Pontypridd’s cup run failed to get off the ground as their mistakes were punished by last years runners-up Merthyr in a 39-19 defeat at The Wern.
In the beaming sun it was Pontypridd that started the brighter as the team in gold scored the first try of the contest. From one wing to the other, it started with Alex Webber’s chip through with the speedster reclaiming the ball and recycling possession. Ponty then shifted it out wide to Dale Stuckey who chased his own kick from halfway to give the away side the perfect start.
Justin Burnell’s team proceeded to dominate possession before poor communication between thrower and jumper gave Merthyr the perfect response as Damien Welch gathered Ben Parry’s throw to crash over the line.
Things got worse for Parry and Pontypridd as his throw went astray once more from the lineout leading to Merthyr’s second of the game. After a few phases of play, home captain Phil Rees burst through the opposition tacklers before offloading to scrum-half Justin James who won a foot race to the line.
The defence of the Valley Commandos seemed to be up to the test as Ponty won a crucial penalty five-metres from their own try-line but just a minute later Merthyr were cantering in for their third try of the first half. Another over-throw was gathered by Rhys Jones who flung the ball out wide to fullback Matthew Jarvis who danced through the Ponty defence to extend the home side’s lead.
A response was needed and it nearly came from bustling second-row James Murphy who caught the ball straight from the kick off and was denied by a covering tackle, allowing Merthyr to take a 17pts to 5 lead into the interval.
The momentum continued with the home side, Pontypridd crumbling as Merthyr scored their fourth and fifth tries of the game through a Sam Jones double. The first came after a storming run from Hemi Barnes, the ball thrown across the backline to Jarvis who drew a defender before setting up Jones to score in the corner.
Jones’ second was more about his footballing ability rather than his ball in hand skills. With the ball looking certain to bounce out of play after a kick from his namesake Rhys, the winger managed to keep the ball in field and dot the ball down to deepen Pontypridd’s cup-slump.
Even with the score line against them and having emptied their bench, Pontypridd gave themselves some hope as Dale Stuckey doubled his try count after charging down Jarvis’ clearance. The heart shown by Stuckey to chase a lost cause was one of the away side’s bright moments on a bitterly disappointing day.
There was even room for yet another score for Merthyr as Rhys Williams steered a driving maul over the line. It was Pontypridd who had the final say as the men in gold made the most of Adam Thomas’ sin-binning to carve out a score for substitute Nathan Huish who linked well with Ben Stephens to crash over in the corner, narrowing the final deficit to 39pts to 19.
Nathan Parker – Pontypridd Media Team
15.Matthew Jarvis. 14.Ashley Norton. 13.Adam Thomas. 12.Aaron Pinches. 11.Sam Jones. 10.Rhys Jones (Gareth Davies). 9.Justin James (Adam Hoskins).
1.Chris Phillips (James Howe). 2.Rhys Williams (Sam Evans). 3.Jack Gilding (Ryan Thomas). 4.Hemi Barnes. 5.Damian Welch. 6.Jake Thomas (Tom Daley). 7.Jack Perkins. 8.Phil Rees – cpt (Andrew Murphy).
Tries: Welch (16); James (24); Jarvis (30); S. Jones (47, 55); Williams (70)
Cons: R. Jones (31, 56); Jarvis (71)
Pen: R. Jones (54)
15.Corey Sheppard. 14.Alex Webber. 13.Alex Knott Lloyd Rowlands / Diggy Bird). 12.Dafydd Lockyer – cpt. 11.Dale Stuckey. 10.Ben Jones. 9.Joel Raikes (Tom Rowlands).
1.Huw Owen (Ben Stephens). 2.Ben Parry (Nathan Huish). 3.Morgan Bosanko (Curtis Hicks). 4.Sean Moore. 5.James Murphy (Sion Parry). 6.Lloyd Evans (Garrick Legge). 7.Morgan Sieniawski. 8.Kristian Parker.
Tries: Stuckey (9, 61); Huish (80)
Cons: Bird (61, 81)
Referee: Elgan Williams.
WRU man of the match: Dale Stuckey