15 January 2017 / Team News

Forwards pave the way for victory


After the huge disappointment of last week’s defeat Emlyn bounced back in the best possible fashion with a bonus point win up at Newbridge. On their first ever trip to the Welfare Ground last season, Emlyn played on a surface covered in water. This time, whilst there was no water on the pitch, the wintry conditions of the past week had ensured that ground conditions were ‘heavy’ underfoot. The cloying mud made running and handling the ball a lottery and in the end the Emlyn victory was due to the excellent play of their forwards.

Emlyn dominated the game up front and in the second half played the sort of the game traditionally associated with Gwent Valley’s sides, keeping it tight with the forwards carrying the ball effectively from the base of the ruck. The play of the forwards was something to admire with captain Alex Williams leading by example with some storming runs down the middle, closely followed by powerful flanker Joel James. Indeed it would possibly be unfair to single out any individual forward as they worked so well as a unit in all aspects of the game.

It was the home side that started off positively, looking to make light of the heavy conditions and running the ball from all parts of the field. With two quality centres in Scott Williams and Jordan Howells they posed the Emlyn defence a few problems in the opening few minutes. Fortunately for the red and whites centres Tomi Jones and Rhys Williams were rock solid in defence and quick to pounce on any mistake made by the home side. Indeed such was the willingness of the home side to run the ball that their own pitch quite often proved to be their downfall as they tried to play almost seven a side rugby.

It took Emlyn until almost half way through the first half before they gained even a foothold in Newbridge’s half when a dropped pass was hacked on by Emlyn winger Gavin Thomas and he combined with scrum half Mike Jones to take the ball up to the try line only for the scoring pass to be dropped by centre Tomi Jones. With their powerful front row of props Jack Parry and Gethin Davies, along with skipper Alex Williams, giving their opposite numbers a torrid time at the scrum, Emlyn maintained pressure and Newbrdige conceded a penalty which winger Dan Davies converted to open the scoring.

The home side continued to defy the conditions and run whatever ball they could get at Emlyn. The Emlyn back row of Tom Powell, Brynmor Jones and Joel James continually harassed Newbridge and combined well with their centres to nullify a number of attacks. Eventually the home side managed to cross the Emlyn line and it came quite unexpectedly. A series of drives from a line out by the Newbridge eight was eventually halted by Emlyn who stole the ball. Unfortunately the Emlyn clearance kick was partially charged down and the ball fell into the hands of right wing James Beighton who crossed in the corner for a try.

As the end of the half approached Emlyn put together a series of attacks with Williams and James leading the way. Newbridge’s defence was solid and eventually Emlyn were awarded a penalty kick just inside the home half. Shaun Leonard’s attempt just went wide of the posts but Newbridge made a complete hash of the clearance kick and some quick accurate handling by the Emlyn side saw the ball passed out to the left wing. Loitering on the wing was the Emlyn number eight Brynmor Jones and he ran powerfully for the corner before passing inside to the supporting Tom Powell who crossed for an excellent try, converted by Dan Davies to bring the half to the end.

Mindful of the deteriorating conditions and the power and control they had up front it was important that Emlyn played a lot tighter game in the second half. The half time talk by the coaches was quite simple in that to win the game the forwards had to carry the ball to the opposition on all occasions. Emlyn had to put their normal free flowing game on the back burner and keep the ball tight to the pack.

The forwards responded in the best possible fashion and time and again the ball was taken deep into the Newbridge half and the home side were forced to defend desperately. Psychologically it was important that Emlyn score first, and their second try came in the sixth minute of the half. From a series of rucks it was second row Gareth Bennet who forced his way over for Emlyn’s second try. The veteran second row, on permit from Whitland, had a really good match and was a powerful influence in the close quarter forward work.

The second half followed a rather predictable pattern with Newbridge finding themselves under a great deal of pressure every time they had the ball, which by now was coated in a thick layer of mud. Due to the conditions scoring opportunities were few and far between in this half as both sides struggled with their footing and the state of the ball. The Emlyn pack held sway but crossing the Newbridge line became a problem.

Eventually they added a third try when, from a line out in the home twenty two, a great two handed catch by Dan Havard saw the red and whites go through a series of rucks. Some ten metres from the line the ball was transferred to outside half Mitchell Jones who cleverly put a kick in behind the advancing Newbridge defenders and full back Shaun Leonard won the race for the touchdown for Emlyn’s third try.

To their credit Newbridge were not downhearted and came back at Emlyn from the restart with a series of attacks resulting in them being awarded a penalty. They kicked to the corner and went for a catch and drive only to be held up short by Emlyn. From the resulting scrum Emlyn opted to run it out and number eight Jones fed winger Thomas who made some fifty metres before being bundled into touch. Emlyn won the resulting line out and moved deep into the home twenty two. Newbridge were awarded a scrum near their own line, and Emlyn with a new front row of Dai Jones, Tom Curry, and Neil Elworthy managed a take one against the head. Number eight Jones linked nicely with his scrum half and Mike Jones forced his way over for a try which Shaun Leonard converted to bring Emlyn the all-important bonus point.

This was an excellent win for the red and whites when one considers that there were sixteen players unavailable, mainly due to injury, for selection for this match. A big bonus for Emlyn was the return to action of second row Dyfed Morgan making his first appearance of the season after recovering from a shoulder injury. One can only hope that the injury situation will improve this coming week before the visit of Glynneath to Dol Wiber next week, a side Emlyn have yet to defeat in the Championship.       

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