By David Parsons
Pontypool completed the Admiral Championship league and cup double with their 66-21 win over Cardiff Met at the weekend and now put their unbeaten record for the season on the line at Ystrad Rhondda on Tuesday night.
Powerful Pooler have bagged 24 wins in the league and a further four in the cup and are now within two games of going through the season without defeat.
But Ystrad are the side that has got closest to beating Leighton Jones’ champions in the league this season, going down 28-25 at Pontypool Park in October. They met them again in the WRU Championship Cup final at Principality Stadium last month, losing 28-16.
Director of rugby Jones saw his side run in 10 tries in Cyncoed to underline their supremacy in the league and give themselves an unassailable 15 point cushion over third-placed Neath, who were the only team who could catch them.
Given Pooler have done the double over Neath, won more games and have a better points and tries aggregate, their 24th straight victory was enough for them to secure the title for a fourth time.
“It was definitely a day for the fans, the players and the community to really enjoy. We were promoted the previous week and winning the league is the icing on the cake,” said director of rugby, Jones.
“The boys are definitely a lot fitter this year and they are a different animal, individually and collectively. They’ve definitely trained hard under Gareth Betts and that showed against Cardiff Met because we got stronger and stronger as the game grew.
“Last season was difficult to take and that stuck in our throats. It drove us on this year to be what we are,” added Jones, whose side had to play second fiddle to Bargoed in the COVID hit season.
“We were frustrated and angry as a bunch but we’ve definitely turned that into something positive this season.
“The league has been more competitive this year – Neath and Bargoed recruited well and Ystrad Rhondda have been punching well above their weight.”
Ystrad were forced to make a brilliant second half recovery at Bedwas that saw them win 48-29 in the end.
Bedwas had a bonus point in the bag by half-time at the Bridge Field as they raced into a 22-17 lead and were still ahead on the hour mark before Ystrad unleashed their bench.
Neath head to Cross Keys for their penultimate match on Wednesday night, knowing a bonus point win will be good enough to take them ahead of Bargoed in second place and clinch the second promotion spot.
They end their campaign at Ystrad Rhondda on 24 May.