Most of the Pontypridd RFC development teams were in action last weekend, after a lay off due to the holiday season and the terrible weather. There were good wins for the Youth XV, and for the U-12, U-11 and U-7/8 sides, but the U-13s lost narrowly to Llantrisant. Read on for a full report on the Youth game and all the results and scorers for the other sides.
The Youth XV win again - Talywain 5 - Pontypridd 10
On Saturday 13th January Young Ponty travelled away to Talywain in the Pontypool Valley for a tough fixture in dreadful conditions with gale force wind and driving rain.
Talywain are currently top of division B in the Dragons Youth leagues, and have an impressive record this season losing only twice to date. They are an experienced youth side and favourites to win promotion to the national league at the end of the season. They had recently beaten the Impressive Ystrad Rhondda youth side, who knocked Ponty out of the cup before Christmas, so we knew it was going to be a battle.
Ponty were reinforced by the welcome return to fitness ahead of schedule of no 8 Dean Maissey and flying 7 Dafydd Gristock. Also Ponty were able to give a last game to their young Boks, flyhalf Johannes Pretorius and hooker Steyn De Vos, before they return to South Africa on Tuesday. With Drew Evans still not available, abrasive flanker Jonny Reid stepped in to play at lock, with Pretorius playing inside centre. With the main Talywain pitch heavily waterlogged the game was switched to an alternative pitch with a noticeable slope, that although well drained, had lost a set of posts in the gales, so there were no kicks at goal permitted by the referee.
Ponty played with the wind in the first half, and against the odds were bossing the game at front. With key jumper Dean Maissey dominating at the front of the line, and Jon Reid taking good ball in the middle, Ponty were able to use the wind to good effect, kicking deep into Talywain's half and using the driving line out, which had been Ponty's achilles heel in recent months, to our advantage. From a text book catch and drive, Ponty nearly opened the scoring when a brilliant driving maul crossed the Talywain line, however the referee was unable to see the grounding and awarded a scrum.
Ponty went close a number of times, with Flyhalf Lewis Smith unlocking his centres and full back for a series of elaborate moves in the Talywain 22 in difficult conditions, and it was only desperate defence that stopped a number of possible try scoring moves. The game started to become a bad tempered affair, and with Talywain unable to get out of their half during the first 20 minutes, frustrations boiled over, with a number of fights breaking out a Talywain player was warned after a clear stamp to the head of Ponty prop James Sullivan.
With tempers becoming increasingly frail, it was inevitable that the referee was going to make an example of someone, and after a further off the ball incident, the Talywain tight head prop was yellow carded. Ponty took advantage of this extra man, and forced a line out deep in the Talywain half. Once again a superb catch and drive saw Ponty held up just short, but quick ball to Lewis Smith saw him break blind, jink through one attempted tackle, and although ankle tapped short of the try line, stretch out and place the ball between the full backs legs for what seemed a well deserved try, which surprisingly was disallowed by the referee and a penalty awarded for a double movement.
The second half saw Ponty make a number of changes, with the loss of prop Dale Pugh, scrum half Liam Stacey and wing Ben Troake to hand injuries, and centre Dan Dearden to a broken nose, Marc Jones came on at prop, blindside Sam Studley switched to scrum half, Mike Davies came on at No. 6, Tom Newberry at centre, and Max Padfield at wing.
Ponty were really fired up for the second half and the physical approach of Talywain, seemed to galvanise the Ponty players rather than intimidate them, and although playing into the gale, Ponty played some brilliant rugby, with emergency scrum half Sam Studley, showing his regional experience, by bossing his pack and really taking the game to Talywain. With prop James Sullivan immense in the mauls, and having his best game of the season, Ponty were able to dominate the forward exchanges, and with Reid having a dynamic game at lock and his second row partner Nathaniel Williams driving at the heart of the Talywain defence, it was inevitable that Ponty would open the scoring.
The score when it happened was a classic, the Ponty forwards with Williams, Reid, Marc Jones and Sullivan to the fore stopped a Talywain maul in midfield and started to drive the maul backwards, the Talywain scrum half fearing a turn over snatched the ball and threw a wayward pass to his outside half under immense pressure from Gristock and Maissey. The flyhalf was crunched by the Ponty back row players and was expertly tackled by Gristock who tore the ball away and fed Studley who spotted a gap, raced through and then fed flyhalf Smith who dummied past the last defender for an excellent try.
With the score at 5 - 0 to Ponty, Talywain threw everything at the Ponty defence, and put them under tremendous pressure, however excellent tackling from the Ponty midfield stopped attack after attack. With the back row of Gristock, Davies and Maissey outstanding at the ruck and with Jones, Reid and Sullivan using their strength to disrupt and destroy the Talywain mauling game, frustrations boiled over, and after Maissey had stolen another Talywain line out, his opposite number took the law into his own hands resulting in an ugly brawl involving both packs, the referee yellow carding both players at the centre of the incident.
With less than five minutes to play, the excellent Reid turned over Talywain possession deep in his own half and full back Lewis Egal was able to drill a perfect low kick into the gale and ease pressure. Ponty then attempted to push for another score to make certain, and Studley put another magnificent kick upfield and with the Ponty backs hounding the Talywain fullback, he appeared to drop the awkwardly bouncing ball, however on recollecting it, he burst through the heart of the Ponty defence and was able to release his wing for a cruel equalising score.
With only two minutes to go, the game seemed destined for a draw, however the Ponty players seemed stung by the decision not to award them a scrum in the earlier incident, and wouldn't lie down and accept the draw. Once again with the back row, Studley, Smith and Pretorius to the fore they launched a last ditch attack and despite appalling conditions, took play deep into the Talywain 22. With Talywain penalised for killing the ball at the ruck, and with no penalty kicks at goal permitted, Studley quickly drilled the ball into the face of the wind, winning an excellent 5 metre line out.
With Maissey off the field, stand in jumper Mike Davies leapt magnificently to win the throw, and tapped down to Studley who drove for the line, with his pack pouring in behind him, they drove up to the Talywain try line, and when the maul appeared to have stopped, emergency lock Reid peeled away from the maul, ball in hand and was driven over by the rest of the pack for the second try.
With most players thinking the game was over, the referee allowed one more play, and a defensive mix up saw the excellent Talywain inside centre burst through down the left side of the field, and with support runners either side, the equalising score seemed certain, until a heroic match winning tackle off wing Max Padfield not only cut him down, but forced him to throw the ball wildly forward as he attempted the scoring pass. The final score was Talywain 5, Pontypridd 10.
It was difficult to pick a Ponty man of the match, with the whole pack, and Gristock, Reid, Maissey and Williams in particular all shining. Sam Studley game a fantastic display as emergency scrum half, and Smith and Padfield gave excellent performances, but the outstanding performer of the day had to be prop James Sullivan who gave 150% and in a tight game in miserable conditions used his giant frame to dominate the opposition in all the tight phases of the game.
The whole Ponty squad, coaches and management would like to thank Johannes and Steyn for their commitment over the last month, and we wish them well on their return to South Africa. Good luck boys, you will be really missed and please keep in touch, as we could do with you coming back for a long holiday next season! And remember lads, you might be back in Cape Town, but you're "Valley boys" now.
UNDER 7/8's Pontypridd 60 - 15 Llantrisant TRY Scorers for Pontypridd: Dafydd Smith, Iwan Cavil (2), Jay Jones (2), Joshua Barnes, Keilan Mahoney, Owian Morris, Rhodri Smith (2), Carl Blacker and Callam 'Tucker' Hall.
UNDER 11's Pontypridd 40 - 14 Llantrisant TRY Scorers for Pontypridd: Lewis Garland (2), Shaun Gwynne (2), Connor Jones and Josh Phillips. Cody Baker kicked 5 conversions. Man of the match: Lewis Garland.
UNDER 12's Aberdare 7 - 43 Pontypridd TRY scorers for Pontypridd: Sam Edwards (3), Dion Holland (2), Jordan Rees and Ieuan Evans. Dion Holland kicked 4 Conversions.
UNDER 13's Llantrisant 17 - 14 Pontypridd
TRY scorers for Pontypridd: Joel Raikes and Kurt Schmylo. Dale Hughes kicked 2 conversions. Preece Removals Man of the Match: Michael Connor.
SWALEC Cup Final
Total votes 384
Atgyfodiad yn yr ail hanner yn cipio Cwpan SWALEC i Bontypridd yn erbyn Castell Nedd. Ar y maes cenedlaethol, pwy oedd arwr y dydd i Ponty? A second half revival clinches the SWALEC Cup for Pontypridd against Neath. At the national stadium who was the hero of the day for Ponty?