06 December 2015 / Team News

Emlyn rise to the occasion


     Undoubtedly the best performance of the season by a long way and probably, as far as a defensive showing goes, one of the best ever at Dol Wiber by this young Emlyn side. The Ironmen of Merthyr arrived with an enviable record having lost only one match, against their bitter rivals Pontypool, and having scored more than thirty points in every other League match. Do not for a minute think this result could be put down to the weather and ground conditions, in similar circumstances last week Merthyr scored ninety-nine points without conceding any.

Led by their ex-Welsh international Andy Powell, and with a side bristling with Regional and Premiership experience they arrived full of confidence and expectation of a five point victory. Emlyn had been made aware that in order to compete they would have to take on and try and nullify the Merthyr pack. The visitors pack had already gained a reputation of being formidable scrummagers and excellent exponents of the driving maul, both areas of the game which have proven problematic for the red and whites this season.

The Emlyn eight rose to the occasion magnificently. Inspired by hooker and captain Alex Williams they not only competed against their illustrious opponents they actually, on occasions, dominated proceedings. Emlyn’s two flankers Owain Powell and Callum Evans worked extremely well together and their low tackling enabled supporting players to come and either drive the tackled player backwards or, especially in Powell’s case, go in and win the turnover.

The expected Merthyr dominance in the line out did not materialise as second rows Dyfed Morgan, who was rightly awarded the man of the match trophy, and Bleddyn Davies along with number eight Brynmor Jones continually competed successfully to either disrupt Merthyr possession or steal the ball from them. Emlyn’s own line-out  operated reasonably smoothly allowing livewire scrum half Dafydd Evans to dictate matters for lengthy periods of time.

The Emlyn scrum did come under pressure as the game went on and when Merthyr decided to keep the ball in at the base of the scrum they were able to march Emlyn back some ten/twenty metres on occasions. However, props Emrys Davies and Neil Elworthy worked extremely hard and on a couple of occasions managed to shove the visitors backwards. One notable scrum came in the second half when Merthyr opted for a scrum five metres from the Emlyn line. A try looked to be a certainty for the visitors, Emlyn not only held the shove but marched them backwards some five metres allowing Evans to force his illustrious opponent Rhys Downes into knocking the ball forward. From the resultant scrum full back Shaun Leonard was able to clear the Emlyn line with a huge relieving kick.

Things looked ominous for the home side though when Merthyr scored the opening try after just five minutes. From a line out thirty five metres out they caught and drove the maul expertly infield until prop James Howe was credited with the touchdown, by the posts for, outside half Mathew Jarvis to convert.

Their lead was short lived though, as from the long restart the Emlyn chasers put a great deal of pressure on the Merthyr defenders. A state of near panic engulfed the visitors defence as they tried to clear their line with Emlyn swarming all over them. A relieving kick was charged down and the ever present Emlyn open side flanker Owain Powell won the race to touch the ball down under the visitors posts for winger Dan Davies to convert.

The next thirty minutes of the half belonged to the home side as they adapted much better to the conditions. Full back Shaun Leonard read the strong cross wind very well, and time and again Merthyr were driven back deep into their own twenty two area, either by Leonard’s boot or them kicking the ball out on the full. Unfortunately for the home side a couple of promising line out drives came to nothing as Merthyr were able to drive through the maul and steal Emlyn possession.

Emlyn did try and move the ball wider with veteran outside half Barry Thomas feeding his centres good ball in the awful conditions. A break by inside centre Daniel Davies, on his ten metre line, created space for the men outside him and looked to have conjured up an overlap. Unfortunately the pass from Davies missed out his co-centre Teifion Davies and was slightly behind winger Owain Francis and the ball ended up in touch.  

Merthyr eventually five minutes from the half time whistle did manage to score another try. Again it came from a driving lineout when the Emlyn defenders failed to bring the maul to ground and busy Merthyr flanker Osian Davies crossed the line in the corner for their second try. This inspired the visitors and they came back at Emlyn from the restart. Their attack broke down when their centre was heavily tackled in midfield, spilling the ball forward. The ball ended up in the hands of Leonard who kicked it long upfield. Merthyr were unable to gather the ball cleanly and Leonard and Teifion Davies were in hot pursuit fly hacking the ball on. They were joined by prop Emrys Davies who kicked the ball forward deep into the Merthyr twenty two. Unfortunately for Davies he was beaten to the ball by visiting outside half Jarvis who managed to fly hack the ball into touch metres from his line.

The second half became an attritional battle as the visitors side relied almost entirely on the pick up and go from any situation to make ground. Often they were driven back in the tackle and were forced to go through numerous phases of play in order to make some progress. The Emlyn forwards tackled their hearts out. When the Merthyr captain Powell tried picking up at the base of the scrum he found not only flankers Powell and Evans ready and willing to tackle him but also outside half Thomas who would come running in from his position to make the important hit before Powell crossed the gain line.

Eventually the pressure was bound to tell and half way through the half Merthyr were controversially awarded a penalty try when the home side were penalised for wheeling a five metre scrum when it looked as if it was Merthyr who turned the scrum to give Powell a free run at the line. The try was converted by Jarvis.

Emlyn did not lack in spirit or character and from the restart again put the Merthyr line under a great deal of pressure as they sought the try that would bring them at least a losing bonus point. Unfortunately for them and the large crowd it was not to be and the Merthyr defence held firm. When the final whistle went the crowd rose as one to applaud the superb performance of the home side – one can only hope that it will be repeated in the next few weeks when Emlyn play the sides just above them in the table.

The supporters, club, town, and area can be immensely proud of this performance for as their captain, ex Welsh International, Andy Powell said afterwards “ this was one of the toughest games we have had all season”. This is a massive credit to the defensive effort of the squad and the hard work put in by the coaches that this was the second lowest number of points scored by Merthyr so far this season.

There doesn't appear to be any tagged photos.

Upload and Tag Photos

You must be signed in to add comments