Gwernyfed needed to win this game to maintain their promotion bid, though the Pontypool hosts were in the same position with a lot at stake, writes Peter Weavers.

A large contingent travelled down from Talgarth to match the equally vociferous home support and the stage was set for what turned out to be a tremendous game of rugby.


WRU Division 4 East

New Panteg’s game is built around a large and experienced pack, well supported by a pair of equally experienced half-backs. Gwernyfed’s pack, smaller in stature but making up for that in ability, took the hosts on and were well supported by an impressive young back line that caused problems every time the ball went wide. 

Early exchanges saw both sides make incursions, though as the first quarter drew to a closethe only scores on the board were two penalties, New Panteg cancelling out an early Zack Snape three-pointer. The deadlock was broken when Gwernyfed used a ball from the base of the scrum 10 metres out, both Lloyd Powell and Sam Stephens going close. The defence was finally penetrated when Tom Griffiths used quick ruck ball to release Gethin Davies whose drive to the line was irresistible. Snape added the two points.

New Panteg, stung by the score, tore into attack and quickly brought the scores level with a series of drives down the left which culminated in the home team’s scrum half touching down wide out, notwithstanding which the conversion sailed over bringing the scores level.

Worse was to come when an innocuous punt forward into Gwernyfed’s 22 was rewarded by some miscommunication, The ever-ready hosts pounced upon the loose ball and, while being stopped short, took advantage of a five-metre scrum to put the number 8 under the posts. Snape and his opposite number both landed penalties before the break, but Gwernyfed turned round 20-13 down.

The deficit was soon erased. A line break involving Gethin Davies and Calum Fergusson took play deep into New Panteg territory within a minute of the restart. From the breakdown Sam Clegg and Lloyd Powell made good yards leaving the ball for Cellan Skyrme who powered over under the posts, the conversion by Snape taking the game back to level pegging.

On the hour New Panteg opened up a three-point lead from a penalty, but otherwise the momentum was with Gwernyfed. Whenever the backs were released panic in the home defence ensued. Tom Morgan and Will Lloyd built upon the sterling work of Gethin Davies and Cal Fergusson. When moves were brought to an end, skipper Sam Stephens, ably supported by Sam Clegg, Craig Parry and Prys Eckley, took the game further into home territory.

For 15 minutes Gwernyfed pounded the home line using sword and rapier. New Panteg also showed their metal with some great defence. The siege was occasionally relieved with along kick and from one of these, as Gwernyfed looked to run play back into the opposition half, the ball went to ground, was hacked through by the home side’s left-winger and followed up for a match-winning try with only two minutes left on the clock.

Gwernyfed threw everything into the final seconds and Cellan Skyrme went over for a consolation try that brought a losing bonus point, but not the win that may have seen the green, white and blacks promoted. 

This was a great game for which both sides and their coaching teams deserve huge credit. If anything the difference between the two teams was found in experience, New Panteg fielding a side of some maturity, Gwernyfed’s progress built very much upon a young team playing some exciting rugby. Their season comes to an end at Blackwood Stars next Saturday when the travelling support will no doubt rally to applaud the lads for what has been a great season of green, white and black rugby played in the true spirit of the community game.