PONTY KEEP PRES­SURE ON THE LEAD­ERS

Llanelli Star - - Rugby -

PONTYPRIDD bagged an im­pres­sive sixth Premier­ship vic­tory on the bounce, but cap­tain Chris Di­co­midis ad­mit­ted they were made to work for it by rel­e­ga­tion bat­tlers Llanelli at Parc y Scar­lets.

The dis­par­ity in league po­si­tions — se­cond against 11th — was not re­flected out on the pitch.

The Val­ley Com­man­dos were seek­ing a vic­tory to keep up the pres­sure on Merthyr at the top of the ta­ble.

That aim was ul­ti­mately achieved, but not with­out a con­sid­er­able amount of hard graft against a spir­ited Llanelli side who proved to be a to­tally dif­fer­ent propo­si­tion from the one which had lost by 40-plus points at Sardis Road ear­lier in the cam­paign.

It took a mo­ment of magic from dy­namic winger Dale Stuckey in the 67th minute to fi­nally ce­ment the win for Justin Bur­nell’s men, but they were un­able to cross for a fourth bonus-point touch­down.

“We achieved what we set out to achieve to­day, which was to se­cure a win against what was, as we ex­pected, tough op­po­si­tion,” said Di­co­midis.

“It was good to end the year on a pos­i­tive note and to keep our­selves in the mix at the top of the Premier­ship.

“There was a good tempo to the game with plenty of ball-in-play time.

“Llanelli proved to be a dif­fi­cult side to break down and both teams showed each other the re­spect they de­served.

“We can be happy with our own de­fen­sive per­for­mance and not con­ced­ing a try.”

Although dom­i­nat­ing ter­ri­tory for long pe­ri­ods of the first half, Pontypridd were up against a stub­born home de­fence, who were putting in tack­les and bat­tling for ev­ery scrap of pos­ses­sion in the loose.

It was Ponty full-back Ben Jones, who had pre­vi­ously kicked ef­fec­tively for field po­si­tion, who opened the scor­ing with a penalty, be­fore sup­ply­ing a neat back-hand pass to send Stuckey cruis­ing in for an un­con­verted try wide out.

Llanelli fought their way back into con­tention, with cen­tre Jonny Lewis con­vert­ing only one of three penalty at­tempts at goal from var­i­ous dis­tances, be­fore the vis­i­tors re-as­serted their su­pe­ri­or­ity.

Vet­eran out­side-half Ceri Sweeney sniped in for a try un­der the posts, con­verted by Jones to give his side a 15-3 in­ter­val lead.

The con­test strug­gled to ig­nite af­ter the restart, with Pontypridd at­tempt­ing to up the tempo by tak­ing quick tap-penal­ties and Stuckey go­ing close in the cor­ner. But their ef­forts were re­buffed by a Llanelli team who gave as good as they got.

Both teams made nu­mer­ous changes off the bench and were guilty of com­mit­ting er­rors in can­celling each other out for long pe­ri­ods.

Stuckey fi­nally lit up the en­velop­ing win­ter gloom, waltz­ing his way to the line to score a cru­cial try which Sweeney con­verted from a wide an­gle.

Llanelli re­fused to give up although the game was now ef­fec­tively be­yond them, but Pontypridd fin­ished strongly to close out the con­test.

Pic­tured in his Wales Un­der-20s shirt and hold­ing his cap is Aron Hem­mings of Peny­banc. The for­mer Llan­dovery Col­lege pupil now plays for Car­marthen Quins and the Scar­lets. Af­ter a spell on the side­lines through in­jury, he hopes to re­turn to ac­tion af­ter the Christ­mas break.Pic­ture: John B R Davies.

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