LLANDOVERY 14 PONTYPOOL 19
Pontypool came to Church Bank with a recent 69-21 win over Bristol based National League 2 side Dings Crusaders to their credit and played exceptionally well to take a Premiership scalp, albeit in a friendly writes Huw S Thomas
The Championship side – coached by Leighton Jones – were competitive throughout, soaked up heavy early pressure and came through strongly in the latter stages under their inspirational club captain Scott Matthews.
The Drovers fielded their new signings – full back Jack Maynard, prop Llyr Green (both Cardiff) and fly half Ioan Hughes (Llanelli) – the first two returning to their old pastures and Hughes making his first ever appearance for the club.
Coach Euros Evans used this first friendly of the season to take a look at no fewer than 39 players with a view to spotting upcoming talent as well as confirming the good standing of the current first team squad.
“The chance of playing three periods of 20 minutes gave us plenty of opportunities to see what’s available to us, not for just the immediate season but looking further ahead.” said the head coach.
For Pooler, Dan Babos and much travelled Matthew Jarvis formed a very sound half back partnership for the Gwent side who have signed players with the express intention of getting back into the Premiership.
The glory days of Charlie Faulkner, Bobby Windsor, Graham Price, Terry Cobner and David Bishop are distant memories but the ambition and determination to improve the club’s lot shines bright under the guidance of Chief Executive Ben Jeffreys.
The Gwent side were full of players with experience of Premiership rugby after spells at Ebbw Vale and Cross Keys in particular and proved that they will be a force in this year’s Championship race.
New signing Ioan Hughes and flanker Osian Davies scored early tries for the Drovers, both converted by Hughes as the team attacked with their usual flair and adventure.
With their best side on the field, it was all Llandovery for the first 20 minutes and Pooler did very well to hang on in under sustained pressure to keep the score at 14-0.
After the first break and many team changes on both sides – Llandovery ended giving game time to 39 players, Pontypool to 27 – the visitors looked sharper but a wonderfully precise kick from full back Maynard earned Llandovery a line out in the Pooler 22.
It came to nothing and Pooler were back in the game when a slick move from a line out ended with outstanding replacement flanker Scott Matthews crashing over for a try, converted by Jarvis.
When a home movement broke down in mid-field, full back Pat Lewis snapped up the loose ball and sprinted in at the corner to make it 14-12 to the Drovers.
Both sides kept making changes in the stifling conditions and in the final stages, a ferocious tackle from centre Duon Smith set up Pooler for an attack which all but earned a try.
It was anyone’s game as players tottered through the error producing heat and Lewis again jinked through a hesitant home defence for his second try, converted by Dai Langdon.
Back came the Drovers but Pooler were not to be denied a deserved win against a side that had finished fourth in last year’s Premiership.
*** National One side Cinderford from the Forest of Dean are the visitors to Church Bank on Saturday (KO 2 30pm)
Tries: I Hughes, O Davies
Cons: I Hughes (2)
Tries:P Lewis (2), S Matthews
Cons: M Jarvis, D Langdon
Llandovery: J Maynard; R Wall, I Phillips, R Jones, Aaron Warren; I Hughes, L Rees; J Hughes, R Owens, L Green, J Jones (capt), G Evans, O Davies, S Melmoth, S Worrall
Replacements: K Abraham, C Dodd, K Jones, C Woodall, L Smith, D Land, W Caron-Lewis, R Guest, T Pritchard, M Dallavalle, I Thomas, C Williams, E Sheldon, T Poole, D Stevens, L Walsh, D Jones, M Swan, G Rossiter, L Thomas, G Thomas, B Thomas, J Powell,
Pontypool: P Lewis; A Nove, D Thomas, D Langdon, M Powel; M Jarvis, D Babos; D Kelleher-Griffiths, S Scarfe, P Lloyd, G Price, A Brown, C Davies, M Herbert (capt), A Stratton
Replacements: K Williams, S Cochrane, T Piper, L Flemming-Jones, S Matthews, I Jones, C Regan, O Leonard, D Smith, M Jones, J Mahoney, H Anderson