24.4.2007 Caerleon 0 – 54 Pontypridd
Saturday 21st April saw the upstarts travel to Caerleon for a friendly fixture. Caerleon are currently in Division four of the Dragons area league, some five divisions above young Ponty, but are having a difficult season, so the upstarts were hopeful of adding another higher division scalp to this seasons playing record.
Ponty were without scrum half Liam Stacey who was ruled out from the facial injury he received last week at Canton and lock Nathaniel Williams who has a dislocated shoulder. Also missing for Ponty were wings Lewis Williams, Stephen Parker and Ben Miles all with long term injuries.
Ponty selected a new look line up against Caerleon, taking the opportunity to rest some of the walking wounded in the squad, so flanker Dafydd Gristock took a place on the bench to allow Mike Davies his first start since aggravating his long standing knee problem against Cal Poly and prop Dale Pugh, who has been struggling with a hand injury, switched to the bench to allow James Sullivan to return.
Caerleon appeared to have quite a big pack and Ponty anticipated a real struggle up front, however Ponty seemed to dominate the forward exchanges from the first whistle. Dean Maisey and Owain Kingsbury dominated the line-outs regardless whose throw and at the scrum Ponty were driving their opponents backwards with ease.
It was from one of these scrums that Ponty made the first breakthrough, hooker Cai Daniel stole a scrum against the head and the ball was moved quickly to the left wing. When the move broke down just ten metres out, Ponty were quick to recycle, but with numbers out right, flyhalf Smith opted to pop a short ball to rampaging prop Marc Jones, who was just held up on the try line. Ponty managed to recycle again, but again the overlap was ignored with Jon Reid playing at lock, opting to try to power through. Yet again brave defence held him out, but as it looked like the danger was over, scrumhalf Sam Studley ripped the ball clear and darted over on the blindside of the ruck for a try wide out on the left that was converted by Simms.
Ponty were now clearly dominating at all phases and it wasn't long before Lewis Smith expertly unlocked the Caerleon defence. In a set move, his reverse pass put centre Dan Dearden in space and Dan made no mistake, with his trademark powerful running he crossed under the posts for Ponty's second try that was again converted by Simms.
Caerleon then requested passive scrums as their hooker was struggling with an injury, so after a lengthy discussion with the coaches and referee the game proceeded on this basis. Ponty's next try was a scrappy affair; the Ponty midfield launched an attack on the half way, before threading a cross-field grubber kick for right wing Ben Troake to chase. Troake seemed destined to score, until he was taken out with a professional foul, however lock Jon Reid was following up in excellent fashion and pounced on the loose ball that had bounced over the try-line for Ponty's third try that again was converted by Simms.
Simms was next on the score-sheet, when another training ground move came off in textbook fashion. Simms was able to run straight through the confused Caerleon defence without a hand being laid on him for a well worked try under the posts that he also converted to take the half time score to 28 -0.
Ponty rang the changes at half time, bringing on Dafydd Gristock, Dale Pugh, lock Drew Evans and hooker Sam Oliver. After only five minutes a simple midfield run-around move, saw Dearden burst through some weak tackling and power away for his second try of the match before being replaced by Tom Newberry. Simms again added the conversion to take the score to Caerleon 0 Pontypridd 35.
Good line out work from the forwards saw Maisey steal a Caerleon throw near half way. Ponty no. 8 Alun Thomas took the play on and drove through the tired Caerleon defence before offloading to the midfield. Quick hands saw the ball pass to wing Troake, who threw an excellent inside dummy to beat his opposite number before being stopped a metre short by an excellent tackle from the Caerleon full back. The Ponty forwards were quickly to recycle and after brave defence from Caerleon had thwarted attempts by Studley along with Dean Maisey to barge over from close range, wing Troake was able to pick the ball up from the ruck to wriggle over from a metre out for Ponty's sixth try.
Caerleon had further problems only minutes later when their fullback, who had been their best player, was knocked unconscious in the tackle while attempting to launch a counterattack. Play was held up for five minutes while he received treatment and with Caerleon having no further replacements, hooker Cai Daniel gamely volunteered to come back on and play for Caerleon. In fact Daniel was to prove a real handful for Ponty and his defensive efforts prevented a number of promising Ponty attacks.
Ponty made further changes with Rhys Ashman replacing Studley at scrum half, Tom Newberry replacing Dan Dearden and lock Owain Kingsbury returning from the blood bin to replace Mike Davies. Kingsbury was quick to make his mark when he won quality mid-line ball from Oliver, he gave an excellent off the top pass to Ashman who launched another attack from half way. Smith and Newberry showed quick hands to put Lewis Egal in space and he raced through the Caerleon defence before expertly drawing the replacement full back and then passing to Gristock who had supported in true open-side fashion. Gristock was able to stroll in under the posts for a fantastic team try that was again converted by Simms.
The next try came after a wayward defensive kick from Caerleon was collected on the Ponty ten metre line by Simms who in his usual fashion outsprinted the tiring Caerleon defence for his second try of the game that he again converted to take his personal score for the game to 24 points leaving him one point short of 200 for the season.
The try by Simms signalled the end of the game as the referee decided to blow up early under the 50 point rule applicable in Youth rugby, with the final score being Caerleon 0 Pontypridd 54.
Once again there were some impressive performances for Ponty, with Studley outstanding once again and getting his first try for the club. The midfield impressed again, with Dearden in particular demonstrating his fantastic potential. Maisey, Jones, Davies and Thomas were all excellent in the pack, and Cai Daniel had an excellent game, both in the first half for Ponty and in the second when he gamely gave his all for Caerleon.
However this weeks man of the match was Owain Kingsbury who has been a revelation since switching from wing to lock over the last month and had a brilliant game yesterday, where he out-jumped his opposite number time and again to dominate the line out area alongside Dean Maisey.
The Ponty players, coaches and officials all wish a speedy recovery to the Caerleon full back, who proved a real thorn in the Ponty side before his injury.
TRY scorers for Pontypridd: Sam Studley, Dan Deardon (2), Jon Reid, Ben Troake, Dafydd Gristock and Rhys Simms (2). Rhys Simms kicked 7 conversions.
Man of the match: Owain Kingsbury.
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Gwerthiant tocynnau tymor ar i fyny, llu o noddwyr newydd, carfan gref... beth yw'r arolygon i Bontypridd am y tymor i ddod? Season ticket sales on the increase, new sponsors on board, a strong playing squad... what are the season's prospects for Pontypridd RFC?