It was a foul night at Eugene Cross Park. Heavy rain throughout Friday, and a swirling breeze, made the surface extremely wet and the ball, to quote one supporter, “the proverbial bar of soap.” Not the conditions the two table toppers would have wanted, and a far cry from sunny Sardis Road last May when Ebbw beat Pontypridd to take the Premiership title for the first time. Quite remarkably considering Ponty’s dominance of the club scene in recent years, Ebbw were looking for a fifth successive league win over the current leaders.
The Steelmen started like greyhounds after the hare. From the kick off, a Ponty knock on gave Ebbw a scrum and the visitors’ pack flew backwards, resulting in a penalty that Josh Lewis converted for 3-0. Five minutes later, a hack ahead by Ceri Sweeney was returned by Dan Haymond and James Lewis who cut through the Pontypridd defence before passing to Josh Lewis who raced home from 50 metres and converted to give his team a 10-0 lead. After 12 minutes, the Ebbw outside half left the field after a late, high tackle by his opposite number who was sin-binned for an offence that might have earned an even sterner sanction. Ebbw continued to dominate, with Damien Hudd leading his pack magnificently and the front row of George, Franchi and Robinson giving their opponents a torrid time. Despite a series of penalties and lectures, no further action was taken by Mr Thomas. James Lewis went agonisingly close, and only resolute defence kept out a series of driving mauls, but Pontypridd were back in the game on the half hour when Sweeney slid in to ground a kick through, and converted. The teams turned around with Ebbw leading 10-7.
Pontypridd were level early in the second half, when Sweeney goaled a penalty for offside, and were ahead when Dafydd Lockyer evaded Ebbw tacklers and made light of the heavy pitch to score out onthe left. Sweeney’s boot made the score 17-10 and he and Dan Haymond exchanged penalties to make it 20-13 with 20 minutes left. And that was how it ended: two excellent defences nullifying each other’s attacks, and Ebbw guilty of kicking the ball away after fighting so hard to win it. In the end, the Steelmen could be very proud of hanging on to a losing bonus as they repelled a series of powerful Ponty drives. The visitors greeted the final whistle as though they had won the league – in fairness, this result, on a night even Noah would’ve found damp, may have gone a long way to them achiving that goal.
Ebbw are out of action until April 8th. They remain in the top 4 with a healthy 6 point gap separating them from 5th, though others have games in hand, notably Aberavon who have played just 2 so far. The Steelmen will need to raise their game if they are to get the chance to defend their title via the play-offs.
On a night for forwards, Joe Franchi was named as Man of the Match, but huge credit is due to everyone, just for seeing it through!
The Ebbw team was:
Dan Haymond, Chris Levesley, Nathan Preece, Dominic Franchi, James Lewis; Joshua Lewis, Robert Lewis; Ian George, Joe Franchi, Gethin Robinson; Damien Hudd (capt), Joe Bartlett; Lance Randall, Ronny Kynes, Harri Keddie. Bench: Jonny Bowen, Rob Sevenoaks, Ross Jones, Dawid Rubasniak, Michael Preece, Dai Jones, Dai Langdon, Will Talbot-Davies.
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Noson wlyb iawn oedd hi ar Barc Eugene Cross, nos Wener, wrth i Glynbwy groesawu Pontypridd i Flaenau Gwent am gêm rhwng y ddau dîm ar frig yr Uwch Gynghrair. Roedd y tîm cartref yn hela buddugoliaeth am y bumed dro’n olynol yn erbyn Ponty, a’r gêm yn hollbwysig o safbwynt dyfodol y tymor hwn.
Dechreuodd Glynebwy’n wych. O’r cic cyntaf, gwnaeth Ponty gamgymeriad i roi sgrym i Lynebwy a bu nerth y pac yn ormod i’r ymwelwyr. Llwydodd Josh Lewis gyda’r cic cosb i roi mantais i’w dîm, 3-0. Yn fuan iawn, roedd Lewis yn y mân a’r lle unwaith eto i orffen symudiad anhygoel gan Dan Haymond a James Lewis, a throsi am 10-0.
Yn anffodus, roedd rhaid i’r maswr dawnus adael y gêm ag anaf, ar ôl tacl hwyr, uchel gan faswr Pontypridd, Ceri Sweeney. Dangoswyd carden felin gan dyfarnwr Mr Thomas, a llawer o gefnogwyr (y rhai coch, gwyn a gwyrdd, ta beth) yn anghytuno â’r lliw!
Roedd Glynebwy yn parhau ymosod ar y Bont; aeth James Lewis mewn trwch blewyn o sgorio yn y cornel, ac roedd rhaid i Pontypridd amddiffyn yn gryf iawn yn erbyn sgarmes symudol Glynebwy, ond i’r ymwelwyr aeth y pwyntiau nesaf: Sweeney yn llithro drosodd am gais ac yn ychwanegu’r ddau bwynt. 10-7 oedd y sgôr ar yr egwyl.
Yn yr ail hanner, roedd y maes yn faddon llaid ac, er gwaethaf pob ymdrech y ddau dîm, roedd rhedeg bron yn amhosibl. Roedd y gêm yn gyfartal ar ôl pum munud – cic cosb gan Sweeney – a chafodd Ponty gafael cryf yn y gêm, wrth i’w capten, Dafydd Lockyer, ddawnsio trwy olwyr Glynebwy am gais da iawn. Gyda throsiad gan Sweeney, 17-10 oedd hi. Daeth ciciau cosb gan Ceri Sweeney a Dan Haymond, i fynd â’r sgôr i 20-13 wedi awr a dyna sut gorffenwyd y gêm. Roedd chwarae amddiffynol Glynebwy yn fendigedig ond doedden nhw ddim yn gallu creu cyfleoedd ymosodol a, thro ar ôl tro, roedden nhw’n euog o gicio’r bêl bant – ar ôl ymladd yn ffyrnig i’w hennill.
Llongyfarchiadau i Bonty, a phob clod i chwaraewyr y ddau dîm am roi cryn dipyn o ddifyrrwch i’r dorf. Noson am flaenwyr oedd hi, a bachwr Joe Franchi yn hollol haeddu gwobr Seren y Gêm.
Bydd rhaid i Gwyr y Dur wella os ydyn nhw am gael cyfle i amddiffyn eu teitl yn’bencampwyr’ ar ddiwedd y tymor.