Leighton Jones admitted that Pontypool weren’t at their best against Neath in the semi-final of the WRU Championship Cup but praised the togetherness of the squad as they dug in deep to secure their place in Cardiff in a few weeks’ time.
Matthew Jarvis, the man who knocked Pooler out the cup in 2018 and 2019, booted 16 points while Garin Price and Deon Smith both touched down to secure a famous victory at the CiNER Glass Community Stadium – the venue of heartbreak four years ago.
Neath threatened to spoil the party when Steffen Williams kicked three penalties but Pooler managed to keep them at arm’s length until Smith’s late try sealed the triumph.
Pooler will now head to the Principality Stadium to take on a Ystrad Rhondda side that ran them close at home in the league. A last-minute penalty try saw Pontypool snatch a 28-25 victory at Pontypool Park in October.
A jubilant Jones said: “There were a lot of nerves on there.
“I don’t think we played particularly well but that’s cup rugby, we took our chances when we had them and we kept the scoreboard ticking over with Jarv’s boot.
“Then towards the end we did start to try and play some stuff.
“From an attacking point we probably did keep it a bit tighter and probably didn’t go through as many phases as we would have liked.
“Defence was rock solid, we gave a couple of stupid penalties away and discipline cost us field position and the points they scored but our defence was solid.
“We were on our line phase after phase and the boys were up and working hard so fair play to them.
“They put that effort in, there will be some sore bodies.
“Neath are a good team, they are coached well.
“They were probably confident in all three games to turn us over.
“But I think it just shows even if we haven’t played that well and we’ve been under a bit of pressure, which we’re not normally used to, the boys stick together – the togetherness in the squad is the best I’ve seen through my coaching career – as a unit, they look after each other and work their socks off for each other.”
“All in all I’m massively pleased and proud of the boys. We’re just pleased we are in the final.”
Jones praised the quality of Matthew Jarvis, who lifted the WRU Cup in 2018, as his kicking set Pooler on their way to victory.
Although he stressed the importance of the team that provides Jarvis with the attempts from the tee.
“He's got a brilliant boot and he doesn’t miss many but we have to look at why we are in those positions as well,” he said.
“That is an element of his game and he is on that field at 5pm on Tuesday and Thursday, he’s out for an hour kicking every week so it’s no surprise,” said Jones.
“He’s so dedicated to training and he shows a lot of the young boys in the squad what dedication is.
“And at his age and keeping going like he is going and ticking them points over, he is fantastic for us.
“But also we’ve got to get in those positions and we’ve got to put teams under that pressure to give those penalties away so it’s definitely a team effort and he just knocks the points over.”
Jones was pleased for the entire club to have secured a place in the final, but none more so than the supporters, who once again turned up in their droves and inspired the team from the stands.
“They are fantastic. The noise they made,” Jones continued.
“The Pooler chant was back and something we spoke about as a group this week we’ve identified that they are a fantastic bunch of supporters and they deserve, more than us, to go to the stadium and to be in that final.
“So from our point of view we spoke about giving the fans and the volunteers something to really cheer and look forward to and we’re just glad for them that we’ve done it.”