Tries by Rhys Walker (1) and Nathan Huish (1).
Conversion by Iain Smerdon (1).
Tries by Ashley Gibson (1), Marc Thorley (1), Ben Sparks (1) and a penalty try.
Conversion by Kieran Meek (1).
Penalties by Kieran Meek (2).
Drop goal by Kieran Meek (1).
Workmanlike Pooler sign off successful season with bonus-point win at Bedlinog
For their final match of a very successful season, newly-crowned WRU National Championship champions Pontypool paid their first-ever visit to the Recreation Ground on Saturday to take on Bedlinog, writes Ray Ruddick. It was a tight first half with only a couple of points in it at the interval. However, after the break, Pooler seemed to take control and ran out comfortable winners in a workmanlike performance against a gritty and determined home side. Pooler captain and hooker Ben Parry and flanker Jordan Williams each made their 100th appearance (in league and cup matches) for the club.
Pontypool kicked off defending the changing rooms end of the ground. In the third minute Bedlinog turned over their visitors in midfield and the home side put in a box kick. The Foxes kicked ahead and right wing Rhys Walker won the race for the touchdown to the right of the posts. The conversion failed (0-5). 12 minutes later Bedlinog were penalised for a high tackle mid-way between their 22 and half way line on Pooler’s right. Visiting scrum half Rhys Dyer took a quick tap then centenary-celebrating Jordan Williams took play into the home 22. He was tackled, the ball was recycled and moved left and second row Ashley Gibson crossed for an unconverted try in the corner (5-5). On 18 minutes Pontypool were again on the attack, taking play into Bedlinog’s 22 and outside half Kieran Meek slotted a neat drop goal to put the visitors ahead (8-5).
In the 23rd minute veteran centre Sione Tu’ipulotu made a great break, passed inside to Callum Davies but the flanker was brought down just before the goal line but Bedlinog were caught offside in front of their posts. Kieran Meek slotted the easy kick (11-5). On the half-hour mark there was a scrum in front of the home uprights and the Foxes were penalised for driving up. Kieran Meek kicked the goal to stretch Pontypool’s lead (14-5). Ten minutes later Pooler were offside in their 22. The home side kicked for the corner and, after several forward drives, hooker and captain Nathan Huish barged over for a try to the left of the posts. Outside half Iain Smerdon added the extras (14-12). In injury time at the end of the first period, Ashley Gibson took a knock to the ankle and was replaced by Cameron Watson-Boycott. Just before the half time whistle, Bedlinog flanker Luke Morgan was sin binned for illegal use of the boot. Half time score: Bedlinog 12 Pontypool 14.
Within two minutes of the start of the second period, the Foxes were caught offside in their 22 and Pooler kicked for the right corner. After several powerful driving mauls by the visiting pack, one of them was brought down illegally and the referee, Robert Price of Andover in Hampshire, ran under the posts and awarded Pooler a penalty try and yellow carded home No 8 Andrew Murphy for the offence. Kieran Meek converted (21-12). In the 52nd minute Pooler were exerting pressure inside their opponents’ 22. The ball was moved left and wing Marc Thorley squeezed in the corner for an unconverted try (26-12). Seven minutes later visiting flanker Callum Davies took a bang to the head and was replaced by Alex Watkins, normally a hooker. Shortly after, Kieran Meek was sin binned for a high tackle on Pooler’s 10-metre line.
Just after an hour’s play, Sam Watkins replaced Pontypool scrum half Rhys Dyer which meant a reshuffle in the backs. In the last five minutes Pooler made a couple of changes with 100-up Ben Parry being replaced by Aaron Coundley, and then Sione Tu’ipulotu made way for Matthew Jones. In the 79th minute play was inside Pooler’s half. The ball reached Matthew Jones who put a kick through which Marc Thorley chased and gathered the ball. He offloaded to Alex Watkins who sprinted 30 metres and got his pass to Ben Sparks and the No 8 crossed for the bonus-point try to the left of the posts. The conversion failed. Final score: Bedlinog 12 Pontypool 31.
So the curtain has come down on another season and one of Pontypool’s most successful campaigns. The players and all involved can look back on the season with pride and satisfaction of a job well done. Unfortunately, Pooler will be in the Championship again next season due to the Premiership being ring-fenced.
Pontypool: Josh Hurley, Martin Luckwell, Clayton Gullis, Sione Tu’ipulotu (replaced by Matthew Jones), Marc Thorley, Kieran Meek, Rhys Dyer (replaced by Sam Watkins), Jamie Jeune, Ben Parry (captain, replaced by Aaron Coundley), Ollie Drake, Ashley Gibson (replaced by Cameron Watson-Boycott), Richard East, Jordan Williams, Callum Davies (replaced by Alex Watkins), Ben Sparks.
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