30 October 2016 / Team News

Emlyn push Pooler all the way


What a performance by the home side. The bigger the challenge, it seems the better the home side responds to it and on Saturday the unbeaten league leaders Pontypool were fortunate to come away with the win on an afternoon when this Emlyn side found their ‘mojo’, which has been missing so far this season. Credit where credit is due, this was a performance which owed a great deal to the attitude and determination of the Emlyn side and no small measure of skill.

Pontypool arrived unbeaten and went away grateful for the four points. The fact that they only scored two tries says everything for the Emlyn performance. On a beautiful, still, autumnal afternoon the pitch at Dol Wiber was perfect for running rugby, Pooler’s game this season has reverted to their traditional forward power and they brought a huge pack of forwards and looked to take on the home side up front and nowhere else. Emlyn on the other hand looked to move the ball wide on every possible occasion and the game became an intriguing battle between these two very different styles.

Emlyn got off to a dream start when from the kick off Pooler looked to clear their twenty two with a long kick by their player/coach Mathew Jones. The kick was fielded on the half way line by Emlyn number eight Brynmor Jones who passed inside to full back Shaun Leonard, who had a superb match, he hoisted a high kick, arrived in time to contest the ball and deflected the kick into the hands of winger Llyr Jones. The speedster, returning from injury, needed no second invitation and accelerated away from any defenders to score a try converted by Leonard.

With Mathew Jones directing matters from the number ten position it was not long before the visitors got on the scoreboard, courtesy of a penalty goal from Jones after seven minutes. The outside half had a faultless afternoon with the boot and brought his side within a point of the home team with another penalty some five minutes later.

The game then settled down into a real rapier versus the broadsword contest, with the home side looking to utilise their speedy backs at every opportunity and the visitors relying on their power pack. In order to remain in the game Emlyn had to compete and to their credit the pack of forwards responded magnificently to the challenge. The first couple of scrums saw the home side shunted backwards but number eight Brynmor Jones still managed to retain possession for the home side. The scrums did settle down, due in no small part to the hard work of the Emlyn front row of props Emrys Davies and Dai Bryant and hooker and captain Alex Williams. The veteran Bryant with over 470 matches for the club was an inspiration to the whole side and fully deserving of his man of the match award as his powerful scrummaging managed to nullify the Pooler drive.

Pooler kept coming at Emlyn with the pick-up and drive from the base of the ruck or employing their huge forwards in pods of three and playing off their scrum half Aaron Quick. For the first time this season they found the Emlyn defence impenetrable as the forwards and backs combined effectively to quickly bring down the ball carrier. Second rows Ryan Morgans and Bleddyn Davies, along with flankers Joel James and Gareth Thomson and number eight Brynmor Jones, picked out the Pooler ball carriers quickly and often drove them backwards. There was a period in the first half where Pontypool retained possession through a series of drives close to the Emlyn line but ended up conceding a penalty close to the twenty two line.

Without a great deal of ball to work with the Emlyn midfield of outside half Barry Thomas and centres Dan Davies and Rhys Schiavone all put in some useful tackles. Schiavone was particularly effective in winning penalties at the contact area as he sought to turn the ball over. With Jones and full back Tom Hancock kicking for territory the Emlyn back three were fully occupied in fielding and returning these kicks. Both wings, Llyr Jones and Llyr Davies, were alert to any opportunity to support Leonard in the counter attack and the first half developed into a real cat and mouse contest between the hugely contrasting styles of play.

As half time approached Emlyn were awarded a scrum on the half way line and the rock solid Emlyn scrum enabled lively Emlyn scrum half Mike Jones to deliver a perfect pass to the three quarters. Thomas at outside half had called a move and the backs perfectly executed a complicated midfield move which ended with full back Shaun Leonard scything through the midfield, rounding the full back, and scoring wide out for a try which he was just unable to convert to give the home team a six point lead at half time.

The second half started with the visitors using the catch and drive from lineouts to great effect and the home side had to defend these drives sometimes from as far out as the half way line. It really was only a matter of time before they scored despite the efforts of Gareth Thomson and Ryan Morgans to try and steal their line out throws. Pooler declined to go for the posts from a couple of penalties conceded by Emlyn, and from one drive prop Bryant found himself sin-binned for collapsing a maul close to the home side’s line. Again Pooler went for touch and from the lineout they eventually managed to execute a near perfect drive for skipper Rob Nash to be awarded the try, converted by Jones to give them a one point lead.

This did not deter the home side and despite being down to fourteen men they ran at Pooler with every chance they had. A series of attacks by Emlyn, led by Leonard and winger Llyr Jones, took play deep into the Pontypool twenty two. Awarded a scrum some ten metres out, Emlyn went through a couple of close in drives before the ball was moved to outside half Thomas. With the Pooler defence coming up quickly the veteran cleverly chipped the ball over the heads of the advancing defenders. Cleverly anticipating the kick Leonard sprinted through a gap, rose to catch the ball only for it to be knocked out of his grasp as he was tackled from behind. On another day Emlyn might have been awarded a penalty try for an early tackle but it was a very marginal decision and the excellent referee Morgan Whitehead ruled it a knock on and Pontypool were able to clear their line.

The siege gun boot of Mathew Jones pinned Emlyn in their half for long periods and it was no surprise when half way through the half the visitors extended their lead. Again it came courtesy of the line out and catch and drive, with this time loose head prop Jamie Jeune gaining the touchdown and Jones adding the extra points with an excellent conversion from wide out. In previous matches they have played this season Pontypool, using their forward power, have manged to pull away from their opponents in the last twenty minutes but it did not happen on Saturday. The Emlyn coaches brought on fresh legs in the forwards, in the shape of prop Dai Jones, hooker Tom Curry, and second row Dan Havard, and there was no let-up in the intensity of the Emlyn performance.

With eleven minutes to go another Emlyn attack saw Pooler replacement centre Sion Tu’ipulotu sin binned for deliberately collapsing a maul just inside his own half and Leonard kicked an excellent penalty to bring Emlyn within sight of at least a losing bonus point. Pontypool were however not feeling in a generous mood and, when awarded a penalty kick just outside the Emlyn twenty two, it was a tribute to the Emlyn defence that they opted for the posts rather than the kick to the corner. Mathew Jones kicked the penalty to increase their lead to eight points and the Emlyn faithful thought the bonus point had slipped from the side’s grasp.

With Dafydd Evans now on at scrum half, Mike Jones moved out to the wing and the flying Llyr Jones moved in to outside centre, Emlyn’s back line now had even more pace. A sweeping attack down the left wing saw the visitors’ concede a penalty and Leonard converted the kick to put the home side back in bonus point range. They were not satisfied with this though and disaster nearly struck them in injury time. Looking to counter attack from inside his twenty two Leonard spotted a lot of room behind the advancing Pooler players. Instead of kicking the ball long downfield he went to chip kick the defenders, unfortunately the ball was charged down but fortunately for Emlyn Pooler number eight Jordan Williams knocked on with the line at his mercy.

Undeterred, from the resulting scrum, Emlyn moved the ball wide and it was only some desperate Pooler defending that saw the ball eventually cleared to touch just inside their half as the home side went in search of their third and what would have been probably match winning try with the final move of the game. The large crowd left Dol Wiber delighted with having viewed an excellent game of rugby with the home side’s performance something to savour. 

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