PONTYPOOL travelled the short distance to Glan yr Afon Park to face a struggling Blackwood side with only one win in their first 8 matches in the Championship. The game was played on a very heavy pitch and with incessant rain falling throughout the match and a strong wind, made the playing conditions extremely difficult.

Blackwood kicked off defending the clubhouse end of the ground. Pooler conceded an early penalty for side entry at a ruck on their 10 metre line, 15 metres from touch but the attempt at goal went wide. After a series of forward drives near the Blackwood line, flanker Tom Organ crashed over for a try to put the visitors ahead with full back Clayton Gullis converting (7-0). Blackwood had a line-out 5 metres out from the Pooler line and centre Sean Higgins crossed in the corner for a try which was converted by outside half Sam Withers to bring the scores level (7-7). Soon after, Pooler second row Derryn Jones was yellow carded for an offence at a ruck near the home 10 metre line.

Pooler were then guilty of going off their feet at a ruck inside their 22 and Sam Withers put the home side ahead with a successful kick at goal (7-10). Pooler flanker Jordan Williams left the field for treatment to a cut to the head and Ryan Thomas came on as his temporary replacement. The Blackwood forwards took the ball up the middle of the filed and won a penalty in front of the Pooler posts for Sam Withers to extend the home lead with shot at goal (7-13). There was no further scoring so the homesters took a six point lead into the break.

Early in the second half, Pooler were applying pressure in the Blackwood 22 and were awarded a penalty to the left of the posts and custodian Clayton Gullis made no mistake with a shot at goal (10-13). Pooler were on the attack deep in the Blackwood half when Sam Mills had his pass intercepted by a Blackwood player who ran 70 metres for a try, despite the best efforts of Pooler centre Steve Taylor racing back. Sam Withers added the extras (10-20). James Monck replaced Dan Walker at tight head and Aaron Quick made way for Josh Guy at scrum half for Pontypool.

Blackwood were caught off side in front of their posts and their open side flanker was yellow carded. Pooler elected to go for the scrum, which had been dominant throughout the game. From the scrum, the ball went along the line and outside centre Steve Taylor cut inside for a good try, converted by Clayton Gullis (17-20). Pontypool went on the attack again and the home side were penalised for off side near the touchline but Gullis was wide with the attempt at goal. Shortly after, Blackwood were again penalised, this time near their posts. Quick thinking by Pooler blind side flanker Jordan Williams took a quick tap and crossed for an unconverted try to put Pooler back in front (22-20). Pontypool then made some more changes – second row Matthew Thomas was replaced by Ryan Thomas, centre Marc Thorley made way for Ryan Evans and Matthew Prosser came on for hooker and captain for the day Ben Parry.

In the closing stages, the home side were caught off side on their 22 metre line to the left of the posts but back-chatted the referee who marched them back a further 10 metres. Clayton Gullis slotted the kick at goal to put Pooler 5 points to the good (25-20). Almost on full time, Blackwood were penalised at a retreating scrum in midfield on their 10 metre line but Gullis missed the shot at goal. Final score – Blackwood 20 Pontypool 25.

Credit must go to both sides and the referee for producing a good game of rugby despite the dreadful conditions. Pooler showed some character in coming back from 20-10 down early in the second period. It was good to see Pontypool get back to winning ways after successive defeats against Ebbw Vale at home and at Narberth; as well as last week’s scheduled home game against Cardiff Met being postponed.

Pontypool team (and replacements): Clayton Gullis, Chris Laing, Steve Taylor, Marc Thorley (replaced by Ryan Evans), Josh Hurley, Sam Mills, Aaron Quick (replaced by Josh Guy), Luke Garrett, Ben Parry (captain) (replaced by Matthew Prosser), Dan Walker (replaced by James Monck), Matthew Thomas (replaced by Ryan Thomas), Derryn Jones, Jordan Williams, Tom Organ, Ben Sparks.

Pontypool scorers: Tries by Tom Organ, Steve Taylor and Jordan Williams. Conversions by Clayton Gullis (2). Penalties by Clayton Gullis (2).

Blackwood scorers: Tries by Sean Higgins and AN Other. Conversions by Sam Withers (2). Penalties by Sam Withers (2).

Referee: Mr Owain Griffith (Cardiff)