04 May 2015 / Team News

Emlyn lose a cracking final


The Newcastle Emlyn team did themselves and the hundreds of fans who travelled up the M4 proud on Sunday in their first ever appearance in the Millennium Stadium. With the lead changing hands seven times the result was in doubt up until the final few minutes of this cracking encounter. The greatest pity was that the second half was played in a torrential downpour with the WRU only deciding to close the roof at the end of the game.

Ystrad Rhondda in the end proved to be the more powerful side and deserved their victory by dint of scoring three tries to one. With the rain pouring down both sides deserved a great deal of credit for their intent to play in conditions which did not suit running rugby. It was possibly the red and whites that suffered most as they attempted to move the ball wide throughout the second half in their attempts to break down the well organised Ystrad defence.

All the early pressure came from Ystrad who started positively and declined two kickable penalties, as they went for a try from two line outs and two scrums on the Emlyn line. They undoubtedly thought they could target the Emlyn scrum but the fit again props Dai Jones and Gethin Davies, aided by hooker Alex Williams, proved to be very solid in the set piece. It was from a line out that Emlyn were in fact extremely fortunate not to concede a try with the video referee ruling that Emlyn number eight Brynmor Jones had been able to halt an Ystrad forward millimetres from the line.

After twelve minutes Emlyn were finally able to relieve the pressure when centre Viv Jenkins was able to intercept a pass, set up a ruck allowing full back Shaun Leonard to clear the ball to the half way line. In fact, against the run of play, it was Leonard who opened the scoring with a long range penalty after Ystrad were penalised for a high tackle.

With both sides in second place in their respective Division Ones this game was always going to be a tight affair decided by the side who made the fewest mistakes or moments of individual brilliance. The moment of brilliance came for the Ystrad full back David Gratton. From the restart the Emlyn clearance kick was not particularly well directed allowing outside half Rhys Truelove to gather the ball on the half way line in the middle of the pitch. Gratton took the pass and ran at the advancing Emlyn defenders, he chipped over their heads, caught the ball and rounded the only remaining Emlyn defender to score an unconverted try in the corner.

To their credit Emlyn did not allow this defensive lapse to upset them and proceeded, by dint of the boots of outside half Rhidian Harries and Shaun Leonard, to spend a great deal of the half in Ystrad territory. From a line out just outside the Ystrad twenty two, an accurate throw by Williams saw second row Arwel Davies deliver perfect ball from the top of his jump to scrum half Mike Jones. He fed Rhidian Harries who spotted a gap in the Ystrad defence and went straight through it. Unfortunately for him the supporting centre Alun Howells could not quite get clear of a defender as he desperately attempted to get close to Harries. The outside half’s run was brought to a halt some seven metres out and when Emlyn were penalised at the resulting ruck Harries was left prostrate on the ground. After lengthy treatment Harries was eventually carried from the field on a stretcher and Steffan Evans came on as a replacement for him.

Territorially Emlyn dominated this half but found it virtually impossible to break down the Ystrad defence. They did have a golden opportunity when centre Alun Howells made a nice outside break and fed full back Leonard on the narrow side. Unfortunately Leonard decided to attempt to chip kick the ball over the head of the remaining defender instead of feeding unmarked winger Dan Davies. The kick was charged down and Ystrad were able to clear the danger.

With half time approaching Emlyn finally managed to score a try. From a ruck on the right hand side of the field the ball was passed to Leonard standing in the outside half position. The full back perfectly judged his cross kick for winger Dan Davies to catch and manage to squeeze over in the corner for an unconverted try.

Emlyn attacked from the start of the second half and were unfortunate when, after some excellent driving play by the forwards led by Arwel Davies, the slippery ball shot out of a ruck on the Ystrad side allowing them to clear the ball downfield. Leonard extended Emlyn’s lead to six points with a well struck penalty soon after the restart but the heavy rain was beginning to have an effect on the game as the ball, for handling purposes, became like a bar of soap.

The next score belonged to Ystrad when their outside half Truelove chipped over the Emlyn defenders in a pre-planned move from a ruck for right winger Mathew Hurley to gather the ball. The winger was brought down short of the line and through the excellent work of open-side Owain Powell, who was comfortably Emlyn’s best player, Emlyn managed to turn the ball over. Unfortunately a poor clearance kick gave the men from the Rhondda the opportunity to attack Emlyn on the narrow side and left winger Chris Clayton crossed for a try excellently converted from wide out by outside half Rhys Truelove.

Their one point lead was short lived as from the kick off they were penalised and Shaun Leonard regained the lead for Emlyn with a penalty goal. Coach Marc Lloyd now brought on replacement Luke Kendall and the big number eight with Premiership experience started to take the game to Ystrad with some powerful surging runs. Leonard extended Emlyn’s lead when after runs by Kendall and Alun Howells, Ystrad, defending desperately, were penalised for off side and he kicked another penalty to extend Emlyn’s lead to five points.

Emlyn’s cause was not then helped when scrum half Mike Jones had to leave the field with an injury, necessitating Powell having to move to scrum half with Gareth Patterson coming on as a flanker. Ystrad began to empty their bench and the strength on their bench became apparent as their forwards began to take greater control of the game. In second row Nathan Hughes, they had a fine line out forward who dominated the front of the line out supplying them with a constant stream of possession, allowing them to set up numerous driving line outs from deep inside their own twenty two metre area.

The weather then played its part in the next Ystrad try when from a line out inside their own twenty two, the Emlyn pack supplied excellent ball back for it to be cleared. Unfortunately the slippery ball was dropped five metres from their own line. From the resulting scrum Ystrad number eight Liam Davies bulldozed over for a try converted by Truelove to give them a two point lead.

Emlyn continued trying to move the ball wide and use their speedy backs although handling had become something of a lottery. An Emlyn move broke down just inside the Ystrad half and they fly-hacked the ball downfield. Leonard covering across just managed to get to the ball ahead of the chasing backs as the ball crossed the touchline. Unable to stop he kicked the ball into the crowd only to find that bizarrely the referee penalised him for kicking the ball away stopping Ystrad from taking a quick throw in ! This was despite the fact that it would have been an Emlyn throw. Truelove stepped up and increased Ystrad’s lead to five points.

Strong runs by Kendall brought Emlyn back into the Ystrad twenty two and the number eight was brought down short of the line on two occasions. Using the forwards effectively Emlyn set up a number of rucks and then moved the ball wide only for Dan Davies to be tackled into touch inches from the Ystrad line.

Another attack saw the slippery ball spilled by an Emlyn player, picked up by winger Hurley who looked certain to score but for a fine covering tackle by Shaun Leonard. With time running out Emlyn’s efforts became even more desperate but the Ystrad pack were now fully in control of the game. When Emlyn were penalised at a ruck in front of their posts Truelove stepped up to convert the kick and give them their winning eight point margin.

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