PONTYPOOL welcomed traditional rivals and near neighbours Newbridge for a first round tie in the SWALEC WRU Cup.
This was the fifth meeting of the two clubs in the cup competition and, as in the previous four, the game turned out to be a very close affair.
Newbridge kicked off playing down the slope and applied early pressure on the Pooler line.
Pontypool were guilty of hands in the ruck near their posts and outside half Kieron Meek slotted an easy penalty goal to put the visitors in front (0-3).
Newbridge won another penalty for a late tackle and Meek doubled his side’s lead with his second successful shot at goal from 35 metres out (0-6).
From a loose pass by the home side in midfield just inside the Pooler half, Newbridge kicked ahead and Meek won the race to the touchdown near the posts. He added the extras (0-13).
Pontypool went on the attack and from a scrum in the Newbridge 22, Pooler passed the ball left.
The oval reached wing Josh Hurley who then passed inside to the supporting Ashley Norton and the centre crossed for a try.
The conversion attempt from wide out by Clayton Gullis fell just short of the target (5-13).
Back came the visitors and Pooler were penalised for a deliberate knock-on inside their 22 and Meek stepped up to increase Newbridge’s advantage with his third penalty of the afternoon (5-16).
Newbridge’s promising number eight Ethan Doyle was then injured in a tackle and was stretchered off the field.
Pooler were caught offside a little way outside their 22 and Meek slotted another penalty (5-19).
Just before half time home full back Steve Taylor left the field and was replaced by Trevor James. Josh Hurley went to full back and James on the left wing.
This left the score at half time - Pontypool 5 Newbridge 19.
Early in the second half Pooler went down to 14 men as second row Ryan Thomas was given a straight red card by referee Gwyn Morris for stamping.
Aaron Quick replaced Josh Guy at scrum half for Pontypool. Pooler then played the game in the visitors’ 22. The ball reached Ben Parry but the hooker was tackled just short of the Newbridge line.
A strong five metre scrum by the home seven drove their opponents back, Newbridge infringed and the referee awarded a penalty try to Pontypool which Clayton Gullis converted (12-19).
Pooler brought on more replacements – Tom Organ replaced Jordan Williams and Matthew Thomas came on for captain Luke Dyckhoff in the pack. A short time later Mark Thorley replaced Josh Hurley in Pooler’s back division.
Newbridge were penalised several times near their line and their second row L Williams was shown a yellow card.
Pooler went for a scrum but Newbridge held out. Jamie Edwards replaced Matthew Prosser and Dan Walker made way for James Johnson as Pooler changed both props.
Pontypool continued to pressure Newbridge and the visitors’ defence held firm until the ball went wide and Ashley Norton crossed in the corner for his second try of the game. The difficult conversion by Clayton Gullis just didn’t have enough and was short (17-19).
Pooler’s hooker Ben Parry was injured and left the field with Matthew Prosser coming back on to replace him. Pooler then put everything into the final moments of the game but the Newbridge defence held out to record a narrow 19-17 victory.
Pooler made a slow start and Newbridge built up a useful half time lead. With the sending off of Ryan Thomas, Pooler’s job was made that much more difficult. However, the remaining seven in the Pontypool pack raised their game and the team pulled back to within a score. Pooler had a chance near the end to score the winning try by going through several phases of play thus creating a 3 to 1 overlap on the right but the ball was knocked on. If Pontypool were more disciplined and if they took their chances then they would have progressed in the competition but credit to Newbridge who dug in and held on.