01 May 2018 / Club News



In one of the most remarkable finals in WRU history, Porthcawl snatched victory away from ‘The Scarlets’ of Pembroke with the last kick of a truly pulsating and memorable match, full of passion, skill and exhilarating running Rugby that served as a fabulous advertisement for the Community game in Wales, a truly epic contest, in which Pembroke played a huge part.

Supporters left Porthcawl in early morning droves and with a thousand or more supporters at the Principality Stadium to cheer them on, the Seaweeds continued a remarkable run of success in league and cup, to make history and take them to the brink of a League and Cup double.

Referee Dylan Jones got the match underway and right from the off Porthcawl got into their stride as they landed the first blow inside two minutes. Pembroke No.8 Sam Smith, a veritable tank of a man lost control of the ball in his charge forward as Porthcawl flanker Morgan Evans came in with the hit and the ball moved swiftly to centre Jon Phillips, magnificent throughout, who found No.8 Leon McNally at his shoulder. McNally’s swift offload to fellow back-rower Ben Asprea saw the flanker charge over under the posts for a simply glorious opening try, goaled by fly-half Josh White and 7-nil before Pembroke knew what day it was. Asprea gallops effortlessly around the park like a modern-day Dai Morris and seems to be everywhere, some accolade, that.

Seaweeds scrum-half Morgan Haylock, whose service and sniping runs were a joy to watch for much of the match, made a snap break, finding Phillips with McNally and Asprea again to the fore, before the move broke down. Centre Gareth Rees, a giant of a player all season, then showed two brilliant dummies in a break that took Porthcawl back deep into Pembroke territory and White’s mammoth pass found right wing Jordan Fox, who sped in at the corner for a great try, White’s kick drifting just wide and 12-nil in just eight minutes.

Despite Porthcawl’s opening blitz, Pembroke are not top of their Division 3 West for no reason and they came back with force to put pressure in good measure on the Porthcawl line with a series of drives, linked with smart back play and when huge flanker Dom Coleman dived over at the corner for an unconverted try and 12-5, it seemed that it was game on again.

Back came Porthcawl moving the ball with speed down the left with Phillips’ superbly-timed putting left wing Jake Thomas away for the corner, only for a late tip-tackle by Pembroke wing Barry Alderman-John on Phillips to result in  a yellow card, with Thomas taking a bang to the shoulder as he was hauled down short. Up stepped White to land the 37 metre penalty and 15-5.

Porthcawl were certainly having the best of it and when good work by Morgan Evans and Asprea set up a superb flowing move, with the ball moving at speed through several pairs of hands going right, it was full-back Ben Thomas delivering the pass for Fox to nab his second try for 20-5 with White’s goal attempt again just wide.

Fox grabbed his third try, which won him the Man-of-the-Match award, as again Porthcawl went for the jugular. Full-back Ben Thomas cleverly switched direction to step blind and feed Phillips, whose outrageous dummy took him clear and he handed Fox the scoring pass for his hat-trick score, bettered only by White’s superb conversion off touch and at 27-5, Pembroke now had a huge mountain to climb – but climb it they did.

First of all, man-mountain No.8 Sam Smith barged his way over for the try from a short pass by scrum-half Tom Lewis ten metres out, converted by Shaun Dalling before Porthcawl’s usually impregnable defence in their own 22, saw centre Dan Colley waltz through for an unconverted try and at 27-17 Pembroke were back in striking distance as the whistle sounded the end of a breath-taking first half of some incredible Rugby.

If anyone thought the second half was going to see any slowdown in the tempo they were sadly mistaken and Asprea was soon at it again for the Seaweeds as he stole Pembroke ball at a ruck and charged out of defence on a lung-bursting 70 metre run, before finding McNally at his shoulder. The No.8 seemed certain to score but for the brilliant covering defence which hauled him down just 5 metres short.

Then it was wing Jake Thomas again heading for the line to be stopped from a similar distance out before seconds later, Haylock found White in the pocket from a ruck and the fly-half coolly dropped a fine goal for 30-17.

As both sides started to ring the changes and satisfy the need for fresh legs with the pace of the match showing no let-up, Owen Thomas came on for Asprea and Aled Davies for Jake Thomas for Porthcawl, and from another Seaweeds attack a smart White dink through saw Ben Thomas almost snatch the touchdown but for an outstanding piece of covering from the Scarlets flanker Billy Wood, with Matt Cook on for Jamie Uren at prop and Jake Furness for McNally for Porthcawl.

Then just as it seemed Porthcawl were back on track again, the match turned in dramatic fashion. A fabulous run from Pembroke full-back Luke Hartland set up a second try for Smith, which Hartland himself converted before Smith’s brother, fly-half Toby moved the ball down the left touchline to wing Elliot Evans. As he was tackled at the corner, Evans produced a magical offload, as good as any seen at the highest level, to put scrum- half Lewis over for a dramatic try. Smith converted and suddenly, Pembroke had clawed back from 27-5 down to lead 31-30 going into the final 10 minutes of the match.

Time for Owen Thomas to step in and he made a superb clear break covering fully 50 metres for Phillips to carry on from the quick rucked ball and put Gareth Rees clear to the line, only for a magnificent tackle by Lewis to save the day as Porthcawl drove for glory, as Nick Nutman, Jordan Skidmore and Gavin Williams joined the fray to complete the Seaweeds bench of substitutes.

As the match swung to the other end, a ruck near the Porthcawl line saw Matt Cook pull off a superb try-saving tackle on Wood with five minutes left, the game hanging in the balance as Pembroke seemed to have the upper hand. Back came the Seaweeds, forwards leading the charge with play again moved back into Pembroke territory, Skidmore’s snap drop goal attempt sliced agonisingly wide with Pembroke now having to kick out from the 22.

Porthcawl secured the ball and moved to Ben Thomas who suffered a high tackle to give Porthcawl a dramatic chance to steal the match, yet with kicker White prostrate on the turf with cramp. However, up stepped the fly-half to signal his penalty attempt, with the hearts of the whole Stadium audience in their mouths. From 35 metres, White calmly stepped up and slotted the kick to seal the match at 33-31, as Porthcawl’s supporters went wild, the final whistle sounding and the Pembroke players broken in the cruellest of twists to a match.

History was now made and as skipper Richard Hnyda stepped up to receive the trophy, the smile on the face of coach Rhys James told its’ own story of an incredible journey that will go down in Porthcawl folklore.



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