Merthyr and Cardiff have progressed into round two of the WRU National Cup following wins against Newcastle Emlyn and Neath respectively, but Pontypridd crashed out after suffering a narrow defeat to Cross Keys at Pandy Park.
Newcastle Emlyn 0 Merthyr 59
Wing Alex Howman crossed for a second half hat-trick during Merthyr’s 0-59 trashing of Newcastle Emlyn at Dôl Wiber.
The Merthyr side contained many of the squad’s experienced Principality Premiership players such as Matthew Jarvis, Gavin Dacey, Gareth Davies and captain Craig Locke.
After a tough start, with the Ironmen struggling to adapt to the poor playing conditions, the trademark power of Merthyr’s pack came to effect and back row Osian Davies latched onto a Gareth Davies chip to cross for the game’s opening score.
Josh Martin collected the restart and made it a quickfire double, racing downfield and beating several defenders to score under the posts.
Debutant lock Jarryd Davies’ try ensured the visitors went into the interval with a 0-21 lead.
A second half punch-up saw both sides reduced to 14-men, with props Rhys James and Dai Jones shown a red card.
However, Merthyr ran away with the game as Howman secured his hat-trick, with Richard Wilkes and Matthew Jarvis (2) also touching down.
Neath 13 Cardiff 15
Cardiff were desperate to bounce back from a disappointing run of form in the Premiership during December as they made the journey to The Gnoll for the opening round of the WRU National Cup.
The Blue and Blacks had various players missing through injury and Wales Under-20 call-ups and were up against it during the opening stages, with the strong wind behind the home side.
The Welsh All Blacks dominated and had opportunities to open scoring, but the Cardiff defence held firm under pressure.
The scoreboard was finally called into action after 21 minutes, as Neath full back, Ed Howley, slotted a penalty.
The hosts extended their lead minutes later as Scott Gibson caught the Cardiff defence napping to touch down for the game’s opening try, with Howley converting.
Cardiff would cut their opponent’s lead before the interval, as Ian Jenkins took advantage of a set-piece to cross over unopposed.
In the second half, Cardiff used the wind to their advantage and were looking the side most likely to make a breakthrough.
Despite Gareth Thompson striking the uprights with a penalty effort, Neath continued to penalise resulting in the referee awarding the visitors a penalty try.
Howley put the hosts back ahead with a penalty effort, but when Will Rees-Hole was taken out off the ball, Thompson had the opportunity to clinch victory with the final kick of the game.
The outside half duly converted the difficult kick, putting the Blue and Blacks back to winning ways in a dramatic fashion.
Cross Keys 21 Pontypridd 16
Despite a confident start from Justin Burnell’s side, it was Keys who raced to a 13-0 lead at Pandy Park, thanks to the boot of Josh Prosser and an interception try from back row Josh Skinner.
However, the visiting pack looked to assert their dominance at the line-out and pressure finally paid off as experienced lock, Chris Dicomidis, crashed over to open his side’s scoring for the afternoon.
The try swung momentum in Ponty’s favour, and good work by electric wing Alex Webber set-up field position for Ceri Sweeney to slot a penalty and cut Keys’ lead. However, a further Prosser penalty saw the sides run in for half time with the hosts leading 16-8.
Pontypridd got off to the perfect start in the second half as Joe Page touched down from the base of another rampant driving line-out.
A Diggy Bird penalty brought the scores back level, but the visitors were dealt a major blow when Skinner crossed for his second try in the corner to regain a five point lead.
Cross Keys kept it tight in the closing stages, bringing an end to Pontypridd’s cup hopes for the campaign.