Ponty fly-half Matt Bancroft kicked the match off at Newport Stadium and conditions were near-perfect for a game of rugby.
Pontypridd started the match well and were the better side in the opening exchanges. Direct from the kick-off Newport spilled the ball under Ponty pressure and immediately the visitors started to build some phases but were penalised for holding on.
After some kick-tennis in the Newport half, Ponty were awarded a penalty when Joel Raikes was shoved off the ball under a Newport box-kick. The men playing in their red and white alternative camouflage kit kicked to the corner but failed to win their own ball at the line-out – unfortunately for Ponty, this theme continued throughout the match and would cost them dearly.
6 minutes on the clock and referee Gareth Newman gave Pontypridd another penalty, Joel Raikes fouled again, this time a high-tackle and Ponty kicked into the corner. A powerful rolling-maul ensued and with the Ponty pack inches from the Newport try-line the ball was held up with the whitewash in sight. Newport cleared their lines from the scrum and the threat passed.
Nearly a quarter of an hour was now on the clock and all the play had taken place in the Newport half of the pitch. Some good work at a breakdown and Ponty were awarded the penalty, Matt Bancroft stepped up and slotted it and the away side were in the lead 3-0.
Ponty gathered the Newport restart and set the play up, a good box-kick from Joel Raikes and Newport knocked-on trying to catch the high ball. Ponty now had a scrum on the Newport 10 metre line and as has been the norm this season, Ponty’s powerful scrum set-piece earned another penalty which again, they kicked into the corner. Ponty overthrew the ball at the lineout and Newport attacked and burst through deep into Ponty territory. Some strong, backs-against-the-wall Ponty defence kept the home side out, but the referee awarded Newport a penalty, Ponty penalised at a ruck. Newport kicked into the corner and after a few phases from the lineout second-row Dan Hill crashed over from close range. Matt O’Brien added the conversion and Newport’s maiden visit into Ponty’s half saw them with a 7-3 advantage after 20 minutes.
26 minutes ticked over on the clock and it was a scrum to Pontypridd in their own 22. A big shove and penalty advantage was being played so Ponty threw caution to the wind and ran it out – Niko Matawalu went on a barnstorming run from Ponty’s 22 to just outside the Newport 22 where he was hauled down, Newport were then awarded the penalty and the threat was extinguished.
In the 31st minute Matt O’Brien kicked a penalty for Newport, Ponty feeling hard done by at the two previous rucks and the score was now 10-3 to the home side.
Straight from the Ponty restart the Valley Commandos had a half chance when the ball went straight through the Newport catcher’s hands but Dale Stuckey couldn’t quite gather the loose ball and Newport cleared their lines. From the lineout Newport flapped the ball back and Ponty no.8 Aled Ward was the first to react, gathered and after a good run offloaded to the supporting Joel Raikes who crashed over for the try. Bancroft added an excellent two points and the scores were locked at 10-all after 34 minutes.
Just a few minutes later Newport hit back. Ponty’s forwards were working hard to secure the ball just outside their own 22 and Bancroft dropped back and kicked the ball away, a decent enough kick down the left-hand tramline was caught by Newport left wing Oli Andrew who ran it back from just inside the Ponty half. He slipped off an oncoming Ponty tackle attempt and finished well in the left-hand corner, Matt O’Brien kicked a difficult conversion and Newport’s 7-point lead was restored.
The first half was drawing to a close when Ponty were awarded a penalty deep in Newport territory, the 3-pointer attempt was turned down in favour of going to the corner. The away side secured the lineout ball and worked their way infield and were awarded another penalty in front of the Newport posts. This time Ponty decided to take the points on offer, Matt Bancroft knocked over the easy penalty and both sides headed down the Newport Stadium tunnel for their half time team talks.
HALF TIME – Newport 17-13 Pontypridd
Matt O’Brien kicked the second half off for the Black and Ambers, Ponty gathered and Newport did their best to spoil at the ruck but Ponty still managed to get the ball away. Shortly after this Ponty won yet another scrum penalty just outside their 22 and cleared their lines. A very good kick saw Ponty have the throw in at the lineout just outside the Newport 22, ball was secured and some good back play released Matawalu who went on another good run but the ball shot out at the point of contact, Newport picked it up and hoofed it downfield and all of a sudden Ponty now had the throw in at the lineout but just outside their own 22. Ponty overthrew at the lineout but did manage to repel the home attack.
Ponty’s scrum has arguably been the team’s biggest and most reliable weapon this season and this match was no different. After a scrum battle just outside the Newport 22 Ponty were playing a penalty advantage, with this in mind Bancroft took on a snap drop-goal which came back off the post. The referee then blew for the penalty and Bancroft kicked the 3 points and Ponty were one point behind 17-16 after 53 minutes.
Newport hit back virtually straight away – a scrum about 30 metres or so from the Ponty line gave the ‘Port backs a good platform and their backs obliged – some good running lines created a hole in the Ponty defence and wing Oli Andrew finished well for his second try of the game. Skipper O’Brien couldn’t convert and the score stood at 22-16.
Ponty then nearly hit back straight away, a pin-point cross-field kick from Bancroft fell perfectly into the arms of the chasing Tommy Morgan but when tackled he couldn’t quite offload cleanly to the supporting Ceri Morris.
The next 15 minutes or so passage of play was a pretty scrappy. Ponty worked time and time again to secure ball, largely from penalties at the scrummage but were repeatedly inaccurate at the lineout and all the good field position that the away side worked so hard to earn ultimately yielded no points with the match there for the taking.
In the 68th minute Matt O’Brien kicked a penalty for Newport, this gave them a two-score lead and some breathing space at 25-16.
70 minutes had now gone, Ponty were defending in the Newport 22 when the home side attacked down the blindside and Tommy Morgan trying to intercept the ball knocked it on and he was subsequently yellow carded.
A couple of minutes later, Newport took advantage of playing against 14 men and pretty much put the match to bed when no.8 Ben Roach caught an O’Brien cross-field kick to score.
Newport were later awarded a penalty on the final whistle which Matt O’Brien slotted and this sealed Newport’s win by 33 points to 16.
FULL TIME – Newport 33-16 Pontypridd (18/11/2022)
15. Lloyd Rowlands (Alex Lloyd). 14. Niko Matawalu. 13. Tommy Morgan. 12. Ceri Morris. 11. Dale Stuckey. 10. Matt Bancroft (Matthew Lewis). 9. Joel Raikes (Rory Harries).
1. Ben Stephens (Garyn Daniel). 2. Rob Jones (Nathan Huish). 3. Tom Harper (Morgan Bosanko). 4. Kristian Parker (c). 5. James Little (Mitch Barnard). 6. Cally James. 7. Sion Parry. 8. Aled Ward (Joe Miles).
Subs: 16. Garyn Daniel. 17. Nathan Huish. 18. Morgan Bosanko. 19. Mitch Barnard. 20. Joe Miles. 21. Rory Harries. 22. Matthew Lewis. 23. Alex Lloyd
Penalties: Bancroft x 3
Yellow Card: Tommy Morgan
15. Elliot Frewen. 14. Jon Morris. 13. Chay Foster-Smith. 12. Cameron Lewis. 11. Oli Andrew. 10. Matt O’Brien (c). 9. Dafydd Buckland
1. Joe Popple. 2. Henry Palmer. 3. Nathan Evans. 4. Dan Hill. 5. Josh Skinner. 6. George Young. 7. Kyle Tayler. 8. Ben Roach
Subs: 16. Jack Gillard. 17. Thomas Davies. 18. Garin Harris. 19. Elliot Ferriman. 20. Rhys Jenkins. 21. Che Hope. 22. Harri Ackerman. 23. Geraint O’Driscoll
Tries: Hill, Andrew x 2, Roach
Conversions: O’Brien x 2
Penalties: O’Brien x 3
Referee: Gareth Newman
Assistant referees: 1 – Aled Evans, 2 – Gwyn Morris
WRU Man of the Match: Ben Stephens