Llandovery kicked the match off on a pleasant early afternoon in Carmarthenshire.
The home side had the first platform in the game, kicking a penalty into touch after Ponty were adjudged to have infringed at a line-out. The Drovers threw in at the line-out but a great steal from Pontypridd allowed them to clear their lines.
Llandovery initiated the match’s first real attack when flyhalf Ioan Hughes chipped the ball over the on-rushing Ponty defence but great awareness from Sion Parry sweeping across extinguished the threat.
The next 10 minute or so passage of play was all-Ponty. After winning a penalty at the scrum and kicking to touch, good field position allowed Ponty to launch some attacks and Skipper Parker was held up over the line. But the referee was playing advantage to Ponty and brought the team back for the penalty – Jamie Murphy kicked the goal for an early lead.
A few minutes later Murphy channelled his inner-flank forward when he won a penalty on the floor at a ruck. The kick gave Ponty some more good field position and the rolling-maul from the line-out was stopped illegally by the Drovers, Murphy kicked his second penalty of the match and Ponty had a 6-0 lead after quarter of an hour.
Llandovery had the next half chance in the contest, they were awarded a penalty on halfway which they kicked to touch. Good field position deep in Ponty territory was again rebuffed – this time Aled Ward doing some superb work over the ball at the ruck to earn the away side the penalty.
On the 20 minute mark Jamie Murphy slotted a superb long-range penalty to give Pontypridd a 9-0 lead, but Llandovery didn’t have to wait long to stamp their own mark on the match. Straight from the restart Ponty gathered the kick but were pinged for infringing at the ruck. Jack Maynard missed his attempt at goal and Ponty cleared their lines, however, Llandovery other-threw at the line-out but Ponty knocked the loose ball on and the home side attacked and Ponty gave away a penalty for tackling a supporting runner without the ball. This time the Drovers pumped the ball into the corner, secured the line-out and from the phases that ensued the dam burst and hooker Craig Thomas crashed over for the game’s first try. Maynard kicked the conversion and the score stood at 7-9.
Pontypridd showed good attacking intent in the remaining 15 minutes of the first half but couldn’t find the killer final pass. Ponty attacked the Drovers, largely through open play and Dale Stuckey had a decent run and put a good kick through but the play came to nothing when, a few phases later Ponty were penalised on the edge of the Drovers’ 22.
There was however one key moment in the closing stages of the first half when Ponty were adjudged to have not released the tackler at a ruck and Jack Maynard kicked the penalty – this gave the home side the lead for the first time in the contest.
HALF TIME – Llandovery 10-9 Pontypridd
Ceri Morris got the second half underway and the kick-off went unaccounted for and crossed the side-line. Llandovery threw in but when gathering the line-out were accidentally offside and Ponty had a scrum just outside the Drovers’ 22 attacking the clubhouse end of the ground. From the resulting passage of play Ponty were given a penalty after Joel Raikes was illegally played at a ruck. Murphy was successful with his attempt off the tee and in the process restored the Valley Commandos lead by 12 points to 10.
46 minutes were now on the clock and it was arguably the first genuine passage of broken play in the match – one which was exploited by the home side when a fantastic break through Ponty’s midfield and some good handling fed scrum-half Lee Rees who was supporting on the inside and he sprinted in for the try. Jack Maynard kicked the conversion for a 17-12 lead.
Approaching the hour mark there was a real frantic passage of play, started by hooker Rob Jones who, deep in Ponty territory put in a deep spiralling kick. A good chase put the home side under pressure but they did managed to clear. The match temporarily went into kick-tennis mode. Another effective rolling-maul from a line-out by Ponty earned them a penalty, which they kicked deep into touch. From this line-out Ponty got another big shunt on and Niko Matawalu, fresh on as a second-half substitute joined the back of the maul, got his hands on the ball and peeled off blind-side from the back and crashed over in the right-hand corner. Jamie Murphy kicked a superb touchline conversion and Ponty were back in the lead 19-17.
Now into the final quarter of the match, Llandovery were attacking and Ponty seemed to have done enough by jackling the ball at a ruck, but were penalised and Jack Maynard stepped up to nudge the Drovers back into the lead by a single point 20 to 19.
Dale Stuckey was at the forefront of all the action next, both attack and defence. A well-placed box-kick from Joel Raikes was expertly gathered by the onrushing Stuckey and at the ruck, Llandovery infringed. Jamie Murphy stepped up to restore Ponty’s lead but his effort went wide. Then Stuckey turned into defensive hero when Drovers’ centre Adam Warren sliced through midfield and Stuckey’s superb, last-ditch tackle denied him a try in the corner.
Then in the 75th minute referee Mr. Ben Whitehouse sin-binned both Cai James and Tom Harper at the same time and Ponty were reduced to 13 men for the remainder of the contest.
Some heroic defending from the 13 men forced a mistake from Llandovery and Ponty cleared, but gave away a penalty shortly after. Maynard missed his attempt and Ponty were just about still in the game despite being camped on their own try-line with 13 men. The away side didn’t give up and earned a penalty which nudged them up towards halfway, but there was to be no fairy-tale and the full-time whistle was blown – a valiant effort in defeat from Pontypridd.
FULL TIME – Llandovery 20-19 Pontypridd (11/2/2023)
15. Alex Lloyd (Iestyn Griffiths). 14. Sam Hayman (Niko Matawalu). 13. Ceri Morris. 12. Jordan Howells (Tommy Morgan). 11. Dale Stuckey. 10. Jamie Murphy. 9. Joel Raikes.
1. Tom Devine (Ben Stephens). 2. Rob Jones (Gavin Parry). 3. Garyn Daniel (Tom Harper). 4. Kristian Parker (c). 5. James Little (Mitch Barnard). 6. Aled Ward (Cai James). 7. Sion Parry. 8. Joe Miles.
Subs: 16. Gavin Parry. 17. Ben Stephens. 18. Tom Harper. 19. Mitch Barnard. 20. Cai James. 21. Niko Matawalu. 22. Tommy Morgan. 23. Iestyn Griffiths.
Penalties: Murphy x 4
Yellow Cards: Cai James, Tom Harper
15. Jack Maynard. 14. Kian Abraham. 13. Adam Warren. 12. Rhodri Jones. 11. Aaron Warren. 10. Ioan Hughes. 9. Lee Rees (c).
1. Jamie Hughes. 2. Craig Thomas. 3. Llyr Green. 4. Griff Evans. 5. Joe Powell. 6. Jordan Evans. 7. Stuart Worrall. 8. Osian Davies.
Subs: 16. Ricky Guest. 17. Dino Dallavalle. 18. Berian Watkins. 19. Marco Dallavalle. 20. Lloyd Pike. 21. Callum Dodd. 22. Kristian Jones. 23. Dafydd Land.
Tries: Craig Thomas, Lee Rees
Conversions: Maynard x 2
Penalties: Maynard x 2
Referee: Ben Whitehouse
Assistant referees: 1 – Elfyn Morris-Roberts, 2 – Joseff Rees
WRU Man of the Match: Sion Parry