PONTYPOOL’S dreams of a return to the Principality Premiership were shattered by Llanelli at the Talbot Athletic Ground tonight.

Bidding for a place in Welsh club rugby’s top tier after six seasons in the Championship, promotion-seeking Pooler were undone in the second half of the play-off in Aberavon.

For Llanelli, who finished 12th in the Premiership above relegated Bedwas, Cross Keys, Bargoed and Neath, the win means they retain their top-flight status.

The encounter was barely five minutes old when Pooler were given a huge boost by Llanelli lock Chris Long.

Referee Nigel Owens had no hesitation in brandishing a yellow card after the second row deliberately knocked on as Pontypool looked to break.

And it wasn’t much longer before tempers flared for the first time, with Pooler’s Jordan Thomas and Llanelli’s Kalum Evans scrapping on the floor after a late hit by the former.

Pooler were handed the first real chance to open the scoring when the referee reversed a Llanelli penalty, but Matthew Lewis’ long-range effort was just off target.

An even better opportunity to break the deadlock then fell the way of Pooler, only for the bounce of the ball to deny Lloyd Lewis following Geraint Walsh’s clever kick.

However, the Gwent side did take the lead just before the half-hour mark.

Kieran Meek’s close-range penalty, which followed a yellow card for Evans, came after Curtis Gregory charged down Gareth George’s clearance and Darren Hughes nearly made the whitewash.

Llanelli thought they had responded immediately, but their celebrations were cut short.

Taylor Davies’ thrust set-up a ruck five yards out, the ball was moved left and Ryan Davies dived over.

But the eagle-eyed official had spotted that the wing failed to ground the ball correctly.

Meek then extended Pontypool’s advantage with a second three-pointer, and the Championship champions were set to be in front at the break.

Llanelli had other ideas and flanker Davies was at the bottom of a driving maul that Pooler just couldn’t stop.

Former Dragons speedster Tom Prydie rubbed further salt into the Pooler wound by slotting the conversion from the touchline to make it 7-6 to the West Walians at half-time.

Less than 90 seconds into the second period and Llanelli should have been further ahead.

Replacement Ryan Conbeer went on a scintillating run that started just inside the Pooler half and had five points written all over it.

That was until Lloyd Lewis produced a superb last-ditch try-saving tackle to force a knock-on.

Meek gave Pooler the lead again with a third penalty, only for Prydie to reply in kind, making it 10-9 with a monster effort from near halfway.

As the match entered the last quarter, Pooler’s scrum came under severe pressure and Prydie made them pay again, his penalty giving Llanelli a 13-9 advantage.

And with 15 minutes left things got a lot worse for Pooler.

Steffan Hughes sent a grubber kick behind the Pontypool midfield and Conbeer, with aid of some football skills, gathered and touched down. Prydie converted.

Leighton Jones’ men knew they had to score next, but there was more bad news for the supporters from Gwent.

Conbeer powered through some tired tackling, offloaded to fellow replacement Lee Rees and he sprinted over unopposed. Prydie took the score to 27-9.

Pooler battled to the end, and they were rewarded with a late consolation try for Scott Matthew with the help of the TMO. Meek converted.

It will be hard but Pooler must try and pick themselves up for at least one more season in the Championship.

Llanelli: K Evans; T Prydie, S Hughes, J Lewis (capt), R Davies; I Hughes, G George; C Thomas, M Jones, R Thomas, C Long, T Price, T Davies, E Thomas, S Evans. Reps: G George, R Thomas, R Bassett, A Sutton, R Conbeer, L Rees, L Hutchins.

Pontypool: G Walsh; L Lewis, C Gullis, K Meek, J Thomas; M Lewis, M Luckwell; J Jeune, D Hughes, O Drake, D Hodge, C Gregory, S Matthews, R Nash (capt), B Sparks. Reps: C Hewlett, B Parry, M Herbert, A Quick, J Mahoney, M Jones, B Lampitt, C Price.

Referee: Nigel Owens

Argus star man: Ryan Conbeer