Report: USW close gap on league leaders with win at the House of Pain

Bonus point victory for USW as they return to winning ways

Pic by Tom Pritchard

by Nathan Parker

University of South Wales Men’s 1st 31-5 Bristol University Men’s 1st

Date: Wednesday 6th December 2017

Venue: Sardis Road, Pontypridd

The University of South Wales bounced back from their disappointing defeat to Swansea last week with an impressive bonus point victory over table-toppers Bristol in Pontypridd.

It was fullback Callum Hall who kicked off proceedings in the torrential rain at the ‘House of Pain’. The Bristol forwards were unable to gather possession and knocked on, giving the home side an early attacking scrum.

To make matters worse for the English side, the referee awarded USW a penalty and fullback Hall kicked to the corner. After clean ball from the lineout and a few phases out wide, it was loose head prop Joe Popple who crashed over in the corner after bustling through Bristol’s Mac Dale for the game’s opening try. Hall missed the extras from the touchline.

Ten minutes later, it was a case of déjà vu for the Pontypridd prop Popple, who again dominated tighthead Gabriel O’Brien at scrum time, leaving the referee no choice but to award USW a penalty. Hall again kicked for touch and after lock forward Lloyd Evans claimed the ball from the lineout, Popple helped drive his pack 20 metres up field to claim his second try of the match. Hall’s kick sailed between the posts this time.

Half ways through the first half, Bristol were awarded a penalty of their own after USW and current Bristol United second row Sam Tiley was caught with his hands in the ruck illegally. First phase ball from the resulting lineout gave Bristol fly half Tom Burgess the space he needed to kick across field for Mac Dale to gather and score in the corner. With the conversion missed, superb defence from back rowers Alun Lawrence and Sion Edwards kept Bristol at bay going into half time.

The home side started the second half in the same fashion they began the first, with abrasive flanker Edwards making a superb 30 metre break up to the halfway line, which fortunately for the away team lead to nothing. Three minutes later it was USW winger Dafydd Smith who managed to regather his own grubber kick down the touchline and got his pass inside to last week’s Man of the Match, Jamie Hill, who couldn’t hold on to the ball and knocked forward.

With the game slipping away from Bristol’s reach and with their scrum in tatters, it was USW’s Sion Edwards who was in the thick of the action once again, using his strength to drive over under the posts. Some would have awarded the extra two points to fullback Callum Hall even before he had swung his left boot at the ball. Not this time though, as the Ebbw Vale product saw his attempt charged down, to the dismay of coach Justin Burnell.

With ten minutes remaining, Bristol became desperate and were trying to run the ball from everywhere, trying to give themselves just a glimmer of hope in the match. But a knock on from the away side in their own 22 gifted USW’s Dafydd Smith a try which gave the home side a much-needed bonus point. The extras were duly slotted over, this time by Hall.

The home side were now in complete control and with the 80 minutes up, converted flanker Marcus Jones picked up a loose ball, offloaded to substitute Alex Meeson who sent impressive fly half Foard Cooksley over the try-line to put the icing on the cake. Hall added the extra points to give the home side an impressive 31-5 victory over their English counterparts. USW will return to action after the Christmas break on the 24th January when they travel to second place Cardiff University.

Man of the Match: Alun Lawrence

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