31 January 2016 / Team News

Emlyn give Pooler a fright


Seldom can a scoreline have been such an inaccurate description of a game of rugby. The Emlyn players trooped off the field at the end of this match knowing in their heart of hearts that the final score should have been 27 – 26 to the home side. That they left thirteen points on the pitch was their fault and no one else’s. The normally reliable and accurate Dan Davies missed two eminently kickable penalties, one in each half, and on the stroke of half time Shaun Leonard was put clean through but was unable to find one of his four supporting runners with the final pass which would have led to a score under the posts.

Pontypool are one of five teams vying for four promotion slots to the Premiership next season and have assembled an impressive squad of players. Having scored forty points against Emlyn in Dol Wiber the red and whites were under no illusions as to the task facing them on their first ever trip to the famous Pontypool Park. Despite having a big heavy pack this Pooler side differ from previous generations in that they are always looking to involve their three-quarter line and try and play open attacking rugby.

They started positively and ran the ball at Emlyn with every opportunity and the visitors were forced to defend a series of flowing attacks. Indeed it looked like in the first ten minutes that the home side were making heavy weather of scoring, as often the last pass to an unmarked player was ignored in favour of setting up another ruck. Emlyn seemed to be in awe of their opponents and the venue and it was no surprise when, after ten minutes, Pooler scored their first try. From a lineout some ten metres out from the Emlyn line, an accurate throw to the tail of the line by skipper Ben Parry saw the ball caught in a more traditional Pooler fashion and driven slowly towards the Emlyn line until eventually Parry was credited with the touchdown, the conversion missed.

Gradually Emlyn came into the game and despite the heavy pitch the visitors looked to move the ball wide at every opportunity. The new Emlyn second row combination of Dylan Davies and Ryan Morgan performed wonders in the line out as they continually disrupted the home side’s possession and won some excellent ball on their own throw. With outside half Barry Thomas controlling matters behind, Emlyn made some decent progress into the Pooler twenty two with winger Davies having one particularly good run, rounding his opposite number before he was forced into touch ten metres out. In fact it was Davies who opened Emlyn’s scoring with a well struck penalty after some twenty minutes.

With the Emlyn back row of Owain Powell, Gareth Patterson and Gareth Thomson working effectively in the loose, the visitors had their best period of the game with a number of attacks being thwarted by some fine defensive work led by Pooler’s outside centre Marc Thorley and the outstanding number seven Rob Nash. The next score came after half an hour and was completely against the run of play. From a ruck on the half way line Pooler centre Sione Tu’ipulotu picked up the ball and went straight through the ruck with Emlyn’s line defence spread across the field and no one behind the ruck. The centre did not have the speed to score himself but found scrum half Aaron Quick on his shoulder to receive a perfectly timed pass to score under the posts for full back Clayton Gullis to convert.

Emlyn were not deterred by this defensive lapse and continued to try and play attacking rugby and were rewarded with an excellent try some two minutes later. A long range clearing kick by Gullis was fielded by Dan Davies who took a quick throw in on the half way line. The long throw went to Shaun Leonard who transferred it to Barry Thomas, linked with centre Teifion Davies, who found winger Llyr Jones in support. The winger sensibly cut inside, beat a couple of defenders then passed back to Thomas who passed inside to the supporting prop Emrys Davies. Davies needed no second bidding and galloped some twenty metres to score by the posts for Dan Davies to add the conversion.

The red and whites were in the ascendancy with the pace of their back line causing Pooler problems. With Thomas and inside centre Mitch Jones alternating at fly half the home defence was being stretched to its limits both sides of the field. Growing in confidence they called a three-quarter move from a scrum on their own ten metre line. With dummy runners going in every direction, Thomas coolly waited until the Pooler defence eventually moved up on him before delivering a perfectly timed pass to Shaun Leonard. The full back was clean through with only the full back to beat and support arriving on both sides of him. The rest is history!! To rub salt into the Emlyn wounds Davies, on half time, was just wide with an eminently kickable penalty.

The second half began with an attack by the home side and the large crowd, sensing that things were not quite going their way, began the famous chant of Pooler, Pooler, Pooler to encourage the home side. They found the visitors in no mood to be intimidated and Emlyn’s defence proved to be nigh on impregnable, with outside centre Teifion Davies making a number of important tackles. Gullis extended the home side’s narrow lead with a penalty kick after two minutes, but a nice sequence of  play led to Emlyn being awarded a penalty some thirty metres out, just to the side of the posts, but unfortunately Davies pulled his kick wide of the posts.

With only five points between the sides after some sixty minutes play the large Emlyn following could not believe what they were watching – could Emlyn pull off an improbable victory? It was not to be, and the next score, when it came, was at best a travesty. Emlyn loose head prop Emrys Davies was up against a very experienced campaigner in Ryan Harford who continually, by his own admission bore in on Emlyn hooker Alex Williams all afternoon. In order to try and take pressure off his hooker and scrummage effectively Davies also had to adjust his angle of shove as the scrums developed. The otherwise excellent referee Jon Hardy failed to spot the antics of the tight head and kept penalising Emlyn until in the twenty fifth minute of the half he awarded Pooler a penalty try and sin binned Davies. The try was converted by Gullis.

With flanker Nash orchestrating things Emlyn were subjected to wave after wave of attacks as the home side went looking for the important try bonus point. To a man, even when coach Lloyd emptied the bench, they tackled and knocked back the home side every time they came at them. On the odd occasion when Emlyn managed to progress to Pooler territory they were awarded a penalty kick, converted by Shaun Leonard to bring the visitors within reach of a losing bonus point which they thoroughly deserved.         

With only three minutes to go Emlyn were awarded a penalty right out on the touchline near half way but Leonard’s effort just fell short of the posts. Pooler were determined to get their bonus point and using their powerful forwards they hammered at the Emlyn line. Time and again they were repulsed with flanker Gareth Patterson leading the way and managing to even turn the ball over on a couple of occasions. It was not to be and with some eight minutes of time added on it was perhaps fitting that the excellent Rob Nash managed to force his way over in the corner, with two Emlyn defenders trying to push him into touch, for Pooler’s fourth bonus point try which went unconverted to end the game.

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