Action Replay (Pontypool Cup Programme Notes)
Aberavon 10-12 Pontypool
Indigo Premiership, 16th September 2023
by Paul Williams
The Wizards came within a hair’s breadth of making it three victories from three outings this season, but they were controversially denied a winning score in a bizarre end to the match.
It was a match largely dominated by the whistle of young referee Ben Connor, who seemed unhappy throughout with the scrummaging of both teams, regularly calling for resets or awarding penalties one way or the other. With both Aberavon and their visitors, back in the Premiership after what must have felt like an eternity, going hard at it to establish a foothold of some kind, play tended to be rather more attritional than flowing, but to the credit of all concerned it proceeded in the best of spirits.
While both sides had their opportunities as play went from one end to the other and back again, it was the visitors who were ahead at the interval, with fly-half Matthew Jarvis, a veteran of a couple of seasons at the Talbot Athletic Ground quite some time ago, succeeding with two penalty shots to make it 0-6.
The second half began with the home side gradually gaining the upper hand as they laid siege to the visitors’ line with locks Shay Smallman and Rhodri Hughes leading the charge. The ball was moved from right to left, and although it went to ground fly-half James Davies was able to pick up and send an inch perfect kick into the in-goal area for Stef Andrews to go racing in and claim the touch-down. Davies’ conversion put the Wizards ahead 7-6.
Thereafter normal service was resumed, with both sides refusing to yield an inch. Pontypool continued to attack through their forwards, while the Wizards tried to take a more ambitious approach, despite losing the considerable midfield influence of skipper Joe Gage with an ankle injury. Frankie Jones, operating at outside centre, looked confident as he caused the Pontypool defence some problems with some pacy and elusive running, while there was strong tackling right across the field.
However, amid all this Jarvis managed to land two further penalties, with Aberavon replacement Aled Thomas replying with one, making the score 10-12 in the visitors’ favour with the clock running down. The Wizards once again upped the pace and another sortie into the Pontypool 22 yielded a penalty for a high tackle. With time all but up, Thomas called for the kicking tee and lined up the shot at goal from a position out to the left of the goalposts. As he began his run-up, however, a Pontypool player came running off the goal-line between the goalposts, and Thomas’ kick went wide. A chorus of protests followed from the Aberavon players pointing out that when facing a penalty kick at goal defenders must stand still. Mr Connor, however, remained unmoved and brought things to a somewhat unsatisfactory end.