22 May 2022 / Club News

Emlyn crown excellent season winning the West Wales Cup

Newcastle Emlyn 34 Llangennech 22

Emlyn put the crowning glory on what has been a truncated but excellent season for the red and whites with an emphatic victory over Llangennech in the final of the West Wales R.U. Cup, played on a first class surface at Nantgaredig RFC. Having played a total of 19 games since last August, the red and whites have only lost one match, and that was in the semi final of the WRU Plate against the eventual winners Penallta. It is testimony to the ability and attitude of players and coaches that they have been able to sustain their enthusiasm when scheduled matches have been called off at the last minute. They undoubtedly would have won the League if Whitland and Felinfoel had honoured their matches.

After another break of three weeks Emlyn faced their biggest rivals, Llangennech, in the final of this prestigious competition on a sunny, but, windy afternoon at Nantgaredig. It was promising to be a nervous and emotional day with Emlyn's three coaches, Marc Lloyd, Warren Leech, and Charles Gale, having all decided to take a break from coaching and this would be their last game together. The work they have done in developing this side has been huge, and it is worth remembering that in the season when Covid led to all games being halted, Emlyn had only lost two matches and were in the West Wales Cup final.

With no League title to win, this was the red and whites last opportunity for some silverware to show as a reward for their talents and hard work. They started off almost like a runaway train and possibly could have scored in the first couple of minutes, when man of the match, outside half Steffan Evans, made a lovely break from half way, linked with his centres but the last pass just failed to the dangerous Dean James on the wing.

This did not deter Emlyn and they continued to move the ball at speed around the park. Llangennech tackled manfully but one felt it was only a matter of time before Emlyn crossed the whitewash. Again it was Evans who was instrumental in the score. Spotting that Llangennech were defending well close to the ruck and managing to nulify Emlyn's centres by man marking, he threw a long pass out from a ruck on the twenty two metre line, missing out three Emlyn players, for second row Elliot Rees to take the pass between the centres, and burst through the defence to score under the posts without a finger being laid on him, for a try converted by Shaun Leonard. The big second row had an excellent game and time and again showed what an excellent rugby player he is in attack and defence.

From the restart Emlyn continued to test the resolve of their opponents with fluid attacking play which continually stretched their defence. Centres Andrew Owens and Teifion Davies, have established an excellent rapport and work extremly well together in attack and defence. This combination led to Emlyn's next score when after a series of rucks they managed to breach Llan's defence and put flying winger Dean James over in the corner for an unconverted try.

The possession being won by the Emlyn pack was top quality enabling scum half Mike Jones to provide the conductor of the Emlyn orchestra, Steffan Evans, with plenty of quick ball to use to their advantage. The back row of Ellis Rees-Lewis, Gareth Thomson and Dafydd Rotie were quick to support their backs and ensure that ruck ball was cleanly presented. When Llan did have the ball they found openside flanker Rotie leading the Emlyn defensive line and putting them under unacustomed pressure due to his pace and crunching tackling. 

Llan became desperate to stem the Emlyn attacks and started to conceede penalties in trying to slow Emlyn possession down. They obviously reckoned without the kicking skills of Emlyn full back Shaun Leonard and despite playing into a pretty strong wind Leonard converted two penalties to extend Emlyn's lead to eighteen points midway through the first half. Llangennech refused to lie down and using their big, heavy, forwards started to come more into the game and as half time approached they managed to score two converted tries to bring the game back to only a four point margin between the sides.

The half time team talk obviously worked for the red and whites and they started the second half in a similar manner to the first half. With the wind behind them they were able to pin Llan back into their twenty two area and sublected them to a series of attacks through the forwards. From a lineout a series of forward drives eventually saw Emlyn hooker and captain Alex Williams, who led by example, force his way over for a try converted by Leonard to extend Emlyn's lead. The Emlyn pack now began to get the upper hand with the Llangennech scrum being put under huge pressure by the Emlyn eight. The front row of hooker Williams, and props Dexter Thomas and David Jones turned the screws on their opposite numbers and time after time the Llan scrum was going backwards on their own ball. At line out time the Emlyn options of second row Dan Havard, and back rowers Rees-Lewis, Thomson and Rotie won a steady stream of clean possession.

Llan were determined in defence and tackled their hearts out, unfortunately when it came to attacking the Emlyn line they struggled to break through and when they opted to kick they invariably found full back Leonard who returned their kicks with interest. If they kicked closer to the touchline,wingers Llyr Davies and Dean James either ran the ball back at them or sensibly kicked downfield. Leonard has a siege gun boot and it was no suprise to regular Emlyn watchers when Llan were penalised on half way, five metres in from touch, Leonard opted to go for goal. The kick only just went wide of the posts. A few minutes later another penalty this time on the half way line, right in front of the posts, saw the ball sail through the middle of the posts to extend Emlyn's lead.  

When Rotie was yellow carded midway through the half Llangennech gained some inspiration and managed to work their way upfield, courtesy of a couple of penalty awards called by the tough judge and they converted one awarded bang in front of the Emlyn posts. A series of drive led by their centres saw them eventually work their way ove in the corner for an unconverted try. That was possibly the last time they reached the Emlyn half as the pack, aided by the return of Rotie, and excellent Emlyn tackling pineed Llan in their half. This inevitably led to them conceeding penalities and Leonard kicked a further two to extend their lead to 34-22. With time running out, the Emlyn coaches emptied their bench and replacements Lee Griffiths,Ifan Bryant, Lewys Jonathan, Chris Ludgate, Aled Jones, Dafydd Evans, Aled Davies, and Llyr Jones, all made cameo appearances. It about summed up Llan's desperation and Emlyn's control of the second half, when it was them who kicked the ball out of play to end the match.

A famous victory for the red and whites and a fitting send off for three coaches who have worked tirelessly over the last few extremely, due to COVID, difficult seasons.

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