The game got off to a slow start in truly atrocious conditions, but with Ponty holding the early territorial advantage. A high tackle on flanker Lee Evans allowed home outside half Dai Flanagan to slot over a penalty, Evans then forced to depart and replaced by Wayne O’Connor. Keys responded with a snap kick and chase offensive in the mud, the ball fed to winger Mark McKee who cruised through a midfield gap for a try which was converted by full back Darren Miles.
Cross Keys were kicking effectively for position, the most prudent tactic on a mud-bath pitch, but saw their centre Dan Dark sin binned for infringing. A neat break by full back Stoddart gave Ponty some forward momentum, but the home team largely floundering in the mud. The Keys struck back with a penalty successfully converted by Miles, and continued to kick down to the corners to good effect. Driving on through the quagmire, the visitors sent prop Dan Evans over for a close range try, once more converted by Miles.
With the referee’s decision going against them, Ponty seemed to be sinking in the mud, showing just brief signs of attacking prowess, their efforts spearheaded by the drives of Strong and McIntosh. The home pack were at least creating a source of possession, generating a driving scrum to take ball against the head. A half break by centre Tom Riley gave Ponty some further impetus, setting up a position for Dai Flanagan to kick a penalty, for an interval scoreline of 6 pts to 17.
Ponty were caught trying to run out of their own twenty-two as the second half commenced, conceding a penalty which Darren Miles converted for the Keys. The home side now had a mountain to climb, and were struggling to make headway up its slippery slopes. At last putting some meaningful phases of play together, Ponty worked the ball along the line for full back Stoddart to cross for a try, the conversion drilled over by Dai Flanagan.
To their credit, Ponty were now showing greater resolve, their forwards driving on and the ball then passed fluently out for number 8 Nathan Strong to cross in the corner. With Chris Clayton coming on for Morgan Stoddart and Chris Martenko for Chris Dicomidis, Ponty’s apparent resurgence was again hindered by the referee’s whistle going against them. Further substitutions saw Stuart Williams coming on for Gerald Cox and Scott Roberts for Ryan Harford, fresh legs introduced into the energy sapping conditions of the game. Home skipper Dale McIntosh was sin binned for impeding, but the Keys’ full back Darren Miles hitting the post with a penalty attempt right in front of the target.
Going into the final ten minutes of play, Ponty’s attempts to salvage a result seemed to be bogged down in the mud, too often taking the wrong options to advance through the mire. A dart from Gareth Jones, with winger Chris Clayton foraging in support, at last gave Ponty some headway out of their own twenty-two. The home team now advanced strongly right up to their opponents’ line, applying intense pressure through a series of five metre scrums and close drives. The ball was finally moved out for winger Matthew Nuthall to gleefully slide over for a crucial try wide out.
With Tom Dickens coming on as a late replacement for Gareth Jones, Ponty grafted their way into injury time, aggressively defending their narrow lead to emerge, muddied but unbowed, as victors by 23 pts to 20.
15.Morgan Stoddart (Chris Clayton) 14.Daniel Hitchings 13.Tom Riley 12.Paul Matthews 11.Matthew Nuthall 10.Dai Flanagan 9.Gareth Jones (Tom Dickens)
1.Gerald Cox (Stuart Williams) 2.Leighton Davies 3.Ryan Harford (Scott Roberts) 4.Dale McIntosh – cpt 5.Chris Dicomidis (Chris Martenko) 6.Lee Evans (Wayne O’Connor) 7.Adam Powell 8.Nathan Strong
“Golden Bob” man of the match – Wayne
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