Anyone checking Pontypridd’s home record on Saturday morning would have found them undefeated in the Premiership in almost two years; Cross Keys were the last Welsh side to leave Sardis Road victorious, on December 3rd, 2013. Last season, the Steelmen met the eventual champions four times, losing every one. Recent form, which has seen Ebbw lose their last three games, albeit very narrowly, suggested they would be in for a hard time.
On an afternoon that would have graced August, Ebbw started with a bang and camped inside the home 22 for the first part of the game. Harri Keddie, Ashley Sweet and Rhys Clarke led powerful forward surges, but Ponty held out and eventually broke free. As the first quarter ended, Ceri Sweeney had a chance to open the scoring and slotted a neat penalty for 2-0. Five minutes later, his second effort hit an upright but Ebbw remained under pressure and slick hands in midfield put wing Alex Webber over wide out on the left with Sweeney judging the conversion perfectly to take his side 10-0 ahead.
Another score for Ponty at that stage would have been a significant set-back to Steelmen ambitions but, as it was, Dai Langdon bagged a 2-pointer before great work down the right saw Luke Crocker claim a try against his former club. So, the teams went in at 10-8, though Ebbw had forged a wonderful chance to score late on, when the lively Adam Jones latched on to a Ponty error and, with backs and forwards working together, Nathan Preece punched deep into Ponty’s red zone only for a final pass to go astray.
The start of the second half saw Pontypridd exert enormous pressure with Ebbw defending doggedly until the veteran Sweeney danced over from close range and converted to take the score to 18-8. In what was becoming a see-saw battle, Ebbw hit right back, and won a penalty that Langdon sent to touch 5m out. The catch and drive worked a charm, until Ponty hooker Ashleigh James stopped it illegally, earning a yellow card for himself and an 8-pointer for the Steelmen as Mr Davies went between the posts. Five minutes later, Ebbw were ahead, a patient build racking up the phases and allowing David Williams to score on the right. Langdon’s superb conversion took Ebbw into a 24-18 lead with 15 minutes left.
That quarter of an hour seemed like an eternity, as Ponty threw everything they had at the Steelmen: at one point, plumbers were seen entering the clubhouse kitchen. But the defence remained resolute and collective and eventually Pontypridd were penalised just outside the visitors’ 22, enabling Ebbw to move play upfield. Another penalty followed and Iain Smerdon’s successful goal was the final act of the afternoon’s entertainment, bringing the curtain down on a rousing match won 26-18 by the superb Steelmen as the terrace echoed to the chants of “Ebbw-Ebbw” in place of the more usual closing chorus.
15 Christopher Levesley, 14 David Williams, 13 Dominic Franchi, 12 Adam Jones, 11 Ryan Gardner; 10 David Langdon, 9 Christopher Thomas; 1 Ross Jones, 2 Mathew Williams (Captain),3 Gethin Robinson; 4 Rhys Clarke, 5 Ashley Sweet; 6 Luke Crocker, 7 Ronny Kynes, 8 Harrison Keddie.
Bench: 16 Joseph Franchi, 17 Ian George, 18 Lloyd Bridges, 19 Cameron Regan, 20 Ethan Doyle, 21 Tom Edwards, 22 Iain Smerdon, 23 Nathan Preece.