Ponty, in their usual fashion this season, started the game furiously, with their eagerness to get the scoreboard ticking over awarding Maesteg a lineout almost as soon as referee Richard Hughes whistled the match into life. Maesteg took the lineout well, but the drive fell apart, awarding fly half Dai Flanagan a penalty which he duly put down on the halfway touchline.
A forward surge by Maesteg sent the ball careering downfield for fullback Jason Pocock to dab it deep behind the Ponty tryline - the resulting restart brought about a knock-on which led to another Pontypridd scrum. Some lovely interplay and deft passing took Ponty deep into Old Parish territory, only for Maesteg to infringe and give away a penalty, which Dai Flanagan gratefully took, putting Ponty ahead 0-3.
A fumbled restart by Maesteg gave Ponty a fairly immediate scrum on halfway, with livewire scrum half Wayne Evans sending the ball screaming across to winger Matthew Nuthall, who took his chance and raced clear, only to be hauled down, but managing to get the pass out, which worked its way across field and into the hands of centre Andy Parkinson, who tried in vain to cross the tryline, but had the ball knocked on by the Parish defence. Ponty's scrum saw Dai Flanagan gain quick ball, which he converted into one of his trademark crossfield chips, although this kick hadn't read the last few match report, and was caught by the opposition defence, who touched it down behind the tryline. The nervous energy took it's toll on Ponty, with the usually calm Wayne Evans fumbling, thus rewarding Maesteg with a chance to get back into the game - Roddy Boobyer took the opportunity, and exploded away, giving Maesteg an early try, which outside half Mark Davies converted, putting the score at 7-3.
The restart had Ponty hooker Leighton Davies spotting a gap and launching himself at the Llynfi Valley (and had the grass been a little shorter, I'm sure Leighton would have scored his first try!), only to be tackled just short of the tryline by an offside player. Ponty's resultant penalty saw Dai Flanagan draw the ball across the posts, and the restart typified Ponty's exuberance, as both lock Danny Hodge and Pocock knocked on.
The first twenty of the first half was a typically rambunctious affair, with Maesteg giving as good as they got, and the match travelling up and down field, and while the tryline was rarely threatened, the power and bonecrunching tackles were there for all to see, as Ponty's backrow trinity of Nathan Strong, Rhys Shellard and Adam Powell scrabbled and scrambled for every scrap of possession.
A Darren Berry chip and chase, while unsuccessful, saw Ponty inspired, and the resultant lineout saw quick ball worked wide for Maesteg, only for danger man Berry to latch on to a loose pass on halfway, leaving the Parishoners eating his dust and scoring Ponty's first try, and with Flanagan putting boot to ball, the score was altered once again, Maesteg 7, Pontypridd 10. Ponty were now aflame, and turning the ball on the restart, they forged ahead with some beautifully timed work from Nuthall, and stroming midfield play by centre Dafydd Lockyer - all of which culminated in a darting try for Wayne Evans, masterfully converted by Flanagan, putting the score at 7-17.
The end of the half was the same story, albeit without the tries - Maesteg grinding their way downfield, Ponty soaking up the pressure and making beautiful breaks, all in all, a classy end to the first half.
Maesteg started the second half furiously, no doubt with a halftime roasting ringing in their ears, but again, Ponty simply soaked up their firepower, with tackles coming hard and fast from all sections of the squad. The ball was eased around the pitched and marshalled wonderfully by Evans and Flanagan, and just as a move was coming together, the referee called his touchline officials onto the pitch, a pulled muscle causing him to retire from the game. Starting over, with a linesman taking up whistle duties, Ponty surged upfield - Flanagan putting boot to ball pushing Ponty further into opposition territory - again, the script from the end of the first half seemed to be coming into action - Maesteg grinding out possession with some big scrummaging, and Ponty soaking up the attacks. The turning point seemed to be Chris Dicomidis' replacement of Hodge - the added weight in the scrum giving Ponty easier ball, seeing Wayne Evans darting upfield, only for the ball to be knocked on with the tryline beckoning.
A Maesteg penalty was accompanied by enormous Pontypridd pressure, led beautifully by Wayne Evans, whose languid jinking and probing, aided by Flanagan's floating passes along with Parkinson and Lockyer centre muscle had the Valley Commandos forcing their way ever closer to the tryline. A double substitution saw Stuart Williams and Lee Evans take the field in place of Gerald Cox and Grant Harrington, and the fresh legs again had Ponty surging forward, only for a lineout to be terribly mismanaged - however, Maesteg's sudden delight at being handed the ball backfired as they fumbled it into touch mere yards from the line - a quick substitution saw returning Academy member Duane Goodfield replace Leighton Davies, and the lineout brought about a Shellard try and a punchup! Flanagan's conversion attempt drifted wide, but the scores were now revamped - Ponty leading by 22 pts to 7.
The tryline scrapping gave Ponty a penalty on halfway at the restart, and with Ryan Harford on for prop Ian Poley, Ponty were firing on all cylinders in the front row, and some delightful handling work from Wayne Evans, Goodfield and Pocock sent the lively scrum half in for his second try under the posts, and with Flanagan's conversion, Ponty were again notching up the points at 7-29.
With Lloyd Warner joining the fray for Andy Parkinson, Ponty once again soaked up everything Maesteg threw at them - Wayne Evans inspiring some great play in the Old Parish half, aided by Berry's fleet-footedness, and some glaring errors by the opposition. The pack were now taking no prisoners, and with Tom Dickens on for Evans, the rumbling mauls just kept pummeling away at the heart of the Maesteg defence, culminating in a richly deserved try for Goodfield, and with Flanagan just shading the post, the score was pushed to 7-34.
Maesteg were at this point looking worse for wear, while Ponty took their chances and capitalised on loose play. A sudden rush of adrenalin saw Maesteg camp down on the Ponty tryline, but Pontypridd's superior fitness came to the fore - leaving the final score standing at Maesteg 7 - 34 Pontypridd.
15. Jason Pocock, 14. Darren Berry, 13. Andy Parkinson (Lloyd Warner), 12. Dafydd Lockyer, 11. Matthew Nuthall, 10. Dai Flanagan, 9. Wayne Evans (Tom Dickens)
1. Gerald Cox (Stuart Williams), 2. Leighton Davies (Duane Goodfield), 3. Ian Poley (Ryan Harford), 4. Danny Hodge (Chris Dicomidis), 5. Grant Harrington (Lee Evans), 6. Nathan Strong - capt, 7. Rhys Shellard, 8. Adam Powell
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