Saturday, 22 April 2017

Into the Lions then….

Saturday afternoon didn’t seem the same. No Pontypool rugby - just me, the couch, and the TV set. A mighty successful and enjoyable season for Pooler is over. Other teams still have a lot to play for though.

My first thoughts were for our friends and rivals at Newbridge. They had to get a point out of their visit to Narberth to be sure of their place in the Championship next season. I was delighted that they did it in style and recorded a thumping win. The Gwent representation in the Championship would certainly have been pretty sparse without them.

I tuned in to the European Champions Cup semi-final between Munster and Saracens expecting a close thing. In the end, Munster seemed rudderless without Connor Murray and were overpowered by Saracens whose stronger set of replacements took the game away from the Irishmen in the last quarter. Apparently around a quarter of the Lions’ squad were on view in this match and I guess the way the Saracens play might give us a clue as to how the Lions will play. The Saracens were streetwise and ruthless with possibly five of the Lions’ test pack in their ranks and Farrell directing operations at 10. Not pretty but mighty effective.

A lot has been spoken and written about the make-up of the Lions’ squad. In particular about there being twelve Welshmen and only two Scotsmen when Scotland beat Wales in the Six Nations this year. I think the Scots capitulation against England might be a better yardstick to use where the Scots were found wanting when the pressure came on away from home. In a lot of cases the margins in selection must have been mighty close and I am sure it is not a question of bias as Gatland is as pragmatic as they come. Good to see the Pontypool connection with the Lions is still going strong with Faletau and the Vunipola brothers in the touring party. Let us hope that there are no injury problems before the tour and the squad pull together and take it to the All Blacks. They will need a lot of skill plenty of good fortune if they are to prevail.

Congratulations to RGC 1404 for winning the WRU National Cup. This time last year RGC 1404 and Pontypool were locked in a battle for the last promotion place in the Premiership. It demonstrates once again what a good thing promotion/relegation is.

Have a great summer all you Pooler fans.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Pooler Find Bed Uncomfortable

For those of us who were looking forward to a warm, relaxing, spring afternoon, Pontypool’s visit to Bedlinog was a disappointment. There was a keen breeze blowing down the valley which made a warm coat a necessity. The pitch nestled in the valley alongside the river and was dry and firm to say the least with grass in short supply. This was Pooler’s last game of a glorious season and, with a number of familiar faces missing from the starting line-up, you felt that this was going to be a tough encounter against Championship newcomers Bedlinog who occupied a mid-table position.

Pontypool kicked off playing down the valley with the stiff breeze at their backs and immediately went on the attack. Unfortunately they turned over possession when pressing hard and the home side booted the ball up the field. I think the referee was the only person who was convinced that Walker, the Bedlinog wing, had won the chase and touched down in the corner. The conversion failed and the home side had an early lead at 5-0.
Pontypool responded by camping out in the Bedlinog half but were frustrated by a committed defence. Finally, after a quickly taken tapped penalty, Gibson was put clear to cross in the left corner and open the away side’s account and bring the scores level at 5-5. Pontypool continued to attack and gradually built up the lead that you thought would be essential when they turned around to face the elements in the second half. A smartly taken dropped goal by Meek was supplemented by two penalties for Pooler to lead 5-14 after half an hour.
As the first half was coming to an end, the away side were penalised and Bedlinog spurned a relatively easy shot at goal to kick for the corner. This turned out to be a wise decision as, after a series of powerful forward drives, Huish forced his way over near the posts. The successful conversion meant that Pooler’s lead had been trimmed dramatically to 12-14. In the final moments of the half Morgan the Bedlinog flanker was sin-binned for foul play and you felt that this could influence the outcome of a closely contested match.
Pontypool started the second half purposefully and looked as if they really meant to capitalise on their extra man. They were awarded a penalty and opted for a lineout near the Bedlinog line. After a number of forward drives the referee decided that the home side had illegally prevented a try from being scored and awarded Pooler a penalty try. This was just the start that Pontypool wanted – not only had they opened up a 12-21 lead but also the Bedlinog number 8 Murphy had been yellow carded.
This proved to be the turning point in the game and not long after Thorley managed to finish off a good attack by diving over in the left corner and gave Pontypool breathing space with a 12-26 lead.
Bedlinog were far from finished and were given fresh impetus when Meek was yellow carded for a high tackle. They attacked strongly but were thwarted by a Pontypool defence that was not about to let the match slip. A try from the home side at this stage would certainly have made things interesting.
As the match approached full time, the introduction of Matthew Jones proved decisive. His deft kick ahead was gathered by Thorley who fed the supporting Watkins who in turn passed to Sparks who crossed to put the result of the match beyond doubt. Though the conversion failed, Pooler had secured a bonus point and an unassailable lead at 12-31. The match finished with Pontypool attacking strongly but they could not add to their tally.

This was a tough outing for Pontypool who did well to pull off a victory against strong opposition. It brings a marvellous campaign to an end and hearty congratulations to all at the club for making this such a memorable season. Of the many high points, I think the one that will live longest in my memory was that stunning victory in Cardiff Arms Park.
Sadly at the end of all that effort there is not a crock of gold. There is no promotion to the Premiership and Pontypool will have to keep doing what they have done this campaign for another two seasons. I am sure they are more than capable of doing just that but it does seem more than a little unfair.

Judgement Day didn’t really turn out as most people expected. In the first match, a strangely muted Ospreys team was soundly beaten by a fired up Cardiff Blues. In the other match, what was meant to be a try fest for the Scarlets against the Dragons was anything but that with the Scarlets grateful for a narrow victory. So it’s not all about West Wales after all!

Attention now turns to the Lions and the names of those selected for the ultimate honour. I am certainly not going to make any predictions about the make-up of the squad but whoever puts on the famous red jersey let’s get right behind them and see if we can turn over the mighty All Blacks.

Well done Pooler, see you next season.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Champagne Rugby

There was a festive air about Pontypool Park on Saturday. Pontypool were playing their last home game of a mighty successful season. The previous week they had secured the Welsh Championship title and nothing was going to rain on their parade. The Park was bathed in glorious sunshine as young and old enjoyed the party atmosphere. Tata Steel RFC were the visitors and had every intention of being party poopers if they could. For a large part of the season they had been Pooler’s nearest challengers but their challenge had fallen away over the last month or so.

Pontypool kicked off playing down the slope and soon showed that they meant business. They scored three tries within the first quarter of an hour – a powerful burst by Davies, Brooks showing his pace to win the chase from a kick ahead and Watkins from a driving lineout. With two successful conversions from Jones, a 19-0 lead had been opened up before Tata could draw breath.
Pontypool failed to secure the ball from the kick off after their third try and Tata showed that they were not there just to make up the numbers with a well taken try by Davies which was converted by Owen (19-7).
This, however, did not sow the seeds of a comeback as Pooler took complete control in the second quarter with the backs looking like they could score at will. Pooler recorded four more tries through Kent, Thorley, Brooks and Gullis with two successful conversions to make the score at half time an incredible 43-7. The visitors seemingly had no answer to the power and pace of the Pooler machine.
What happened in the second half was bizarre to say the least. Pooler emerged from the changing room looking like they had eaten a nice lunch accompanied by a glass of a robust red wine. Tata Steel came out looking like they had been fed raw meat and were on a mission to salvage their wounded pride. It took the visitors a few minutes to realise that Pooler were having a siesta and then they mounted a fantastic assault. The home defence obligingly opened like the Red Sea for Moses and Tata took full toll. In no time they ran in five tries as their lively backs discovered their mojo. Fortunately for Pooler, Tata’s goal kicking did not match their running and only one of the tries was converted. Nevertheless a seemingly impregnable lead had disappeared before the home team’s very eyes. Tata had amazingly closed the gap to 43-34 and we had barely reached the final quarter of the match.
Pooler’s answer was to empty the substitute’s bench and, once the fresh personnel had got up to speed, the home side regained a grip on a match that was careering out of their grasp. A brace of tries from Thorley settled Pontypool’s nerves and made the scoreboard look a little bit more comfortable at 55-34. Pooler were still pressing hard as a breath-taking game came to a close.

After the game, Pontypool were presented with the cup for winning the Championship by Gareth Davies from the WRU. There was the obligatory champagne shower for those who got too close. I had forgotten how nice it is when your team wins something!

As we celebrated Pooler’s brilliant achievement, I couldn’t help looking back to another sunny day in April the previous season. That time we had little to celebrate when RGC 1404 had beaten us and ultimately scuppered our chances of promotion to the Premiership. Pontypool have done incredibly well to bounce back from that heartbreak and have played some great rugby this season. All this would not be possible but for the support of Peter and Ben Jeffreys and all our other sponsors who have stood by our great club – a big thank you to them all.

The season is not over for Pontypool. Next Saturday they travel to Bedlinog for the final match of the season. Bedlinog have secured their Championship status for next season but will still want to put one over on the champs if they can. I don’t expect another try fest that is for sure.

Our near neighbours Newbridge have a tough challenge on their hands - if they are to avoid relegation they need to get some points out of a visit to second placed Narberth . I wish them all the best.

Well done to all at Pooler you have made an old man very happy! 

     A champagne moment

I get to grips with the cup

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Pooler Clinch the Championship

Pontypool needed to get rid of the pangs of disappointment from the rather chastening defeat at Cardiff Met. University the previous week. The day’s opponents were Glamorgan Wanderers who visited Pontypool Park needing a victory to lift themselves out of the relegation dogfight that has developed in the bottom half of the Championship. At the other end of the table, Pooler knew that any kind of win would secure the Championship with a couple of games to spare.

Heavy overnight rain and some sharp showers during the day had left the playing surface damp and slippery. Mercifully it wasn’t actually raining when the Wanderers kicked off playing down the slope. Pontypool started brightly enough and it looked like the Wanderers were going to have a tough afternoon as the home pack drove remorselessly forward. Rusby Davies soon powered over for a try which went unconverted but Pontypool were on their way (5-0) – or so we thought.
The next half an hour contained some pretty turgid stuff with Pooler unable to make any impression on Glamorgan Wanderers or the scoreboard. The tricky playing conditions and the referee’s obsession with getting each scrum exactly right certainly didn’t help. The away side snuffed out any momentum that Pooler developed by competing strongly at the breakdown and it looked like a stalemate was developing.
As halftime approached, Pooler at last created an overlap in the Wanderers twenty two only for Rudd to deliberately knock on what could have been the scoring pass. Rudd got a deserved yellow card and Pooler kicked for the corner. From the lineout, the home side drover over with Parry claiming the touchdown. The conversion failed but Pontypool had doubled their lead (10-0). And that was basically it for the first half –certainly not very inspiring and the visitors still in touching distance.
The second half started with Pooler conceding a string of penalties mainly for offences at the breakdown. This obviously gave the Wanderers the initiative and their confidence began to grow. Indeed it was only a strong defensive effort from the home side that kept them out. The supporters on the Bank began to shuffle uncomfortably as they could see a tense finish developing.
Both sides fought hard to gain control and the match became ever more scrappy. Early in the third quarter, the Wanderers ended the stalemate with a penalty from Fish which put them within a score at 10-3.   Fortunately for Pooler, the Wanderers conceded a penalty from the kick off and Jones was able to do the necessary and re-establish the ten point lead at 13-3. This was quickly followed by another penalty by Jones (16-3) and we could all breathe a little easier.
Pontypool were in control for the last ten minutes of the match and, in the last minute, Callum Davies reacted quickest when the ball shot out of a scrum near the Wanderers line to touch down for a try. The conversion was successful and the final score of 23-3 rather flattered the home side.

The result means that Pontypool cannot be caught at the top of the Championship so take the title with two games to spare. A brilliant achievement - cue the champagne!
This was a pretty low quality game but the ends justify the means as far as Pontypool are concerned. Hopefully they will now be able to play with more freedom and enjoy themselves in the last two fixtures.

The current Championship table certainly makes good reading but you can see how tight it is at the bottom for the second relegation spot.

Team P W D L For Agnst BPts Pts
1 Pontypool 20 19 0 1 719 233 12 88
2 Narberth 20 16 0 4 602 308 12 76
3 Beddau 22 14 0 8 535 397 14 70
4 Tata Steel 20 13 0 7 516 370 12 64
5 Newcastle Emlyn 20 9 1 10 350 468 9 47
6 Glynneath 21 10 0 11 331 453 4 44
7 Cardiff Met 21 9 0 12 355 548 5 41
8 Glamorgan Wand 21 7 1 13 392 440 11 41
9 Skewen 21 8 1 12 303 400 6 40
10 Bedlinog 20 7 1 12 346 392 9 39
11 Newbridge 20 7 0 13 310 492 7 35
12 Dunvant 20 2 0 18 403 661 8 16

I did watch some of the European rugby on the TV and Leinster and Munster certainly look very impressive. With, either Clermont or Toulon, and probably Saracens, the semi-finals of the Champions Cup look pretty tasty. I did see the second half of Gloucester versus the Blues in the Challenge Cup and the Blues seemed to throw away a promising position with some pretty basic errors. Let’s hope the Ospreys can fly the Welsh flag and avoid a semi-final Wexit.

Pontypool play Tata Steel next week at the Park. Tata were their nearest rivals for a long period of the season but seem to have fallen away a little bit. Let’s hope we can have a competitive and entertaining game next Saturday – with pooler coming out on top.

Congratulations Pooler, you have done us proud this season.

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!