Pontypool 27 Llanelli 26

PONTYPOOL are one win away from Premiership safety after a tense four-try victory against Llanelli last night.

Pooler’s bonus point win has put relegation rivals Ebbw Vale 12 points back and on the brink of the dreaded drop down to Division One East but they very nearly blew it.

A 27-0 lead was whittled down to a single point and it was the visitors who pressed at the death.

Yet Pooler somehow clung on. The bottom two meet at Eugene Cross Park on Saturday but it may be too late for the Steelmen, who must not only hope for a weekend win but also need other results to go their way.

Ebbw have failed to notch a four-try bonus point all season yet suddenly need maximum hauls and for their Gwent neighbours to get three drubbings from three.

That would seem unlikely given the way that Pooler have finished the season - last night was their fifth win on the bounce and they have only managed six in total.

In fact Pontypool would surely be a thriving venue for a rugby league franchise. October to February may be tough at Pontypool Park but something seems to happen around Six Nations time.

But last night’s encounter was just as important as Saturday’s and it couldn’t have gone better for Pontypool, although it got a bit nervy at the death.

They defended patiently and with discipline after Llanelli dominated early possession and got their reward after nine minutes.

A penalty was kicked into the visitors’ 22 and the forwards battered away at the line before wing Steve Taylor was put over by a smart inside ball from centre Chris Macey. Full-back Geraint O’Driscoll converted via the right post and it took some frantic defence to prevent the confident hosts from stretching their advantage.

But Pooler had a ten-point buffer on 22 minutes courtesy of a booming O’Driscoll penalty from 40 metres, the full-back making the distance with plenty to spare.

And they had more breathing space on 27 minutes courtesy of a breathtaking score that was finished off by the backs but started by the front row. Marvellous handling by livewire hooker Craig Attwell and props Nicky Blake and Jamie Jeune put the three-quarters clear and they made no mistake, centre Phil Price the man to finish it off after the overlap was clinically worked.

Pooler weren’t finished and they made it 20-0 with just half an hour on the clock. Number eight Morgan Allen powerfully ripped the ball from Llanelli on halfway and, after more good work by Jeune, Taylor went over in the right corner after displaying finishing prowess that would have pleased Rory Underwood in his pomp.

The bonus point was suddenly in Pooler’s sights and it took some determined goalline defence by the west Walians to prevent it arriving before half-time and the visitors were glad to boot the ball off the park and go in just 20-0 down.

It was a similar scenario to the crushing win over Bedwas weeks earlier.

Pooler were in a totally dominant position but needed to hammer it home against a visiting side that would have been given a half-time rollicking.

Yet the five points seemed to be in the bag on 44 minutes when O’Driscoll hit the line hard to go over from fly-half Sam Mills’ flat pass that had the defence going for the interception and then converted his score.

A penalty try for dragging down a Llanelli maul that was rumbling towards the line and a close-range Steffan Phillips effort ensured a few nerves set in and it was very much game on when centre Steve Martin went over in the right corner with 10 minutes left.

And it was well and truly up for grabs when replacement centre Scott Williams went over for a converted try on 77 minutes but Pooler hung on for the precious points.

Pontypool scorers: tries - S Taylor (2), P Price, G O’Driscoll; conversions - G O’Driscoll (2); penalty - G O’Driscoll.

Llanelli scorers: tries - penalty, S Phillips, S Martin, S Williams; conversions - D Newton (3) Star man: Jamie Jeune