Pontypridd had a lot to live up to going into the 2011 – 2012 campaign, having won the Swalec Cup and finished top of the Premiership, even if relinquishing the league crown to Llanelli in the Play-Off Final the previous season.
The squad had been depleted by the departure of key back rowers Darren Waters and Ed Siggery but reinforced by the return of prop Pat Palmer and no8 Dan Godfrey. A pool of players led by skipper Chris Dicomidis was a potent mix of youth and experience, and expectations were high.
The pre-season itinerary began with a 0pts to 104 romp at Abercwmboi, with a competitive performance against the Blues regional team and an emphatic home win over Llandovery setting things up for the season proper. The loss of the Abercynon Sevens crown was the low point of the August run-in.
The Premiership campaign got underway in dismal weather conditions. A bonus point win away at Tonmawr was followed by a disappointing home defeat to Aberavon. A consistent run of eight consecutive wins was then put together, including successful forays to difficult venues such as Cross Keys and Neath, taking Ponty into November on a high.
Next on the agenda was the British & Irish Cup pool stage. Ponty put in a heroic defensive performance to lose narrowly at Nottingham before recording a comfortable home win over Swansea. A defeat by one point away to Ulster A, in a game that should have been won, and a hard fought home win over Leeds was enough to take Ponty into the quarter final stage of the cross border competition.
In the meantime, inconsistency and a tendency to throw away results late on in close fought encounters was becoming a theme of the league campaign. Defeats away to Llanelli, Aberavon and Bridgend were proving costly, with Ponty lagging behind in a mid table position.
The last two weeks of January 2012 were something of a turning point in the season. A trip to face a fully professional and provincial Leinster A team in the quarters of the BIC was always going to be a daunting prospect, and so it proved as Ponty slumped to a 32pts to 0 defeat. Six days later Ponty travelled to an in-form Llandovery to defend their status as Swalec Cup holders. The game was physical, competitive and enthralling, and the result decided by a solitary penalty kicked by Ponty fly half Humbersone. Fears that there would be nothing to play for with four months of the seasons remaining had at least been allayed.
Putting another demoralising away defeat at Carmarthen behind them, Ponty turned a corner into the home straight of the league and cup campaign. A bonus point home win over Bridgend and an epic away cup win over Neath seemed to galvanise the squad into action when nothing else would have done.
There remained six league fixtures and potentially two cup rounds to be played within the last month of the season. If Ponty were to have any hopes of claiming domestic honours, it would be done the hard way, but when the going gets tough…
A run of six league wins, with bonus points added, saw Ponty claw their way from seventh to pole position in the table. Some of the performances showed true class, some sheer doggedness, but all contributing to a phenomenal surge to the winning line.
In the Swalec Cup Ponty nervously edged past Newbridge in the semis to set up a final tie against form team Cross Keys. Another visit to the Millennium Stadium for Finals Day on May 7th failed to replicate the spirited success of the previous year as Ponty succumbed to a second half comeback from the Keys and relinquished their grasp on the Welsh Cup.
And so the entire season came down to its “D-Day”. Friday 18th May was the date, Sardis Road the venue as Ponty once more faced Llanelli in the Premiership Play-Off Final. Victory would secure the league crown for the first time in fifteen years, defeat was unthinkable.
In dismal conditions the two teams slogged out a hard fought, fully committed battle for glory, in what many commentators described as a whole-heartedly traditional game of club rugby. Ponty secured a narrow win by 15pts to 13 with young fly half Lewis Williams coolly slotting over his five penalty kicks from the Sardis mud.
The Premiership trophy was handed over to skipper Chris Dicomidis, and Pontypridd RFC celebrated in style.
The title win was hugely important to the club, and could be better appreciated as the league had been closely fought to its very last weekend.
Ponty had oft-times struggled, had flattered and sometimes deceived, had suffered from inconsistency at times but had more than made up for those deficiencies with some stylish performances built on a solid forward platform.
The team’s heroics had again been spurred on by a fantastic support, which followed home and away in great numbers, always vocal and appreciative.
British & Irish Cup quarter finalists, Swalec Cup finalists, Premiership champions. It had been another successful season for Pontypridd RFC.