Pontypridd continued their pre-season with an entertaining win in the Forest of Dean against Cinderford RFC. The match at Dockham Road consisted of 3 x 30 minute ‘halves’ and it was Ponty that found themselves on the right side of a 74-point thriller.
For Pontypridd it was another opportunity to use nearly forty players, both core squad members and trialists looking to impress against a well coached side plying their trade in RFU National League 1.
Ponty started the match well and a good clearing kick downfield saw play reset in the middle of the pitch, Ponty were then awarded a penalty for a high tackle by the home side and Josh Phillips kicked into Cinderford territory. Ponty won their own lineout ball and worked it left across the pitch, after ‘Cindy’ halted Ponty’s attack, the away side spun it right and Garyn Daniel went on a marauding run deep into the 22, he offloaded to Aled Ward who fed McCauley Rowley to score in the right hand corner. Josh Phillips judged the stiff breeze superbly to slot the conversion and Ponty had a 7-0 lead after 4 minutes.
Cinderford restarted the match and applied pressure from the kick-off, regained possession and worked their way deep into Ponty’s 22. Strong defence from the away side repelled Cindy and after some good tackling forced a ball-spill and Ponty cleared their lines. Not long after this Ponty were penalised for a high tackle and Joe Winfield kicked a penalty goal which earned the home side their first points of the afternoon.
Pontypridd thought they had their second try of the afternoon but Macauley Cook was deemed to be held up over the Cinderford try line, from that play the ball spilled out of contact, Cindeford gathered and cleared their lines. From the resulting Ponty lineout centre Will Keep made a superb break, he passed the ball back inside to Harvey Nash who ran a great support line to score under the posts. Josh Phillips added the extra two points and Ponty were ahead 14 points to 3.
20 minutes had elapsed when Cindy’s Joe Mullins was yellow carded for taking out Liam Lloyd in the air. Ponty kicked the penalty into touch and launched another attack from the lineout, good hands in midfield from the Ponty backs released Will Keep who was proving to be difficult to contain from a Cinderford point of view. Good pressure from Ponty came to nothing when good defence from Cinderford forced an error.
Cinderford finished the first ‘half’ putting more pressure on the Ponty try line. A Cindy lineout was overthrown and Ponty took the opportunity to break out from deep. The away side were hauled down just inside the Cinderford half, but in doing so they gave away a penalty which Ponty kicked into the corner. Following a few phases from the Ponty lineout Joe Miles powered over from close range to extend the team’s lead despite the conversion being unsuccessful.
SCORE AFTER THE FIRST 30 MINUTE ‘HALF’ – Cinderford 3-19 Pontypridd
Ponty kicked off the second period of action and straight away Cinderford ran it back breaking through the Ponty defence. Alex Lloyd, who had just come onto the pitch following Ponty changing the entire XV, was shown a yellow card for a high tackle. Worth noting that as the match was taking place in England both teams were playing the new IRB Tackle Law rule introduced to lower the tackle-height in the sport. Cindy kicked to touch but Ponty stole the lineout and snuffed out the threat.
Into the 35th minute of the match and Cinderford coughed the ball up on halfway following some strong Ponty tackling, McCauley Rowley was the first to react pouncing on the loose ball and his pace did the rest as he scored from long range for his second and Ponty’s fourth try of the afternoon. Joseph Scrivens kicked the conversion for a 26-3 lead.
Ponty had a four-score lead and may have felt comfortable with that buffer, but what happened over the next 25-30 minutes was all credit to the home side. It may have only been a friendly on paper but as the intensity levels increased the ‘friendly edge’ of the match decreased. Cinderford really stepped up their intensity levels in attack and defence and Ponty’s 23-point lead evaporated following four unanswered Cindy tries (three before the next interval and one after).
In the 38th minute Will Hendy finished well on the end of a well worked overlap for Cindy. Then after more Cinderford pressure earned them back to back penalties, a few phases of play later Cindy blindside flanker Dec Fissenden scored and the successful conversion saw the scores stand at 17-26.
Again credit to Cinderford, for the next 10 minutes they continued to build momentum and in the 55th minute were right back in the match through an excellent try. Cindy broke down the left hand side attacking away from the clubhouse, some superb hands from the backs and the try looked inevitable only for the last pass inexplicably not going to hand, but the ball went backwards and the home side switched play to the right and Dec Fissenden got his second try of the match, conversion missed.
SCORE AFTER THE SECOND 30 MINUTE ‘HALF’ – Cinderford 22-26 Pontypridd
Cinderford started the final ‘half’ of the match the same way as they finished the last half – on the front foot. An excellent attack didn’t yield a try due to a superb last-ditch Liam Lloyd tackle in the fullback berth, from the resulting ruck Aled Ward was yellow carded for an infringement. It was all hands to the pump for Ponty and it was stoic defence that won-out and the Valley Commandos cleared their lines.
However it was only temporary respite for Ponty when, in the 69th minute Cinderford edged into the lead for the first time in the match when Will Baldwin went over for the try. The conversion went wide but the excitable home crowd were now in full voice as the scoreboard showed their team 27 points to 26 to the good.
Ponty nearly regained the lead straight away only for Macauley Cook to be denied close to the line for the second time. Ponty thought they’d done enough to recycle the ball cleanly at the ruck, but the referee disagreed and awarded Cindy the penalty.
The final 30 minute period of the match became a little disjointed due to injury-stoppages in the home team’s ranks.
It was Ponty that finally restored their lead next when Clayton Gullis finished a smart team move in the corner, Josh Phillips again expertly knocked over a difficult conversion and it was now the travelling army of Ponty supporters that found their voices as their side regained the lead 33-27.
There was still time for more twists in what had proved to be a highly entertaining Anglo-Welsh pre-season fixture. With 9 minutes left Cinderford scrum-half Sam Alford scampered over for a try and Joe Langbridge edged the hosts back in front by a single point by 34 points to 33.
Ponty dug deep and replied nearly immediately when Aled Ward crossed for a try, Josh Phillips’ conversion gave Ponty a 6-point lead with a few minutes left on the clock.
After nearly 90 minutes of rugby in the West Country sun, the game wasn’t slowing down and the spectacle was now in end to end mode. Cinderford had another good chance to get the winning score but resolute Ponty defence in their own 22 forced another ball spill in the tackle and the away side were able to see out the win – it was another good pre-season work out for Pontypridd ahead of the upcoming league campaign.
FULL TIME – Cinderford 34-40 Pontypridd (19/8/2023)
PONTYPRIDD (Please note the following teams were mixed and changed throughout the afternoon) –
1st 30 minute XV:
15. Liam Lloyd. 14. Jac Argyle. 13. McCauley Rowley. 13. Ryan Wilkins. 12. Will Keep. 11. Sam Hayman. 10. Josh Phillips. 9. Harvey Nash.
1. Ben Stephens. 2. Curtis Greenslade. 3. Garyn Daniel. 4. James Murphy. 5. Macauley Cook. 6. Aled Ward. 7. Cai James. 8. Joe Miles.
2nd 30 minute XV:
15. Alex Lloyd. 14. Will Huggins. 13. Garyn Smith. 12. Ryan Wilkins. 11. McCauley Rowley. 10. Joseph Scrivens. 9. Tom Jones.
1. Kian Mattravers. 2. Gavin Parry. 3. Tom Harper. 4. Mitch Barnard. 5. Callum Oliver. 6. Aled Ward. 7. Cai James. 8. Kristian Parker.
Subs: Nathan Huish, Morgan Bosanko, Ceri Morris, Max River, Ewan Skuse, Clayton Gullis
3rd 30 minute XV: A mixture of all of the above teams including the subs listed.
Tries: McCauley Rowley x 2, Harvey Nash, Joe Miles, Clayton Gullis, Aled Ward
Conversions: Josh Phillips x 4, Joseph Scrivens
Yellow Cards: Alex Lloyd, Aled Ward
Backs: Sam Alford, Will Anderson, Will Baldwin, Jamie Forrester, Will Hendy, Tom Knight, Joe Langbridge, Ciaran Leeson, Stan Norman, Jake Shortland, Mason Tonks, Mike Wilcox, Joe Winfield
Forwards: Tom Anderson, George Angell, Sam Baker, Harry Edwards, James Elliot, Dec Fissenden, Danny Hodge, Jonny Holliday, Louis Jayne, Tyler, Jerrum, Shaun Knight, Joe Mullins, George Porter, Jack Shields, Joe Smart, Nathan Taylor, Callum Thompson
Tries: Will Hendy, Dec Fissenden x 2, Will Baldwin, Sam Alford
Conversions: Joe Winfield x 2, Joe Langbridge
Penalty: Joe Winfield
Yellow Card: Joe Mullins