18 February 2018 / Team News

Classic game of two halves


The oft used phrase ‘a game of two halves’ was never more apt a description of the match between these two sides on Saturday. On their first ever visit to Rhydyfelin the red and whites found themselves trailing 17 – 3 at half time, in a half which started well for the visitors but quickly disintegrated as the home side capitalised on some poor defensive play by Emlyn. The second half was a completely different story as, on an excellent playing surface, the red and whites cut loose and played some excellent attacking rugby which left the home team defending desperately as wave after wave of Emlyn attackers came at them.

With their fanatical followers the Hawthorn Recreational Ground has gained a reputation of being an intimidating place to visit and, after a promising first ten minutes, the visitors were subjected to a great deal of pressure from the home side. From the whistle it was the visitors who had most of the early play, and left winger Llyr Freeman nearly crossed for a try in the corner only to be halted by a high tackle. Excellent referee Gavin Roberts only awarded Emlyn a penalty rather than a possible penalty try. Emlyn declined to kick for goal and opted for a scrum five metres out, having already driven the home pack backwards at a previous scrum. From the scrum the home side managed to halt the Emlyn drive, and Emlyn had to go through a series of rucks. Prop Gethin Davies looked to have forced his way over for a try but referee Roberts ruled he was held up over the line and awarded Emlyn a penalty which outside half Mitchell Jones converted to open the scoring.

The rest of the half belonged to the home side as the Emlyn forwards struggled to get any meaningful possession. The Emlyn front row of props Gethin and Emrys Davies along with skipper Alex Williams were dominant at the scrum, driving the home side back metres at a time. However, some excellent work at the base of the scrum by Rhydfelin number eight Lewis James ensured that his lively scrum half Garyn Lucas always had quality ball to use. Lucas proved to be a thorn in the side of the Emlyn defence as he continually broke through the Emlyn defence and fed his supporting runners to maintain the pressure on the visitors.

In fact it was Lucas who got the opening try for Rhydfelin when, following a period of sustained pressure, he spotted the smallest of gaps by the side of a ruck and crossed for a try, converted by full back David Gratton. Lucas’s speed from the base of the scrum was exceptional and time and again he broke from the base of a scrum and put his left winger Gavin Close away. It was Close, in fact, who scored the rest of the homes sides’ points in the first half with two unconverted tries.

Half time saw veteran prop Dai Bryant replacing Gethin Davies, and soon after Dai Jones came on instead of Emrys Davies and Dan Havard replaced second row Bleddyn Davies. This greatly increased the mobility of the Emlyn side and the tempo of the game was greatly increased. After quarter of an hour a break from the half way line, by hard working flanker Callum Evans, took play up to the twenty two metre line. A couple of quick rucks later the ball was moved along the line and full back Ashley Sutton entered the line, off loaded to Steffan Evans who fed his centre partner Teifion Davies who crossed for a try converted by Jones.

From the restart Emlyn ran the ball straight back at Rhydfelin, and the home side struggled to contain a rampant Emlyn side. Powerful runs by Callum Evans, Dyfed Morgan, and Dan Havard took play into the home side’s twenty two. From a line out inside the twenty two, Morgan drove hard for the line, when he was stopped the ball was swiftly moved along the line and Sutton entered at pace and side stepped his way over for a try which Mitchell Jones converted to bring the scores level.

Emlyn nearly added to their total a few minutes later, when some excellent interplay between forwards and backs created some space for speedy winger Llyr Jones, but a desperate tackle from behind just managed to halt his run to the line. It was all Emlyn now and the forwards work in the loose was excellent with the support players clearing Rhydfelin out from rucks as they looked to try and kill the ball and slow the momentum of the game down. Props Bryant and Jones were prominent, with some powerful carries, along with both second rows and flankers Joel James and Callum Evans, and it seemed to be only a matter of time before Emlyn increased their lead.

Their third try, when it came, was an absolute peach when Rhydfelin kicked long to clear their lines and full back Ashley Sutton gathered the ball inside his own twenty two and set off on a counter attack. He evaded a few would be tacklers and linked with number eight Brynmor Jones, who eventually found Alex Williams with a well-timed pass and he crossed for an excellent try converted by Jones. The home side were then penalised at the restart but Mitchell Jones, who had another fine game at outside half, saw his penalty effort at goal fall just short.

This did not deter Emlyn as they continued to run at the home side from any part of the pitch. The home side were defending desperately and Brynmor Jones had the ball knocked out of his hands as he looked to give the final scoring pass. Emlyn did extend their lead to ten points when, once again, the home side were penalised at the ruck and Jones converted a fairly simple penalty goal. Desperate to get at least a losing bonus point Rhydfelin looked to run the ball out of defence rather than kick and, as time was running out, they eventually reached the Emlyn twenty two where they were awarded a penalty, which Gratton converted to bring them within seven points.

Emlyn pressurised Rhydfelin from the restart and, with time running out, they were awarded yet another penalty inside the home team’s twenty two. They declined to go for goal and opted for a kick to the corner and the catch and drive from the line out. Morgan caught the ball and the maul looked to be well set with the ball at the rear and Emlyn started to drive forward. Unfortunately the driving maul is a bit of an Achilles heel for the red and whites and, not for the first time this season, they lost possession and the chance to obtain the bonus point fourth try.

This was an unexpected win for the red and whites, but the manner of the second half performance must have been extremely pleasing for the Emlyn coaching staff. This was, for forty minutes, probably their best performance of the season and one can only hope that they will reproduce this form in a fortnight’s time when Newbridge are the visitors to Dôl Wiber.


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