By Daniel Thomas
On a brisk Saturday morning the North team had much to prove after being disappointed in their previous week’s effort. The boys have been smarting all week after a lacklustre performance against St Albans; the talk around the club was all about ensuring the correct attitude was fostered going into today’s game to avoid a three game losing streak.
The first half proved to be fairly uneventful; both teams enjoyed small periods of pressure but neither side were able to hold the ball long enough to turn pressure into points. A few opportunities were created by both sides that seemed to go begging. The North’s first up tackling wasn’t brilliant during the first period which allowed Taffs Well to gain some momentum at times, fortunately however the covering scramble defence managed to thwart their scoring chances.
The North themselves squandered opportunities that would have almost certainly changed the complexion of the game had they been executed successfully. Our forwards were finding themselves open in the wide channels but their skill levels let them down when it really mattered. On one occasion Lewys Jones found himself standing in at outside centre with Gavin James occupying the wing position. The ball was spread wide to them as the defence tried to track them back into the corner (There was nobody in front of either of them for a good 10/15 meters). Instead of running forwards they opted to use their sleight of hand; the ball ended up behind Elfy and the opportunity went begging. On another occasion the ball was worked down the same side as a well-executed miss pass negated defenders and saw Joshua Gibbs receive the ball with no one in front of him and two men outside him. Instead of taking the ball forward and drawing the full back he decided that a more preferable option would be the ‘chip and chase’. These decisions were not so much costing the North anything but they did ensure that Taffs Well stayed in the game and gain further confidence.
When the North kept hold of the ball for short periods of time they looked dangerous. There were signs that there were gaps to be exploited and occasionally meters were being made with ease. Danny Thomas was able to show some neat feet and his new ‘go faster’ boots, evidently they were worth the small fee that he paid for them, allowed him to make yards whilst hitting simple lines up the middle. The amount of space available was further exemplified when the larger Rob Sweetman also managed to squeeze between two defenders (only just mind, and it was a bloody big gap). Unfortunately we were guilty of thinking we were the All Blacks again and trying to throw the miracle ball rather than using the momentum to recycle the ball quickly and keep going forward.
The score at half time reflected a game from which neither team took the initiative. A couple of penalty kicks were exchanged and the North led the game at half time 6-3. Talking of kicks there was also one other noteworthy point from the first half… I can’t remember the exact details of what preceded this incident as I found myself second guessing what I actually saw. A reasonable kick (a sort of box kick if you will) was deployed by the Taffs Well scrum half. Fullback Rob Sweetman and stand in winger Grant Hollingworth seemed to have positioned themselves well and it looked like they were going to field the ball relatively comfortably. However, what followed closely resembled a number of Chucklevision episodes. Both players were moving back and forth, swaying to and fro to try and field the ball… All that was missing from the sketch was the catch phrase of which I’m sure most spectators were playing in their heads. ‘To me to you’. The ball eventually fell between them and enough boys managed to get back and somehow scramble the ball into touch and resettle themselves.
The second half of the game, and the result, was dictated by the dominance of the North’s forwards efforts. The boys picked up the work rate and really took it to the away team. Players such as Joshua Gibbs and Dominic Scoble were making large amounts of ground running hard close to the ruck whilst Kieran Scoble worked tirelessly wider. Unfortunately the spaces out wide were not exploited in the second half but it was pleasing to see the boys keeping hold of the ball and building pressure for larger periods of time. Rob Sweetman took advantage and slotted a number of penalty kicks, some of which were from the side lines, to reward the boys’ efforts with points.
As you would expect the North’s dominance was highlighted most emphatically during the scrums. The whole pack should be commended for their labours during this facet of play; the scrums were solid when they needed to be and at times ran straight over the top of the opposing scrum. I guess a special mention for the front row is also in order as they did a fantastic job in the tight and in the loose. The only try of the game came from the scrum; a number of penalties were conceded as the North pack marched towards the visitor’s try line. The referee had no choice but to award the try which frustrated both Gavin James and Rhys McCarthy who were both snooping around for a simple dab down. Rob Sweetman stepped up to add more points to his tally from in front of the sticks. He missed. Under the bar.
The forwards’ efforts could probably be summed up by another incident in the game. A North lineout unfortunately went astray, there is nothing really unusual here but the desire shown by Max Cartwright to make up for the mistake was clear for all to see. The ball was stolen and taken in by the visiting forwards. One of the largest men on the field was marshalled by the scrum half to take the ball on the charge and set up the next phase of the game. By this time a seething Max had scampered around the ruck and charged straight for the oncoming player to make the tackle. The David versus Goliath match up was set, a little spectacle within the game had been created. I for one had pretty much stopped by this point to ensure I took in what was about to unfold, for the purposes of the write up of course. The six foot plus giant was confronted bravely as Max took the decision to dive forward towards his knees, face first. A standard example that you would like on video, to share with children of how not to make a tackle. I’m sure I saw a number of spectators reach for their phones, ready to ring the emergency services.
Every player on the field played their part in what turned out to be a quite emphatic victory. The final score of 17-3 was no less than what the boys deserved. The defence improved vastly in the second half and the boys genuinely looked like they enjoyed playing with each other. The boys who came off the bench also featured favourably during the game which will surely help create competition for places. Kieran had a chance to go over in the corner but selflessly handed it to Gareth Harrison who decided to drop the ball and keep the game interesting. Batty came on and made a couple of decent hits and powerful runs whilst the return of Shaggy saw him attempt a couple of runs… He was not as successful as the Pup’s earlier attempts it must be noted!
A huge effort lads – Well done. Rest up, no game next week! Thank yous go out to all the usual suspects: Taffs Well RFC, coaches, bar staff, groundsmen, supporters and last but not least the players. Lets keep up the good work and get yourselves to training!