20 April 2015 / Team News

Emlyn make history


What a game!! For the neutral spectator it is best described by Kevin Lewis the Loughor RFC secretary, as ‘one of the best games of rugby I have ever seen played by two sides who wanted to run the ball at all times’. For the passionate supporters of both teams it was a nail biting roller coaster ride as the game went from one end of the pitch to the other at a breath-taking pace.

The level of skill on show was a tribute to the ability of the coaches of both sides but also to some fine individual performances by some outstanding individuals in two excellent sides. For Penallta their half back pairing of scrum half Aaron Bidgood and outside half Jo Scrivens posed problems for the Emlyn defence all afternoon as they continually set their backs in motion. For Emlyn, full back Shaun Leonard was simply outstanding, composed in defence and clinical in attack. Number eight Brynmor Jones was another who had a game to be proud of as did veteran player coach Arwel Davies whose line out skill and work in the loose was exemplary.

Emlyn opened the scoring after two minutes with a well struck penalty form thirty five metres by Leonard, but if anything this could be described as a false dawn. Penallta came back at the red and whites and played the game at a pace not seen even at Premiership level. Playing their home games on an artificial pitch they have adapted their game to suit the perfect playing conditions they experience at home. The Loughor pitch was in perfect condition and suited running rugby.

Phase attack after attack was launched at the Emlyn line and met by, at times, pretty desperate defending with centres Alun Howells and Viv Jenkins marshalling the Emlyn defence as best they could. The first try of the game came quite unexpectedly when from a line out on half way Penallta set up a ruck in the middle of the pitch. Scrum half Bidgood spotted the smallest of gaps around the fringe of the ruck and he was through. Such was his turn of pace that he comfortably rounded Leonard to score wide out.

At this stage the only area of the game which it could be said the Emlyn were on top was the scrum. The Emlyn front row of Gethin Davies, hooker Alex Williams, and captain Dai Jones dominated the early scrums, driving Penallta back and allowing number eight Brynmor Jones to pick up and link well with scrum half Mike Jones to attack the Penallta backs. Then some twenty minutes into the game prop Davies got caught at the bottom of a ruck and had to leave the field with what looks like a serious Achillies injury. This necessitated Jones moving across the scrum to tight head and young Jac Parry coming on at loose head and without the powerful Davies the scrums became even.

With Scriven calling the tune and going through a full repertoire of three quarter moves, many Emlyn followers were wondering if their side would be able to stay within touching distance of this excellent outfit. Scriven extended their lead with a well taken penalty after twenty minutes. But Emlyn started to come more into the game with some strong running from the base of the scrum by Brynmor Jones, and when the ball was moved wide Shaun Leonard made good ground with well timed entries into the line. From one such run Emlyn were awarded a penalty which Leonard converted to bring Emlyn back to within two points of Penallta.

This inspired the Emlyn side and it was now their turn to put together sustained passages of play in their opponents half. The Emlyn back row of Jones and flankers Joel James and Owain Powell proceeded to dominate the ruck area. The hard work of Powell in this area was aided by the physical presence of James and they proved to be a very effective combination. Outside half Rhidian Harries now began to control the game and bring his elusive running centres Jenkins and Howells more into the match.

Varying his play beautifully Harries hoisted a huge up and under which, it has to be said, no one in Penallta wanted to catch. Flanker Joel James caught the ball on the first bounce and drove hard at their line, he fed supporting prop Dai Jones who slipped a pass to Jac Parry who looked to have scored a try in the corner.  The try unfortunately was ruled out by the touch judge who spotted that Parry had put a foot on the whitewash.

Such was the tempo of this pulsating encounter that Emlyn then found themselves having to defend desperately as Penallta came back at them. As half time approached, from a scrum just inside the Emlyn twenty two area, the ball was moved wide to the right wing by Penallta. Emlyn looked to have it covered when a pass was thrown back inside and a couple of overhead passes later left winger Mathew Williams crossed for a try converted by Scrivens to give them a nine point half time lead.

It was vital for Emlyn to have any chance of winning the game that they score first in the second half. Whatever was said half time by coach Marc Lloyd worked a treat for the red and whites. The first line out of the second half was on the half way line, and hooker Alex Williams, whose throwing in was excellent all day, was pin point accurate to second row Arwel Davies. Harries then carried the ball to the gain line before feeding the powerful Joel James, and it took three defenders to bring him down. This time it was the Emlyn scum half who spotted a gap in the Penallta defence and Mike Jones was through in the blink of an eye. Tackled just short of the line, the ball was quickly recycled and moved wide for flanker Powell to time his pass to perfection to put right winger Llyr Jones over for a try well converted by Leonard.

Emlyn made a complete hash of clearing their lines from the restart and Penallta possibly should have scored from a wild pass by an Emlyn player. A couple of scrums and some well organised defending by Emlyn managed to save the day for the red and whites. Unfortunately for Emlyn during this passage of play prop Dai Jones suffered a shoulder injury and had to be replaced by flanker Gareth Patterson. Without having a third player who could play tight head the game then had to revert to uncontested scrums.

If anything this increased the pace of the game and it became breath taking stuff for players and spectators. The wind also began to play an important part in the match, generally it blew across the field but sometimes came behind either side. It was here that the experience and class of Emlyn outside half Rhydian Harries showed as, when he had the ball, he kicked shrewdly deep into the Penallta twenty two. Penallta were not quite as accurate or controlled with the boot. From one loose kick downfield Joel James caught the ball and put Emlyn left winger Owen Francis away. With the cover coming across the winger put in a delicate chip ahead and was just beaten to the touchdown by the home defenders.    

Back came Penallta at the red and whites but they now found an impenetrable wall of defenders in front of them. The defensive work done by all the side was impressive. Penallta attacked around the fringes but solid tackling by second row Dyfed Morgan and the rest of the forwards stopped them in their tracks. Replacement Gareth Patterson was his normal abrasive self with his driving play in the loose. From some excellent work in the tackle area Emlyn turned the ball over. Hooker Alex Williams gave a perfectly timed pass to Shaun Leonard in his own half. With the cover coming across Leonard kicked ahead, caught his own kick and crossed for an outstanding individual try, which he converted to give Emlyn a five point lead.

With time beginning to run out Penallta continued to run everything at Emlyn, any loose ball was given to Harries or Leonard who used the wind well to pin Penallta back into their twenty two time after time with accurate kicks. Scrivens did have a couple of opportunities from penalties to apply pressure on the Emlyn line but failed to judge the wind correctly and on one occasion kicked the ball dead over the touch in goal line from a penalty awarded on the ten metre line.

From this fortunate let off Emlyn, with the fresh legs of Gareth Thomson, Bedwyr Davies and Dan Havard prominent in the loose, kept possession and went through a number of phases as they worked their way downfield. Eventually Penallta were penalised at a ruck on their twenty two and up stepped Leonard to kick the goal and give Emlyn an eight point lead with six minutes to go.

Penallta to their credit kept coming at the red and whites, who responded in kind, and the final whistle went to signal the end of a game that was a credit to both sides and would have graced the final. Emlyn now go on to play in the SWALEC WRU Plate Final on Sunday 3rd May at the Millennium Stadium – what a season this young club is having.  

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