LLANELLI WIN CRUCIAL FIGHT
PONTYPOOL’S dreams of promotion were dashed as Llanelli secured their own Premiership status with a 27-16 victory in the play-off match at Aberavon’s Talbot Athletic Ground.
The two famous Welsh clubs went head to head in this one-off encounter, with Championship winners Pontypool desperate to finally make the step up after years of knocking on the door.
But while the boot of Kieran Meek put them in a solid position after 40 minutes, tries from Taylor Davies, Ryan Conbeer and Lee Rees left them ultimately disappointed while keeping the historic West Wales club from dropping down to the Championship next season.
The first half was a tense affair, full of niggle as both teams largely cancelled each other out.
After just six minutes of action Llanelli lock Chris Long was in the sinbin after being yellow-carded for a deliberate knock-on.
The first try-scoring opportunity came after 25 minutes but Pooler winger Lloyd Lewis was unable to gather a bouncing ball when the line was at his mercy.
Nevertheless, Pontypool kept going closer in the opening half hour and got their reward.
Llanelli scrum-half Gareth George was charged down by second-row Curtis Gregory, who found Darren Hughes with an offload but the hooker was dragged down just short.
Llanelli full-back Kallum Evans was sin-binned, though, as his side scrambled back to cover and Meek kicked Pontypool ahead.
Llanelli pushed for a quick response and they nearly had it. Winger Ryan Davies dived over in the corner, only for eagle-eyed officials to spot him dropping the ball as he leapt through the air.
A couple of minutes later, Pontypool punished them when Meek doubled Pontypool’s advantage with another effort from the tee.
Eventually, Llanelli got their score. A driving line-out saw Davies pop up with the ball at the base. Prydie converted from a tight angle to give them a lead at the break.
The second half, incredibly, saw them start with another knock-on over the line, Conbeer losing it in contact as he dived for the line after dancing past several defenders.
They were made to pay for being so wasteful as Meek pushed Pontypool in front with the boot once more six minutes later after Tom Price was penalised at the breakdown. A longrange effort from Prydie pushed the West Wales club back in front a couple of minutes later and Llanelli never looked back.
Wales international Prydie, who this time last year was involved in the PRO14 play-offs with the Scarlets ahead of a tour to Argentina and North America, nudged Llanelli a little further ahead 10 minutes later with another faultless penalty.
And then two quick tries took the game away from the Championship outfit to end their hopes of promotion
First, Conbeer crossed after latching on to Steffan Hughes’s grubber.
And then the try of the night: neat interplay from Prydie and Kalum Evans saw Rees run in their third score from halfway.
To their credit, Pontypool never gave in and got a deserved consolation when flanker Scott Matthews dived over from close range.
Llanelli push over to score a crucial try against Pontypool at the Talbot Athletic Ground.
Ryan Conbeer of Llanelli celebrates scoring a try.