Newbridge 17 Pontypool 19

Pontypool travelled the short distance to the Welfare Ground to take on old rivals Newbridge in what turned out to be a very close SWALEC Championship match. Newbridge did the double over their neighbours last season so Pontypool were keen to start the first of three games between the clubs this season on the front foot and they did just that.

Newbridge kicked off defending the school end of the ground. Pooler conceded an early penalty for collapsing a maul just outside their 22 but Newbridge outside half Kieron Meek was just wide with his attempt at goal. At a Newbridge scrum near their 10 metre line, the Pooler pack drove their opponents off the ball and it was picked up by visiting skipper Luke Dyckhoff who made ground and was tackled on the home 22. The oval was then spun left for wing Trevor James to cross in the corner for the opening try of the game. Outside half Sam Mills kicked a fine conversion (7-0). From another strong Pooler scrum in Newbridge’s 22, the ball reached centre Marc Thorley who crashed over for a try under the posts. Sam Mills added the extras (14-0).

Pooler flanker Tom Organ was shown a yellow card for an offence at a ruck near the half way line but the game restarted with a scrum and not a penalty. The visitors won a line-out on their opponents’ 10 metre line and the ball went along the back line. Full back Steve Taylor joined the line at pace and crossed the Newbridge 22. He then passed to the supporting Trevor James and the left wing crossed in the corner for his second try of the afternoon. Mills failed with the conversion attempt. So Pooler went into the break leading 19-0 having been clinical in their finishing.

However, Newbridge must have had a stiff talking to in the dressing rooms during the break and started the second half well. Early in the second period, Pooler had the put in to a scrum near their 22 metre line and had their relieving kick charged down only for home No 8 Ethan Doyle to score ‘Bridge’s first points of the match. The conversion failed (19-5). Then, after “a difference of opinion” between the two sets of players, referee Justin Williams of Llangennech sin binned Pooler scrum half Aaron Quick and a Newbridge player. Soon after Pooler second row Joe Davies was red carded for kicking out in retaliation. The homesters took a quick penalty between their 22 and 10 metre line and broke clear. There seemed to be a forward pass in Newbridge’s surge upfield but that went unnoticed and full back Ryan Lee scored a try, converted by Meek (19-12).

Pontypool then made some changes in personnel – Matthew Thomas came on for Tom Organ in the back row, Aaron Quick made way for Josh Guy at scrum half and Josh Hurley replaced injured centre Dan Hale. Steve Taylor moved up to centre and Hurley played at full back. Shortly after, a Newbridge forward was yellow carded for preventing Pooler’s scrum half from playing the ball at a ruck 25 metres from the home line but Sam Mills was wide with his shot at the posts. More Pooler replacements – Matthew Prosser replaced Ben Parry in the middle of the Pooler front row and promising loose head prop Luke Garrett made way for another young prop James Johnson.

Newbridge were now in the ascendancy and were pressing Pooler’s line. Pontypool’s defence held firm for a while but the pressure told in the end and centre Bevan Howells scored a try on Newbridge’s right about 15 metres in from touch. Home outside half needed to land the conversion to bring the scores level but the ball went wide of the target (19-17). There were only a few minutes remaining and ‘Bridge tried to get that winning score but Pooler held on for a hard-earned victory.

Pontypool’s scrum was very strong but the players showed lack of discipline on times, particularly in the second half. Pooler’s kicking out of hand was not the best and they had several kicks charged down to put themselves under pressure. Having said that it is never easy going to Newbridge so, for Pontypool to come away with a win is very commendable. Well done Pooler!

Pontypool team (and replacements): Steve Taylor, Chris Laing, Marc Thorley, Dan Hale (replaced by Josh Hurley), Trevor James, Sam Mills, Aaron Quick (replaced by Josh Guy), Luke Garrett (replaced by James Johnson), Ben Parry (replaced by Matthew Prosser), Dan Walker, Ryan Thomas, Joe Davies, Jordan Williams, Tom Organ (replaced by Matthew Thomas), Luke Dyckhoff (captain).

Pontypool scorers: Tries by Trevor James (2) and Marc Thorley. Conversions by Sam Mills (2).

Newbridge scorers: Tries by Ethan Doyle, Ryan Lee and Bevan Howells. Conversion by Kieron Meek.

Referee: Mr Justin Williams (Llangennech)

by Ray Ruddick