Tries by Zac O’Driscoll, Tommy Morgan and Chris Williams.
Conversions by Luke Price (3).
Penalties by Luke Price (2).
Tries by Morgan Lloyd and Marcus Jones.
Conversions by Matthew Jarvis (2).
Penalties by Matthew Jarvis (3).
Pooler fell to disappointing defeat at Bridgend
Pontypool travelled along the M4 to the Dunraven Brewery Field on Saturday to take on traditional rivals Bridgend in the Indigo Premiership but fell just short, writes Ray Ruddick. Pooler last played Bridgend at the Brewery Field in December 2011 when they came away with a rare 27-19 victory, but Pooler’s last appearance at Bridgend’s home ground was a league game against Bridgend Athletic in April 2016, when Pooler also came away victorious 35-11. However, it wasn’t to be for Pontypool’s latest visit as, once again, Pooler gave their opponents a significant early lead.
Pontypool were in their changed strip of predominantly black. Bridgend kicked off defending the scoreboard/car park end of the ground on a fine and dry but cold afternoon. The home team started the stronger and in the seventh minute tested Pooler’s defence when flanker and captain Zac O’Driscoll scored a try to the left of the posts which outside half Luke Price converted (7-0). Three minutes later Bridgend were guilty of handling in a ruck 20 metres from their goal line and in front of the uprights. Outside half Matthew Jarvis slotted the shot at goal (7-3). In the 12th minutes Bridgend again looked threatening inside the visitors’ 22 and centre Tommy Morgan found room and crossed for a try behind the posts. Luke Price converted (14-3).
On 22 minutes the home defence were caught off guard when Pooler’s young scrum half Morgan Lloyd charged down a relieving kick and he managed to gather the ball on the goal line to touch down for a try to the right of the posts. This score was converted by Matthew Jarvis (14-10). Five minutes later visiting captain and number eight Scott Matthews went on a charge inside the Ravens' half but was high tackled just outside the home 22 to the left of the sticks and Matthew Jarvis kicked the goal to make it a one point game (14-13). In the 32nd minute the home side extended their lead with a well-worked try by scrum half Chris Williams who touched down 12 metres in from the right corner. Luke Price added the conversion (21-13). Four minutes later, a great break by Pooler left wing Amosa Nove with a powerful run which split the home defence and took play to near the home 22. He offloaded to the supporting Marcus Jones who took the ball at speed and the right wing crossed for a try under the posts. Matthew Jarvis converted to make the half time score at the end of an intriguing 40 minutes, Bridgend 21 Pontypool 20.
Seven minutes into the second period, Pooler were penalised at a ruck just outside their 22 and slightly to the right of the posts. Luke Price kicked the shot at goal (24-20). Pooler then changed both props with loose head Kyan Best, on his return from a long-term injury, making way for Sam Cochrane and Ollie Drake took over from Kelvyn Williams on the tight head. In the 54th minute Pooler second row Lewis Johnson was replaced by Lance Randall and five minutes later the visitors made another change when captain Scott Matthews was replaced by Ben Moa and again a minute later when Peter Lloyd took over from Sam Scarfe in the middle of the Pooler front row.
In the 66th minute Pontypool were caught offside 30 metres from their goal line in midfield and Luke Price slotted another penalty goal to extend his side’s advantage to seven points (27-20). Pontypool then made a further two changes when scrum half Morgan Lloyd made way for Matthew Flanagan and flanker Callum Davies was replaced by Adam Stratton. In the 72nd minute Bridgend were penalised at a ruck 25 metres from their goal line in front of the posts and Matthew Jarvis slotted the shot at goal to make it a very interesting final eight minutes or so, with everything to play for (27-23). There was about five minutes to go when Pooler made their final replacement as Josh Malson took over from full back Matt Bancroft. Despite their best efforts, Pontypool could not get that try which would have given them victory. Final score – Bridgend 27 Pontypool 23.
Pontypool’s defence in the first period looked shaky on occasions which gave Bridgend chances to score and they took three of them, but Pooler did well to fight back to only trail by a point at the interval. The first half was very open with mistakes on both sides but the second was a lot tighter as both defences got on top. In the end it was Bridgend who prevailed so well done to them. Apart from Amosa Nove’s break for Marcus Jones’ try, Pontypool seemed to lack a cutting edge behind and they must be kicking themselves as they gave their opponents an early 14-3 advantage as Pooler were always chasing the game. However, Pontypool did come away with a losing bonus point.
Pontypool’s next Indigo Premiership match will be on Saturday when they make the very long trip north to face RGC at Eirias Park in Colwyn Bay, kick-off 2.30pm. Pooler’s next home game will be two days before Christmas, on Saturday 23 December when Newport will be the welcome visitors to Pontypool Park for what promises to be a pulsating Christmas cracker as these two old foes face each other for the second time this season with Newport taking the first meeting in the opening league game of the season at Rodney Parade in early September. Kick-off for this eagerly-awaited, mouth-watering Gwent derby will be at 2.30pm, with a large crowd anticipated.
Bridgend: Edd Howley, Stuart Floyd-Ellis, Joseph Gatt, Tommy Morgan, Cameron Ellis, Luke Price, Chris Williams, Harry Olding, Gareth Harvey, Matholwch Iorwerth-Scott, Ben Thomas, Bradley Davies, Iestyn Merriman, Zac O’Driscoll (captain) and Jordan Collier. Replacements – Evan Yardley, Alex George, Liam Tobias, Jack Pope, Hemi Barnes, Alfie Llewellyn, Connor Tantum and Paul Short.
Pontypool: Matt Bancroft (replaced by Josh Malson), Marcus Jones, Pat Lewis, Joel Mahoney, Amosa Nove, Matthew Jarvis, Morgan Lloyd (replaced by Matthew Flanagan), Kyan Best (replaced by Sam Cochrane), Sam Scarfe (replaced by Peter Lloyd), Kelvyn Williams (replaced by Ollie Drake), Lewis Johnson (replaced by Lance Randall), Ashley Sweet, Mike Herbert, Callum Davies (replaced by Adam Stratton) and Scott Matthews (captain, replaced by Ben Moa).