendance. Around 1,200 came to Pontypool Park, bolstered by sizeable travelling support, and while the rugby was more gripping than pretty, it did not disappoint.
After shipping 12 points without reply during a nightmare start, there was cause to fear for Pooler against the SWALEC Championship title holders.
Ebbw Vale looked stronger, hungrier and quicker in thought and deed. Seats had barely been taken, elbows barely propped against terrace barriers in watery autumn sunshine, before the visitors opened their account, wing Wes Cunliffe darting over in the corner following a combination of slick hands and missed tackles.
Full back Carl Meyer added the touchline conversion, then touched down himself after more Pooler defensive errors granted him the freedom of the final third of the field.
Crucially however, he missed his easier second conversion, a lapse that with more than an hour gone, had the Steelmen staring down the barrel after a tremendous fightback by the home team.
But back to the 10th minute. Gradually, despite at first living off scraps and uncharacteristic Ebbw Vale sloppiness, Pooler found a toehold in the contest.
Forwards began to look sharper, to compete for every ball, and though the lineout remained shaky all afternoon, an initially poor scrum got stronger and stronger.
The territorial upper hand slowly came too, and while tries seemed a long way off, a Sam Mills penalty put points on the board before half-time.
Lead-by-example captain and second row Luke Dyckhoff's ankle injury meant he was missing after the restart, but Pooler took the game to Ebbw Vale and another Mills penalty put his side within one score of the visitors.
Sustained pressure was building deep in Ebbw Vale's half and just after the hour they conceded their first try in four matches, after sharp phases and neat midfield work combined to put Pooler centre Steve Taylor over. Mills converted from in front of the posts and briefly, Meyer's first half missed conversion appeared costly.
The Steelmen are not champions without reason however, and of a sudden they found another gear. Flanker Ronny Kynes touched down with 10 minutes remaining after his side's first foray near the Pooler line in an hour, Meyer converting.
Meyer then missed two penalties, and though Pooler had a chance to pinch victory after late pressure near the Ebbw Vale line it went begging.
Pontypool stay second and travel to fifth-placed Narberth next Saturday. They should only be buoyed by having run a classy side so close.
Comments are closed on this article.