21 April 2019 / Team News

Emlyn Win Thriller

NEWCASTLE EMLYN 28  TATA STEEL 24   What a game and what an advert for Championship rugby as, initially, you had the contrast between the home side wanting to use their three quarter line to score as many tries as possible and the visitors, who came with a monster pack and, aiming to score through the catch and drive close to the Emlyn line. The last twenty minutes, though, proved to be brutal as both sides threw the ball about and play moved from one end of the field to the other at a furious pace, which left many players lying about exhausted as the heat and pace took its toll. On a glorious spring day the large crowd were treated to a veritable rugby feast.

It was the visitors who started off the better and were on the scoreboard within five minutes, when an Emlyn indiscretion allowed Tata outside half Callum Bricknell the opportunity to kick for the corner and, from the resultant line out, their outstanding number eight David Griggs crashed over for the opening unconverted try. The pressure to score four tries was obviously affecting the red and whites for the first twenty minutes as they uncharacteristically failed to capitalise on a couple of overlaps and spilled the ball. It took until half way through the half before the home side got on the board, when the ball was moved along the three quarter line until it reached centre Teifion Davies. The centre had another outstanding game in attack and defence and showed his quality by putting in a lovely kick behind the visitors’ defensive line. Winger Llyr Davies chased after the ball and sensibly kicked ahead and won the race for the touchdown, for fellow winger Dan Davies to convert.

Unfortunately from the restart Emlyn made some progress up to half way only to be penalised at a ruck allowing Bricknell to kick the visitors to within five metres of the home line. Predictably the catch and drive led to another try for David Griggs as Emlyn were unable to stop the monster Tata pack. The nip and tuck nature of the game began to unfold with the home side trying to run the ball at every opportunity but frequently being driven back into their own twenty two by the boot of Bricknell.

Approaching the half hour mark a lovely break by influential Emlyn outside half Steff Evans saw centre Teifion Davies on his shoulder to take the scoring pass for a try converted by Dan Davies. Emlyn’s tails were up now and, even playing into a breeze, they exerted pressure on the visitors’ line. With second row Osian Davies winning a constant stream of quality lineout ball, courtesy of some accurate throwing in by hooker Lee Griffiths, the red and whites began to dominate the game. They added to their lead when, after a failed Emlyn catch and drive for the line, they patiently went through a series of drives and eventually number eight Gareth Thomson forced his way through a determined Tata defence for a try converted by Davies.

With the breeze at the home side’s backs in the second half the large crowd expected the bonus point try to be just a matter of time. Unfortunately the start of the half was marred by what looked to be a serious knee injury to Emlyn number eight Gareth Thomson and play was held up for some five minutes before he was carried from the field of play. Thomson has had an outstanding season and even playing in the unaccustomed role of number eight he was one of the stand out performers in the first half. He was replaced by club captain Alex Williams and the home side took some time to settle down again. This led to a sustained period of pressure by Tata on the Emlyn line, but some superb defensive work by flankers Callum Evans and Luke Hansford, alongside centre Andrew Owens, kept the visitors’ at bay. The turning point came after some ten minutes when another Tata line out drive was halted by Emlyn and with second row Emrys Davies in the lead the Emlyn forwards drove the visitors’ back over the twenty two metre line, the counter ruck won the ball and the huge boot of Shaun Leonard took play up to the half way line.

It was now Emlyn’s turn to pressurise the Tata line and, with the hard working front row of props Dai Jones and Lewys Jonathan, and hooker Lee Griffiths ensuring a solid scrum base, lively scrumhalf Mike Jones was able to bring his backs into play on a regular basis. A break through the Tata line by Steffan Evans looked certain to bring about the all important fourth try but, approaching the Tata full back, the pass to Teifion Davies was slightly behind the centre and the ball was dropped by him.

Heartened by this let off, and some very poor defensive kicking out of their own twenty two area by Emlyn, Tata came back at the home side and had a sustained period of attacks which eventually led to winger Amir Walji crossing for a try converted by Bricknell. The Emlyn coaches now utilised their bench and Bleddyn Davies and Ifan James came on to replace props Jones and Jonathan, with Emrys Davies moving up to prop. The impact was almost immediate as, from the restart, Emlyn were awarded a line out on the Tata ten metre line. Lee Griffiths threw a short throw to Emrys Davies, now standing at the front of the line, he inter-passed with Griffiths and Davies was away with thirty metres to go and no defender in front of him. He looked certain to score but was ankle tapped just short of the line, but he managed to stretch out and place the ball over the line only for the referee to rule that he had been tackled, should have released the ball, and disallowed the try for a double movement.

The heat was having its effect on the game now and play began to break up as Emlyn threw caution to the wind. The introduction of Owain Powell, replacing Luke Hansford, was a decisive move by Emlyn’s coaches as Powell’s reading of the game enabled him to dominate the tackle area for the last ten minutes. Emlyn’s fourth try came on the half hour mark, when another Steff Evans break saw him draw the full back and give a perfect try scoring pass to Emrys Davies. With some twenty metres to go no one was going to catch the big prop and he plunged over the line under the posts for Davies to add the extra points.

It was all Emlyn at this stage and on another day they could have added at least another two tries to their total. A clever switch of direction by Mike Jones saw prop Ifan James in the clear with twenty metres to go and only the full back to beat, unfortunately for James he was unable to break through the full back’s tackle. Then Powell was put in the clear by another Evans break but was hauled down from behind some five metres from the try line.

Tata were not to be outdone and they showed that they had a great deal of pace in their outside backs through wingers Williams and Walji, full back Llewellyn, and centre Randell. One break by Williams looked certain to bring about a score except for an excellent tackle by Shaun Leonard. Both Emlyn wingers were hard pressed in defence but stood up to the task and some of the tackles Llyr Davies especially put in, halted some very dangerous looking Tata attacks. Emlyn’s centre partnership of Andrew Owens and Teifion Davies worked extremely hard all afternoon in their efforts to curtail the speedy Tata backs.

With less than five minutes remaining an Emlyn attack broke down in the Tata twenty two, when an Emlyn pass was knocked down and forward by a Tata player and the Emlyn players were slow to react. Quicksilver Tata scrum half Steff Davies was onto the ball in a flash and burst past would be defenders and then fed number eight Griggs. The big number eight somehow found the legs to sprint some fifty metres to score his third try and the conversion by Bricknell made it a four point game. Buoyed by this, Tata came searching for the winning score and it took some excellent play especially by Powell to thwart Tata’s attacks.

There was a huge cheer when the final whistle sounded as this result still gives the red and whites an outside chance of avoiding relegation. They must win next week away in Trebanos and hope that Ystrad Rhondda not only beat Beddau at home but deny them any points at all. The other two sides in the mix are Maesteg Quins and Trebanos who both have games in hand needing only a point each to escape the drop.

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