05 January 2020 / Team News

Emlyn just scrape a win

 Newcastle Emlyn 13 Whitland 10   There are times during a season when any side will be relieved to win a match and this was the case for the red and whites on Saturday when a skilful, determined Whitland side pushed Emlyn all the way in a tense encounter. The difference between the two sides in the end was probably the aggressive line speed in defence the home side showed in the last quarter of the match as Whitland, whenever they had the ball, found themselves being forced backwards while still retaining possession as Emlyn tacklers swarmed all over them.

The bruising encounter of the previous week had left its mark on the home side’s selection with the coaches being forced to change six members of the pack that had started against Aberystwyth. Chris Ludgate and Aled Jones came into the back row for the injured Elliot Rees and Brynmor Jones. There was a pleasing return to action in the second row with Dyfed Morgan playing his first game for over a season and a half. Captain Alex Williams replaced the injured Lee Griffiths, with Dexter Thomas and Callum Evans coming in on squad rotation. In the backs Dafydd Evans, Shaun Leonard came in to start and Llyr Freeman moved to the wing from full back.

Needless to say it was the visitors that started the more positively of the two sides. Electing to run the ball out of defence they gradually worked their way downfield and Emlyn’s first time tackling was again found wanting as time and again a Whitland forward managed to force his way over the gain line before he was brought to ground. They dominated the first ten minutes and it came as no surprise when they were the first to score. Emlyn were penalised for a high tackle around the half way line and an excellent touch kick took play deep into the home twenty two metre area. Emlyn managed to repel a couple of forward drives but the alert Whitland scrum half Jac Howells spotted an opening on the blind side and floated an overhead pass to winger Geraint Jones who crossed in the corner for a try superbly converted by Nico Setaro.

As far as the visitors were concerned that was the end of their time in  Emlyn territory in the first half. Emlyn basically set up camp in Whitland territory but were unable to find a way through the visitors defence. Yes Whitland tackled and competed for the loose ball, but time and again an Emlyn attack floundered due to a dropped or intercepted pass. Outside half Llyr Davies made a lovely break and looked certain to score under the posts only for a last ditch tackle to bring him down a metre short of the line. Penalised at the resultant ruck Emlyn skipper Alex Williams opted for an attacking scrum rather than a simple three points only for the Emlyn pack to be unceremoniously shunted off the ball by the Whitland eight. Penalised again in front of their posts a few minutes later Emlyn again opted for the scrum and were again pushed off the ball.

With their scrum under pressure, the line out proved to be Emlyn’s only reliable source of possession in the first half and this was mainly due to the efforts of second row Dan Havard. However this was nullified due to the lack of accuracy by the whole side when it came to going through phases and capitalising on their territorial advantage. Emlyn did eventually get on the scoreboard when full back Shaun Leonard kicked a penalty goal from the ten metre line just before half time.

The second half started in a similar fashion with Emlyn dominating territory but finding it difficult to breach the visitors defence. Eventually a storming run by prop Emrys Davies breached their defence and he looked certain to score only to be brought down inches from the line.

Emlyn kicked to touch from the resultant penalty and Whitland defended desperately as the Emlyn forwards drove for the line. After three attempted drives failed, scrum half Dafydd Evans moved the ball out to the backs. The ball ended up in outside centre Teifion Davies’ hands and he drifted outside a would be tackler, times his pass perfectly to put full back Leonard over for a try which he also converted.

Any thoughts the large crowd had of the flood gates opening were quickly dispelled by the resolute Whitland side. To their credit they continued to run the ball at Emlyn at every opportunity and their control of possession meant they retained the ball for lengthy periods.  Emlyn on the other hand still suffered from the same malaise as the first half as time and again potential Emlyn attacks floundered due to the inaccuracy of the home side. Their scrummaging did improve considerably allowing number eight Aled Jones time to pick up from the base and gain ground with some strong runs.

A penalty goal kicked by Nico Setaro in the twenty fifth minute brought the scores level but as the half progressed the strength of the Emlyn replacements bench proved to be telling. Dai Jones came on as hooker, and Dafydd Rotie replaced Callum Evans on the open side for Emlyn. Rotie’s presence immediately increased the line speed of the Emlyn defence forcing Whitland, in order to retain possession, ever deeper into their own half.

Powerful carries by the Emlyn forwards saw Whitland desperately trying to kill the ball at the ruck. Eventually referee Ryan Woodbridge sent Whitland second row Raff Williams to the sin bin for killing the ball and Leonard converted his second penalty kick of the day to give the home side the lead again. Whitland continued to attack with ball in hand but found the Emlyn defence impossible to break down. The final whistle was blown much to the relief of the Emlyn players and supporters.  

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