Tries by Joel Mahoney, Dylan Kelleher-Griffiths and Alex Grey.
Conversions by Matthew Jarvis (2).
Penalties by Matthew Jarvis (2).
Tries by Ryan Jenkins and a penalty try.
Conversion by Evan Lloyd.
Penalties by Evan Lloyd (2).
Determined Pooler pip Ebbw in close and exciting Gwent derby
Ebbw Vale were welcome visitors to Pontypool Park as these two old rivals took to the stage on Thursday evening under the floodlights, as the game was brought forward from the original Saturday date due to live coverage by S4C Clic, writes Ray Ruddick. The Scrum V cameras were also present. It was always going to be a tight and tense affair as both clubs have started well in this season’s Indigo Premiership, just losing one game each and winning six. In front of a crowd of around 2,500, including former Pontypool and Wales captain and British Lion Terry Cobner who is the next WRU President, and in a wonderful atmosphere, Pooler and Ebbw produced an exciting game which was a great advert for Premiership rugby, not only in Gwent but in Wales. The three Gwent sides occupy the top four places in the league table and Pooler and Ebbw showed why they are making the running in a game that could have gone either way but in the end Pooler managed to hang on for a hard-fought and deserved victory.
Ebbw Vale kicked off attacking the scoreboard end of the ground on a very wet and cold autumnal evening. Storm Ciaran, with its high winds and heavy rain, had battered Wales and parts of England and Northern Ireland in the previous 24 hours had thankfully passed, but the playing conditions were difficult as the ground and ball were slippery. However, credit to the ground staff who produced a good pitch, despite the elements. Pontypool were in their changed kit of predominantly black.
Ebbw made the early running, asking questions of the Pooler defence. Ebbw were on the attack and in the sixth minute with play near the Pooler goal line, number eight Ryan Jenkins burrowed over for a try near the left upright. Outside half Evan Lloyd converted (0-7). After a quarter-of-an-hour’s play Pooler were penalised at a scrum, 15 metres in on Ebbw’s right, 2 metres inside Pooler’s half but the attempt at goal went to the left of the posts. Three minutes later a late tackle on home scrumhalf Morgan Lloyd after the youngster had put in a box kick, resulted in a penalty for the home side where the ball landed, 15 metres in on Pontypool’s left on Ebbw’s 22. Outside half Matthew Jarvis slotted the kick at goal (3-7).
Half way through the first period Pooler, from a turnover, spread the ball wide from Ebbw’s 10-metre line. After some good passing, centre Joel Mahoney took the ball just inside Ebbw’s half, beat the visiting defence on the outside and glided over for a try to the right of the posts. Matthew Jarvis added the extras (10-7). In the second 20 minutes of the first half there was very little to choose between the two sides and no scoring occurred. Then in the third minute of injury time Pontypool were penalised for tackling a player without the ball, inside their 22 almost in front of the posts and Evan Lloyd kicked the goal (10-10). Four minutes later play was inside Pooler’s 22 and home left wing Walker Price was adjudged to have deliberately knocked-on. He was yellow carded and Ebbw awarded a penalty try. Half time score – Pontypool 10 Ebbw Vale 17.
Pontypool had the wind behind them in the second half. In the fourth minute after the interval Pooler changed both props, with Dylan Kelleher-Griffiths taking over from Sam Cochrane at loose head and Ollie Drake replacing tight head Kelvyn Williams. In the 50th minute Pooler were putting the visitors’ defence under pressure and, with play near the Ebbw goal line, Dylan Kelleher-Griffiths powered over for a try, 15 metres in on Pooler’s right. Matthew Jarvis slipped when taking the conversion and the ball struck the left upright but did not go over (15-17). Home full back Matt Bancroft, who had taken an earlier knock, was replaced by Josh Malson. Two minutes later the home side were penalised for taking out a player, 35 metres from their goal line and to the right of the posts. Evan Lloyd stepped up and kicked the goal (15-20). Mike Herbert was then replaced by Ben Moa in the Pontypool back row. In the 58th minute Ebbw Vale’s loose head prop, Morgan Davies, was sin binned for not rolling away at a ruck deep inside their 22.
Just after the hour mark, Pooler made another change with Matthew Flanagan taking over from Morgan Lloyd. In the 65th minute Pontypool were penalised at a scrum for hinging on their 22, 15 metres in on Ebbw’s left but the kick at goal went wide. Then Sam Scarfe made way for Peter Lloyd in the middle of the Pooler front row and on 73 minutes Adam Stratton replaced flanker Callum Davies and second row Lance Randall made way for Alex Grey to complete Pooler’s replacements as they strive to get that winning score. A minute later an Pooler were on the attack deep inside Ebbw’s 22 and Alex Grey made an impact straight away when he barged over for a try near the posts. Matthew Jarvis converted to put the home side into a slender lead (22-20). In the 80th minute Ebbw Vale were penalised at a retreating scrum, 35 metres from their line on Pooler’s left and, despite slipping again, Matthew Jarvis kicked the goal (25-20). There was still time for the Steelmen to put everything into attack but Pooler held their nerve and ran out narrow but worthy winners. Final score – Pontypool 25 Ebbw Vale 20. S4C's player-of-the-match was Morgan Lloyd.
There were no fewer than seven players in the Ebbw squad who had played for Pooler and four in the Pooler squad who had played for Ebbw. Also there were brothers opposing each with Morgan Lloyd for the hosts and Evan Lloyd for the visitors. Both teams gave their all so congratulations to Pontypool on their seventh consecutive league victory and full credit to Ebbw Vale, who are a very good team and difficult to break down, as they contributed to a close and exciting Gwent derby in front of the TV cameras. Pontypool seem to have the ability of winning close games, which must be down to their confidence and self-belief. Well done also to Wales’ leading referee Craig Evans, fresh from his touch-judging duties at the Rugby World Cup, who handled the derby game well. The next challenge for Pooler, and it is another big one, is a trip to high-flying Llandovery, last season’s Premiership champions, on Saturday 11 November, kick-off at Church Bank will be at 2.30pm.
Pontypool: Matt Bancroft (replaced by Josh Malson), Pat Lewis, Joel Mahoney, Amosa Nove, Walker Price, Matthew Jarvis, Morgan Lloyd (replaced by Matthew Flanagan), Sam Cochrane (replaced by Dylan Kelleher-Griffiths), Sam Scarfe (replaced by Peter Lloyd), Kelvyn Williams (replaced by Ollie Drake), Lance Randall (replaced by Alex Grey), Ashley Sweet, Mike Herbert (replaced by Ben Moa), Callum Davies (replaced by Adam Stratton) and Scott Matthews (captain).
Ebbw Vale: Morgan Richards, Carrick McDonough, Ethan Phillips, Dom Franchi, Jordan Thomas, Evan Lloyd, Jon Evans, Morgan Davies, Rhys Francis (captain), Harry Drane, Dylan Bartlett, Jakub Malecki, Cameron Regan, Lewis Young and Ryan Jenkins. Replacements: Ieuan Morris, Luke Garrett, Adam Court, Curtis Gregory, Chad Thomas, Rory Harries, Kieran Meek and Gethin Williams.