Try by Josh Congreve.
Conversion by Lee Evans.
Tries by Scott Matthews (2), Pat Lewis (2), Marcus Jones (2), Matthew Jarvis, Ieuan Jones, Darren Hughes, Duan Thomas, Dai Jones, Dai Langdon and Mike Herbert.
Conversions by Matthew Jarvis (9).
Pooler make history and complete invincible season alongside the league and cup double
For the final WRU Admiral National Championship match of a hugely successful season, Pontypool travelled to the upper Swansea Valley to visit Ynysdarren Ground and take on Ystalyfera, and came away with their 30th victory in 30 matches – the first time in the club’s history that the team has gone through a season winning every game, and the first time since the introduction of leagues in 1990 Pooler have won a league and WRU-run cup double, writes Ray Ruddick.
At the start of the season, Pooler played two away friendlies at Dings Crusaders and Premiership high flyers Llandovery; then won all 24 matches played in the league (dropping only one bonus point all season – at Neath in February when 3 tries were scored – with home matches against Ystalyfera and Bedwas not fulfilled as Pooler’s opponents on each occasion were unable to field a team) and lifting the WRU National Championship Cup at the Principality Stadium on 23 April. Pontypool have beaten each of the four sides finishing immediately below them three times – home and away in the league and once in the cup – so winning the cup could not have been more difficult.
Back to the match and Pontypool, in their changed strip of blue jerseys, kicked off defending the changing rooms end of the ground on a glorious sunny afternoon with Pooler full back Geraint Walsh making his 50th league and WRU Cups appearance for the club. The visitors made an impact as early as the second minute when they put their hosts under pressure and after several phases, captain and flanker Scott Matthews scored a try to the right of the posts. Outside half Matthew Jarvis converted ((0-7). Back came Ystalyfera and in the 10th minute, after some loose play, home left wing Josh Congreve touched down to the left of the posts. This score was converted by outside half Lee Evans (7-7). Pontypool second row Adam Stratton took a knock and was replaced by Mike Herbert with Ieuan Jones moving from No 8 to second row, Mike Herbert to flanker and Scott Matthews to No 8. Pooler were putting the ‘Fera defence under all sorts of pressure inside the home 22 and in the 17th minute a powerful Pooler scrum in front of the posts paved the way for Scott Matthews to score his second try of the afternoon. Matthew Jarvis converted (7-14). Two minutes later a great break out of defence by Mike Herbert took play into Ystalyfera’s half and he off-loaded to the supporting Matthew Jarvis who weaved his way through the home defence to score a try under the posts and he duly converted (7-21).
In the 23rd minute from a lineout near half way, Scott Matthews took the ball at pace in midfield and broke through then linked up with Ieuan Jones who crashed over for the bonus-point try to the right of the posts. Matthew Jarvis added the extras (7-28). Then two minutes later Ieuan Jones himself took a knock and was replaced by back Dai Langdon so some positional changes had to be made. Callum Davies went to second row; Marcus Jones from right wing to flanker; Pat Lewis from centre to right wing and Dai Langdon to centre. In the 26th minute some smart play resulted in another Pooler try. The visitors had a throw in near ‘Fera’s 22 on their left and a quick throw to Callum Davies at the front of the line by Darren Hughes who then received the back ball in the 5-metre channel and he charged through to dive over the line for an unconverted try in the corner (7-33). On the half hour Pooler were back on the attack and after some good handling, centre Duan Thomas was put through and went over in the left corner for another unconverted try (7-38). Five minutes before the break and with Pooler well on top and on the attack with a driving lineout, centre Pat Lewis received the ball and scored near the right corner. The conversion attempt failed (7-43). On the stroke of half time Pooler had a scrum feed near the home line and with a dominant pack in front of him, scrum half Dai Jones picked up and darted over for a try near the posts which Matthew Jarvis converted. Half time score – Ystalyfera 7 Pontypool 50.
At the start of the second period Pontypool tight head prop Kelvyn Williams made way for Tom Piper. In less than 30 seconds of the re-start Mike Herbert secured turnover ball, fed Marcus Jones who sprinted 40 metres to score 15 metres in from the right corner. Matthew Jarvis obliged from the tee (7-57). In the 46th minute Scott Matthews broke in midfield near half way, the ball reached Marcus Jones and he scored his second try in quick succession as he ran 35 metres to touch down in the right corner. The difficult conversion just failed (7-62). In the 51st minute hooker Darren Hughes was replaced by Peter Lloyd and Dai Jones made way for Owain Leonard for the visitors. Three minutes later uncontested scrums came into play for the rest of the match as Ystalyfera were short of front row cover.
In the 65th minute play was inside the home 22 when the ball reached Dai Langdon who crashed over for a try to the right of the posts. Matthew Jarvis slotted the conversion (7-69). Four minutes later Scott Matthews left the field and Dai Jones returned to go into the pack in the number eight position. In the 71st minute Pooler took a quick tap penalty inside ‘Fera’s 22 and Mike Herbert barged over for a try, and Pooler's 200th in the league and cup this season, to the left of the posts which Matthew Jarvis converted (7-76). Just before the final whistle Mike Herbert secures turnover ball inside Pontypool’s half and Pat Lewis found space and raced 40 metres to score his brace, the final try of the game, and indeed this record-breaking season, near the posts. Matthew Jarvis kicked his ninth conversion of the afternoon to record a match haul of 23 points. Final score – Ystalyfera 7 Pontypool 83.
Two Pooler front rowers decided to retire at the end of the match so well done and thanks to Darren Hughes and Tom Piper for their services to Pontypool RFC, and best wishes to them both for the future.
So many congratulations to the players, coaching staff and medical team for such an outstanding and historic season. Huge thanks to them, back room staff, volunteers, supporters, sponsors and anyone else who have assisted in any way in making this season so memorable. Special thanks to Executive Chairman Peter Jeffreys for his continuing commitment to the club. Thanks also to Ben Jeffreys, who left the club earlier this season, for all his hard work in his 10 years with Pooler. Enjoy the summer break and see you in August for some pre-season friendlies and then the long-awaited and deserved return to the Premiership.
Ystalyfera: Callum Tomsa, Dafydd Roberts, Tomas Powell, Gareth Drewson, Josh Congreve, Lee Evans, Zac Beynon, Brandon Lake, Kiaran Mackey, Ioan Hilldrup, Joe Mort, Chris Harris, Callum Papp, Ben Williams (captain) and Steffan Jones. Replacements: Andrew Jenkins, Jack Morgan and Gareth James.
Pontypool: Geraint Walsh, Marcus Jones, Pat Lewis, Duan Thomas, Amosa Nove, Matthew Jarvis, Dai Jones (replaced by Owain Leonard), Sam Cochrane, Darren Hughes (replaced by Peter Lloyd), Kelvyn Williams (replaced by Tom Piper), Adam Stratton (replaced by Mike Herbert), Ashley Sweet, Scott Matthews (captain, replaced by the returning Dai Jones), Callum Davies and Ieuan Jones (replaced by Dai Langdon).