Match Preview – Merthyr v Pontypridd
On Saturday 2nd December Pontypridd RFC are away at Merthyr RFC in the Indigo Group Premiership. The Valleys Derby at The Wern kicks off at 2:30pm.
Last season a dogged team performance wasn’t enough for Ponty when the two clubs met at The Wern on Friday 24th February 2023. There was just six points between the sides after seventy minutes of play, with Merthyr having the advantage at 18-12. But a late Josh Lewis penalty prior to a Tavis Knoyle try on the final whistle saw the home side prevail by a 28-12 score line.
The season before last Ponty suffered a heavy defeat at Merthyr despite trailing just 21-20 at half-time. Pontypridd had to settle for a four-try bonus point as consolation with Daf Buckland, Jack Pope, Dale Stuckey and Cai James scoring our tries in the Welsh Premiership Cup back in November 2021.
Pontypridd’s last win at The Wern came on Saturday 7th March 2020 when the Valley Commandos beat the Ironmen by 36 points to 27, Dale Stuckey’s brace of tries helped seal the win. The match that afternoon was to be the last for an 18 month period due to the global Covid-19 pandemic.
That was the past, in the current both teams find themselves in good form having won seven league games in a row between them – Ponty three and Merthyr four matches respectively.
The Team News…
Pontypridd have made six personnel changes to the starting XV that triumphed over Carmarthen Quins a week last Thursday – three in the backs, three in the forwards and there are a further three fresh faces brought onto the bench.
In the backline Garyn Smith comes in to start and he’s joined in the centres by Ryan Wilkins who is fit after injury. The other change behind the scrum is Joel Raikes starting at scrum-half and there’s a positional switch for McCauley Rowley who moves onto the right wing.
In the pack Ben Stephens and Gavin Parry start in the front row, and there’s also a return to the team for Mitch Barnard at lock.
On the bench there are returns to the matchday squad for Rob Jones and Ceri Morris and a potential Pontypridd debut for scrum-half Toby Thomas. Toby is an ex-Dragons academy player who is on permit from Machen RFC.
Still unavailable because of injury is Niko Matawalu and he’s now been joined in the treatment room by Joe Miles. Unavailable due to being selected for the Butchers invitational 7s team are Curtis Greenslade, Harvey Nash, Ben Burnell and Liam Lloyd – all four are away competing in the 2023 Dubai 7s over the weekend.
The Pontypridd team selected to play Merthyr is as follows:
15. Josh Phillips. 14. McCauley Rowley. 13. Garyn Smith. 12. Ryan Wilkins. 11. Dale Stuckey. 10. Joseph Scrivens. 9. Joel Raikes.
1. Ben Stephens. 2. Gavin Parry. 3. Tom Harper. 4. Mitch Barnard. 5. Macauley Cook. 6. Aled Ward. 7. Cai James. 8. Kristian Parker (c).
Subs: 16. Rob Jones. 17. Tom Devine. 18. Morgan Bosanko. 19. Chris Dicomidis. 20. Cally James. 21. Sion Parry. 22. Toby Thomas. 23. Ceri Morris.
*EDIT – Louis Rochefort-Shugar was due to replace Ceri Morris on the bench prior to this match being postponed.
All the best at The Wern lads!
GROUND LOCATION – The address for your sat-navs, should you require it is The Wern, Merthyr Tydfil CF48 1AF.