Gritty Ponty succumb to The Ironmen
It was a typically resolute away performance that Ponty supporters have come to expect from the team this season. With less than ten minutes left in the match the Valley Commandos were within striking distance, but the home side ultimately sealed a deserved win at The Wern.
Joseph Scrivens kicked the match off, miscommunication from the home side saw the ball bounce off the artificial turf and Ponty got their hands on it. Ponty were quick to spin it wide right to onrushing fullback Jamie Murphy but the German international was tackled just inside the Merthyr 22, however, referee Mr. Simon Rees was playing penalty advantage so brought Ponty back to the place of the infringement and Scrivens gave Ponty an early lead off the tee.
As the half progressed, it was mainly passages of frantic play for either side, due in the large to the inability of both teams being unable to exit sufficiently from kick-offs – get ready for some restart chat!
Merthyr restarted after Ponty’s early penalty-goal and regained possession shortly after. Pontypridd were penalised for a high tackle on the 10-metre line and the home side kicked to touch. From the line-out they set the rolling maul and it was moving deep into the Ponty 22 and from that James Soanes fed fly-half Gareth Thompson who put in a pinpoint cross-field kick for winger Adam Hoskins to gather and score. Thompson missed the conversion, but Merthyr had the lead 5-3.
Ponty kicked off and Merthyr were penalised for offside near the ruck and Joseph Scrivens immediately stepped up to restore Ponty’s lead from the tee, 6-5 to the away side.
In an all-action opening, Merthyr restarted and it was their chasing no.8 Tom Daley that caught his outside-half’s drop-out and Merthyr had good field position. The men from The Wern started clocking up the phases, but Ponty’s first up tackling and defence matched everything they threw at them and they won the mini-battle when their hard-hitting forced an error.
Ponty got themselves into the Valleys Derby – both in terms of territory and possession but small inaccuracies cost them. Firstly, Ponty earned a scrum-penalty which was kicked into touch for a line-out on halfway. The throw and gather was successful and the rolling maul that followed was excellent – hurtling its way towards the Merthyr 22 metre line but Ponty knocked the ball on whilst trying to transfer it between forwards and backs. Ponty earned another penalty shortly after, on halfway. Again they kicked to touch but this time the throw at the line-out wasn’t straight and another opportunity was passed up.
At this stage the match was still just about in the first quarter when this time it was Merthyr who were awarded a penalty around the halfway zone – where a fair chunk of the match had taken place at this point. Merthyr kicked to touch and after the line-out they were given another penalty when Sion Parry was adjudged to have entered the ruck illegally. The home side turned down a kickable 3-pointer in favour of the powerplay and it paid off when ex-Ponty hooker Rhys Williams bundled over at the base of a rolling maul from the line-out. The conversion was missed but the lead was 10 points to 6.
Ponty restarted, Merthyr cleared their lines but Dale Stuckey was tackled in the air which resulted in a penalty, nearly 50 metres out with the angle but Joseph Scrivens stepped up and his superb successful strike narrowed the deficit to a single point at 10-9.
28 minutes had elapsed when Ponty hooker Gavin Parry was sent to the sin-bin for infringing at a breakdown after Merthyr were building pressure going through lots of pick-and-go phases. On this occasion Merthyr turned down the line-out opportunity and went for goal, Gareth Thompson putting them 13 points to 9 ahead.
From the kick-off (remember those kick-offs), there was a flare-up – it certainly looked feisty from the observational eye but the referee only gave both teams a talking-to. Play continued with a scrum, the ever-carrying, ever-reliant Joe Miles picked up from the base and went blind down the narrow side, the ball was then flashed right and Scrivens tried to find Stuckey via a cross-field kick but the threat was snuffed out by Merthyr. Penalty advantage was being played for Ponty and this time it nudged into the corner, line-out was won, ball secured and Ponty proceeded to pound the Merthyr try-line but were penalised at a crucial moment for going off their feet at the breakdown.
Shortly after, Dale Stuckey fielded a Merthyr kick through and put in a brilliant up-and-under which resulted in an even better gather by him, he then hacked through and looked to have been taken out but play was waved on.
Just prior to half-time, arguably the key moment of the match, certainly in terms of scoreboard pressure – Ponty Skipper Kris Parker was penalised for a late hit on Merthyr fullback Ben Jones after he’d kicked the ball through. From the penalty award the home side kicked into the corner and had a line-out 10 metres out from Ponty’s try-line. Merthyr secured possession, went wide and with last play of the half Adam Hoskins scored his second in the right-hand corner. Thompson missed the extras but Merthyr had a crucial two-score 18-9 lead as both teams ran down the tunnel.
HALF TIME – Merthyr 18-9 Pontypridd
Merthyr got the second half underway and it was much less of a hectic affair compared to the first – inaccuracies from both sides largely contributing to this. Merthyr attacked first down the left but were penalised and Jamie Murphy was injured in the process, although he carried on initially. Ponty then won back-to-back penalties – a line-out just inside the Merthyr half leading to a line-out on the Merthyr 22 but the ball was lost.
A few minutes later Pontypridd were awarded yet another penalty and the referee gave Merthyr a ‘team warning.’ Scrivens’ kick to touch missed its target but Merthyr spilled his misplaced kick and Ponty had a scrum on their 5-metre line – unfortunately for Ponty, another decision went against them when Tom Harper was penalised for slipping his binding.
For the first 15 minutes or so of the second half Pontypridd were the better side but couldn’t convert their chances and as an onlooker, you felt it may cost them, and it would. Ben Jones put in a great 50/20 but Ponty snuffed out the threat in their 22.
Ponty kept attacking, showing plenty of intent and Garyn Payne, who hadn’t long entered the arena took a crash ball up and an illegal shot from Merthyr captain Criag Locke earned the ex-Ponty favourite a yellow card and 10 minutes on the side-line.
A faultless kicking display from Pontypridd fly-half Joseph Scrivens continued when he converted a 40-metre penalty on the hour mark and put his team within touching distance of potentially winning the match at 18-12 behind.
The match headed into the last quarter and neither team were willing to take a backward step. Merthyr were attacking with real force but stoic Ponty defence, led by skipper Kris Parker was flooring everything thrown at them – Josh Lewis’ snap drop-goal sailing wide.
70 minutes had just ticked over on the clock and Ponty, despite finding themselves three tries to nil behind were still only a try of their own away from winning with the score still standing at 18-12.
Replacement Merthyr fly-half Josh Lewis gave The Ironmen breathing space when he extended their advantage to two-scores, it was now 21-12 after 71 minutes.
Ponty did not give up and still believed they could win the match. Craig Locke dropped an Alex Lloyd up-and-under just outside his 22. From that play Scrivens put in a cross-field kick to winger Iestyn Griffiths but the ball dropped just agonisingly ahead of him with the try-line begging and Merthyr countered from that! A few phases later, replacement Merthyr flanker Osian Davies broke clear and looked to be home and hosed but an unbelievable try-saving tackle from Dale Stuckey coming across and knocking the ball out of his grasp prevented the try.
In the dying seconds of the match, and with the comfort of a two-score buffer Merthyr rolled the dice and kicked into the corner when they were awarded a penalty. They threw in, were awarded another penalty, which they took quickly and replacement scrum-half Tavis Knoyle scored. Josh Lewis kicked the conversion for an unassailable 28-12 lead.
Despite the scoreboard being against them Pontypridd didn’t give up and carried on taking the fight to Merthyr, but it was the home side that earned the bonus-point win.
FULL TIME – Merthyr 28-12 Pontypridd (24/2/2023)
15. Jamie Murphy (Alex Lloyd). 14. Iestyn Griffiths. 13. Tommy Morgan. 12. Jordan Howells (Garyn Payne). 11. Dale Stuckey. 10. Joseph Scrivens. 9. Rory Harries (Joel Raikes).
1. Tom Devine (Ben Stephens). 2. Gavin Parry (Nathan Huish). 3. Tom Harper (Morgan Bosanko). 4. Kristian Parker (c). 5. James Little (Mitch Barnard). 6. Cai James (Aled Ward). 7. Sion Parry. 8. Joe Miles.
Subs: 16. Nathan Huish. 17. Ben Stephens. 18. Morgan Bosanko. 19. Mitch Barnard. 20. Aled Ward. 21. Joel Raikes. 22. Garyn Payne. 23. Alex Lloyd.
Penalties: Scrivens x 4
Yellow Card: Gavin Parry
15. Ben Jones. 14. Teri Gee. 13. Morgan Sieniawski. 12. Rhys Davies. 11. Adam Hoskins. 10. Gareth Thompson. 9. James Soanes
1. Chris Phillips. 2. Rhys Williams. 3. Rhys Lewis. 4. Craig Locke (c). 5. Callum Bradbury. 6. Paddy McBride. 7. Thomas Jevons. 8. Tom Daley.
Subs: 16. Dan Wall. 17. Louis Jones. 18. Jordan Rogers. 19. Phil Rees. 20. Osian Davies. 21. Tavis Knoyle. 22. Josh Lewis. 23. Dafydd Thomas.
Tries: Hoskins x 2, Rhys Williams, Knoyle
Conversion: Josh Lewis
Penalties: Thompson, Josh Lewis
Yellow Card: Craig Locke
Referee: Simon Rees
Assistant referees: 1 – Aaron Parry, 2 – Jason Griffiths
WRU Man of the Match: Joseph Scrivens