On a barmy Saturday afternoon at Sardis Road, you could be forgiven for thinking we were still in August and not the second week of October. Pontypridd kicked the match off and won themselves an early penalty and outside-half Joseph Scrivens kicked to touch. From the line-out Ponty gave their rolling-maul a first airing before spinning the ball wide. After a few phases Aberavon were penalised for infringing on the floor at the ruck and Scrivens obliged by kicking the penalty at goal for an early 3-0 Ponty lead.
From the restart, Avon gathered their own drop-out and went wide. They passed and the ball, which went behind the referee’s back, looked forward but the visitors were given the benefit of the doubt by the officials and Joe Tomalin-Reeves burst over to score. Rhys Jones’ conversion was successful and the Wizards were ahead 7-3.
At this point there were only 7 minutes played and Aberavon prop Rowan Jenkins was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on just inside the Ponty 22.
After some kick-tennis Dale Stuckey gathered a high ball, passed into midfield and Niko Matawalu went on a great run before offloading to Jordan Howells, Howells went on a powerful run and rightly took the patient route when tackled and set up the ruck. From the ruck Scrivens fed Sion Parry who fed the supporting Joe Miles who scored Ponty’s opening try – a superb score with many players involved. Scrivens added the conversion and Ponty were back in the lead 10-7 after 13 minutes.
A few minutes later, as was the nature of the first half it was Aberavon’s turn to attack. They were awarded a penalty and kicked to touch and had a line-out in Ponty’s 22. The rolling maul that proceeded the throw-in was thwarted by some superb disruptive play from the Ponty forwards – namely Messrs Stephens and Harper.
23 minutes were on the clock and Aberavon, playing the penalty advantage and the freedom to play because of it were throwing caution to the wind and winger Jay Baker crossed in the right-hand corner attacking the Pwllgwaun end of the ground.
Aberavon were now ahead but as per the nature of the first half, Ponty were intent on regaining the lead and when Avon kicked down-field to Niko Matawalu he ran it back with interest before offloading to Joe Miles. Miles set up the play but he was tackled and the ball was spun back the other way to Joe Scrivens who, was hit high, but still fed James Little who after making yards fed Stuckey who in turn carried on the attack but in vain. However, the referee was still playing advantage for the illegal shot on Scrivens and he stepped up to stroke the penalty over for a 13-12 advantage to Ponty.
Arguably Ponty’s most potent weapon this season so far – the scrum – gave the team a solid platform on the 35 minute mark and allowed Scrivens to execute a perfect 50:22. From the proceeding line-out in the Aberavon 22 a powerful rolling maul from the home side saw replacement hooker Nathan Huish score following a superb collective effort from the pack. The touchline conversion was missed but Ponty were ahead 18-12.
Table-topping Aberavon were in no mood for playing the percentages at the end of the first half. There were only a few minutes left and despite being awarded a few ‘kickable’ penalties they spurned them all in hope of getting their 3rd try of the match. At first, on the half-time whistle the chance went begging when Ponty stole the ball at the line-out. But this was only temporary respite when, what proceeded had the feeling of a real match-turning wave of events. Nearly four minutes of stoppage time had elapsed at the end of the first half when Ponty were penalised for crossing in midfield. Avon once again kicked to touch from the penalty and from the resulting passage of play they were awarded another penalty – this time a quick-tap paid off when after one phase, Ashton Evans crashed over from close range. Jones added the extras and despite a very good first-half performance Ponty found themselves trailing at the break by 19 points to 18.
HALF TIME – Pontypridd 18-19 Aberavon
Aberavon kicked off the second half which was as attritional as much as the first half was riveting.
It was a half of few clear-cut chances, but unfortunately for Ponty it was table-topping Aberavon that took theirs – 50 minutes were on the clock and there were two incidents occurring simultaneously – a scuffle off the ball for which earned Kris Parker and Joe Tomalin-Reeves yellow cards – the other incident led to a close-range try for Aberavon.
Less than ten minutes later Avon lock Sam Pailor saw a hole in the Ponty midfield and hit a superb line at pace and cantered in from 35 metres. Rhys Jones added the extras and the Wizards led 33-18.
Despite the deficit, Ponty did their utmost to get something from the match, and nearly got back into it straight away after 62 minutes but Joel Raikes was hauled down with the try-line in sight after a superb run and offload from Jordan Howells.
Nearly 70 minutes had gone when the ball squirted out of a Ponty scrum and Avon scrum-half Rhodri Cole was the first to pounce and he picked up and kicked the ball through. Niko Matawalu gathered the bouncing ball on Ponty’s try-line and went on a superb run, grubbered through and the ball went out for a line-out in the Aberavon 22. Ponty put pressure on the defensive line-out but were penalised a few phases later and Avon cleared their lines from the penalty.
Ponty had one last hurrah, in vain, when the busy Matawalu scored after picking up and dotting down from a ruck close to the Aberavon line but the try was chalked off after Ponty were adjudged to have infringed at the breakdown.
Plenty of endeavour, but ultimately an afternoon of missed chances for Ponty – congratulations to Aberavon on the win. Pontypridd’s next match is on Thursday 13th October live on S4C Clic away at Carmarthen Quins
FULL TIME – Pontypridd 18-33 Aberavon (8/10/2022)
15. Lloyd Rowlands (Alex Lloyd). 14. Niko Matawalu. 13. Tommy Morgan. 12. Jordan Howells. 11. Dale Stuckey. 10. Joseph Scrivens (Matthew Lewis). 9. Joel Raikes (Dai Jones)
1. Ben Stephens (Tom Devine). 2. Rob Jones (Nathan Huish). 3. Tom Harper (Morgan Bosanko). 4. Kristian Parker (c). 5. James Little (James Murphy). 6. Aled Ward (Mitch Barnard). 7. Sion Parry. 8. Joe Miles
Subs: 16. Nathan Huish. 17. Tom Devine. 18. Morgan Bosanko. 19. James Murphy. 20. Mitch Barnard. 21. Dai Jones. 22. Matthew Lewis. 23. Alex Lloyd
Tries: Miles, Huish
Penalties: Scrivens x 2
15. Jonathan Phillips. 14. Frankie Jones. 13. Callum Carson. 12. Joe Gage. 11. Jay Baker. 10. Rhys Jones. 9. Rhodri Cole
1. Rowan Jenkins. 2. Luke Davies. 3. Geraint James. 4. Sam Pailor. 5. Rhodri Hughes. 6. Ashton Evans. 7. Joe Tomalin-Reeves. 8. Andrew Waite
Subs: 16. Ieuan Davies. 17. Rhys Fawcett. 18. Chris Davies. 19. Dan Baker. 20. TBC (late change). 21. Iwan Temblett. 22. Joe Thomas. 23. Bradley Roderick
Tries: Tomalin-Reeves, Baker, Ashton Evans, Cole, Pailor
Conversions: Rhys Jones x 4
Referee: Aled Evans
Assistant referees: 1 – Rhys Jones, 2 – Wayne Davies
Golden Bob Man of the Match: Aled Ward
WRU Man of the Match: Aled Ward