17 January 2016 / Team News

Injuries hinder Emlyn effort

RGC 1404 38 Newcastle Emlyn 6

The injury jinx which has haunted Emlyn’s first season in the Championship returned with a vengeance on Saturday. On their first ever trip to Eiras Park other teams had made Emlyn aware that it was not the easiest place to come to and hope to come away with a victory. To date only Merthyr and Swansea have come away with a victory and Emlyn’s Director of Rugby’s wish before the game was that his side would come through the encounter without picking up any injuries. It was not to be as first second row Bleddyn Davies had to leave at half time with a shoulder injury, followed five minutes into the second half by centre Steff Evans and finally influential number eight Brynmor Jones. All three look unlikely to be available for next week’s vital home match against Cardiff Met.

As to the game, there was not much to write about it. The match was dominated by the RGC pack who virtually monopolised first phase possession, especially from the line out where their captain and second row Bryn Williams reigned supreme. For some reason, known only to their coaching staff, RGC virtually ignored their three-quarter line in stark contrast to the previous game in Emlyn which had been an excellent advert for attacking rugby. With referee Tom Spurrier continually finding fault with virtually every aspect of Emlyn’s play, RGC outside half James Lang was able to kick to the corners and leave his pack do the rest.

The game began fairly brightly with Emlyn managing to progress into the RGC half  until they turned the ball over and Lang showed his pace by running an outside arc which took him some twenty metres into the Emlyn half. From the resulting scrum Emlyn drove the RGC pack backwards at a rate of knots only for the referee to take exception to the Emlyn drive and penalise prop Emrys Davies. The powerful Emlyn loose head undoubtedly had the better of his opposite number but was completely mystified by Spurrier’s rulings against him.

As a sign of things to come RGC declined to kick for goal, went to touch five metres out and eventually number eight Huw Worthington was credited with the touchdown from a driving maul, converted by Lang. With their back row of Gareth Patterson, Brynmor Jones, and Owain Powell working extremely hard in the loose, the red and whites came back into the game but found the home defence extremely difficult to breach. They did get on the scoreboard after fifteen minutes courtesy of a penalty, from some forty metres, by winger Dan Davies.

The first half then settled into a pattern with Emlyn trying to move the ball against a well organised and aggressive defence and RGC kicking to the corner and employing their big forwards to drive hard at the Emlyn line. For a little variation they sometimes shortened the line out, used their powerful flankers Davies and Williams to drive at the Emlyn midfield, waited for the penalty to be awarded and kicked for the corner. The Emlyn pack showed a great deal of character and time after time repelled the RGC attacks close to their line.

Eventually the pressure was bound to tell and after half an hour RGC extended their lead courtesy of a penalty try awarded for the red and whites turning a second scrum five metres out from their line. Although it has to be said that the first scrum saw RGC drive across the line before the whistle went, although that conversion would have been some five metres in from touch. Lang added the extra points.

With their back row managing to obtain some possession from the loose Emlyn put together a series of attacks down the left wing which resulted in the home side eventually being penalised for slowing the ball down at a ruck and Emlyn winger Dan Davies kicked another excellent penalty as half time approached. The home side were presented with another opportunity to score through their forwards but Emlyn’s defence held firm deep into injury time to thwart RGC.

Their esteemed coach Phil Davies must have really given the home side a stern talking to at half time because if they had, on at least two occasions, moved the ball in the backs in the first half that did not happen in the second half at all. Their centres were confined to a purely defensive role, which they did extremely well, but in comparison to the previous encounter between the two sides the game left a great deal to be desired.

RGC extended their lead some five minutes into the second half when, again Emlyn managed to stop a series of drives but when they turned the ball over they were adjudged to have knocked it on. From the scrum some ten metres out the visitors held the initial shove and the ball was moved out as far as James Lang who passed it inside to winger Tom Hughes who burst through two tackles to score an unconverted try.

By now it was becoming obvious even to the most diehard Emlyn supporter that there was only one team who were going to win this encounter and things went from bad to worse for the red and whites when replacement prop Dai Jones was sin-binned for entering a maul from the side. Some determined defence continued to make life difficult for the home side and they heroically defended their line through another sequence of drives.

Then the almost unimaginable happened and Emlyn managed to progress up the field to into the RGC half. However they were turned over and replacement RGC scrum half Cameron Davies, who had a big influence on proceedings, looked to break down the blind side only for Emlyn replacement number nine Dafydd Evans to high tackle him and he found himself in the bin.

Down to thirteen men and with Steffan Evans and Bleddyn Davies off injured the fourth try should have been a formality for the home side. Their refusal to move the ball to their three quarters cost them dearly as the remaining Emlyn forwards tackled and competed for the ball tirelessly. A break by Shaun Leonard, now playing centre, took play up to the home twenty two line but RGC managed to slow the ball down and realign in defence to clear their line.

Their fourth try eventually came from a scrum on the half way line when RGC number nine Davies kicked deep into the Emlyn twenty two, the ball went into the narrow in-goal area and full back Afon Bagshaw just beat Dan Davies to touch the ball down for their fourth try.

When number eight Brynmor Jones had to go off with what looked like a rib injury things really did look black for Emlyn against a side who normally win at home by more than fifty points. Between the injuries and a penalty count which only saw Emlyn awarded two in the second half, the heart went out of the Emlyn side when Leonard was sin binned with what look like two minutes to go. Some eight minutes later referee Spurrier decided enough was enough but not before RGC had scored a further two converted tries through Lang and Bagshaw, which Lang converted.

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