On Saturday 24th January, Ponty Youth’s league match with Beddau was cancelled at short notice, leaving the team having had only one run out in eight weeks. Fortunately late on Friday night, old friends Nelson stepped in to play a hastily arranged friendly.
The pitch at Nelson was heavy and in poor condition with the game close to being cancelled, however with both sides desperate to play, the referee agreed for the game to proceed. Despite the appalling conditions both sides tried to play attacking rugby and for the neutral the game was an exciting one to watch.
Nelson dominated the first ten minutes through a series of forward drives, but the Ponty pack had tightened their defence significantly and despite the pressure their defence held firm. Ponty then went on the attack themselves through a brilliant break from centre Ricky Stevenson but fellow centre Casey Pittman spurning an overlap and the scoring pass dropped and a certain 7 points lost.
Nelson came straight back and after another series of forward drives, they managed to cross wide on the right for a try hotly disputed by the Ponty forwards who felt they had prevented the ball from being grounded. The conversion was missed.
Ponty responded with another great break from the backs to set up a promising position in the Nelson twenty-two, from which the forwards rumbled and drove to the line, before flanker Aaron Atkins athletically dived over the Nelson ruck to score a well deserved try, that was also unconverted. Nelson nearly responded just before the break when their wing pounced on a loose pass and seemed destined to score, before flanker Dafydd Gristock cut him down in a brilliant cover tackle twenty metres out.
Ponty lost Casey Pittman to injury just before half time, and with a number of backs unavailable, Owen Kingsbury and Aaron Atkins were forced into emergency duty as backs.
The second half saw Ponty under torrid pressure from Nelson, but some sturdy defence keeping their try line intact. Once again Ponty came straight back and after another great midfield break were able to win a penalty in front of the posts, but frustratingly for the coaches, opting to take a quick tap penalty rather than a certain three points.
From the ensuing scrum, Ponty moved the ball quickly left for Atkins to power over the line, but the score disallowed. The visitors kept up the pressure only for full back Rhys Simms to see a penalty attempt falling agonisingly under the bar.
Nelson hit straight back and a superb break from their captain, former Ponty youth centre Liam Wotton, was only foiled metres short by a bone crunching tackle from Ponty fly-half Lewis Smith. Minutes later though Nelson were awarded a penalty for a late tackle, and added the three points to take an 8 -5 lead.
Ponty though were not prepared to lie down and after great line out play, were able to put Nelson under pressure on the edge of their twenty-two and when they slowed the ball down at the ruck, Ponty fullback Simms slotted over the penalty to end the game in an 8 all draw, that was a credit to both sides.
This was a much improved display from Ponty, and despite the fact that they were without a significant number of players, they defended superbly and created some nice running rugby in very difficult conditions. It was also pleasing for Ponty to see two of their under 16 squad make the step up to youth rugby, and put in impressive performances.
Man of the Match for Ponty was Aaron Atkins who played out of position to help the team out, and should have been awarded a brace of tries. Ponty would like to thank Nelson for arranging the game at short notice, and wish them all the best for the remainder of the season.