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Match PreviewMatch Report
23 - 28 HT 10 - 20 Saturday 18th February 2023 / 2:30pm Kick Off
Referee: Ben Breakspear (Abercynon)
Neath RFC

Neath RFC

Tries by David Griggs and Aled Brew.

Conversions by Steff Williams and Rhys Harris.

Penalties by Rhys Harris (2) and Steff Williams.

Pontypool RFC

Pontypool RFC

Tries by Peter Lloyd, Scott Matthews and a penalty try.

Conversion by Matthew Jarvis.

Penalties by Matthew Jarvis (3).

23 - 28 HT 10 - 20 Saturday 18th February 2023 / 2:30pm Kick Off
WRU Admiral National Championship
Referee: Ben Breakspear (Abercynon)







Pooler dig deep for riveting win at Neath

Two former giants of Welsh club rugby locked horns at The Gnoll on Saturday in the top-of-the-table clash in the WRU Admiral National Championship and Pontypool came away with a well-deserved victory but Neath pushed them all the way in a wonderful game of rugby which was a superb advert for the Championship, writes Ray Ruddick. The first match of the season between these two famous clubs, back in September at sunny Pontypool Park, resulted in a narrow 34-30 win for Pooler in another exciting spectacle.

Pontypool kicked off attacking the clubhouse end of the ground on a damp, grey and dank afternoon in front of a 2,500 crowd. There was barely a minute on the clock when Neath right wing Ryan Griffiths was yellow-carded for a high tackle on visiting full back Geraint Walsh, 15 metres in on Pooler’s left and eight metres inside Neath’s half. Outside half Matthew Jarvis pointed to the uprights and, despite slipping, managed to strike the ball well enough for it to go between the posts and just over the bar to put Pooler into an early lead (0-3). Five minutes later Neath were penalised for collapsing a driving maul, 20 metres in on Pooler’s left, just inside the home 22 and Matthew Jarvis doubled his side’s lead with a successful shot at goal (0-6). In the 13th minute Pooler were caught offside 25 metres from their goal-line in midfield and Neath’s outside half Steff Williams kicked the goal to narrow to gap (3-6).

Midway through the first half Neath’s powerful driving maul, when some of the backs joined in, resulted in a try by No 8 David Griggs to the left of the posts. This score was converted by Steff Williams to put the home side into a 4-point lead (10-6). Five minutes later Pooler replied with a try by hooker Peter Lloyd to the right of the posts after a good build up. Matthew Jarvis obliged from the tee (10-13). Then in the third minute of injury time at the end of the first period, home full back and former Welsh international Aled Brew was sin-binned for an offence at a ruck near Neath’s goal-line. In the sixth minute of added time Pooler had a scrum feed near the Neath line on Pontypool’s left and the Pooler pack pushed their opponents back. The scrum buckled and went down and the referee ran between the posts and awarded Pontypool a penalty try which was the last action of a pulsating first 40 minutes. Half-time score – Neath 10 Pontypool 20.

Three minutes into the second half Pontypool’s hooker Peter Lloyd saw yellow at a driving maul deep inside Pooler’s 22. In the 49th minute the Welsh All Blacks were testing their opponents’ defence with some good driving play. The ball was released and play went right for Aled Brew to touch down15 metres in on Neath’s right. The conversion was kicked by replacement Rhys Harris to reduce the deficit to three points (17-20). Three minutes later Pontypool club captain Scott Matthews replaced captain-for-the-day and flanker Mike Herbert. Matthews made an almost immediate impression on the game when, within a minute of taking the field, he was on hand to get the all-important touch down 10 metres in from the left corner after the Pooler forwards made several drives towards the line. This try went unconverted by it put the visitors two scores clear of their hosts (17-25).

In the 55th minute Pooler replacement front rower Tom Piper took the field briefly in place of wing Amosa Nove for front row cover as Peter Lloyd still had 30 seconds left on his yellow card. A minute later Sam Cochrane replaced loose head prop Kyan Best and on the hour scrum half Dai Jones made way for Owain Leonard for Pontypool. In the 66th minute Pooler second row Garin Price took a knock to the shoulder and was replaced by the returning Mike Herbert, with Callum Davies going into the second row, then Tom Piper was a permanent replacement for tight head prop Kelvyn Williams and Dai Langdon took over from centre Joel Mahoney which completed the Pontypool substitutions.

So going into the final few minutes it was all to play for and in the 78th minute Pooler were penalised at a ruck 40 metres out in midfield. Rhys Harris went for goal and struck the ball well to reduce Pooler’s lead to just five points (20-25). A minute later it was Neath’s turn to be penalised at a ruck, 20 metres from their goal-line in front of the posts and Matthew Jarvis restored Pontypool’s eight-point advantage with his hat trick of penalties (20-28). In the first minute of injury time back came Neath and they had another penalty shot at goal, again 40 metres from Pooler’s line in midfield, but this attempt at goal went wide. A minute later Pontypool centre Pat Lewis was yellow carded at a ruck near Pooler’s 10-metre line to the left of the uprights and Rhys Harris made no mistake this time with his penalty attempt (23-28). There was still time left but Pooler held on for a well-earned league double over their nearest rivals and Neath picked up a deserved losing bonus point, which could be crucial come the end of the season. Final score – Neath 23 Pontypool 28.

Neath were always threatening and Pooler’s defence needed to be strong to keep their opponents at bay. However, Pontypool held on for a vital win, despite not picking up a try bonus point for the first time this season. Congratulations to both teams on producing such a fine game and to young referee Ben Breakspear who controlled the match very well. This victory takes Pontypool ten league points clear of Neath in second place and Bargoed are six points behind Neath but have a game in hand.

It was just like turning the clock back to the 1980s when Pontypool and Neath were the two best clubs in Wales and matches between these old adversaries were hard-fought, tough battles in front of large crowds.

Pontypool and Neath will meet again in the semi-final of the Championship Cup which will be played at the Memorial Ground in Ely, home of Glamorgan Wanderers RFC on Saturday 25 March with the kick-off time yet to be decided. Before that, Pooler have two more away games – the next match will be at Trebanos on Saturday 4 March, kick-off 2.30pm and then at Margam Sports Ground to face Tata Steel on Friday 17 March, kick-off 7.30pm.

Neath: Aled Brew, Ryan Griffiths, Ryan Evans (captain), Sean Wilcox, Louis Rees, Steff Williams (replaced by Ryan Harris), Nicky Griffiths (replaced by Luc Jones), Jack Powell (replaced by Gareth Lloyd), Sion Crocker (replaced by Josh Clark), Tim Ryan, Matthew Davies, Jon Barley, Elis Hopkins (replaced by Morgan Kneath), Owain Morgan and David Griggs.

Pontypool: Geraint Walsh, Amosa Nove, Pat Lewis, Joel Mahoney (replaced by Dai Langdon), Deon Smith, Matthew Jarvis, Dai Jones (replaced by Owain Leonard), Kyan Best (replaced by Sam Cochrane), Peter Lloyd, Kelvyn Williams (replaced by Tom Piper), Garin Price (replaced by the returning Mike Herbert), Ashley Sweet, Mike Herbert (captain, replaced by Scott Matthews), Callum Davies and Ieuan Jones.


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