Winning turnover ball from the kick-off, Pontypridd took a hold of total possession to dominate the early exchanges, but without threatening a score. The home side struck back with some good driving play, earning a penalty opportunity which their outside half Paul Emmanuelli pulled just short of the target. A combination of their own mistakes and Blackwood’s sheer endeavour sent Ponty back tracking, with every indication of a tough cup battle on the agenda. As a Neil Burnett chip kick was intercepted, Blackwood surged forwards on a break and were unlucky to be called back for a knock-on.
Ponty responded with a neat midfield break by centre Dacey, winger Gavin Close up in support, but tackled into touch. The visitors were securing a steady stream of line out possession, and gaining ground from the long distance punts of Neil Burnett. At last able to spread the ball wide, Ponty cut loose with a Jason Pocock break, with winger Chris Clayton going close to scoring. From the resultant five metre scrum, the Ponty eight shunted over the line for Nathan Strong to claim a try which went unconverted.
Blackwood remained fully competitive, fronting up to their premiership rivals in an evenly balanced contest. Another sharp break from Dacey supported by Clayton showed glimpses of what Ponty could achieve, but failing to dominate due to handling errors and missed options. A quick tap penalty and an electrifying break by young scrum half Downes gave Ponty a great attacking opportunity, but then losing their momentum. Following up on a big driving maul, Rhys Downes set off on another long distance break but winger Close hauled down short of the line.
It was eventually a penalty opportunity from twenty-five metres out which gave Ponty the chance to improve their advantage, Neil Burnett hoisting the ball between the posts. So ended a first period where Ponty had held territorial advantage for much of the time, but failed to convert that into any kind of dominance, and holding a slender eight point lead.
A kick and chase offensive gave Ponty some early second half impetus, a clever cross kick by Neil Burnett giving centre Paul Matthews the opportunity to dive in for a try right on the corner flag. Undaunted, Blackwood responded by taking the game back to their opponents, once more aided by the visitors’ unforced errors. A concerted phase of forward pressure gave Blackwood the score that they deserved, their pack driving over for a try claimed by Lewis Lovell and converted by Emmanuelli.
The game was now opening up as Ponty retaliated with a period of attack, both Clayton and Downes going close to scoring before flanker Wayne O’Connor crossed for a try in the corner, hoisting Ponty into a 7pts to 18 lead. Handling errors were still blighting Ponty’s efforts, but an opportunist kick and chase attack seeing replacement winger Kristian Baller going desperately close to scoring in the corner. A spate of substitutions gave the visitors some fresh momentum, the ball whipped out effectively along the back line for winger Chris Clayton to squeeze in for a corner flag touchdown.
Achieving a solid platform in the set pieces, with a strong scrummage in their armoury, Ponty continued to advance, and were able to trigger their back line into action. A hoisted cross kick from Neil Burnett was gathered by Clayton to cross for another try, which again went unconverted.
To their credit, Blackwood remained defiant to the end, driving into their opponents’ twenty-two before a kick and chase counter from Kristian Baller took play back into home territory. There were some exciting passages of play, end to end, as both teams set off on attacks and counter attacks in fast and loose fashion. Blackwood set off on a breakaway upfield only for centre James to stumble with a try begging. It was Ponty who finished off on the offensive, a late period of pressure going unrewarded as both Duane Goodfield and Rhys Shellard crossed the try line, but called back for foot in touch and a knock-on respectively.
Ponty’s passage into the quarter finals of the Konica Minolta Cup was thus ensured as the final whistle blew on a highly competitive match, with the final scoreline of 7pts – 28 flattering the premiership side against their fully committed division one hosts.
15.Jason Pocock. 14.Chris Clayton. 13.Gavin Dacey (Adam Thomas). 12.Paul Matthews. 11.Gavin Close (Kristian Baller). 10.Neil Burnett. 9.Rhys Downes (Andrew Jenkins).
1.Ian Poley. 2.Rhys Williams (Duane Goodfield). 3.Ryan Harford (Stuart Williams). 4.Ryan Savage. 5.Grant Harrington (Chris Martenko). 6.Wayne O’Connor (Geraint Lewis). 7.Rhys Shellard. 8.Nathan Strong – cpt.
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