Two moments of second half magic were enough to secure a first win of the new year for Pontypridd Youth in a hastily arranged friendly on Saturday 11th February away to a determined and eager Caldicot side.
The hosts battled well to leave the contest very much in the balance into the second period and it was Pontypridd’s ability to turn on the class and convert their chances that ultimately gained them a 15-6 victory.
An attritional and sometimes fractious first half on a very heavy pitch was characterised by frequent unforced errors by both sides and the frustrating inability of Pontypridd to keep possession handing the home side the opportunity to build momentum and confidence. The opening quarter saw little to threaten either try-line but Pontypridd infringements around their own 22 gave Caldicot a two penalty lead going into the final few minutes of the first period before a probing kick beyond the Caldicot defence by full-back James Kelly gave the big Pontypridd ball carriers the position from which to pressurise the Caldicot defence and it told when James Nicholas stroked over a testing penalty with the final play of the half.
The visitors were more effective and energetic after the break with fly-half Shane Hutchinson bringing replacement wing Josh Edwards and centre Garyn Smith more into play and it was the former who set the game alight with an individual moment of brilliance. A loose Caldicot kick was taken close to the right touchline by Edwards deep in his own half before a powerful turn of pace took him through the Caldicot midfield and over halfway and a sharp one-two with fellow wing Sam Vaughan on the opposite side of the field put the big wing into open space for a final twenty metre sprint to the line.
A number of times this season, Pontypridd have displayed a tendency to offer the initiative and momentum to the opposition for prolonged periods but when they actually believe in and apply themselves they offer an ability and brand of rugby to compete with anyone and this was again in evidence against Caldicot. The hosts enjoyed a good ten minutes of possession in the Pontypridd half after going behind but the Ponty forwards then took control on their next drive into Caldicot territory with lock Mike O’Connor stealing a Caldicot throw before finding robust support from the complete front row and No 8 Connor Ryan. The forward platform on the Caldicot 22 provided quick ball to the three-quarters and a thrusting run by Garyn Smith back into the guts of the Caldicot defence took him into the shadow of the posts before he slipped a sublime back-handed off load to the ever present Ieuan Evans who scored the visitor’s second try. A series of late penalties against Pontypridd and a flurry of Caldicot drives near the visitor’s line added some late drama but a typically proud defence saw Pontypridd home.
The win and the way Pontypridd were made to battle for their prize was good preparation for their next game – an away league fixture against Treorchy Youth – a quick return to competitive action for both teams following their recent clash in the semi-final of the District Cup.
15. James Kelly 14. Dale Hughes 13. Adam Harcombe 12. Garyn Smith 11. Mike Jones 10. James Nicholas 9. Chris Jones 1. Jordan Eynon 2. Paul Minty 3. Callum Reed 4. Mike O’Connor 5. Tom Flye (Capt.) 6. Max Day 7. Ieuan Evans 8. Connor Ryan
Subs: 16. Josh Edwards 17. Shane Hutchinson 18. Elliot Davies 19. Jamie Mather 20. Gavin Steele 21. James Page 22. Sam Vaughan
Tries – Josh Edwards, Ieuan Evans
Conversion – James Nicholas
Penalty - James Nicholas