Ebbw lose Grand Final to Pontypridd
The Steelmen were looking for championship silverware for a fifth successive season, but lost out 28-14 in a gargantuan tussle in the Premiership Grand Final at a packed Sardis Road on Sunday afternoon. The home side were eventually convincing and deserved winners in the season’s fourth meeting between the league’s top two clubs, but had to fight every inch of the way as the Steelmen gave them a severe test.
Pontypridd, who finished the season 21 points clear of Ebbw at the top of the table, had the best of the early exchanges, helped by the Steelmen’s failure to clear their lines. Doncaster-bound Simon Humberstone kicked a penalty then a catch-n-drive saw Jake Thomas make it 8-0. Carl Meyer registered the Steelmen’s first points when Pontypridd were penalised at a scrum but Humberstone took advantage of an Ebbw ruck indiscretion to reinstate an 8-point lead at 11-3. There were signs that the game was turning in Ebbw’s favour and only offences by the hosts prevented momentum building. Meyer added his second score, despite slipping as he made contact with the ball, then Iain Smerdon made it 11-9 and it seemed inevitable that, as Ponty continued to offend at the breakdown, Mr Hodges would be reaching for his yellow card. He did so, but it was Steelman John Lavender who spent 10 minutes in the bin, and Ebbw who yielded good field position. On the stroke of half time, Rhys Shellard crossed for his team’s second try, converted by Humberstone, meaning that the teams changed ends at 18-9.
Dragons-bound Carl Meyer saw a 55m effort fall wide, then Simon Humberstone profited from great work by Dafydd Lockyer to extend Ponty’s lead to 23-9, against the run of play. Ebbw had plenty of possession and mounted a series of driving mauls that Ponty could only stop illegally. At last Mr Hodges waved a card in the direction of the home pack, but the Steelmen failed to capitalise and a penalty went the other way. Not daunted, the visitors kept hammering away and, having stretched Ponty’s defence right and left, worked an overlap for Jordan Howells to go over and make it 23-14.
Ebbw again attacked from the restart, and excellent breaks from Tom James and Gareth Rusby-Davies gave hope to the huge band of travelling Ebbw Addicts. As Ebbw attacked down the right, a loose pass was picked off by Owen Jenkins who raced home from 70 metres to wrap it up for Pontypridd and make the final score 28-14.
It would be impossible and unfair to try to pick a Steelman of the Match, as all 23 who took the field gave faultless performances in terms of effort, commitment and bravery. This was acknowledged in the applause and chants that rang out from the defeated supporters, who can look back on an incredible journey and ahead to next season. Now, when’s the first pre-season game?
Ebbw Vale’s team was: Dan Haymond, Owen Williams, Jordan Howells, Carl Meyer, Tom James; Iain Smerdon, Chris Thomas; John Lavender, Mathew Williams, Rob Sevenoaks, Damien Hudd (capt), Ashley Sweet; Rhys Clarke, Ronny Kynes, Cameron Reagan. Replacements: Ross Jones, Rhys Francis, Luke Leddington, Gareth Williams, Gareth Rusby-Davies, Rhys Downes, Dai Langdon, Adam Jones.