09 November 2019 / Team News

Top of the Table victory for Emlyn

FELINFOEL 8 NEWCASTLE EMLYN 13   Felinfoel have been the Division One Champions for the last two seasons and have not lost a home League match for a very long time. That is until the red and whites paid their first visit to Felinfoel for five seasons, and in a performance which said a great deal for the spirit and character of the red and whites they came away from Llanelli with a deserved victory in a hard fought match played in atrocious conditions.

Emlyn’s character and determination was thoroughly tested when they were forced to play the whole of the second half with fourteen players when to everybody in the grounds surprise prop Emrys Davies was shown a red card for a high tackle on a Felinfoel player. Referee Nathan Davies from Swansea was the only person, players and supporters from both sides included, who thought that when Felinfoel full back Dafydd Daniel slipped and fell into Davies that the prop’s tackle constituted dangerous play was deserving a red card. Many in the ground felt that a penalty would have been a harsh punishment! One is loath to criticise the man with the whistle but Davies was clearly out of his depth in this top of the table encounter and the WRU should look at League tables when it makes its monthly appointments.

Both sides are known for their attacking rugby and it was a great shame for the large crowd that the heavy rain which fell throughout the match had such an influence on the match. Scoring chances were few and far between as defences dominated and it was to Emlyn’s credit that it took Felinfoel until the last minute before they managed to cross the Emlyn line. The home side probably will be kicking themselves for losing a game against a side who had to play a whole half a man down. At the start of the second half they brought on the powerful prop Gareth Havard and his scrummaging posed huge problems for Emlyn. Emlyn’s defence was so well organised that the home side were unable to exert any pressure close to the visitors’ line.

At the beginning of the week when outside half Sion Edwards was ruled out with a damaged shoulder Emlyn’s options at ten looked severely limited. However coaches Warren Leech and Marc Lloyd looked at the potential options available to them and decided to play with three centres and utilising the kicking skills of full back Shaun Leonard. Leonard was superb and time and again he drove Felinfoel back into their half forcing them to attack from deep.

One of Leonard’s strengths is his unflappability and time and again Felinfoel thought they had him under pressure only for the full back to calmly field any type of kick and return it with interest. Emlyn’s three centres varied their positional play with Teifion Davies, Rheon James, and Andrew Owens continually interchanging and organising Emlyn’s almost impregnable defensive wall. When it came to attack time and again Owens and James made the ‘hard yards’ as their carries continually got them over the gain line.

All the initial pressure at the start of the game came from the home side as they mounted wave after wave of attacks on the Emlyn defence but could find no way through. Emlyn on the other hand capitalised on Felinfoel’s mistakes and two penalties from full back Shaun Leonard gave them an early lead which lasted until the thirty eighth minute when ‘Foel outside half Aled Roberts dropped a smart goal. From the restart Emlyn came straight back at the home side and a move down the left wing almost led to a try but Emrys Davies was unable to hold on to a try scoring pass. Two minutes later Davies’ game was over in what can only be described as an absolutely ridiculous decision.

The second half belonged to Emlyn as time and again the home side opted to run the ball at the visitors instead of on occasions kicking for position. Inspirationally led by their outstanding captain Alex Williams, time and again they repulsed Felinfoel attacks and with the cultured boot of Leonard behind the solid defensive wall Felinfoel’s attacks could find no way through. Despite being under pressure at the scrum the line out work of Osian Davies and Dan Havard ensured some quality possession came the way of scrum half Mike Jones.

As the half progressed Emlyn began to take control and spend time in the Felinfoel half with their back row of Osian Davies, Callum Evans and number eight Elliot Rees tackling like dervishes. Props Dexter Thomas and Lewys Jonathan battled for every loose ball and continually drove through rucks to disrupt the Felinfoel possession.

When hard working scrum half Mike Jones was replaced by Dafydd Evans the scrum half proved to be a real livewire, continually pressurising his opposite number and fly hacking any loose ball forward. With time running out he marshalled his forwards superbly as two powerful carries by Rheon James and Andrew Owens took play within five metres of the home line. The home side defended desperately but Emlyn’s recycling was superb and they gradually inched towards the home line. A powerful surge by Elliot Rees saw him off load to winger Llyr Freeman who was held up just short of the line. From the ruck Evans darted over with three players hanging desperately on to him for a try which Leonard coolly converted.

With time running out Felinfoel summoned some energy for one last effort to try and get a losing bonus point. They declined a long range penalty kick at goal, went for touch, repelled by Emlyn who fly hacked the ball downfield. Fielded by their outside half he went blind and put replacement winger Eray Wilson over in the corner, the conversion failed. Leonard kicked the restart deep into the Felinfoel twenty two and the home side with only a minute’s play left were unable to get out of their twenty two.

An excellent result for the red and whites who take a break from League action next week when they travel to play Brynamman in the third round of the WRU Plate.

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