[Pontypridd RFC] Ponty suffered an early blow as hooker Dai Thomas departed with a shoulder injury, replaced by Lloyd Hayden, with Ebbw holding a territorial advantage to put the Sardis side on the back foot.
Ponty edged their way back into contention, allowing full back Jason Pocock to stroke over a penalty with eight minutes gone. Neither side had as yet imposed themselves on the game, with few fluid passages of play to entertain the sizeable crowd at Eugene Cross Park. The Ponty defence was caught flat footed as a short pop up pass from Ebbw outside half Byron Hayward sent centre Matthew Griffiths crashing through for a try, which Hayward then converted. Ponty’s response was a mid range penalty from Jason Pocock, narrowing their deficit to 7pts to 6 with a quarter of an hour gone.
With the contest still pretty much a stalemate, it was Pocock who once more eyed up the posts to hoist over another penalty to edge Ponty into the lead. The game moved laboriously into its second quarter without really having got out of the starting blocks, the odd knock on and forward pass stemming the flow of play. It was the long range line kicking of Byron Hayward that gave Ebbw the platform to attack, stealing Ponty line out ball to creep up into the visitors twenty-two. To their credit the Ponty youngsters stood firm in the face of some concerted drives by the Steelmen, keeping their line intact. Ebbw kept up their momentum, working some good angles in midfield for centre Griffiths to batter his way through for another try, once more converted by Hayward, with thirty-five minutes gone.
Try as they might, Ponty could not generate any continuity in their play, with hesitancy and handling errors costing them dearly in their efforts. Their woes were compounded as hooker Lloyd Hayden was stretchered off, replaced by prop Ryan Harford, the half time break coming as a welcome relief for Ponty, giving them the chance to regroup, whilst trailing by 14pts to 9.
Mark Lewis came out for the second half as replacement for Lee Evans, with Ponty doing their best to move the ball along the back line in the early exchanges, but still making little headway across the gain line. Another substitution saw Lee Fuge coming on for Ioan Jones, to join in the game’s passive scrums, as Ebbw launched a concerted surge towards the Ponty try line, putting the visitors defence under intense pressure. The Steelmen finally settled for a penalty from in front of the posts kicked by Hayward, to increase their lead to 17pts to 9. Ponty’s catalogue of injuries continued to mount, Jason Pocock limping off to be replaced by Kevin Morgan, with fifty-one minutes gone.
Turning over possession, Ponty were at last able to launch a foray into the home twenty-two led by a kick and chase from winger Matthew Rowlands. Following a series of short forward drives, centre Jason Lewis cleverly rode a tackle to stretch over for a try, only for Ebbw to respond immediately with a penalty from the dependable boot of Byron Hayward. Ponty in turn broke away on a counter offensive with a run down the line by Richard Fussell, but the winger unceremoniously hauled into touch well short of his destination. Ponty were now at least laying claim to a fair share of possession, and attempting to utilise it at pace along their back line. Setting up a drive from an attacking line out, Ponty surged deep into the home twenty-two, but failing to make that vital thrust over the try line.
Continuing to poach possession in the contact area, Ponty always looked menacing on the break out, but with Ebbw themselves enjoying the longer periods of sustained pressure, in an encounter that was now fast and loose going into its last ten minutes. Ponty brought on Tommy Walsh for Matthew Thomas at scrum half, as they strove hard to launch an offensive from deep within their own half. The home team continued to pose a threat with their barging attacking play, using their forward bulk to pound into the Ponty defence. A mid range penalty, hoisted majestically through the posts by Hayward, increased Ebbw’s advantage, going into injury time. Ponty kept gamely plugging away in attack, now playing against the clock as well as the home defence. A concerted drive from a line out five metres out saw the Ponty pack piling over the line for no 8 Daniel Godfrey to claim a try, converted from a wide angle by outside half Richard Langmead, but proving to be only a consolation score as the final whistle immediately followed.
An introduction to the harsh realities of life in the new premier division had seen Ponty consigned to a narrow defeat, by 23pts to 21, in their first outing of the season.