Action Replay (Pontypridd Programme Notes)

Last time we met at Aberavon

Incredibly, we have to go back to 15th September 2018 to find the last visit of Pontypridd to the Talbot Athletic Ground, what with the 2020 pandemic and subsequent fluctuations in the format of the Premiership, but it was an occasion of note as we witnessed two teams on top form produce a match of rare quality and excitement, in which victory went to the home side… just… with the visitors picking up two well-deserved bonus points. It was what rugby really should be all about, and it was with pleasure that we were afterward able to shake hands with Pontypridd supporters and congratulate one another on a great match. It is also significant to note that the Aberavon back-row included a certain Jac Morgan making one of his earliest appearances for the club.

Aberavon 25-19 Pontypridd
After a somewhat patchy start to their league campaign, Aberavon hit top form with a bonus-point win over the hitherto league leaders, proving that they are indeed capable emerging with a win against quality opposition.

The first half was a high-tempo end-to-end affair, with the lead changing hands several times. Home right wing Shaun Pearce got things rolling by darting in at the corner after a tremendous take-and-give in one movement from Chris Banfield had provided the opportunity.

The visitors hit back when Alex Webber crossed for fellow wing Dale Stuckey to convert, but back came the Wizards when number eight Andrew Waite took a short pass from a lineout and drew in two defenders before a back-handed offload sent Sam Williams charging away, the big lock having the speed and strength to evade the last defender and score wide out.

Almost as quickly, back came Pontypridd with a long range attack finished off by Ceri Sweeney, but the Wizards, as half time approached, produced a passage of play that had everything. It began with Banfield making a crucial tackle in the shadow of the home goalposts. In a flash Tomalin-Reeves was over the ball to win a typical turnover, with Banfield meanwhile back on his feet to send Waite charging up to the ’22’. Quick ruck ball was then move right where, incredibly, Banfield again popped up to carry play further upfield. Next it was the turn of young flanker Jac Morgan to driven into midfield before another ruck saw play go left, with a floated pass from Rheon James finding namesake Geraint. The tighthead prop turned inside and out, then Tomalin-Reeves took up the running before offloading to Matthew Jenkins. Finding himself hemmed in on the touchline, he in turn passed back inside to Rheon James, who kicked ahead into open space for Jenkins to hack on and win the race to touch down inches short of the dead-ball line.

Banfield’s conversion made it a 17-12 home lead at the interval, but Aberavon delight turned to dread as the visitors struck again through flanker Morgan Sieniawski, with Sweeney’s conversion giving his side a two point lead.

Aberavon fears of another second-half reverse were, however, short lived, as the home pack went on to dominate possession and territory, with Ieuan Davies being credited with the bonus-point try following a relentless driving maul, and a Banfield penalty-goal being the last kick of a match that was a credit to both teams and a great advertisement for club rugby.

From an Aberavon viewpoint there were, however, several bonuses. Having suffered a number of serious injuries that have limited his involvement these past few seasons, Sam Williams looks fit and on top form. Newcomers Andrew Waite and Geraint James went well, the former being a dynamic ball-carrier with good handling skills, while the latter complemented a solid scrummaging display with some good running and handling skills of his own. Meanwhile former Wales U18 skipper Jac Morgan played his part in the back row and can only benefit from packing down alongside the likes of Waite, replacement Ashton Evans and, of course, the indefatigable Tomalin-Reeves.