The dream is over for another season. The day had started so well for Pontypridd as a large crowd of our supporters had made their way to Stradey Park, the sun was shining, and the cheer that greeted our team was much louder than that which welcomed the home side onto the park. It got better when Dai Flanagan kicked a penalty after three minutes to put is in the lead.
However, two minutes later the home side was in the lead. Llanelli were awarded a penalty about five metres out, and scrum-half Lee Williams caught our defence fast asleep as he took a quick tap penalty to cross for a good poacher’s try. The game was fast and furious, and the next try came in the seventh minute when Kristian Baller got a superb try for Pontypridd after an excellent long pass from Dai Flanagan and a twenty metre run in, breaking two tackles on the way. Both conversions were missed, and the score was 5-8 to Ponty.
Things quietened down for a while, then on about the fifteenth minute Lawrence Price made a good run down the right, getting well into the Llanelli twenty-two metre area. Unable to get his pass out to Baller, the ball was knocked out of his hand by a Llanelli player. The defence was unable to clear, however, and gave away a penalty which Dai Flanagan easily converted. It was now 5-11 to Pontypridd, and we were doing well.
It was not to last. Ponty fiddled about trying to run the ball out of their own twenty-two, and were putting themselves under pressure when a kick down field with the strong wind behind it would have been a better option. A Llanelli counterattack saw Chris Clayton driven into touch, and this led to a to a five-metre linout. Ponty defended it poorly, and the Llanelli hooker Craig Hawkins was easily driven over from close range.
Worse was to come. Lee Williams did yet more damage in the middle of the half when he made an excellent break for flanker Jonathan Edwards to run a good 22 metres to the try line. Another Dai Flanagan penalty made it 17-14 before that man Williams cropped up again to hurt Pontypridd. A knock under under our posts led to a scrum for Llanelli, and Williams was on hand to send a long pass out to wing Matthew Jacobs, who crossed in the corner. It was now 22-14 to Llanelli, and the game was drifting away from Pontypridd. A super penalty by Dai Flanagan right on half time gave us some hope, however, as we went in only five points down. But Ponty now had to turn around to play against the wind.
The first twenty minutes of the second half belonged almost completely to Llanelli. Ponty fiddled about again on their twenty-two metre line until the almost inevitable knock on occurred. The resulting scrum led to a good attack for the home side down the left, and a missed tackle saw the full back Daniel Evans scrape home for a try on the corner flag. Now it was Llanelli’s turn to kick for goal with the wind behind them, and Rhys Priestland made no mistake with a beautifully struck conversion.
Shortly afterwards man-of-the-match Lee Williams was at it again, scoring his second try, again converted by Priestland. It was now 34-17, and there looked to be no way back for Ponty. However, the introduction of Stuart Williams, Ian Poley, and Dale McIntosh improved our forward effort late in the game, and as Llanelli tired we began to put more pressure on their line. Ponty had nothing to lose now, and threw everything at the home side.
Neil Burnett, on for Dai Flanagan, kicked a penalty to put Ponty within two scores of a draw with about fifteen minutes to go. However, a Llanelli penalty made it 37-20, and three scores were again needed. Further pressure on the Llanelli line saw Dafydd Lockyer touch down in the corner, but now goal kicking was very difficult against the wind and the conversion just failed. Another attack put Nathan Strong over for Ponty’s third try, but again the conversion went wide. It was now 37-30, and shortly afterwards the referee blew for time.
There is no doubt that the Sospans were the better team on the day, and deserved their victory by six tries to three. The Llanelli pack was on top for much of the game, destroyed our scrum on a few occasions, and disrupted our lineout. Their back row forwards and half backs were thus given the platform to keep the pressure on Ponty. It was only the boot of David Flanagan that kept us in the game in the first half. Despite the wind at our backs we were unable to play enough rugby in the home half to threaten them.
There is no doubt that we won the first and last ten minutes of the game, but Llanelli dominated most of the sixty minutes in between. Pontypridd naver gave up, and always showed some good touches throughout the game, but were just second best on the day.
15. Lawrence Price; 14. Chris Clayton, 13. Gavin Dacey, 12. Dafydd Lockyer, 11. Kristian Baller (rep. Jason Pocock); 10. Dai Flanagan (rep. Neil Burnett), 9. Andrew Jenkins;
1. Nick Eaves (rep.Stuart Williams), 2. Leighton Davies (rep. Richard Emms), 3. Ryan Harford (rep. Ian Poley), 4. Grant Harrington, 5. Damien Welch (rep. Dale McIntosh), 6. Lee Evans (rep. Tom Games), 7. Justin Jones, 8. Nathan Strong.
Pontypridd scorers: tries – Kristian Baller, Dafydd Lockyer and Nathan Strong; penalties – Dai Flanagan (4) and Neil Burnett.
Llanelli scorers: tries – Lee Williams (2), Craig Hawkins, Jonathan Edwards, Mathew Jacobs, Daniel Evans; conversions – Rhys Priestland (2); penalty – Rhys Priestland.
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