15 November 2015 / Team News

Red and Whites unable to topple All Whites


The St. Helens ground is known throughout the world as one of the iconic rugby grounds in the history of Welsh Rugby. The ground has hosted, over the years, all the major touring sides that have visited the British Isles. In the days when tours lasted anything up to three months Swansea were one of only four Welsh clubs granted the privilege of playing the touring side as a standalone club. On Saturday they played host to the red and whites of Newcastle Emlyn for their first ever visit to this historic ground.

A notable feature of this ground over the years has been not only it’s drainage but it’s remarkable playing surface which can withstand everything the elements can throw at it and still be an almost perfect surface to play rugby on. Saturday was no exception with the heavy rain and strong wind blowing straight downfield from the Mumbles end of the ground.

The All Whites, as they are known, have made no secret of the fact that they have invested heavily in their playing side in order to ensure that they return to the Premiership next season. In order to stand a reasonable chance of competing against them it was important for Emlyn to win the toss and play with the elements in the first half to hopefully get some sort of lead. Unfortunately it was the home side that had first use of the elements and they made the most of it.

They immediately set up camp in the Emlyn twenty two, and opened the scoring with a penalty goal after three minutes, courtesy of outside half Ian Brooks. Brooks and Maynard at scrum half used the wind intelligently and it was the scrum half who extended the home side’s lead when, after a series of rucks, he spotted a gap and dived over for a try converted by Brooks.

Emlyn number eight Brynmor Jones started to bring the visitors back into the game with some excellent pick up and runs from the base of a retreating Emlyn scrum. With veteran outside half Barry Thomas also making some yardage with some nice breaks it was somewhat against the run of play when Swansea scored their next try. An excellent cross kick by Brooks caught the Emlyn defence out and the winger caught the bouncing ball and passed inside to the supporting full back, Liam Popham, who crossed for an unconverted try.

Emlyn were undeterred and tried to run the ball at Swansea whenever the opportunity occurred. A long clearance kick downfield was fielded by Emlyn full back Leonard who ran back at them, kicked over the heads of the advancing defenders, caught his own kick, and was eventually tackled on Swansea’s twenty two metre line. Emlyn recycled the ball well for three phases until the All Whites were penalised in front of their posts and winger Dan Davies drilled the ball through the uprights to open Emlyn’s account.

This if anything spurred the home side to even greater efforts. From the maul resulting from the restart Emlyn’s attempted clearance kicks were charge down on two consecutive occasions. The pressure increased and despite some excellent defending by Emlyn, led by flanker Owain Powell, eventually the Emlyn line was breached by winger Wil Lewis who crossed for a try converted by Brooks.

 Another elusive run by Brynmor Jones, saw the ball recycled and moved out to the wing where Emlyn winger Llyr Jones was put away. When he was tackled on the twenty two Emlyn’s forwards patiently went through a series of rucks until Swansea gave away another penalty allowing Davies to kick his second on the half time whistle.

With the elements behind them Emlyn’s supporters hoped that they would be able to use them to better effect and put the home side under pressure in the second half. Unfortunately it was not to be as the All Whites forwards dominated possession in the second half. Emlyn did not help their own cause, especially at the beginning of the half when two excellent field positions on the half way line were squandered when they conceded penalties at scrum time.

Injuries started to play their part as firstly hard working second row Dyfed Morgan limped from the field to be replaced by flanker Gethin Davies. Then his second row partner Bleddyn Davies, who is having an excellent season, also had to go off with an ankle injury to be replaced by second team captain Niki Williams, another back rower. Swansea locks Hughes and captain Kiley started running powerfully in the loose and it took some desperate defending by Emlyn to keep them out at times.

Credit must be given to the whole of the Emlyn side and the replacements who refused to give in and made Swansea work hard for their only score of the half. Centres Viv Jenkins and Teifion Davies time and again closed down Swansea’s three-quarter moves forcing them to turn the ball back into their forwards. When their score did come it was down to the forwards when after probably some fourteen rucks in the Emlyn twenty two, their ever alert scrum half Maynard managed to dive through the smallest of gaps to score the All Whites fourth try.

When hard working Emlyn flanker Gareth Thomson had to go off injured with fifteen minutes to go to be replaced by full back Llyr Davies the floodgates could have opened. However Emlyn continued to defend with discipline and tenacity and drive the home side back time after time. A long clearance kick by Leonard saw Swansea, with time running out, attempt to run the ball out of their own twenty-two. The Emlyn defence came up quickly and Llyr Davies intercepted a pass to sprint some twenty metres to score his first try for the red and whites converted by Davies with the last kick of the game.    

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