Tries by Jordan Thomas, Alex Watkins, Ben Sparks, Owain Leonard, Lewis Barnett, Joel Mahoney and a penalty try.
Conversions by Richard Powell (4).
Pooler defeat near neighbours United in Ben Francis Cup
League rugby took a back seat on Saturday when Pontypool made the very short journey to the Memorial Ground to take on close neighbours Pontypool United in the quarter-final of the Ben Francis Cup, writes Ray Ruddick. It was a slightly earlier than usual kick-off, 2.00pm, due to the Wales v France Six Nations match at the Principality Stadium kicking off at 4.45pm.
The only other season Pontypool entered the Ben Francis Cup was in 2007-2008 and they won the tournament, defeating Caldicot (away) 67-5, Nantyglo (at Talywain) 17-7 and Abergavenny in the final (at Blackwood) 41-22. Pooler were also Division One East Champions the same season. The Ben Francis Cup was a tournament for the clubs in the old Monmouthshire League (the “second class” clubs) before the introduction of national and regional leagues in 1990. Pontypool won the old Monmouthshire League in 1903-04 and 1906-07 before becoming a “first class” club in 1907. Newport, Abertillery and Cross Keys also became “first class” clubs before World War One, while Ebbw Vale, Newbridge and Tredegar gained “first class” status after the Second World War. The format of the Ben Francis Cup competition changed during the 1990s and early 2000s with the eight teams in District A of the WRU (the former Gwent area) with the best record over the first ten league games in all divisions are invited to take part in a knockout tournament for the cup. Now, it is open to any club in District A. It was first played for back in season 1925-26 when Risca beat Ynysddu 3-0 in the final at Pandy Park, Cross Keys. The donor of the trophy, Ben Francis, was an Abertillery businessman who co-founded the clothing store Bon Marche in the town. Pontypool United, meanwhile, won the trophy in 1965, 1967, 1968, 1990, 2017 and 2018, shared the cup with Blaina in 1976 and Bedwas in 1980 and were runners-up in 1964, 1975, 1983 and 1995.
Having witnessed Storm Ciara followed by Storm Dennis over the past fortnight, and the damage they have done, it was a credit to Pontypool United that the game went ahead, so well done to all concerned for getting the pitch playable.
Pontypool United kicked off attacking the Conway Road end of the ground on an overcast afternoon. Pontypool wore their changed strip of blue jerseys. In the fourth minute a lovely break by Pooler centre Joel Mahoney in midfield drew the United defender and offloaded to Jordan Thomas and the full back crossed for a try under the posts. Outside half Richard Powell converted (7-0). Four minutes later Pooler won a lineout on their right near the United goal line. From the ensuing driving maul hooker Alex Watkins scored an unconverted try wide out (12-0). In the 27th minute from a scrum five to the right of the posts the Pooler pack powered over the goal line and number eight Ben Sparks claimed his side’s third try of the afternoon. Richard Powell added the extras (19-0).
In the 38th minute United were penalised in front of their posts. Pooler opted for a scrum and the visiting pack once again, drove their opponents back but the United forwards broke up and the referee awarded Pooler a penalty try (26-0). Then in the first minute of injury time at the end of the first period, Pooler were on the attack inside United’s 22 and scrum half Owain Leonard dived over for a try to the left of the posts. The conversion failed. Half time score – Pontypool United 0 Pontypool 31.
In the eleventh minute of the second half Pooler were putting their hosts under pressure inside United’s 22 and centre Lewis Barnett scored a try to the left of the posts which Richard Powell converted (38-0). Pontypool’s captain-for-the-day Jordan Williams was making a welcome return after 17 months out of action on the injury list, was then replaced by Caelan May. Five minutes later Pooler were again on the offensive and Joel Mahoney, who received a pass from Owain Leonard, glided through to score a try near the posts. Richard Powell slotted the conversion (45-0).
On the hour mark United number eight Jake Davies was yellow carded for taking out a player without the ball. Three minutes later Pooler made changes with Adam Stratton replacing flanker Craig Attwell and Ben Sparks made way for Scott Matthews. In the 67th minute Aaron Quick replaced Owain Leonard and Gareth Rusby-Davies took over from second row Danny Hodge. Pooler’s final substitution, in the 75th minute was Tom Hancock who replaced Jordan Thomas. Then with three minutes remaining, Pooler second row Curtis Gregory was sin-binned for offside, after Pooler had been warned several times. Final score – Pontypool 0 Pontypool 45.
Although Pooler were too strong for United, the home side put in a spirited performance and never gave up. Next Saturday Pontypool return to Specsavers WRU National Championship action when they welcome Ystrad Rhondda to Pontypool Park while Pontypool United have a home match against Brynmawr at the Memorial Ground in the Specsavers National League Division One East. Both matches kick-off at 2.30pm.
Pontypool: Jordan Thomas (replaced by Tom Hancock), Marcus Jones, Lewis Barnett, Joel Mahoney, Amosa Nove, Richard Powell, Owain Leonard (replaced by Aaron Quick), Sam Cochrane, Alex Watkins, Zenon Szwagrzak (replaced by Ellis Evans), Danny Hodge (replaced by Gareth Rusby-Davies), Curtis Gregory, Jordan Williams (captain, replaced by Caelan May), Craig Attwell (replaced by Adam Stratton) and Ben Sparks (replaced by Scott Matthews).
Pontypool United: Rhys Reynolds, Daniel Knight, Zachery Takel, Joe Blackmore (captain), Lloyd Reader, Alex Gwatkin, Sior Pearce, Kyan Best, Jack Gillard, Richard Nash, Scott Watkins, Luke Fleming-Jones, Lewis Clayden, Jake Smith and Jake Davies. Replacements: Charlie Gardner, Russell Beale, D Scott, Liam Bailey, Llewi MacLean, Kane Blair, D Thomas and Gareth-John Jenkins.