Five Star Bristol Seal Home Cup Final
Pontypridd 25-36 Bristol Rugby
Bristol Rugby progressed to the B&I Cup final with a sublime 36-25 victory over Pontypridd at Sardis Road. The win sets up a mouthwatering clash with Bedford at the Memorial Stadium on Saturday May 7.
In arguably their finest performance of the season, Paul Hull’s side played with dynamism and invention, scoring five tries through David Blaney, George Watkins, a penalty try and a Dan Norton brace.
Pontypridd, previously unbeaten in 21 games at home this season, posted three tries of their own, but couldn’t cope with the pace and power of the visitors, who were boosted by an outstanding individual performance from Robbie Shaw.
Bristol carved the first opportunity of the game after dominating the early proceedings. Following two excellent rolling mauls, Junior Fatialofa crashed through the midfield and earned the visitors a penalty that was tucked away by Ed Barnes to open the scoring at 3-0.
Almost immediately from the resulting restart, Bristol scored one of the best tries of their season. Having secured turnover ball, Robbie Shaw darted down the blindside channel before linking up well with George Watkins. The winger fed the on-rushing Norton who burst through to score. Barnes converted as Bristol raced into a 10-0 lead with just five minutes on the clock.
Pontypridd’s early nerves were evident when Owen Sheppeard spilled a high ball under pressure to give Paul Hull’s side further attacking impetus. Bristol continued to press and almost created another opening when Jack Adams beat his marker but couldn’t offload with the try line gaping.
In a frantic opening period, it was Pontypridd’s turn to launch an attack. Despite soaking up several phases of pressure, Bristol’s defensive line eventually succumbed when Ed Siggery crashed over from close-range. Simon Humberstone added the extras to cut the lead to 10-7. Bristol hit back once more when the ever-dangerous Robbie Shaw created space for George Watkins, who was tackled just inches from the line. However, referee Leo Colgan adjudged Gareth Wyatt’s tackle to be illegal and awarded the penalty try which Barnes converted to stretch the advantage to 17-7.
Late in the first half, Pontypridd fly-half Simon Humberstone had an opportunity to reduce the arrears with a long-range penalty kick and duly obliged to put the hosts within seven points at 17-10. With Bristol’s defence floundering in the heat, Humberstone added another three points to make the score at the break 17-13.
In the energy-sapping heat of the second half, both sides toiled in a bid to gain a stranglehold on proceedings. In the first real clear-cut opportunity, David Blaney notched Bristol’s third try, crossing the whitewash after Jack Adams had engineered an overlap following a delicate exchange of passes in the midfield. Ed Barnes’ angled conversion attempt fell short so the score remained 22-13.
Bristol almost gifted Pontypridd a route back into the game when Ed Barnes attempted a long pass on his own try line that went forward. But the visitors dug in deep from the ensuing scrum and cleared their lines through the boot of Robbie Shaw. George Watkins scored Bristol’s fourth after the forwards recycled the ball quickly and Watkins waltzed through two despairing tackles to touch down. Barnes slotted a difficult conversion to give the visitors breathing space at 29-13.
Bristol went further ahead when Dan Norton added his second of the afternoon. The winger went in under the posts after Anthony Elliott had exploited space down the outside channel, feeding Norton who accelerated past a trio of defenders. Barnes kicked the conversion to increase the advantage to 36-13.
With ten minutes remaining, Pontypridd nicked a try when Simon Humberstone barged his way over after a quickly taken penalty from the 5m line. Humberstone converted his score as the hosts fought back to 36-20. With new-found confidence, Pontypridd pushed forward again and Dan Montagu was sin-binned for a push on replacement scrum-half Lewis Jones.
Pontypridd scored their third to set up a nervy finish when Lewis Jones burrowed over in the corner following intense pressure from the pack at the breakdown. Humberstone skewed the conversion, confirming a 36-25 victory for Bristol. The raucous travelling faithful celebrated the final whistle in the sun as Paul Hull’s men secured a B&I cup final at the Memorial Stadium.
Gareth Wyatt ©; Chris Clayton, Adam Thomas, Dafydd Lockyer, Owen Williams; Simon Humberstone, Rhys Downes; Ken Knaggs, Huw Dowden, Ryan Harford, Cory Hill, Ryan Savage, Ed Siggery, Wayne O’Connor, Owen Sheppeard.
Lewis Jones (for Rhys Downes, 70 mins), Dean Gunter (for Adam Thomas, 79 mins), Gavin Dacey (for Chris Clayton, 61 mins) Tom Hetherington (for Huw Dowden, 75 mins), Craig Locke (for Owen Sheppeard, 57 mins), Darren Waters (for Wayne O’Connor, 51 mins), Stuart Williams (for Ken Knaggs, 56 mins).
Jack Tovey; George Watkins, Jack Adams, Junior Fatialofa, Dan Norton; Ed Barnes, Robbie Shaw; Mark Irish, David Blaney, Darren Crompton, Mariano Sambucetti, Roy Winters, Iain Grieve ©, James Merriman, Dan Montagu.
Ollie Hayes (for David Blaney, 79 mins), Wayne Thompson (for Darren Crompton, 52 mins), Darren Barry (for Roy Winters 77 mins), Marco Mama, Richard Bolt (for Robbie Shaw, 77 mins), Mark Davies (for Ed Barnes, 78 mins), Anthony Elliott (for Jack Tovey, 56 mins).
Referee: Leo Colgan