Pontypool United RFC | 1st Team 10 - 25 Aberystwyth RFC | 1st Team

Match Report
14 December 2015 / Team News

Aber through to Swalec Plate Round 3

Pontypool United 10 pts  Aberystwyth 25

Both sets of players, coaches and Merthyr referee Kerry Minahan are to be commended for allowing this game to go on. After the continued rainfall of the previous three days the volunteers at Pontypool’s Memorial Ground worked hard to clear most of the surface water during the morning, but conditions remained heavy, wet and very muddy.

The match was a classic East-west setup, the home side in Division 2 East of the National League, whilst the visitors play in the parallel 2 West. The visitors have had the better start to their League season but such form is a very bad indicator of what goes on in Cup matches. Aberystwyth were missing a few faces from their usual lineup but there was plenty of enthusiasm in the side that ran down the steps to the field to face a young looking United side, even though they seemed slightly the heavier.

Both sides spent the opening minutes finding their footings as well as weighing each other up, and the Aber defence was called into play to keep their hosts at bay. They were caught offside in the third minute just inside their own 22 and home centre Robert Tovey stepped up to land a penalty for a three point lead. He narrowly missed a longer attempt five minutes later but his side hung on to their three point lead. The Aber pack then found their rhythm and started, worryingly for the home spectators, to dominate territory and possession. When skipper Jason Rees, playing in the centre on the day, landed a 25 metre penalty in the 18th minute it was no more than the visitors deserved to draw the scores level.  Aberystwyth continued to camp themselves deep into the Pontypool half and in the 27th minute won a scrum some 20 metres from the United line. The Aber eight harnessed themselves to perfection in outplaying their opponents and marching them backwards. It is a surreal note in the ears of the older spectators to think of a Pontypool eight being pushed back over their own line (even if it was United!) but that is exactly what happened and flanker Oakley Johnston pounced on the ball as soon as the line was reached to claim the first try of the match and put his side ahead for the first time by 8 points to 3.

Tovey was unsuccessful with a third attempt at goal, misjudging the rising wind, but five minutes before the interval Rees intercepted a home move inside his own half and set off on the long journey to the line. He might have made it himself but looked for support and the chance was gone. Aber got a scrum 30 metres out however and scrum half Gruff Jones shimmied a half break down the narrow side; wing Adam Carvell was on his shoulder and the young speed merchant beat off all defenders for a second Aber try. Aberystwyth turned around with a 13-3 advantage and were looking forward to the advantage of the wind and a deceptive slope in the second half.

Life seemed to be getting even better for the visitors when the pack repeated the operation of pushing back the Pontypool eight in the 44th minute to open up an 18-3 lead. Any thoughts that the home side might capitulate were put to bed however as they attacked and their game improved, aided in some part by some tactical substitutions in their back row. Aberystwyth had to put in some prolonged and hard defence and the home pack failed on more than one occasion to push them backwards. After a full fifteen minutes of this Aberystwyth were getting penalised more often when they were caught not retreating from the ball some 24 metres from their own line and no-one would have been surprised to see a card from the referee. But Mr Minahan was in the perfect position to see some over-zealous rucking of one of the Aber flankers by a Pontypool lock and stopped play immediately. The penalty he had awarded against Aberystwyth was reversed and the offending lock was brandished a red card reducing the home side to 14 men for the remainder of the afternoon. It was an unpleasant incident but it must be said that some of the retaliation from the visitors breached disciplinary acceptability as well. Their reduction to 14 men had an effect of raising the home side’s game however and they were rewarded in the 70th minute when a well worked move put centre Chad Ward over in the corner; an excellent conversion from Tovey closed the gap to eight points.

Pontypool now had the momentum and were a definite threat to Aber’s lead. But in the 77th minute Rees again intercepted between two home threequarters and this time ran the 65 metres to the tryline for Aber’s fourth try. To allow him to recover the conversion was taken by left wing Llyr Thomas and as that sailed between the posts the game was effectively over at 25-10 to the visitors.  Aberystwyth now await the third round draw (to be played on 16 January) but have a week off before travelling to Tregaron on Boxing Day for their next League encounter. 

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