Tries by Danny Hodge (2), Caelan May (2), Geraint Walsh, Scott Evans, Lloyd Lewis and Ceri Morris.
Conversions by Kieran Meek (2) and Richard Powell (5).
Canterbury scorers: Tries by Dan Smart and Sam Sterling.
Conversions by Tom Best (2).
Impressive Pooler cruise to fine victory over Canterbury
For their second and final pre-season friendly, Pontypool welcomed Kent side Canterbury to Emlyn Park, Talywain as Pontypool Park had been re-seeded in readiness for the new league season, writes Ray Ruddick. This was the first-ever meeting of the two clubs. It was an early kick-off (12.30pm) as the Wales v Ireland Rugby World Cup warm-up game was on the television live at 2.30pm.
Canterbury will play in England’s National Division One this season, having gained promotion from Division Two South as they were runners-up to The Rams (formerly Redingensians) and won the play-off against their counterparts in National Division Two North, Chester RFC, on their home soil of the Marine Travel Ground, Merton Lane. However, they were no match for a Pontypool side which made a statement in scoring eight tries in a runaway victory.
Pontypool kicked-off and defended the clubhouse end of the ground. It had been raining until just before kick-off and then the sun appeared, making it quite a pleasant late summer’s afternoon. In the third minute Pooler were awarded a penalty near the Canterbury 22. They kicked for the right corner and, following a driving maul, second row Danny Hodge scored an unconverted try to the right of the posts (5-0). Mid-way through the first half, play was inside the visitors’ 22 on Pooler’s right. After a period of pressure the ball was released and moved left. A lovely pass from young centre Joel Mahoney to Geraint Walsh put the full back over for a try in the corner. Outside half Kieran Meek slotted a fine conversion (12-0).
In the 32nd minute Canterbury hit back. They were awarded a penalty in their opponents’ half and kicked for the right corner. Following the lineout the Canterbury forwards drove on and scrum half Dan Smart scored a try which centre Tom Best improved (12-7). In injury time at the end of the first half, Pooler took a quick tap penalty deep inside Canterbury’s 22 and tight head prop Scott Evans barged his way over for a try, 5 metres in from the left corner. Kieran Meek kicked another fine conversion from wide out. Half time – Pontypool 19 Canterbury 7.
In the fourth minute of the second half the try of the afternoon was scored by Pontypool. A good run by flanker Adam Stratton put Pontypool on the front foot. He passed to fellow back rower Rhys Clarke who offloaded to Aaron Quick and the scrum half passed to hooker Darren Hughes who went to ground. The ball was recycled and Quick fed wing Jordan Thomas who put Danny Hodge over for the Englishman’s second five-pointer of the afternoon. Replacement outside half Richard Powell kicked the conversion (26-7). In the 51st minute Pontypool were on the attack inside the Canterbury 22 on Pooler’s left. The ball went right with Geraint Walsh giving the scoring pass to replacement right wing Lloyd Lewis who crossed unopposed for Pooler’s fifth try of the afternoon. Richard Powell added the extras (33-7).
Eight minutes later Pooler scored again through replacement flanker Caelan May who did well to take a difficult pass which was behind him and scored a try to the left of the posts. Powell again converted (40-7). In the 64th minute Powell put in a huge up and under which the Canterbury defence failed to deal with and the ball bounced awkwardly. It was gathered by Pooler and replacement centre Ceri Morris ran between the sticks to touch down. Powell once again converted (47-7).
With just over 10 minutes of the game remaining Canterbury, who never gave up, replied with a try be centre Sam Sterling, converted by Tom Best (47-14). In the 73rd minute Pooler’s Danny Hodge and Canterbury flanker George Micans were yellow carded after a little scuffle. Two minutes later Canterbury were in possession between their 22 and 10-metre line. The ball went loose and was kicked ahead by Pooler. Caelan May gathered and he scored his second, and Pontypool’s eighth try of the match. This score was converted by Richard Powell. Finals score – Pontypool 54 Canterbury 14.
This was a very good performance by Pontypool as 28 players were used in total. All players made a contribution so there will be good competition for places in what will be a very important season for Pooler as the Championship winners at the end of this season will be automatically promoted to the Premiership – no unnecessary ring-fencing or play-offs – just straight forward promotion, as it should be.
Pontypool RFC would like to express their grateful thanks to Talywain RFC for the use of their facilities and wish Canterbury good luck for the coming season.
Pontypool will begin the defence of their Championship crown on Saturday when Beddau are the welcome visitors to Pontypool Park, kicking-off at the usual time of 2.30pm. The following Saturday (14 September) Pooler will host Premiership outfit Swansea in the first round of the WRU National Cup, again the kick-off is 2.30pm.