A dull, dreary day greeted me at Pontypool Park after a couple of weeks away in the sun. Whilst I had been away, Pooler had recorded two home victories against local rivals Newbridge in the league and Tata Steel in the Cup so had maintained their unblemished record for the season. The opponents for this encounter were Bedlinog who have shown over the last couple of seasons that they are at home in the Championship.
Pontypool played down the slope in the first half and it was abundantly clear from the early stages that Pooler were going to have to work hard for victory against a resolute and well organised Bedlinog defence. The home side controlled territory and possession but the Bedlinog tackles were firm. After around ten minutes, Pooler hooker Ball unexpectedly shot out of a ruck twenty metres from the Bedlinog line and fed Jeune who gleefully kept up his recent remarkable try scoring record by scoring the first try, The conversion was successful and Pooler were on their way (7-0). Five minutes later a copybook lineout drive saw Ball touch down for an unconverted try (12-0).
The Bedlinog defence continued to work hard and it took some really good combined play between the home backs and forwards to breach it a quarter of an hour later. Gullis popped up in support exactly on cue to finish off the move in the left hand corner. The try was converted by Jones and Pooler looked in complete control (19-0), Their dominance was reinforced when Robinson scored in the right hand corner after a period of Pooler pressure to bag the try bonus point (24-0).
Bedlinog are made of stern stuff and came back strongly as the first half drew to a close. Trowbridge was first to react to a speculative cross kick and scored a try which was converted by Parry (24-7). This was followed by a Parry penalty that closed the gap to 24-10 at half time. Pontypool seemed in control but Bedlinog were not to be underestimated.
The game followed a similar pattern in the second half as Pooler continued to attack and the Bedlinog defence continued to stifle their best efforts. It took two deft kicks from Jones for the home side to crack the defence midway through the half. The beneficiaries were Gullis and Thorley who both scored in the right hand corner in the space of a few minutes. Neither try was converted but all thoughts of a Bedlinog comeback disappeared with the score at 34-10.
The Pontypool squad has strength in depth and as the replacements were made Pontypool got fresh impetus and scored two more tries with both Thorley and Robinson grabbing their second tries of the afternoon. Both were wide out and went unconverted but the scoreboard had ticked on to an impressive 44-10. Remarkably only two of Pooler’s eight tries had been converted.
The final minutes of the match saw a yellow card for each team but no further scoring.
Another strong performance from Pontypool saw them increase their lead at the top of the Championship to nineteen points. There are two big challenges coming up though. Next week Pontypool travel to West Wales to take on Narberth who lie in second place in the Championship and always provide a stern test. The following week they face Premiership opposition as they take on Carmarthen Quins at home in the next round of the National Cup.
The western Welsh regions have done well in European competition this weekend with a brilliant performance by the Scarlets at Bath and a hard fought draw for the Ospreys against the reigning European champions Saracens. Let us hope the eastern regions can follow suit to give Wales a boost for the fast-approaching Six Nations tournament.
I can’t add any comment on the Welsh Premiership as I really don’t understand how anyone could come up with such an odd format. It doesn’t have to be that complicated does it?
Perhaps Pooler will be part of it some day soon!
Come on Pooler!