Eugene Cross Park was the setting for another televised thriller on Friday evening as Ebbw and Pontypridd went head to head. The visitors, one place above Ebbw in 3rd, had the better of the first 10 minutes as they looked to use their pacy back 3 at every opportunity. The league’s best defence held strong, though, and Ebbw took the first opportunity that came their way when patient phase play ended in Joe Franchi picking up and powering over. Rhys Jones converted.
The game continued to be played largely between the two 22m lines, as each side probed the other’s excellent defence, but Ebbw looked to have opened up a 12 point margin when Lewis Young capitalised on an error-strewn line out to claim the loose ball and charge over. On review, he was adjudged to have knocked on so the try was ruled out.
Pontypridd enjoyed a period of possession in Ebbw’s half and the Steelman defended well until an offside call gave Ceri Sweeney the chance of 3 points which he took. Rhys Jones stretched his side’s lead back to 7 again when he converted a penalty on the stroke of half time, after Pontypridd stopped an Ebbw maul illegally.
Sweeney succeeded with two early second half penalties as Pontypridd pressure mounted. At 10-9 it was anyone’s game, but Ebbw responded superbly. A clever short line out led to a drive that saw captain Ashley Sweet score wide on the right, and Jones again converting to give Ebbw a 17-9 advantage. Ponty threw everything at the hosts, and centre Gary Williams burst through off an attacking line out to score. Sweeney add the two and it was 17-16.
Ebbw’s defence was organised and patient, avoiding any potential penalty calls. Pontypridd could not find a way through and brilliant work by Rhys Clarke led to a charge up field. When Dafydd Lockyer failed to gather, Clarke was on the ball then up quickly in support of Lloyd Evans to score in the corner… or so everyone thought! Cue the TMO for another review and a knock-on call, with the touchdown ruled out. Ponty bounced back again, knowing that a penalty or drop goal would likely steal the win, but superb work by Dai Jones and Toby Fricker saw the winger embark on a trademark, bullocking rampage deep into away territory. Ebbw set up a series of rucks, picked and drove, and ran the clock down. Ultimately, Ponty’s defensive patience ran out and a penalty came to Ebbw. Rhys Jones tapped and put the ball dead, securing a memorable victory for the Steelmen.
As always in a great squad performance. it seems unfair to single out individuals, so I won’t. Suffice to say that BBC Scrum V chose Joe Franchi as their Man of the Match, while the Ebbw Vale match sponsors chose Rhys Clarke. One other mention is deserved, though: Rob Sevenoaks put in another 80 minute shift at tight head and played a huge role in a powerful Ebbw pack.
That squad was:
15 Dan Haymond 14 Steffan Thomas 13 Dom Franchi 12 Dai Langdon 11 Toby Fricker 10 Rhys Jones 9 Matthew Flanagan 8 Lewis Young 7 Owen Young 6 Rhys Clarke 5 Ashley Sweet (C) 4 Kristian Parker 3 Rob Sevenoaks 2 Joe Franchi 1 Luke Garrett
16 Rhys Francis 17 Ross Jones 18 Morgan Davies 19 Cameron Regan 20 Lloyd Evans 21 Dai Jones 22 James Lewis
23 Paul King