PONTYPOOL 54 CANTERBURY 14
Canterbury crossed the border for their final pre-season game with Andy Pratt knowing that Welsh Champipnhsip side Pontypool would be a stern test for his players ahead of their maiden season in National Division One (writes Chris Fullbrook).
Pontypool opened the scoring after just two minutes when a kick to the corner and the resulting catch and drive lead to an unconverted try. The opening quarter went mainly the way of the hosts with some good defensive work from Canterbury particularly Ricky Mackintosh thwarting an almost definite score with a strong cover tackle on his own try line. Pontypool again used the line out set piece but this time it was the backs who used the width of the pitch twice before scoring out wide followed by a good conversion from the touchline.
Canterbury then had their best spell of the game, taking the attack to their counterparts with the resulting pressure ending in a penalty kicked to the corner. With the line out won the catch and drive saw Dan Smart at the base to touch down, converted by Tom Best to trail 12-7.
With Canterbury looking to go into the half time break narrowly behind Pooler had different ideas and close range catch and drive work paid off with a converted try as the last play of the first half.
The city side started the second half well but missed an early opportunity to trim the lead. From this point the tide turned and the home side’s close support and strong running rugby resulted in two further converted tries.
Canterbury didn’t help their plight when handling errors and poor choices resulted in turnover possession with Pontypool capitalising on the errors to score two more converted tries.
Canterbury did manage to double their tally when from limited possession Sam Sterling found a gap to score and allow Tom Best to add the extras to trail 47-14. With George Micans receiving a yellow card for an off the ball indiscretion eight minutes from time the home side used the numbers advantage to attack. However the visitors stood their ground but a knock on in midfield allowed a simple chip through for Pontypool to conclude the scoring and the match with their eighth try again converted.
Andy Pratt can take some positives from this strong encounter with the set piece scrum and lineout performing well but if this was to be a dress rehearsal for their first venture into the third tier of National rugby there are still a few more lines to be learned.