Before the match kicked off there was a minute silence in memory of the Aberfan disaster on 21st October 1966, when 144 people, including 116 children, were killed when a coal tip slid down the mountainside and engulfed a school and nearby houses. One of our former players, Dai Beynon, was a teacher at the school, and one of those who lost their lives.
The crowd had barely regained their seats before Newport were in the lead. After only two minutes play their hooker, Gethin Robinson, went over for a try, converted by James Dixon. Ponty were definitely caught napping, and now had a much more difficult job to do against the League leaders.
Play now moved backwards and forwards, with neither side able to gain much of an advantage. Then, as the first quarter came to an end, we were able to build some pressure on theirline, and eventually Chris Clayton ran in down the touchline for a well taken try. He had about 15 metres to cover, and no room to move, and did well to go over near the corner flag. Jason Pocock missed the difficult conversion, but we were back in the game.
The second quarter of the game saw Ponty exert considerable pressure on the Newport defence, but we were unable to convert it into points. As the first half came to an end we spurned the chance of a very kickable penalty to go for the lineout instead. Unfortunately we botched the lineout, lost the ball, and finished the half 5-7 down. The general view in the stand was that we should have been about ten points up, but simple mistakes and some poor decision making thwarted us on a number of occasions.
Nevertheless Ponty came out in the second half to play some of the best rubgy of the game. Although we could not get any tries during this period due to good defence by Newport, we did force errors on their part, and Jason Pocock kicked two excellent penalties in the 44th and 47th minutes to give us the lead by 11-7. It started to look as though we had it won, and another Pocock penalty at the end of the third quarter made it 14-7.
It was not to be, however, and we can be accused of handing the game back to them on a platter. We simply forgot that it is better to play the game in the opponent's half, and exhausted our efforts on fruitless rolling (or rather non-rolling) mauls. Our kicking game was poor, and we failed to make good use of the mighty boot of Neil Burnett to clear our lines. Instead we were often scrabbling for the ball somewhere between our 22 metre and half way line, and giving possession bak to Newport.
A key point in the game, which came while we were still in the lead, was a nasty injury to Damien Welch. He landed awkwardly from a lineout, and looked to have badly sprained his ankle. This left us with no locks on the field (The Chief had been subbed a few minutes before, and we had also taken off the massive Nicky Eaves), and with Nathan String and Ian Pocock doing the job for us. Still, it was our failure to take control and put our foot on the ball which lost us the game in the end.
On seventy minutes Newport eventually got the try they had been threatening to score for some time. Replacement full back Phil Osborne went over in the corner, but James Dixon failed with the conversion, and it was still 14-12 to us. However, with the game being played mostly in our half once again, they were awarded the inevitable penalty, kicked by James Dixon off one of the posts, to take the lead by 14-15. Although we struggles manfully to get the penalty we needed to win the game, it was not to be. Well into injury time wing Nathan Williams got another try, converted by Dixon, to bring the score to 14-22 to the visitors.
This was a game we could, and probably should have won. Damien Welch got the man-of-the-match award once again, although Adam Powell was another strong contender for the prize. Otherwise we competed well in the forward battle but lacked a bit of fizz in attack.
Pontypridd: try - Chris Clayton; penalties - Jason Pocock (3).
Newport: Tries - Gethin Robinson, Phil Osborne and Nathan Williams; conversions - James Dixon (2); penalty - James Dixon.
Pontypridd team: 15.Jason Pocock; 14. Chris Clayton, 13. Neil Burnett, 12. Dafydd Lockyer, 11. Kristian Baller; 10. Dylan Jones, 9. Wayne Evans; 1. Nicky Eaves (rep. Stuart Williams), 2. Leighton Davies (rep. Duane Goodfield), 3. Ian Poley, 4. Dale McIntosh (Rep. Tu Tamarua), 5. Damien Welch (rep. Rhys James), 6. Lee Evans, 7. Adam Powell, 8. Nathan Strong.
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