This clash of the Premiership titans got off to a suitably physical and combatative start, with Ponty just edging the early exchanges, but outside half Simon Humberstone pulling wide a drop goal and penalty attempt.
As home hooker Kristian Dacey was sin binned for a ‘spear tackle’ offence, Neath outside half Dai Langdon stepped up to convert the penalty to open the scoring. The visitors now moved up a gear, looking incisive in attack and spreading the ball along the back line for centre Stephen Thomas to cross for a try wide out.
Ponty strove hard to get back into contention, but Neath always a threat on the counter with their impact play, making for an entertaining spectacle played at high tempo. The home team were soaking up a significant amount of pressure, but able to rely on a strong scrum to steady themselves and clear their lines.
Gradually working a path up to their opponents twenty-two, Ponty showed signs of coming to terms with Neath’s power play, and settling for a Simon Humberstone penalty to open their account. The first half drew to a close with Ponty in the ascendancy, driving up to the visitors’ line, but another Humberstone penalty their only reward, making for an interval scoreline of 6pts to 8.
As Humberstone once again dissected the posts within a minute of the restart, Ponty were obviously intent on carrying on where they left off at the break. The referee’s arm was favouring the home side, giving them impetus to advance. As full back Adam Thomas gathered a high ball, Humberstone carried on with a neat break, and some great support play ensuing, culminating in a try in the corner for wing Owen Williams.
Ponty were now in all out attacking mode, flanker Darren Waters next up to lead the van and winger Gareth Wyatt cruising in for a try which Humberstone converted. The men in pink were now launching wave after wave of attack, generating a flowing move down the flank with Adam Thomas diving in for another try, converted from the touchline by Humberstone. An awesome third quarter of the game from Pontypridd had seen them dominate what was by now a shell shocked Neath outfit.
Outstanding flanker Wayne O’Connor was leading the Ponty pack of wolves, scavenging for every morsel of possession to keep on top of the game. Neath muscled their way back into contention but the home team showing as much appetite in defence as they previously had in attack, securing turnovers, and maintaining an edge in the set pieces to remain the dominant force.
Into the final minutes of the game Ponty once more threw everything at the Neath line, with All Blacks’ skipper Gareth Gravell dispatched to the sin bin for infringing. A driving maul, a series of close range scrums and shunts almost resulted in a crucial fourth touchdown for the home team, but which was not to be.
Despite the lack of a bonus point which would have edged them to the top of the table, Ponty had secured a big home win over Neath by 28pts to 8 in a high impact contest, to keep the race for the Premiership title wide open.
15.Adam Thomas. 14.Gareth Wyatt (Chris Clayton). 13.Gavin Dacey. 12.Dafydd Lockyer. 11.Owen Williams. 10.Simon Humberstone (Dean Gunter). Garyn Lucas (Kristian Baller).
1.Kan Knaggs (Sam Hobbs). 2.Kristian Dacey (Huw Dowden – temp). 3.Sam Hobbs (Ryan Harford). 4.Craig Locke. 5.Ryan Savage. 6.Darren Waters. 7.Wayne O’Connor (Calum Thomas). 8.Chris Dicomidis – cpt (Jake Thomas).
“Golden Bob” man of the match: Wayne O’Connor.
|Pontypridd (6) 28||Neath (8) 8|
|Tries: O.Williams (49); Wyatt (50); A.Thomas (54)||Try: Thomas (13)|
|Cons: Humberstone (50,54)||Pen: Langdon (10)|
|Pens: Humberstone (37, 40+4), 41)|