By Daniel Thomas
The North’s third league game of the season was always going to be a tough affair. An away fixture at Fairwater, a usual fiery affair and another game against one of our local rivals. The match itself was marred by a number of cards which didn’t help either sides’ ambition to play in an attractive manner.
The North in truth did not get out of second gear during the game. It was a bitterly disappointing result as a number of basic errors and inaccuracies meant that the home side controlled the proceedings from the kick off. Despite the North dominating the scrum throughout the game the visiting back line rarely saw the ball to attack.
The lineouts unfortunately became a bit of a lottery as both teams found it difficult to secure clean ball. When the North did have the ball the forwards made good ground near the rucks but on each occasion they would relinquish possession by means of an error or turnover. When Fairwater managed to get the ball their outside half often found grass with kicks to ensure the game was played deep inside our half.
Fairwater took the lead with two penalties from long range. The scrappy nature of the game meant that both teams could have potentially been reprimanded at every ruck and maul. Both teams seemed to get frustrated at the calls at the breakdowns and the typical fiery flare ups ensured the game kept its aggressive reputation.
The referee seemed to have spotted both teams in the act of ‘unfair’ play or ‘unsportsman like conduct’ but decided that none of the incidents warranted any cards, despite their seriousness and intent. The only cards in the game where only brandished for minor offences at the breakdown, which seem harsh in comparison to the earlier misdemeanours.
Both locks, Tom Ronicle and Elliot Gould, took ten minutes whilst a prop, who shall remain anonymous, saw his yellow card turned to red after he insisted further discussions took place to discuss what offence he had committed. It was later noted that the ref produced the red after he couldn’t understand the elegant linguistic points the front rower used to describe his opinion of the ref’s decision.
Before the cards were brandished the North worked themselves back into the game when they managed to hold onto possession themselves for more than 5 minutes. The ball was taken deep inside the opposition’s 22 and eventually a scrum was called after a breakdown in play. It was first evident during this phase of the game how dominant the scrum was, earning a number of penalties. The scrum drove back the home side’s efforts and a nice little break from Sweetman saw him brought down close to the line. After a quick couple of phases Lewys Jones managed to crash over from short range and the North took the lead 7-6.
After that the North weren’t able to keep hold of the ball and conceded another spate of penalties. With fewer men on the field for most of the game the defence battled well to ensure Fairwater didn’t cross the try line. However, they were able to dictate where on the field the game was played and converted three more penalties which saw them take a commanding lead, 15-7.
The North managed to hold onto the ball for another 5 minute spell towards the end of the game and scored their second try. A number of scrums saw the home side going backwards at the rate knots and the referee awarded a number of penalties. At this point it must be mentioned that the scrum was even dominant when we were short of men too. A real positive in amongst a dismal afternoon. The scrum was so powerful in fact that the home side went passive, even with substitute front rowers still available. I’m not sure how this unfolded but the ref decided that the prop who came on wasn’t fit to play in the role he was there to provide cover for.
After an obvious strength was negated, by some tactical substitutes, the North had to depend on picking up the pace of their game. Hard lines were run well and put us back on the front foot. Jamie then took a quick penalty after the referee saw an infringement to be brought down just shy of the line. A quick clean out saw Wally pick up the ball from the base and pirouette over for the try.
The score was brought back to 15-14 and we were unfortunately not able to keep hold of the ball with the last phase of the game to try and score a winner. We did manage to obtain a losing bonus point from the game but we perhaps will see this game as an opportunity missed. We cannot afford to defend for 65 minutes of a game and expect to win. When we have the ball we look dangerous and effective, however we were just unable to hold onto it during the afternoon’s scrappy affair.
A huge thank you to everyone at Fairwater RFC for the fixture and we look forward to hosting you for the return fixture. Appreciation goes out to all of the support that came to the game, it was great to see so many on the sidelines – just a pity we did not perform the way we would have liked to. A great effort from the lads in terms of determination but we need to play with the top two inches too. See you all at training for our next game against Ynysowen.