Well here we are again –another season opens for Pontypool RFC. Let us hope that we can replicate the deeds of the previous season which proved to be thoroughly enjoyable. It is a milestone for me as it will be my fiftieth year as a Pooler supporter – there have been plenty of highs and lows that is for sure but never a dull moment.
The first league match of the season is always eagerly anticipated as it often sets the tone for the season. On Saturday the visitors were Rhydyfelin who were promoted to the Championship as winners of Division 1 East and rather like Pooler swept all before them last season. They were clearly keen to test their mettle against the reigning champions.
Pontypool Park was looking at its best on perfect afternoon for rugby. The pitch looked in absolutely peak condition so we had reason to expect a great game of rugby. As the teams ran out, it was immediately clear that there was a marked similarity in the kit that they were wearing and this did make it difficult at times for the aging spectator but the referee and players seemed happy enough.
For the first twenty minutes of the match you could have been forgiven for thinking that Rhydyfelin were the reigning Championship winners as, playing down the slope, they completely dominated possession and territory in impressive style. They were certainly well drilled and lively with backs and forwards combining as they attacked incessantly. The Pooler defence however was resolute and put in some really big hits and won turnovers at critical moments which enabled them to repel the onslaught.
Gradually the home pack started to make its presence felt with a dominant scrum and some typically powerful forward drives applying pressure. Indeed it was Pontypool who opened the scoring against the run of play with a well-taken penalty by Jones as the game entered the second quarter. This was followed a few minutes later by another penalty that opened up a 6-0 lead for the home side.
The game was now much more even with both sets of backs finding it difficult to crack the opposition’s defence. As the half drew to a close, it was Pooler who landed a telling blow when Parry scored from a lineout drive near the Rhydyfelin try line. The conversion was good and this opened up a very flattering 13-0 lead for the home side at half time.
It was Pontypool who started the stronger in the second half and, five minutes in, right wing Thomas scurried over for a try in Goff’s corner. The try was converted admirably by Jones and Pooler were 20-0 up.
The rest of the second half was rather a stalemate with defences on top and a high error count from both sides. Frustratingly Pooler created a number of gaps only to be undone by a forward pass or a knock-on. Rhydyfelin continued to be extremely competitive and Pooler’s lead was always under threat. For their part, Pontypool certainly looked a long way off earning the four try bonus point and this quest was not helped by the loss of the industrious Williams with a yellow card for a dangerous tackle.
Finally in injury time Pooler managed to breach the Rhydyfelin defence again when, after a bit of juggling amongst the backs, Meek scored in the corner. The successful conversion by Jones marked the end of the match with the final score 27-0.
This was a decent win for Pontypool against Rhydyfelin who look more than capable of being a force within the Championship. The final scoreline is pretty flattering and doesn’t reflect the visitors’ contribution to a hard-fought game. It was the first competitive match of the season and I am sure that there is much more to come from the Pontypool squad as the season progresses and the combinations begin to work more smoothly.
Next week there is a visit to the other Championship debutants, Trebanos. I am sure we can anticipate a warm welcome! Sadly I will miss the next few matches as I am away on holiday so I wish everyone the best of luck but rest assured I will be glued to my twitter feed with a light beverage in my hand.
Come on Pooler!