BRIDGEND ATHLETIC 14 PONTYPOOL 14
Tight game finishes all square at Newbridge Fields.
PONTYPOOL RFC bounced back from a disappointing defeat in the SWALEC WRU Cup last weekend to secure a tough-fought draw in difficult conditions against Bridgend on Saturday.
Knowing a win would see them leapfrog Narbeth into second, Pooler were agonisingly close to securing the win with what could have been the icing on the cake to cap an impressive comeback, only for left winger Ashley Norton to knock on with the line at his mercy having beaten a home defender.
Instead, they were forced to settle for a 14 all score line, having trailed by eight points at one stage
Pooler were seeking a fifth successive championship victory, going into the game at Newbridge Fields, which - despite fine weather - was heavy after rain in the days before.
The teams swapped place kicks – with Bridgend Athletic holding sway at 9-6 shortly after the break, with Pooler's two penalties coming from outside half Sam Mills.
But from the re-start, Pooler scrum half Aaron Quick saw his kick charged down on his own 22-metre line, only for opposite number Aled Thomas to win the race to the touchdown for an unconverted try.
With the score at 14-6, Pooler re-grouped and Mills completed his penalty hat-trick.
The game was reduced to uncontested scrums soon after as both sides experienced front-row injury problems.
But it was from a Pooler scrum on the home 22 that Ben Sparks picked up from the base, and fed his scrum half Aaron Quick, who raced over for a try, making amends for his earlier error.
Frustratingly for the travelling support, Norton let an opportunity to take all the points slip through his hands at the death.
But Pooler team boss Shaun Rees spoke optimistically after the final whistle.
He said: “Ok we missed a great chance at the death to clinch the win, but we feel given the poor conditions that this is two points gained and not two lost.
“We suffered from a lot of injuries with Matthew Prosser being taken to hospital with a suspected broken shoulder and with the front-row problems we have, we will be contacting Newport-Gwent Dragons for some support.
“We already have a couple of 17-year-olds front-row forwards here from the regional club on a development scheme, but we are unsure at this time if they are ready to be plunged into our side.
“The old saying 'if they're good enough, then they are old enough' may well come into play here, so we will see what develops this week.
“There's little doubt now that we are targetting the runners-up spot and that would be a great achievement for this club, given how far it has come in a short space of time.”
Pontypool team (and replacements)
Clayton Gullis, Trevor James, Marc Thorley (replaced by Joe Blackmore), Dan Hale, Ashley Norton, Sam Mills, Aaron Quick, James Johnson (replaced by Matthew Prosser, then James Johnson returned), Ben Parry, Jamie Edwards (replaced by Sam Cook, who was replaced by Jordan Williams), Matthew Thomas, Ryan Thomas, Luke Dyckhoff (captain), Elliott Goodman, Ben Sparks.
Pontypool scorers: Try by Aaron Quick. Penalties by Sam Mills (3).
Bridgend Athletic scorers: Try by Aled Thomas. Penalties by Josh White (2) and Steven Lewis.
Referee: Mr Neil Jones (Carmarthen)
(By Ray Ruddick)
Pontypool’s next SWALEC Championship fixture is against Llanharan at Pontypool Park next weekend (SAT JAN 18).