Sunday, 26 March 2017

Pontypool Struggle with University Challenge

A beautiful afternoon in Cyncoed, Cardiff with two teams locking horns with plenty to play for was a mouth-watering prospect. Cardiff Met have always been recognised as a team with a desire to play attractive open rugby and conditions certainly looked ideal as they tried to climb out of the relegation zone of the Championship. For their part, Pontypool have looked at their best in good playing conditions and knew that if they took the spoils they would be crowned champions.

The home side chose to play with a stiff breeze behind them in the first half. In the first few minutes they were given a starter for six with two well-taken penalty goals from near the halfway line by Williams (6-0). It was clear that the scrum was going to be a problem for a Pooler as it was completely unstable and the referee felt Pooler were to blame. Pontypool were also going to have problems containing the pacy and slick-passing home backs who looked dangerous from the outset.
Towards the end of the first quarter, Pontypool did manage to win some decent possession and Rusby Davies forced his way over the line for a try. The successful conversion gave the away side a narrow lead at 6-7. We expected Pontypool to kick on but virtually every time they worked their way into a promising position they gave away a penalty at scrum or ruck. It was frustrating stuff!
Cardiff Met continued to look dangerous and, after around half an hour, their backs cut Pooler to pieces for Northmore to score their first try. The conversion opened up a 13-7 lead for the students. Worse was to follow for Pooler with another long range penalty from Williams and a yellow card for Rusby Davies on the stroke of half time. This left the score at the interval 16-7 with Pontypool having a lot of thinking to do. They had lacked any measure of control of the game and had given away far too many penalties to the lively and committed students.
Pontypool did have the benefit of the breeze in the second half and enjoyed their best period in the third quarter of the match even though they were down to fourteen men for the first ten minutes. The scrum on the Pontypool put-in was stabilised by the introduction of Harford and the penalty count against them dropped. It was from a scrum near the halfway line early in the second half that Pooler scored their second try. After a couple of good passes, Gullis found himself in space and sprinted forty metres to score in the corner. Jones converted and Pooler were back in the game at 16-14.
Pooler continued to press but time and again were frustrated by the students at the breakdown and gave away too many turnovers. As the third quarter drew to a close, the away team was at last awarded a penalty near the halfway line. Matthew Jones converted with aplomb and Pontypool were back in the lead at 16-17
The final quarter was clearly going to be a tense affair. The injury count mounted for both teams with the respective benches being emptied which added to the frenetic nature of the game. Pontypool looked the more likely to score but the students looked dangerous whenever they won a turnover. The students were scrapping hard for every ball and the scrums had once again became a shambles.
Early in the fourth quarter came the turning point in the game. Pontypool were on the attack near the halfway line and a stray pass was intercepted by the grateful Northmore who galloped almost fifty metres to score under the posts. Pontypool were in trouble with the score line 23-17.
Pontypool strove manfully to get back into the game but could not find any rhythm or control. Their task was made more difficult by the frequent injury stoppages. The main issue, however, was the inspired play of Cardiff Met who were not about to let the opportunity of a famous victory slip. The final nail in Pooler’s coffin came when they conceded another turnover and brilliant inter-passing by the students paved the way for Evans to score in the corner as normal time came to an end. Another great kick from Williams converted the try and the students were home and dry at 30-17.
There was still the possibility of a losing bonus point for Pontypool and they attacked ferociously with time running out. Harford did manage to force his way over in the corner in the last play. Unfortunately the conversion went wide to leave the final score at 30-22 so no bonus point for Pontypool.

So Pontypool’s long winning streak came to an end and you have to say that the students deserved their victory. Pontypool never managed to gain the measure of control over the game that they have enjoyed for most of the season. The lively and committed students proved difficult to contain and Pooler’s cause was certainly not helped by giving away far too many penalties. The unbeaten record may have gone but the Championship is still well within their grasp. A home win against Glamorgan Wanderers next week would seal it but, after this defeat, it is clear that Pontypool can take nothing for granted.

I cannot begin to understand the machinations that are taking place at the Dragons. I only hope for Gwent rugby’s sake that a workable solution can be found. Even the most ardent Pontypool fan surely recognises that Gwent should have a competitive professional rugby team.

The snippets of Welsh regional rugby that I watched over the last couple of days were pretty dire. I saw bits of the second half of Scarlets against Edinburgh and the last quarter of Treviso versus Ospreys. Both were awful but at least the Scarlets managed a win unlike all the other Welsh regions.

Congratulations to RGC 1404 for pipping Merthyr for a place in the Challenge Cup final. It amply demonstrates that teams from the Championship can be competitive at Premiership level.

Let us hope that we have a better Saturday next weekend.

Come on Pooler!   

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Scrumming to a Painful Conclusion

Wales duly completed their Six Nations programme with a visit to Paris. I was watching from the comfort of my armchair and, as the first fifteen minutes of the match unfolded, I was mighty glad I was there rather than in the Stade de France. France came out of the blocks like Usain Bolt and Wales looked a bit like they did in the second half in Murrayfield. Rather by luck then good play, they only shipped fifteen points when in reality it could have been double that.
Thankfully they started to get some measure of control and the reliable boot of Halfpenny gradually closed the gap to 10-9 by half time. It was fast and loose and full of handling errors by both teams in what seemed to be perfect playing conditions. Wales were struggling manfully all over the field to contain the power and weight of the French players and the scrum was a particular source of concern.
The second half was more of the same with Wales even having the temerity to build a five point lead through three more Halfpenny penalties with the French replying with a penalty of their own. In truth, neither side seemed to have the composure to score a try. It was attritional stuff with both teams suffering a series of injuries. The introduction of Samson Lee seemed to shore up the Welsh scrum but then Ball followed Wyn Jones off the field with injuries and Wales were left with only one recognised second row forward.
As the match entered what we thought were its final knockings, Wales had been forced back deep into their twenty two but still held that five point lead. France were awarded scrum five metres out as the final minute approached it looked odds on that the powerful French scrum would prevail. There followed the most bizarre passage of play I have seen on a rugby field. “The last play” lasted almost twenty minutes as Wales desperately tried to keep the French from scoring. There were penalties, sin-binnings, substitutions, injuries, allegations of fake injuries, allegations of biting – you name it we had it! The most surprising thing is that referee Wayne Barnes didn’t award a penalty try to France. It could only end in one way and that was for France to score which they eventually did as the cockerel crowed to signify the dawning of the next day. The conversion was straight and true and Wales lost by two points (18-20). Mon Dieu !

This was a pretty low quality match and the only thing that will be remembered is the almost farcical final twenty minutes. It was a match that Wales could have and, maybe should have, won. The finishing, which had been much improved against the Irish the previous week, seemed to disappear. The passing by the backs was not accurate enough with men all too often having to take the ball standing still. Another source of worry was the inability to secure the ball when the opposition kicked off. Put together with the missed tackles and the retreating scrum, there were certainly more negatives than positives.

The day had started with Scotland v. Italy from Murrayfield with Scotland duly putting the hapless Italians to the sword 29-0. It was another pretty low quality affair but at least they had the excuse of difficult playing conditions as they had to cope with rain and wind. Yet again the Italian goal kicking let them down. They also created enough chances to score a try or two. On the other hand. Scotland took their chances clinically and certainly deserved their win.

We then moved over to Dublin for the climax of the Six Nations. Could the mighty England claim a grand slam and a world record number of consecutive victories or would the Irish find the inspiration to spoil the party? After rather fortunate victories over France and Wales, England’s luck finally ran out. The Irish were in uncompromising mood and tore into the English. On the day they were better in all departments and the final score of 13-9 if anything flattered England. As Wales had against the Irish the previous week, Ireland just seemed to want it more. It was a rather crestfallen English team that trooped up to receive the Six Nations Cup. They also still have a share in the most consecutive victories and the record for the most consecutive games without playing against New Zealand.
The final weekend of the Six Nations did not really scale the heights in terms of the quality of rugby and I would not think that the watching New Zealanders were quaking in their boots. There was plenty of drama and tension and this made it compelling to watch. Congratulations to England who were deserved champions by virtue of recording the sole away victory in the matches only involving the top five nations. I sometimes wonder whether the Six Nations Championship should take place over two years rather than one so that each team could play each other home and away.

The last two weekends have certainly thrown up some dilemmas for the Lions selectors with the formbook turned upside down by the Welsh victory over Ireland, the Irish victory over England and, of course, the Scottish capitulation against England. For what it is worth, my view is that the backs who have done themselves a good turn are Webb, Sexton, Farrell, North and Hogg. That leaves a wing and centre slot up for grabs. In the pack it is more difficult – it depends whether we want to try and overpower the All Blacks or match them for athleticism and handling skills. Why not both I here you say? The captain will most likely be a forward with Best, Hartley, Wyn Jones and possibly Warburton in the frame. Best clearly outshone Hartley yesterday and Owens of Wales edged it over Best the previous week. Would Best get into the test team ahead of Owens or George? Both Wyn Jones and Warburton have been part of the underachieving Wales team and would they be guaranteed selection for the test team? Warburton has the benefit of having captained the Lions before but seems to be playing much better now that he has relinquished the Welsh captaincy. On balance, I think I might make Best captain. Having done that, Best, Furlong, Itoje and Launchbury would be my definites in the pack with four places up for grabs. The final selection would be dependent on where Itoje plays. In modern rugby the strength of the forwards on the bench is critical and it is good to note the strength in depth available in the back row across all four nations. I am sure that there will plenty of column space devoted to the Lions over the next month or so by men who are much wiser than I. In the end it is down to Warren Gatland and his management team.

Next week we are back to proper rugby again. Pontypool are back in league action at Cardiff Metropolitan University knowing that a victory will clinch the championship.   The lively students always present a serious challenge when they are at full strength in good playing conditions. Pooler will have to be their best that is for sure.
Come on Pooler!

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Home Sweet Home

Pontypool finally returned to Pontypool Park for their first home game since the first week of January. They had been on a fantastic journey to the quarter final of the Cup but unfortunately all three games were away from home. Still it had given the army of supporters the opportunity to sample the sparsely populated Scarlet Sahara before moving on to the perfection of the Cardiff carpet and finally coming to grief on the anti-rugby Pandy pudding. A great experience and a great credit to the club who clearly showed that they would be quite at home with the big beasts of the Premiership. Nevertheless, it was great to back in the familiar surroundings of Pontypool as Pooler resumed their challenge for the Championship title. The pitch looked in ideal condition on a calm and mercifully dry day. Pooler had an ideal chance to exorcise the demons of Pandy Park against mid-table Newcastle Emlyn.

Pooler played up the slope in the first half and set off at a cracking pace playing some really attractive running rugby. Unfortunately for the home side, they made far too many handling errors and although they threatened the Emlyn line on many occasions could not get the breakthrough. As the first quarter drew to a close, they had to settle for a solitary penalty goal to lead 3-0.
Suddenly all that changed as the home side began to click …and how! Brookes sprinted over in the corner virtually from the restart (8-0). Not long after Watkins was the beneficiary as Pooler drove over from a lineout and the successful conversion made it 15-0. A sumptuous passage of play saw Jones get the next try after the backs had attacked from long range (22-0). Straight from the restart Brookes got his second as he outpaced the shell-shocked Emlyn defence. The try was converted and from nowhere Pooler had earned their bonus point. The blitz wasn’t over and there was still time for East to rumble over near the posts to boost the score to 36-0 as the first half ended. A truly remarkable passage of play and you feared for Newcastle Emlyn if Pooler continued in the same vein playing down the slope in the second half.
It looked as if it was going to be a continuation of the purple patch as Usher powered his way over in the corner from forty metres out. This was followed by another try from the speedy Brookes who achieved a personal hat trick with another fine effort. Both tries went unconverted, but it seemed as if a cricket score was on the cards with Pooler establishing a 46-0 lead.
The usual bevy of substitutions followed. This had a profound effect on the game as Emlyn seemed to get stronger while Pooler reverted to the rather error-strewn disjointed play of the first quarter. To their credit, the away side started to get a decent share of possession and worked their way up into the Pooler 22 where they camped for a lengthy period. Eventually they got the try their pressure deserved following some good forward play. The conversion failed but at least they were on the scoreboard at 46-5.
Pontypool were stung into action and eventually Quick capped another livewire display with a try that, with the successful conversion, brought up the half century (53-5). Pooler continued to attack but time ran out before they could heap further misery on the gallant visitors.

This was another big win for Pontypool who extended their unbeaten run to eighteen in the Championship and took a great stride towards clinching the title. The devastating purple patch that saw Pooler rack up thirty three points in twenty minutes will linger long in the memory. Just one more win will clinch it now but it would be fantastic if they could win their last four fixtures to finish the season with a perfect record. That certainly will not be easy with the next match away at Cardiff Met who, in the shock of the day, recorded shock win at second in the table Tata Steel.

Another side who were glad to return to their home ground was Wales. They put in a much improved performance to end Ireland’s hopes of winning the Six Nations Championship. The defence was fantastic and for once they took their chances in attack to score three tries with George North looking much more like his old self. It could have been so different if Henshaw hadn’t given away a soft penalty as Ireland were threatening to score a try. Still we will not dwell on that, Wales were deserving victors in a pulsating encounter.  
As the final whistle blew, I commiserated with a travelling Irish fan but all he could manage was, “Do you realise what you have f*****g done, you have just f*****g given the title to f*****g England.” I was a bit non-plussed as I was not quite sure what he thought Wales should have done. He went off into the distance in search of a pint or two of Guinness still chuntering about England. “C’est la vie” as we say in Pontypool.
England duly obliged and crushed Scotland at Twickenham in fine style to become Champions with a game to spare. It is now down to the Irish to stop Edward’s army and “to send them homeward to think again” without the grand slam. I do hope they do as, if not, life in the rugby world will become unbearable again.

Next weekend is blank for Pontypool but Wales have their final match to play in Paris. This will be a very tough physical challenge. The only thing on the line is world ranking points which will affect the Rugby World Cup draw. I think Wales have probably secured their place in the top eight with the victory over Ireland but I am not sure about France who were in eighth place just above Argentina before their win over Italy. It is all too complicated for me! A Wales victory would do just fine.
Come on Wales!
Come on Pooler!

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Pooler Get Bogged Down

Two exhilarating victories at Llanelli and Cardiff had earned Pontypool yet another away tie at Cross Keys in the quarter final of the Welsh National Cup. Could Pooler cause another upset?
It was a grey cold afternoon with rain threatening and when we looked at the pitch our faces fell. The surface looked muddy and sticky – a million miles from the artificial pitch at Cardiff where Pooler had performed their heroics in the previous round. The high speed rugby that had served us well there wasn’t going to do here.

Cross Keys played with the help of a diagonal wind over their right shoulders in the first half. It soon became abundantly clear that our worst fears would become reality as any quick changes of pace or direction by the players proved impossible on the Pandy pudding. The home side had their game plan off to tee with strong forward drives coupled with an astute kicking game. They also had a back row that were mightily skilled in winning turnovers at the breakdown with Matthews particularly prominent.
Keys used the high penalty count in their favour to grind out a lead in the first half. It wasn’t pretty but it worked. They garnered two penalty goals through Prosser and an unconverted try by Hughes from a driving lineout following a kick to the corner from a penalty and built up a useful 11-0 lead by half time. Pontypool had their moments with one thirty metre forward drive particularly memorable. They also spurned a kick at goal to try a driving lineout of their own. Unfortunately both pieces of play ended up in the redoubtable Cross Keys forwards forcing a turnover. By half time, both teams were covered with thick mud as was the ball which was often difficult to spot. Pontypool had shown plenty of endeavour but had never really looked like breaching the home defence.
In the second half Pontypool needed to have a good start and get some points on the scoreboard if they were going to trouble the home side. Unfortunately they conceded another penalty early on and the deficit increased to 14-0. It left Pooler with a mountain to climb.
Pontypool started to gain some decent possession and strung some phases together. It proved difficult to get runners moving at pace and the Cross Keys defence was more than capable of snuffing out Pooler’s attacks. Indeed most of the attacks seemed to end with a penalty to Cross Keys as the home jackals plied their trade. Pontypool did manage to get some points on the board with a penalty from Jones to make the score 14-3.
It didn’t take long for the home side to respond when No 8 Jones spotted some space behind the Pontypool defence. He put in a deft chip kick that any outside half would have been proud of that allowed Trowbridge to pick up the ball and stroll in in the corner. At 19-3 the match was effectively over.
Pooler attacked strongly for the remainder of the game but it was more of the same as the stingy home defence and the stickiness of the pitch foiled their best efforts. The final whistle blew leaving the score at 19-3 to Cross Keys. Pooler’s Cup adventure was over.

Pontypool fought hard but it was the pragmatism and solid game plan of Cross Keys that deservedly won the day. Their backrow were outstanding and managed to nullify Pontypool’s attacking threat. “Pooler locked out by Keys” would have been the headline that summed up the match in the days of John Billot and J.B.G. Thomas. Another day, another pitch? …. we can but dream.

Pontypool will now get back to League action and face Newcastle Emlyn at the Park next Saturday. After the disappointment at Pandy Park, the squad need to bounce back.  Thanks to everyone at the club for a brilliant cup run. The Cardiff game in particular will live long in my memory.

Meanwhile Wales will also need to regroup after their poor second half display at Murray field last weekend. They face Ireland at the Principality Stadium on Friday evening and know they will have a tough task containing the resurgent Irish. Friday evening Six Nations rugby is not really my cup of tea with the angst surrounding getting to and from the match. Nevertheless I will take my seat and hope that Wales can spring a surprise both in selection and in the result.
Come on Wales!
Come on Pooler!

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Triple Frown

I’ve just got back from the long trek to Edinburgh. We had a great weekend with Scottish hospitality as usual second to none. Unfortunately their hospitality didn’t extend to the second half of the Scotland v. Wales rugby international!
The first half performance by Wales was powerful and purposeful and they really should have built a substantial lead. Yet again we do not seem to be able to crack well-organised defences with our playing pattern. It took a quick tap penalty from the excellent Webb to release Liam Williams for our solitary try. A key period in the match came just before half time when Halfpenny missed a reasonably easy penalty and almost immediately afterwards Scotland showed how dangerous their backs could be with Jones only just being halted close to the line. Scotland were awarded a penalty and instead of it being 16-6 it was 13-9. I am sure this changed the dynamic in the Scotland changing room during half time.
You just knew Scotland were going to come out for the second half breathing fire and brimstone and the task for Wales was to repel their initial assault. Instead of that we had the worst possible start with Halfpenny drooping a high ball giving Scotland field position and possession. The rest, as they say, is history. The momentum shifted and a rampant Scottish team totally outplayed us winning the second half 20-0. True Wales had a couple of chances but anything other than a Scottish victory would have been an injustice. Howley was certainly sent “homeward tae think again”.

I had predicted a Scottish victory in the sweep but not one that was quite this comprehensive. Wales looked befuddled and bereft of ideas as they game drew to its conclusion. Instead of a Triple Crown it looks like a Triple Frown with Wales looking favourites to lose all three matches with the powerful Irish coming to Cardiff in a week or so. What can Wales do? – we don’t even have Cuthbert as a scapegoat this time. His replacement George North certainly didn’t have any positive impact on the game. Can we risk making wholesale changes? Can we risk not making wholesale changes? Have the personnel to make wholesale changes? It is quite a dilemma. Having watched our struggles with Scotland’s kicking game, we had better find a way of dealing with what is sure to be a barrage of similar missiles from Sexton and co.
In the pack there is a case of Charteris and Faletau coming off the bench and replacing Ball and Tipuric. In the backs it must be time to give Sam Davies a start and move Williams to fullback. Let’s give one of the young wings a run possibly at the expense of the out of sorts North. Anyway let’s do something! Where are our strike moves I wonder? One worked perfectly against England are there no more? It doesn’t bode well for the Lions if there are not.

I had better move on – I guess I just feel a bit liverish after all that Scottish hospitality.
I did get home in time to see the England v Italy game and tacklegate. It was quite comical to see England in disarray as the wondered how to find a way to deal with the Italian tactics. It just not rugger don’t you know!
It strikes me that the England starting XV is no better than anyone else’s. They have been at least matched in all three of their encounters so far. Where they come into their own is with the strength of the players on their bench and the way they use them. Clearly if you have so many more players than anyone else you are bound to have greater strength in depth particularly when you bolster it with overseas players. This is the way the All Blacks win many of their games too. Wales do not quite seem to have mastered the use of their replacements.
A sobering though is that if Wales did manage to beat Ireland and England beat Scotland next week, England will be champions with a game to go.

Enough of this Six Nations stuff. The most important match of the season is only six days away with Pontypool travelling to Pandy Park to take on Cross keys in the quarter final of the cup. Cross Keys must start as favourites as a Premiership team with home advantage but I am sure that Pooler are quite capable of providing yet another upset if they bring their A game. Let’s hope for a game like the one that we watched in the Arms Park in last round.

Come on Pooler!

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Vibrant Pooler Win Thriller

Cup games between Cardiff and Pontypool have a rich history with many epic encounters which more often and not have gone Cardiff’s way. So it was that the Pontypool faithful made their way to the Arms Park to witness what they hoped would be another classic encounter. The Cardiff officials seemed a little taken aback by the size of the Pooler Army and this led to a bit of frustration getting into the ground but all that was soon forgotten as we took our places.

Conditions were absolutely perfect with no wind and of course the artificial pitch. Cardiff must surely have started as favourites as they are in the Premiership with Pooler in the league below and of course their familiarity with the way the pitch plays.

Rather like in the previous round in Llanelli, the Premiership side started the stronger as Pontypool tried to acclimatise to the conditions. Cardiff deservedly got the first points on the board with two well-taken penalties by their lively outside half Thompson. The Pontypool tacklers started to get their range and seemed on intent on making the Cardiff attackers their traditional black and blue. There were some thunderous hits going in. Tu’ipulotu in particular was relishing the challenge and he intercepted a pass in a promising home attack and set Brookes scurrying under the posts. Pooler were up and running and with the successful conversion 6-7 in the lead.
Cardiff continued to attack with their pacey backs but Pontypool continued to rock them back with powerful defence. As Pontypool started to get more possession it was clear that their driving play was going to be very effective as they repeatedly crossed the gain line. Pontypool were awarded a penalty and Matthew Jones made no mistake 6-10.
Back came the home side with a series of strong thrusts. The Pontypool defence finally cracked and conceded a try near their posts. Cardiff were back in the lead at 13-10. Cardiff then increased their lead through another penalty to 16-10 after a rather harsh decision by the referee. This was turning out to be a tremendous match with Pooler’s power and commitment against the undoubted skill of the Cardiff backs. Does that sound familiar?
Pontypool worked their way into the Cardiff twenty two and their backs showed just what they could do with a perfectly executed strike move which put Hurley over for a try in the corner. A fantastic try coupled with a fantastic conversion put Pontypool back on top at 16-17.
In the sixth minute of injury time Cardiff were awarded yet another penalty and the sure footed Thompson converted to give the home side a narrow 19-17 lead after a tremendous first half battle. At that stage it was difficult to pick a winner and it promised to be an epic second half.
As you would expect, Cardiff were out of the blocks quickly in the second half and the Pontypool defence had it all to do to keep them out. But keep them out they did and what is more they broke out from their own twenty two and almost scored. There followed a period of concerted pressure from the away side and an excellent line break by Hurley was supported by substitute Gullis who crossed near the posts. With the conversion Pooler were back in the lead at 19-24.
Pontypool really had the bit between their teeth and tore into the Cardiff ranks as they sought to put the game to bed. Their pressure led to a further penalty 19-27 but this was quickly cancelled out by a penalty from the home side 22-27. Yet another penalty to the home side made it 25-27 and it was getting really tense.
The Pontypool supporters pumped up the volume as they tried to will their side home. Pooler responded with another powerful surge deep into home territory. Forwards and backs hurled themselves forward and it was almost inevitable that it was the redoubtable Nash that eventually crossed in the corner. Another fine conversion from Jones gave Pontypool breathing space at 25-34.
Pontypool continued to surge forward and under enormous pressure Cardiff conceded a penalty at a ruck and lost a man to the sin bin. Pontypool looked winners at 25-37 but there was no room for complacency as the Cardiff backs had looked more than capable of scoring a try or two. Strong defence led to another penalty for Pontypool which the ever reliable Jones slotted. The away side had a 15 point lead at 25-40 and were now more than two scores clear with time running out. Game over you would say.
Cardiff didn’t think it was game over, however, and put together a powerful set of phases and despite some strong defence deservedly scored their second try of the match near the posts. The gap had closed to 32-40 deep into injury time. Cardiff threw the ball about but Pooler were in no mood to let this one go. The away side forced Cardiff to concede yet another penalty with Jones yet again converting to bring a fantastic game to a close with a final score of 32-43.

What a brilliant game of rugby and what a brilliant performance by Pontypool. As at Llanelli, it was the complete team performance with everyone playing out of their skins against a good Cardiff side. If this is what rugby on an artificial pitch is like, let’s have more of it! A word for the travelling Pontypool support who outnumbered and out-shouted the home fans and really count as the sixteenth man. There is no mistaking the fact that Pontypool are a Premiership team in all but name and it is a real shame that they have no short term route to that exclusive club.

So Pontypool progress to the quarterfinals and I cannot think that any of the remaining teams will relish playing against them in this mood. Let us hope for a home draw this time so we can give our opponents a real Pooler welcome.
Fantastic win, congratulations to all at the club. You did us proud!

Come on Pooler!

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Wales Mugged by England

“Could have” and “should have” are the words that are ringing in a rather thick head this morning. In the end “didn’t” is the word that sums up the Wales loss to England yesterday.
I had turned up expecting England to win comfortably – perhaps I had been taken in by Eddie Trump’s rhetoric. As it turned out, it was far from comfortable for England who looked second best for most of the match. Unfortunately Wales seem to have lost the knack of scoring tries and this cost them as it did in the Rugby World Cup. In a way the game reminded me of Gibbs Day all those years ago in Wembley. That day it was England who could not build a big enough lead to secure victory. Yesterday it was Wales. Bah! It will take a while to get over this I think.

Next week we have another outing to Cardiff when Pontypool take on Cardiff RFC in the Cup. I am certainly looking forward to it as if Pooler play like they did at Llanelli they will provide a stern test for the city slickers.

Come on Pooler!