Leighton Jones once again praised the fitness and competitiveness of the squad as a late surge saw Pontypool RFC come from behind to secure a hard-fought victory over Bargoed RFC and progress to the last four of the WRU Championship Cup.
Pooler were trailing by three points until late pressure saw them push their way into home territory and bag two tries in the final 10 minutes to set up a semi-final clash with Neath RFC in March.
It was a difficult start at Bargoed Park as the hosts raced into a 14-0 lead with flanker Mike Herbert and full-back Huw Anderson both being sent to the sin-bin.
However, flanker Callum Davies and Anderson pulled Pooler back into the game, along with two Matthew Jarvis conversions, while home scrum-half James Leadbetter also spent 10 minutes on the sidelines.
A Steffan Jones penalty was all that separated the two sides at the break.
Jones and Jarvis traded penalties in the second half and it stayed that way until the 73rd minute when prop Peter Lloyd forced the ball over the line for his first try for the club with outside-half Jarvis adding the extras.
Captain Scott Matthews made it safe with a try soon after before Jones set up a tense finish with another three pointer.
“I don’t think you can ever question the boys’ character,” said a defiant Jones.
“We always believe, wherever we are, that we’ve got the capability of scoring and winning games.
“The frustrating part is we seem to start slow and give teams a lead and then that gives us the kick that we need to go out and start playing.
“Again [we showed] massive character, massive togetherness from the boys. All of them on the field did a job and the boys are so tight and they work for each other so much that they ground that one out.
“Gareth’s doing a great job with the boys’ conditioning and they show they can play for 80 minutes.
“I think the squad is massively competitive, the boys who came off the bench on 55-60 minutes led that resurgence of energy and helped when we were up 10 metres from Bargoed’s line and we went through multiple phases of carrying to power our way over the line, four boys have come off the bench in the pack and added to that.
“There are a lot of work-ons and negative parts of our game but this is a difficult place to come and they are a decent team.
“They put away Neath here two weeks ago so for us it’s a massive boost to come here and put last season right.”
Jones has always taken a one game at a time approach and so focus will now switch back to the WRU Admiral National Championship before a showdown with the Welsh All Blacks in eight weeks.
“All you can do in the cup is win your game and you go in the hat,” he added.
“That’s already been drawn so we know our opposition and it isn’t getting any easier but in the semi-final of the cup nothing is easy.
“The focus will go back to the league next week and we’ll address the cup when we get to it.
“We’ve got some rearranged games coming up and some difficult places to go so for us the focus is on next week and then the week after.
“To keep building and developing what we are doing and keep challenging the coaches and players and hopefully keep churning out the Ws.”