Ponty win thrilling valleys derby
Straight from the kick-off, in the pouring Sardis rain Ponty earn the lineout. Following the lineout and a couple of good carries from the pack, after a bit of patience Ben Burnell calls for the ball and puts in a pin-point cross-field kick for Dale Stuckey to gather and finish in the left-hand corner attacking the clubhouse end.
Burnell missed a tough conversion from the touch line but with less than 2 minutes on the clock Ponty had the perfect start.
Next it was Merthyr’s turn and after an attack and some pressure in the Ponty half, the ball is coughed up in midfield and Morgan Sieniawski hacks it through with Stuckey and Ceri Morris in pursuit. The ball bounces into the hands of Alex Webber, who manages to slip it to Ben Jones who clears for the Ironmen.
On the 10-minute mark a box-kick from Joel Raikes led to a knock-on from Merthyr winger Ashley Norton and Ponty win a scrum on the Merthyr 10-metre line. From the free kick, some brilliant quick hands in midfield nearly puts Stuckey away – Ponty trying to play an exciting brand of rugby despite the wet weather.
A couple of minutes later, on the 12-minute mark a solid scrum from Merthyr wins them a penalty on the halfway line. The referee and linesman have a chat and the upshot is a yellow card for Ponty loose-head prop Ben Stephens. Merthyr kick the penalty into touch and then following the lineout, they rumble on via a rolling maul. Play slows and after a few phases Merthyr cough up the ball on the Ponty 5-metre line after a big hit from the men in black and white and we clear our lines.
Right on the halfway stage of the first half, the referee awards Merthyr a penalty after he adjudges Nathan Huish didn’t release the ball. Merthyr kick the ball deep in to Ponty’s 22, they throw in at the lineout and their rolling maul that’s trundling towards Ponty line collapses and Gareth Newman awards Merthyr a penalty try and also a yellow card for Nathan Huish for pulling it down.
A few minutes later Merthyr look to be on for their second try, again from a rolling maul, but after it goes to ground a few feet from the Ponty line Mr. Newman penalises the Ironmen for a double move. Ponty tap the penalty quickly and we spill it on our own line, but after some good work we hold Merthyr up over the line and get away with a drop out from under our own posts.
From the resulting drop out, Merthyr who are attacking the Pwllgwaun End, nearly go over in the left hand corner through Ashley Norton but a last gasp tackle knocks him into touch.
A minute later the sin-bin is over and it didn’t take long for the visitors to double their lead. Merthyr are awarded another penalty which was kicked into Ponty’s 22 and after a couple of phases, Merthyr inside centre Tom Pascoe crashes over from close range. Gareth Thompson kicks the conversion and Merthyr have a two-score lead at 14-5.
Deep into first half injury time was one of the moments that turned the match. Ponty knock-on at the lineout which gives Merthyr a scrum. 6 minutes into first half injury time Merthyr punch through Ponty’s midfield into the 22 and Paddy McBride is looking odds on to score but a superb last-ditch tackle from Lloyd Rowlands denies Merthyr their 3rd try on the half time whistle.
Half time: Pontypridd 5-14 Merthyr
As the second half is about to begin the rain stops – if that wasn’t a reason for cheer then what was about to unfold certainly was! Ben Jones restarts the second half for the visitors and after the ball is won by Ponty, Lloyd Rowlands gets possession and after a superb run, kick, chase and gather, he scores a superb individual try as Sardis Road erupts. Ben Burnell adds the extras and Ponty find themselves only two points behind.
On the 45-minute mark, Ponty send for reinforcements with Messrs Morris, Harper and Shellard on for Huish, Bosanko and Murphy.
For the next 10 minutes both sides slog it out in a physical battle. On the 55-minute mark a great scrum from the Ponty pack earns a penalty at the set piece, which Ben Burnell slots superbly between the posts.
A few minutes later Ponty win another penalty, which again Ben Burnell is successful with. Going into the final quarter Ponty have an 18-14 lead. Both sides continue the physical battle and in the 74th minute another key moment – Merthyr are awarded a penalty for a high tackle. They turn down the opportunity for an easy three points to go into the corner. The power play doesn’t pay off as they spill the ball on Ponty’s line, Burnell plays out and chips it over and Ben Jones has no choice but to kick the ball out on the halfway line and the crowd give one of the biggest roars of the afternoon.
With a minute left on the clock Merthyr knock it on and it is touched by a forward in an offside position. Burnell slots another excellent penalty and its now a 7-point game. This is where the drama starts – the match lasted 88 minutes and the last 9 minutes are played almost exclusively in the Ponty 22. Phase after phase from Merthyr is matched by tackle after tackle from Ponty. In the 85th minute there is an overlap on the left-hand side attacking the clubhouse and that man Norton looks for all money like he’s going to score but superb commitment from Ponty and he is tackled into touch. But just when you thought it was all over the referee brings Merthyr back for a penalty on the Ponty try line. Merthyr again kick to touch and from the lineout rolling maul, Evan Lloyd is adjudged to have infringed and shown a yellow card. The 14 men of Ponty wouldn’t be denied and after a backs-against-the wall end to the match we win the penalty, which we kick out to signal the end of a bruising valleys derby.
Full time: Pontypridd 21-14 Merthyr
15 Lloyd Rowlands, 14 Iwan Pyrs Jones, 13 Morgan Sieniawski ©, 12 Ceri Morris (Bradley Roderick), 11 Dale Stuckey, 10 Ben Burnell, 9 Joel Raikes, 8 Evan Lloyd, 7 Cally James (Sion Parry), 6 Kristian Parker, 5 Jack Pope, 4 James Murphy (Rhys Shellard), 3 Morgan Bosanko (Tom Harper), 2 Nathan Huish (Ieuan Morris), 1 Ben Stephens
Tries: Stuckey (2), Rowlands (41)
Con: Burnell (42)
Pens: Burnell (56), (60), (79)
15 Ben Jones, 14 Alex Webber (Jarrod Cushion), 13 Harley Thompson, 12 Tom Pascoe, 11 Ashley Norton, 10 Gareth Thompson, 9 Adam Hoskings, 8 Phil Rees, 7 Tom Daley, 6 Paddy McBride, 5 Callum Bradbury, 4 Craig Locke ©, 3 Chris Phillips, 2 Dan Wall, 1 James Howe
Tries: Penalty Try (21), Pascoe (32)
Con: Thompson (33)
Referee: Gareth Newman
Golden Bob: Kristian Parker
WRU Man of the Match: Ben Burnell