"This is your captain speaking..."
I would like to start this Captain's Blog with an apology for the lack of previous blogs over the summer period. Since the final game of last season which ultimately ended in disappointment against Llanelli I have had a busy summer.
I had the small matter of my own wedding to deal with as well as some off the field issues. So I would like to thank you for your patience and assure you the blogs will now be coming thick and fast!
Last season seemed to end on a sour note losing the Play Off Final against Llanelli and really took the gloss off what was a good campaign. I say good as winning the league and cup would’ve made it a great season. As players we knew the deal going into the final game and knew if we won that game we would go down in history as double winners.
It wasn’t to be and we must applaud Llanelli for dealing with the play off system well and walking off with the trophy - however much it hurt.
I’ve been asked a few times now what game really sticks out for me last season. In all honesty the game away to Neath, even though we lost was the game that sticks out in my mind. After this game I truly believed it was going to be a special season as it was a game we didn’t deserve to lose and the disappointment in the changing room afterwards was huge. In previous seasons we would’ve been happy to come away from the Gnoll only losing by three points but last season there was a change in attitude and mentality within the squad.
The start of a pre season period always brings fear to any player especially if you have enjoyed a two week all inclusive honeymoon in Mexico and this pre season was no different. Chief, Johnsy, Langers and especially Booly pushed us hard during this period even more so than last season. This period of the season shows you the boys who are willing to push themselves and the boys who shy away from hard work. Luckily in our squad all the boys put the hard work in and didn’t shy away from anything. There were also some ‘Keanos’ asking Booly for extra work after sessions, which isn’t a bad thing. During the summer we lost a few boys who were huge for us over the course of the last few seasons on and off the pitch.
Sigs, Darren and Baller just to name a few are boys who whenever they pulled on a Ponty jersey gave 100% effort and will be sorely missed over the course of this season as they are quality players. Luckily though at Ponty we don’t stand still and were able to recruit some ex Ponty players in Dan and Pat mixed in with some talented youngsters from surrounding clubs like Jordan and Harley. These boys are more than capable of filling the holes left by the boys who have left. For those of the boys who read this and wonder why they didn’t get a mention I do apologise.
So pre season was tough yet enjoyable with some good fixtures and a real test against the Blues. I thought we more than matched the Blues during the first 40 at Sardis and maybe should’ve gone in at half time ahead. The second half though was a different story as they blew us away, but I was proud of the way the boys stuck to the task and didn’t give up at any point during the game. After analysing the game and watching it back again we definitely had opportunities both 1st and 2nd half to score tries against and push a fully professional outfit.
The defeat though brought us back down to earth and made us realise we are not the finished article and have plenty to work on. The next game against Llandovery, after a sloppy first half saw us rectify the wrongs of the Blues game and take our opportunities scoring some great tries and coming away with a comfortable victory against a team within our own division.
The first game of the season was finally upon us with a difficult trip to Tonmawr. In poor conditions and against a team we didn’t really know, I was more than happy to come away with a 46 -6 victory and a try bonus point. Not many teams will go down to Tonmawr in terrible conditions and get a comfortable victory - we were off to a flyer. This was all to come tumbling down the following week at home against Aberavon. As a team we are very proud of our record when playing at home, so to lose our first game of the season at home really hurt. On the day Aberavon played the conditions far better than ourselves and showed how a good team closes out games.
Aberavon are a very good team who will definitely be pushing for honours at the end of the season. A few home truths were said during training after that game and the boys knew we needed a positive reaction at Pontypool Park. Although the game itself didn’t set the world alight, it was important for us to get back on track and get a W. After a poor first half performance we were able to grind out a win and were looking to push on for the bonus point, but some confusing decisions from the ref and the weather spoilt our momentum. Never the less a win is a win especially away from home.
Our last game saw us again on the road in Gwent against a much fancied Cross Keys team. Cross Keys have got off to a great start in the league winning their three games. They have recruited really well over the summer and we knew in order to win we would have to bring our A game and not go through the motions which we have been guilty of at times previously. Again we got off to our normal slow start and soon found ourselves 10 -3 down. This was soon 13-6 going into half time.
As a team though in the changing room we didn’t panic and were quite confident if we cut out our errors this was a game we were capable of winning. The second half we were a completely different team and really fronted up to an aggressive Cross Keys team. Gunter was kicking well out of hand and at post and we knew it was only a matter of time before we crossed their line. Lucky enough we did and after some good work from both forwards and backs Gunter was on hand to cross the line and score all our points in a hard fought victory. This win I hope has kick started our season and given us some momentum for the tough challenges ahead.
Away from the pitch the BIC draw has been kind to us with good trips to Ulster and Nottingham, then a massive home game against Leeds who were relegated from the English Premiership last season. Chuck in to the mixture a home game against Swansea and that creates a tough but winnable group. The BIC games are a step up in intensity from the Welsh Prem and are games where we can really measure ourselves against teams from outside our principality, packed with professional players. Obviously we would love to go one better than last season and reach the final this season, but as last year we can’t look past our group and take each game as it comes.
On a personal note I would like to thank you for all the well wishes I have received on my call up to play for Cyprus. Obviously every Welsh boy’s dream is to play for Wales, and I am no different. Pulling that red jersey on at u19 and 21 levels were the proudest moments of my life along with the cup win last season, but being realistic and where I am at this stage of my career when I had the call from Cyprus to go and play I jumped at the opportunity. I always joked with my father that one day I would play for Cyprus, and now it is actually happening I will be just as proud pulling that jersey on a week Saturday against Luxembourg. As mentioned before, I have no idea what to expect but it is an opportunity I intend to grasp with two hands and really enjoy.
Before I jet off to Cyprus though there is one game on my mind and it is a huge game - Llanelli this Saturday at home. All the boys are still hurting after the defeat last May and know a good win will not only get us some needed league points but will also go some way to eradicating the pain we felt that night.
Your support last season and the start of this season as I’ve stated on many occasions has been nothing short of phenomenal, and we are going to need as much support this Saturday to hopefully roar us onto victory. Please do not underestimate how important you are to us as a team, you really do give us a massive boost when you’re shouting us on home and away, although sometimes we do not play as if we deserve such a vocal backing.
I promise you each game we go out with the intention of playing to our optimum levels and this Saturday will be no different. So round up your friends and family and make your way down to Sardis to hopefully cheer us onto victory.
Play Off Final
Total votes 188
Ponty ar ben eu digon - pencampwyr dwbwl Cymru. Pwy oedd yn serennu yn y gem fawr yn erbyn Llanelli? Ponty on top of the world - double champions of Welsh rugby. Who starred in the big win over Llanelli?