02 October 2016 / Team News

Emlyn back on track


What a difference a week can make and more importantly for the home side the availability of key players. With ten changes from the side that was humiliated last week in Beddau and some really hard work in training, Emlyn at last put in a performance to make their supporters proud of them. It was not a classic game and the neutral viewer would not have been far from the mark that the home side should have scored at least a fourth bonus point try.  Credit has to go to the visitors who were nothing if not determined in defence and made scoring a difficult proposition for the red and whites. Time and again Emlyn’s attacks floundered against the brick wall of defenders that Newbridge put up against them led by their captain Stuart Vokes, player/coach Scott Williams and number eight Luke Price, with full back Craig Duncan proving to be very secure under the high ball behind them when Emlyn opted to kick.

For the first time this season the Emlyn forwards really took control of the game from the outset. Captain Alex Williams on his first start of the season led by example and the rest of his forwards followed. Number eight Luke Kendall was a constant thorn in the side of the opposition with his powerful carries and he had excellent support from his fellow back rowers Joel James and Gareth Thomson. Behind them initially scrum half Mike Jones provided a smooth link between forwards and backs and when he went off injured in the twenty fifth minute of the first half Tomi Jones moved from inside centre to scrum half and managed to maintain the Emlyn momentum. 

The game began in bright sunshine and after the deluge of the previous evening the pitch at Dol Wiber looked in perfect condition. The elements did have their part to play in proceedings and five minutes into each half the heavens opened and made handling difficult for part of each half due to the slippery ball. This did not deter Emlyn though who started positively and began to test the resolute Newbridge defence from the first whistle. With Williams, Kendall and James to the fore Emlyn carried the ball through series after series of rucks deep into the opposition twenty two but were unable to cross the line.

When Emlyn opted for the kick ahead to turn the defence they found full back Craig Duncan in fine form and he caught everything kicked at him and returned it with interest. This meant that Emlyn outside half Barry Thomas and full back Shaun Leonard had to be restrained in their kick chase knowing that one of them would have to stay deep to retrieve the clearing kick.

The home supporters felt it was only a matter of time before the red and whites opened the scoring as Newbridge were unable to break out of their own half for any length of time. The home front row of props Emrys and Gethin Davies along with skipper Williams were dominant at scrum time and with second rows Ryan Morgans and Bleddyn Davies working hard in the tight and loose the pressure was maintained on the visitors throughout the game. Indeed the most pleasing aspect of the match was the work of the forwards who operated more as a unit than they have done so far this season. Work in progress, yes, and there was still a tendency to act as an individual on occasions but the Emlyn coaches must have been satisfied with the improvement.

With no score on the board things looked ominous for Emlyn after twenty five minutes when scrum half Mike Jones went off with a shoulder injury.  However it is testament to the control the forwards had on the game that Tomi Jones had an excellent match in his unaccustomed position of scrum half. Nearing the half hour mark all Emlyn had to show for their pressure was a missed penalty kick by winger Dan Davies.

Things changed then when a lovely break from midfield by Shaun Leonard saw the full back brought down short of the line, two rucks later the ball was moved wide for winger Dan Davies to dive over in the corner for the opening score which went unconverted. For once Emlyn did not relax and ran back at Newbridge from the restart and basically set up camp in the visitors half. With five minutes to go before the break Emlyn increased their lead when second row Ryan Morgans took a two handed catch at a lineout on the Newbridge twenty two. The Emlyn pack gathered around him and with Luke Kendall controlling matters marched towards the Newbridge line. The big number eight broke from the maul and was hauled down inches from the line, but Morgans picked up the ball and dived over the line for a try converted by Leonard.

The second half followed a similar pattern to the first with the Emlyn pack in control of proceedings but the side as a whole finding it difficult to breach the visitors defence. A nice grubber kick by outside half Barry Thomas just eluded winger John Lumb as he dived on the ball as it crossed the touch in goal line. A cross kick by Thomas saw winger Dan Davies given another scoring chance but he opted to pass inside and the chance was gone. Davies in fact on another day might well have picked up at least three tries if he had only backed his speed and elusiveness.

The elements combined to thwart an Emlyn attempt to score after twenty minutes when, after some excellent harassing by Gareth Thomson, Newbridge conceded a five metre scrum. Unfortunately for Emlyn the ball was spilled forward when they tried moving it wide. By now coach Lloyd sent on the rest of his bench of Dai Jones replacing hooker Williams, Neil Elworthy at prop, Dan Havard in the second row and Brynmor Jones on the flank who continued the good work done by their predecessors and maintained the pressure on Newbridge.

    A cause of concern for the home side was their place kicking with at least four kickable penalties either missed or the option of the set piece being taken because of the lack of confidence of the kickers. Leonard did eventually convert a penalty in the twenty ninth minute from wide out on the ten metre line, having just missed an effort in front of the posts, such was the fortune of the kickers on the day!

With a three score advantage Emlyn did take the foot off the pedal for a short while and Newbridge advanced inside the Emlyn twenty two for the first time in the half. Unfortunately for them they conceded a scrum from which Kendall picked up the ball and brushed aside some would be tacklers before feeding the supporting Joel James. When he was brought down on the Newbridge ten metre line, quick ruck ball was transferred to the backs where centre Carwyn Phillips threw a lovely long pass out to Shaun Leonard. To his credit Leonard timed his pass to Dan Davies to perfection only for the winger with the line at his mercy and the possibility of scoring the try of the season, drop the ball.

By now it was all Emlyn as they went in search of two more tries, but Newbridge were not prepared to concede anything as they stopped wave after wave of Emlyn attacks. Centre Phillips was held up over the line by an excellent tackle. From the resulting scrum Emlyn lost control of the ball and Newbridge were awarded a scrum. Fortunately for the red and whites they made a mess of clearing their lines and Tomi Jones pounced on the loose ball over the line to score Emlyn’s third try. With time running out Emlyn attacked from the restart but another attack floundered when the wet ball slid for Lumb’s grasp as he was tackled in the visitors twenty two in the final move of the game.

Emlyn will hopefully build on this performance as they visit Glynneath next week in what will be a very tough encounter.




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