02 April 2017 / Team News

Emlyn secure Champioship status


Players and supporters of Newcastle Emlyn are assured of Championship rugby next season. Last Saturday’s victory over Skewen lifted any possibility of the red and whites being relegated and for the first time in a few seasons they can now play their final two fixtures without any pressure of promotion or relegation. The victory against a determined Skewen side was due mainly to team spirit allied with a tremendous will to win on a day when lady luck again deserted Emlyn in the form of injuries. The weather did not help and just before kick off the heavens opened to turn the pitch into something approaching a swimming pool in the first half. Fortunately the rain abated just on kick off and by half time the water had drained off the pitch.

Emlyn opened positively and took an early lead when full back Shaun Leonard kicked a long range penalty goal from just inside Skewen’s half. All the early pressure came from Emlyn with some powerful carries by all the forwards taking play into the Skewen twenty two. With the ball like a bar of soap and even keeping ones footing in some places difficult continuity leading to potential try scoring opportunities was proving difficult. From one such sequence a powerful carry by second row Dan Havarad ended with Havard having to be led from the field with a broken collar bone. The loss of Havard who has been in outstanding form this season was a huge blow to the red and whites so early in the game. Without a second row replacement the Emlyn coaches sent on skipper Alex Williams, moving Brynmor Jones up to second row and hooker Tom Curry back to the back row.

While Emlyn were still in the process of adjusting to the new line up in the forwards, Skewen took advantage and entered the Emlyn half for the first time. The visitors were penalised on their twenty two and Skewen outside half Anthony Buselli stepped up to kick a relatively easy penalty to level the scores. From the restart Skewen looked to clear their lines with a long kick up field. The kick was caught by Emlyn’s Brynmor Jones who linked nicely with winger Dan Davies and Jones was eventually brought down inside the Skewen twenty two. Three rucks later Skewen were penalised for killing the ball and Dan Davies converted the penalty to restore Emlyn’s lead.

With conditions underfoot being what they were open running rugby was something of a lottery although to the credit of both teams this is what they strived to do throughout the game. To his credit referee Kelvin Shorte tried his best to keep the game flowing but penalties at ruck situations were inevitable. Unfortunately for Skewen, and fortunately for Emlyn, Buselli did not have a great day with the boot missing three penalties and a conversion.

On the half hour mark Emlyn extended their lead with what could be one of the tries of the season. Skewen attacked deep into the Emlyn twenty two and from a tackle some ten metres from the Emlyn line powerful flanker Joel James managed to turn the ball over for the red and whites. Scrum half Dafydd Evans, who had his best game of the season, passed to Barry Thomas, the veteran realised that perhaps kicking the ball was not the best option available to him so he passed to inside centre Richard Hope. The centre took play up to his own twenty two metre line before transferring the ball to his co-centre Llyr Jones. Showing a great turn of pace Jones rounded his opposite number and as he approached the Skewen twenty two drew the full back perfectly and passed to winger Llyr Freeman who managed to outstrip the cover defence to score an unconverted try in the corner.

Emlyn’s joy at this try was tempered by the fact that Brynmor Jones had to leave the field with a hamstring injury to be preplaced by flanker Gethin Davies. This left Emlyn with only one recognised lineout forward in Ryan Morgans and meant flanker Joel James had to pack down in the second row against a big heavy Skewen pack. To their credit the Emlyn front row of Emrys Davies, Alex Williams and Gethin Davies managed to just about hold their own in the scrum, although they did on occasions have to rely on the skills of Owian Powell at number eight to present Dafydd Evans with good ball under pressure. As half time approached Emlyn’s problems seem to worsen when James was yellow carded when he slipped and accidentally tripped a Skewen ball carrier, fortunately Buselli failed to convert the penalty into points.

The start of the second half saw perhaps Emlyn’s best chance to pull clear from Skewen. From a scrum in the Skewen twenty two outside half Barry Thomas called an excellent backs move but the normally reliable full back Shaun Leonard dropped the ball with the path to the line and a try under the posts beckoning. Skewen then began to bring on some extra fire power from their bench and Emlyn’s defence was sorely tested. Led by Owain Powell time and again potentially threatening attacks were thwarted by some excellent tackling by the Emlyn side. When Skewen tried moving the ball to their backs Thomas and Hope coped comfortably with everything the home side threw at them, but with the forwards coming under increasing pressure from the heavier Skewen eight it seemed only a matter of time before the floodgates would open. Unfortunately for Emlyn some poor kicking out of defence failed to relieve the pressure for any length of time.

It was not to be and when Freeman manged to catch a Dafydd Evans box kick and take play into Skewen’s half, some powerful carries by James, Powell, Emrys Davies and Alex Williams led to Emlyn being awarded a penalty which Dan Davies converted to extend Emlyn’s lead. Urged on by their enthusiastic supporters Skewen set up camp in the Emlyn twenty two but with time running out for them from a line out it took them a good five minutes before second row Aled Morgford was accredited with a try after a series of energy sapping pick up and drives from the home pack.

Emlyn were not to be denied and showed great character to take play right up to the Skewen line. Initially Skewen tried to kick the ball downfield but Leonard returned their kicks well to pin them back in their own twenty two. With time running out the home side were forced to try and run the ball out from their own line but met a solid wall of red and white defenders. The final whistle went with Emlyn in control of the game in the Skewen half for a hard earned victory for the red and whites. It is perhaps an enigma for the Emlyn coaches to try and work out, the red and whites have now won nine matches, six of them away from home. Hopefully with two home games to come that balance can be redressed slightly.



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