On Sunday 27th April Pontypridd under 9s entered their 3rd tournament in as many weeks, and for a change, as they did not participate in this event last year, they were not the reigning champions.
The weather yet again promised to be wet and windy, but, thankfully, for most of the day remained cloudy but dry.
It was much harder for the boys to motivate themselves after their exploits in England last week, they faced 3 opponents, two of which they had beaten comprehensively earlier in the season. The supporters too, like the weather were a little dulled and subdued, feeling confident the players could rise to the occasion yet again.
Pontypridd 20 Nelson 0
The team lined up for the first match against a Nelson side they had played and defeated twice this season already! The danger obviously would be complacency, would the boys feel they only had to turn up to win, or would they play with the passion and intensity that proved so successful all season?
Straight from the kick off Ponty stormed forward and brought huge smiles to their supporters faces when the ball was quickly moved through the hands from one side of the pitch to the other and back again, this week it looked like the boys would be playing as a team…hallelujah!!
The Ponty defence was dominant as usual, with Nelson unable to break away from the shadow of their own tryline despite their best endeavours. In attack Ponty were looking fluid and produced brief patches of inspiration that saw them score four tries without reply.
In tournaments gone past Ponty have started slow and built and built to a crescendo in the final game. This time, in truth the victory was well earned, but the intensity was a little lacking for large periods, the passing was better but some of the support play was lazy and ponderous, the excitement and fizz the team exhibited last week, was now a little flat.
Still, the tournament was off to a good start and next up were Rhydfelin, a team Ponty have never played before.
Pontypridd 25 Rhydfelin 0
New opponents, and whilst not a new attitude, certainly a refocused attitude, a team and thus a challenge not faced before, and as the players saw it, yet another one to be overcome.
The intensity raised from the first game, the tackles bigger and harder on both sides, but again, as so often this season the determination shown by the Ponty team came to the fore, again their defence was immense and intimidating, showing their opponents no mercy and allowing them no space.
When in possession Ponty again tried to move the ball through the hands when possible, and when not showed they were as capable and adept at a driving maul as any team they have faced this season, yet alone in this tournament.
The game was hard fought, but again in truth, Ponty were dominant and untroubled, their experience from a long hard season and their battle hardness from their last two tournaments giving them the advantage both physically and mentally.
To their credit, the coaches were still not pleased, one had almost lost his voice shouting encouragement and instructions to his players, the other, like so many of the supporters, dismayed that whilst they had won, they were not playing to anywhere near their potential.
Pontypridd 10 Abercynon 0
The final game, to decide who would win the tournament was against the hosts and home team Abercynon, whom they had convincingly beaten earlier in the season.
Abercynon, buoyed by their own supporters had obviously forgotten that result as they came charging at Ponty straight from the kick-off. Any thoughts this would be an easy match were dispelled within the first seconds, the question was, were Ponty now confident or overconfident and arrogant?
The first half saw both teams up their performance from the previous two, tackling like demons, charging into rucks and mauls, both equally determined to be crowned champions.
Even the supporters were now showing signs of concern as half time came with the teams level, this was not supposed to happen, had Abercynon not read the script?
The second half started as the first had finished full of passion and endeavour, Ponty generally gaining the upper hand but not quite able to break through. Three times Ponty threatened the Abercynon line only to be held up, drop the ball, or to everyones surprise driven back in the tackle.
Time and again now Abercynon were competing and winning the ball in the mauls with all the supporters wondering could they score a breakaway try, could they end Ponty’s season long unbeaten record?
As if to answer those unspoken thoughts Rhys ‘Little’ Britton who had played like a terrier all tournament, scoring in each of the matches, typified the Ponty ‘never say die’ spirit, sprinting half the length of the pitch’ his face showing the grim determination now emanating through his team mates, to score the first try.
Abercynon tried to respond, yet Ponty were now focused and serious, defeat had been a possibility, the challenge laid down and faced, and now they could taste victory again.
Owain Morris sealed the game two minutes later with a typical bulldozing run through the despairing defence to finally break Abercynon’s resolve, and their supporters hearts.
Another tournament, another victory, the movement and passing had improved, the team ethic and performance better than the previous two tournaments, the team rotation at half time, certainly for the first two matches, showing again tremendous strength in depth in Ponty’s squad.
Yet, indicative of the potential this team has, supporters, coaches and players alike, though celebrating and relieved were neither happy nor content.
Ponty had won without hitting top gear, and to their enduring credit Abercynon had played with passion, driven on by their supporters who had provided immense encouragement, in a bid to avenge their previous heavy defeat.
The statistics though proved again what a team Ponty have become, three games played, 11 tries scored and none conceded, yet another tremendous achievement.
This team has developed a winning habit, and next week is the final test, Ponty’s own tournament and the finale to the season. If the boys could win that, not only would it be the crowning glory to a wonderful season, but the head coach’s blood pressure may even have a chance to return to normal!