National Bowl Round Three:
Milford Haven 38
Pontardawe 18

THREE tries in the final eight minutes saw Milford Haven book their place in Round Four of the National Bowl after they were given a tough test by a stubborn Pontardawe side at The Obs.

The Mariners began as clear favourites against a side currently sixth in Division Three West Central C, and started well as outside half Craig Barnett kicked a penalty to the corner – and from the attack that followed centre Dan Birch burst through a gap for a try that Barnett himself converted.

Winger Jimmy Thomas then also cut through but his off load to flanker Sam Dolling failed to go to hand – and The Mariners were left frustrated again when Josh Thomas had a try disallowed as Efan Morgan’s pass was adjudged forward.

Barnett did add a simple penalty to make it 10-0, before a sniping run from Pontardawe scrum half Zac Beynon led to a penalty that full back Mathew Edwards landed.

But Jimmy Thomas then extended Milford’s lead as he threw a dummy and burst down the left wing for a superb solo try that Barnett converted from out wide.

At that point, a comfortable afternoon seemed on the cards for The Mariners, but Pontardawe dug deep and a driving run from flanker Callum Papp led to another penalty, and Edwards made no mistake.

The No 15, his side’s standout performer on the day, reduced the deficit further with another three points when home skipper Jamie Parr was penalised for a high tackle on Papp, and repeated the feat on the stroke of half time when the Milford pack were penalised at a scrum inside their own 22.

Edwards continued to punish Milford indiscipline after the break, as he added another penalty from 40 metres to make it 17-15, before his side blew their best chance of a try  when centre Nathan Thomas threw a forward pass to Callum Jones with the winger completely unmarked just 10 metres out.

The Mariners were then guilty of missing try chances themselves, as a Mark Wonnacott break from his own 22 led to a counter attack that saw full back Lee Riley bundled into touch near the corner flag – before replacement winger Jamie Lewis was also denied near the line thanks to a superb cover tackle from Edwards.

And with 12 minutes left, the visitors looked set to snatch a win when Edwards stepped up for a penalty bang on halfway, and again was on target to nudge his side a point ahead.

Milford blew another opportunity when replacement back rower David Sweeny’s final pass to Lewis failed to go to hand – but from the resultant scrum, Luke Ryan won possession against the head and No 8 Wonnacott charged towards the line before supplying the scoring pass to Dolling. Barnett converted.

And Josh Thomas, who had earlier switched from the wing to the centre, then made the game safe when he took a short pass 22 metres out and powered through in midfield to score under the posts.

Barnett again converted, and then did the same after his own floated pass set up Birch to add his second try out wide from the game’s final play – ensuring The Mariners sailed safely into the next round, albeit with a final scoreline that was slightly harsh on the visitors.

"We came through in the end," said Milford head coach Steve Barnett afterwards.

"We missed chances and let a lot of points slip - but full credit to Pontardawe, they dug deep after we scored early and made a real fight of it."

Milford Haven: Lee Riley, Jimmy Thomas, Dan Birch, Josh Thomas, Craig Barnett, Efan Morgan, Jamie Parr, Luke Ryan, Adam Rees, Tom Manning, Archie Smithies, Sam Dolling, Ryan Mansell, Mark Wonnacott.

Replacements: David Sweeny, Mike Cockburn, Ben Johnson, Dan McClelland, Jamie Lewis.

Pontardawe: Mathew Edwards, Dale Price, Nathan Thomas, Richard Williams, Callum Jones, Dai Hawkins, Zac Beynon, Llyr Hopkins, Joe Mort, Damian Blake, Jonny Evans, Mike Hanson, Sean Stevens, Callum Papp, Jordan Byrne.

Replacements: Sean griffiths, Carwyn Jenkins, Tom Jenkins, Aaron Davies, Dan Ford.

Referee: Darren Randall.

Full National Plate and Bowl reports and pictures in this week's Western Telegraph.