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13 November 2016 / Team News

Excellent away win for Emlyn

BEDLINOG 20 NEWCASTLE EMLYN 24

As results go they do not come much better than this for the red and whites. After some pretty awful away performances so far this season Emlyn at last turned on a performance of skill, teamwork and above all else a determination to win a game – a hallmark of their rise through the Leagues to play in the Championship. The visit to Bedlinog was viewed with some trepidation, this season the home side were unbeaten at home, had come within three points of toppling Pontypool away, and were renowned for having an excellent power game with their pack of forwards dominating exchanges.

Emlyn could not have had a worse start with gargantuan prop Gethin Davies withdrawing with a calf injury in the warm up. Fortunately new singing Ceirion Evans, returning to the area to live from Cardiff, stepped into the breach and showed what a useful asset he will be to the squad with a powerful scrummaging display. Emlyn were nine points down after just twelve minutes as the home side opted to play with the breeze and slope and set up camp in the Emlyn twenty two. Three penalties courtesy of outside half Iain Smerdon showed how ill-disciplined the visitors were, conceding at best a stream of silly penalties in the first half.

It took Emlyn fifteen minutes before they had a set piece in the Bedlinog half and when the opportunity arose they grasped it with both hands. An excellent throw by skipper Alex Williams was caught two handed by Ryan Morgans who delivered the ball from the top of his jump to scrum half Mike Jones. With outside half Barry Thomas calling the shots, Emlyn went through a series of rucks with the ball being carried into contact by forwards and backs. Eventually powerful prop Emrys Davies, who had another fine game, burst through a tackle, drew the full back and timed his pass perfectly to send second row Ryan Morgans charging towards the line for an excellent try, converted by Dan Davies.

The game settled into a pattern with the home side kicking deep into the Emlyn half and using their forwards to try and make progress towards the Emlyn line. Things looked bleak for Emlyn half way through the half when inspirational number eight Brynmor Jones had to leave the field with a groin injury. This necessitated a shuffling around of the forwards with Ryan Morgans moving to flanker, Gareth Thomson to number eight and replacement Dan Havard coming in to the second row. Havard was a revelation and his ball carrying and work in the loose was exemplary. Smerdon and Davies then exchanged penalty kicks and as the half hour approached Smerdon increased the home sides lead with his fifth penalty kick of the game.

From the restart Bedlinog knocked the ball on and Emlyn had a scrum on the ten metre line. By now the Emlyn front five were beginning to match their opponents up front and provided a solid platform and quality ball for the backs to use. From the scrum the backs executed a lovely three quarter movement and full back Shaun Leonard timed his entry into the line to burst through a gap and, with the cover coming across, he fed speedster Llyr Jones who crossed in the corner for an unconverted try to bring the scores level at half time.

 With the breeze at their backs Emlyn made a very positive start to the second half but the very heavy pitch did not really suit the speedy Emlyn backline. Bedlinog also tightened up their defence, committing fewer men to a ruck as they realised the danger Emlyn posed behind. They did not reckon on the Emlyn forwards who came more and more into the game as Bedlinog reverted to their tried and trusted method of the pick up and go from the base of a ruck. When they tried to use their powerful inside centre Ben Crzesica to blast through the Emlyn midfield he found Alun Howells and Barry Thomas combining well to stop him in his tracks.

Leonard was just wide with a long range penalty effort at the start of the half and a few minutes later Dan Davies gave Emlyn the lead for the first time with a relatively straightforward penalty for a deliberate knock on by the home team. Bearing in mind the four man overlap Emlyn had at the time there could have been an argument for a penalty try, however it was not to be.

Losing the lead seemed to galvanise the home side and they worked their way up field to lay siege to the Emlyn line. They found the Emlyn defence almost impossible to breach with forwards Bleddyn Davies, Joel James, Gareth Thomson, Ryan Morgans and captain Alex Williams putting in some thunderous tackles. On the few times they did try moving it wide they found the Emlyn backs in an equally uncompromising mood with Rhys Schiavone leading the way with three excellent tackles.

The pressure was bound to tell eventually and when Ryan Morgans was sin binned for not releasing the ball at the tackle area Bedlinog went for touch rather than kick the penalty goal. Emlyn defended the driving maul well and held up six consecutive drives for the line before the home side moved the ball wide for winger Garyn Payne to squeeze over in the corner to give them a two point lead.

The lead did not last long as, from the kick off, the ball was knocked on and picked up by a Bedlinog player standing in an off side position and Dan Davies slotted over another penalty to restore the lead to the red and whites. The home pack were starting to visibly tire as they found great difficulty in making any sort of headway against the determined and disciplined Emlyn defence. When second row Bleddyn Davies went off injured it necessitated further juggling around of the Emlyn pack with props Neil Elworthy and Jack Parry coming on and Emrys Davies moving to the back row and Morgans reverting to the second row.

With the siege gun boot of Leonard at full back keeping Bedlinog pinned in their own half, the few Emlyn supporters who had made the long trip East began to hope that an unexpected win might be on the cards. Coach Lloyd replaced his half backs and Dafydd Evans and Dyfan Dafydd, if anything, increased the pressure on the home defence. With Dafydd taking the ball very flat at outside half he was bringing runners on to the ball from all directions. The barn-storming runs of Joel James had caused problems all afternoon for Bedlinog and Alun Howells carried the ball up well.

However there was only one point in it, but with five minutes to go the mercurial Shaun Leonard, after a series of controlled Emlyn rucks, decided to drop a bit deeper and slotted over a thirty five metre drop goal to increase Emlyn’s lead. From the restart, claimed by Emlyn, the ball was shunted downfield and a desperate home side tried running the ball back from near their own line. Emlyn’s kick chase was excellent and the home side could not get out of their own half. The last few minutes was a case of Bedlinog trying to drive up field but running into a brick wall of solid determined Emlyn defenders.

There were many plus points for Emlyn to take from this encounter, with the play of Gareth Thomson being one of them. The youngster had to move from flanker to number eight and even at the beginning when the Emlyn scrum was under some pressure he delivered some excellent ball to scrum half Mike Jones. Along with Ryan Morgans his line out work was excellent, timing their jumps well with hooker Alex Williams they were able to provide a constant stream of quality possession to their backs. But the major plus was a return of the Emlyn spirit and determination to win which has served them so well in the past.

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