08 October 2017 / Team News

Emlyn edge thriller


Hard fought, tense, exciting, what a finish, just a few of the adjectives that could be used to describe this game on Saturday. That Emlyn came away with the victory was no more than they deserved for this was a game they more or less dominated territorially but were unable to turn pressure into points, through their own failings, against a very determined Rhydyfelin defence. ‘White line fever’ was their downfall as time after time they looked to score only for the ball to be knocked on, or the wrong option taken by an individual, following a patient team build up.

On their first ever visit to Dol Wiber the visitors were nothing if not determined and organised in defence and in full back David Gratton they had a siege gun boot to complement their efforts. Gratton in fact was well known to the home side having played full back for Ystrad Rhondda in the WRU Bowl Cup Final a few years ago, when his performance in that game earned him the man of the match award at the then Millenium Stadium. His place kicking looked as if it would win him the award in this game but fortunately for the red and whites his accuracy with the boot deserted him in the second half.

As is their habit Emlyn started off positively and took the game deep into the visitors half. A quick tap penalty by scrum half Mike Jones took play deep into the visitors twenty two and winger Llyr Jones made a decisive line break only for hooker and captain Alex Williams to be tackled just short of the line. Rhydyfelin conceded a penalty and Williams spurned the shot at goal and went for the line out. Second row Dan Havard, as he did all day, took an excellent two handed catch and the forward drive ended in Williams being accredited with the touchdown and opening score.

Once again Emlyn’s failure to gather the restart cleanly resulted in the visitors being awarded a penalty on the Emlyn twenty two which Gratton converted. Emlyn were looking comfortable with the ball in their hands, going through sequence after sequence and retaining possession very well with outside half Mitchell Jones controlling matters. When Jones had to leave the field midway through the half with a serious looking ankle injury replacement Dyfan Dafydd slotted comfortably into the role and Emlyn continued to put together attack after attack but to no avail. Emlyn did, however, extend their lead with a Dan Davies penalty.

As the half hour approached hard working flankers Owain Morgan and Joel James combined well together to take play some thirty metres up the left touchline to the visitors twenty two. The ball was swiftly transferred to the right hand side of the field and when that attack was halted, from the resultant ruck the ball reached Havard in midfield. The big second row looked certain to score but when his space was closed down by Gratton he was unable to find the scoring pass to one of his supporting team mates. Spurning the simple penalty Emlyn went for the try from a scrum but the ball was knocked on just short of the line.

This heralded a period of constant Emlyn pressure on the Rhydyfelin line but, three times the red and white players were guilty of having the ball knocked from their grasp by a last ditch tackle. The visitors defence was superb and totally committed but Emlyn should have scored at least two more tries in this period leading up to half time. As often happens in injury time, Rhydyfelin managed to just get into the Emlyn half and were awarded a penalty which full back Gratton converted from fully forty five metres.

The second half began at a frantic pace with both sides running the ball from anywhere on the field and defences were at full stretch. To be fair both sets of defences were outstanding and the large crowd were beginning to wonder when the next try would be scored. Rhydyfelin possibly came the closest in this period when a long kick downfield by Gratton was pursued by speedy right winger Jordan Rees, but his opposite number Tomi Jones managed to get back and fall on the ball just short of the Emlyn line. Emlyn got back in sufficient numbers for half back Mike Jones to have time to clear the ball to touch.

This spurred the red and whites into another series of attacks but yet again they failed to score through a lack of patience by certain players as they neared the try line. Against such committed defenders Emlyn must appreciate that often scoring opportunities have to be created through team work rather than an individual thinking he can bulldoze his way through tackles. Similar to the end of the first half Rhydyfelin withstood the pressure, just came into the Emlyn half and were awarded a penalty which Gratton converted from forty plus metres to give the visitors the lead.

The game took a fairly significant change now when the visitors had to replace their second prop and opted for uncontested scrums. Up to this point the Emlyn front row of props Dai Jones and Dai Bryant, along with hooker Alex Williams, had given their much vaunted opponents a torrid time at the scrum. Indeed the veteran Bryant was fully deserving of his man of the match award with a powerful display in the tight, making life extremely uncomfortable for his opponent.

Unfortunately Emlyn took some time to adapt to uncontested scrums and their game went off the boil allowing Rhydyfelin to start to exert pressure of their own. Within the space of a few minutes Emlyn attempted to run the ball out of defence only for the player in possession to run into tacklers, concede a penalty for not releasing the ball on both occasions. Fortunately for the home side Gratton just missed with possibly his two easiest kicks of the day. Emlyn’s generosity knew no bounds at this juncture and from the second twenty two metre re-start they conceded another penalty which Gratton converted from some thirty metres to give them a four point lead.

With time beginning to run out Emlyn threw everything at attack but could not find a way through the visitors defence. Full back Dan Davies looked certain to score when he entered the line at pace and was clean through. With only Gratton to beat he decided to pass when possibly he should have taken the full back on, unfortunately his scoring pass to Llyr Jones went into the hands of the Rhydyfelin winger instead. Emlyn kept the pressure up from the resultant line out but found it difficult to set up a driving maul as the visitors sacked the ball carrier as soon as he had caught and landed with the ball.

Eventually as full time approached Emlyn did score the all-important try. After a series of forward drives were held up just short of the line replacement scrum half Dafydd Evans cleverly chipped over the top of the defenders into the in-goal area. Obviously not accustomed to the large in-goal area at Dol Wiber the visitors cover hesitated expecting the ball to cross the dead ball line and only stood and watched as speedy winger Llyr Jones shot past them to touch the ball down for a try.

Unfortunately the conversion failed which meant that all Rhydyfelin had to do was get into Emlyn territory and hope the red and whites would concede yet another penalty kick. The nerves of the Emlyn supporters were on edge as the kick off was fumbled, conceding possession to the visitors, and their pack went through a series of drives around the ten metre line. Fortunately Emlyn’s defence was equally as determined and they managed to last out the few minutes of injury time without conceding a penalty, and a great sigh of relief was heard as the final whistle was blown by the excellent referee Andrew Moule.  

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