Tries by Mark Harvey (1) and Anthony Buselli (1).
Conversions by Anthony Buselli and James Ball.
Penalty by Anthony Buselli.
Tries by Clayton Gullis (2), Josh Hurley (1), Alex Watkins (1), Tom Hancock (1) and Aaron Quick (1).
Conversions by Matthew Jones (5).
Pooler’s impressive run continues with victory over stubborn Skewen
After the historic cup win at Llanelli last Saturday, Pontypool were back in WRU National Championship action with a first-ever visit to Tennant Park to face newcomers to the Championship, Skewen, writes Ray Ruddick. After a tough first half, Pooler upped their game in the second period to run out worthy winners and stretch their lead at the top of the league table to 16 points with five league games remaining.
Skewen kicked off attacking the clubhouse end of the ground on a fine but chilly afternoon, In the third minute, play was in Skewen’s 22 on Pooler’s right. The visitors won the ball and went left. Marc Thorley came into the line from the right wing to make the extra man and passed out to his fellow winger Josh Hurley who crossed in the left corner for the opening try of the game. This score was converted by outside half Matthew Jones (7-0). Five minutes later Pooler were caught offside just inside their 22 in front of the posts and home outside half Anthony Buselli slotted the relatively easy kick (7-3).
In the 23rd minute Pooler’s tight head prop Ryan Harford injured a leg and hobbled off the field and was replaced by Ollie Drake. Ten minutes later, Marc Thorley took a knock and was replaced by Sione Tu’ipulotu so Clayton Gullis was moved out to the wing and Sione Tu’ipulotu slotted in at centre. After 35 minutes, Pooler were penalised for a high tackle on their 10-metre line in midfield. The attempt at goal fell short of the target and Pooler cleared. Five minutes later Pooler again were penalised, this time for holding on, 35 metres from their goal line to the right of the posts, but again the goal attempt failed. Five minutes into injury time, Pontypool won a penalty in midfield. Matthew Jones kicked for the left corner and from the ensuing lineout, Pooler drove their opponents over the line and hooker Alex Watkins scored a try wide out. Matthew Jones kicked a fine conversion (14-3). From the re-start, home right wing Matthew Billet was yellow-carded for taking out Pooler No 8 Ben Sparks in the air. Then in the ninth minute of injury time Pontypool’s captain-for-the-day, second row Richard East was sin-binned for not using his arms in a tackle in Skewen’s 22. Half time score Skewen 3 Pontypool 14.
In the second minute of the second half Pooler were on the attack in Skewen’s 22 and, after a good run by Josh Hurley, the ball was recycled and went right for Clayton Gullis to score a try 15 metres in from touch. Matthew Jones added the extras (21-3). Four minutes later Matthew Jones made the initial break in midfield and popped the ball to Dan Robinson to put the centre in the clear and took play up to the Skewen 22. The ball was recycled and went left from Alex Watkins to Josh Hurley and the final pass to Tom Hancock put the full back over for the bonus-point try near the posts. Matthew Jones kicked the conversion, with the help of the right upright (28-3).
Ten minutes into the second period Skewen won the ball and reached wing Mark Henry who broke the initial tackle, chipped over the head of Tom Hancock and won the race to the touchdown to the right of the posts. Anthony Buselli converted (28-10). Just before the hour mark, Josh Hurley made a good break on the left and passed inside to Tom Hancock who was tackled just short of the line. Aaron Quick picked up and dived over for a try near the posts with Matthew Jones making no mistake with the conversion (35-10). Pooler then made a couple of changes with Rhys Dyer replacing Quick and Cameron Watson-Boycott making way for Ashley Gibson in the back row. Five minutes later Ollie Drake left the field with an injury and was replaced by Tomas Sparey.
In the 72nd minute Skewen went on the attack and play reached Pooler’s 22. The ball went right and Anthony Buselli scored a try, 10 metres in from the right touchline. Scrum Half James Ball kicked the conversion (35-17). In the fourth minute of injury time at the end of the game, Ashley Gibson make a strong run in midfield and took play to near the home 22. The ball went right and Matthew Jones put in a lovely chip to the right corner and Clayton Gullis managed to get the touchdown for an unconverted try with the last move of the game. Final score Skewen 17 Pontypool 40.
This was a tough game for Pooler and all credit to Skewen for making their visitors work hard for their victory. Pontypool’s next scheduled game is the WRU National Cup second round clash with Cardiff at Cardiff Arms Park on the weekend of 18 February but the actual date has not been finalised yet as Cardiff Blues entertain Treviso on the Saturday afternoon. The next league game is on Saturday 4 March when Pooler are once again on their travels, this time making their first-ever visit to the Recreation Ground to take on the other Championship newcomers, Bedlinog, kick-off 2.30pm.
Pontypool: Tom Hancock, Marc Thorley (replaced by Sione Tu’ipulotu), Dan Robinson, Clayton Gullis, Josh Hurley, Matthew Jones, Aaron Quick (replaced by Rhys Dyer), Jamie Jeune, Alex Watkins, Ryan Harford (replaced by Ollie Drake and he was replaced by Tomas Sparey), Ben Egan, Richard East (captain), Matthew Thomas, Cameron Watson-Boycott (replaced by Ashley Gibson), Ben Sparks.