By Daniel Thomas
Llandaff North welcomed a team that was sitting above them in the league this week. It was going to be a tough battle against the Old Illtydians; they are going strong and will also be there or there abouts towards the end of the season. A few disruptions before the game did not allow the home team to prepare well. With players pulling out with last minute injuries and players, that were named in the team, not turning up. The North had to galvanise themselves and organise a team that were willing to take on the challenge in front of them. Players such as Kieran Scoble and new recruit Dafydd (Yes the scrum half from Bridgend Sports that looked like a hooker) stepped up to the mark admirably to fill holes and play the full 80 minutes for the club.
With the poor preparation and dismal numbers at training this week, Gavin decided to get the team together to deliver a stern word before the game. His frustration was clear though his message wasn’t. The way in which he fumbled over his words was almost distracting in itself but it was clear that he was not happy with the attitude going into today’s game. It was later noted, in the bar, that he offered the forwards a pint each if they fronted up and won the battle in the contact area. It must have killed him to put his hand in his pocket and deliver when one of the boys (who will not be named) pointed out the promise he made in the clubhouse afterwards.
Whatever the incentive, the North boys needed to get themselves motivated for the game and that they did. Players were looking eager to make tackles, get on the ball and make an impact during the early moments of the game. Early pressure from the visitors was applied but the first score came from the North against the run of play. A superb kick chase from Kieran Scoble saw him challenge the receiver on his own, before the defensive line came up behind him. He was able to make a brilliant one on one tackle which allowed himself and the other oncoming defenders to jackal for the ball on their arrival. The penalty was given for holding on and Jordan Gibbs slotted the kick from 40 meters out using the boot of his brother (Awww, nice touch) as the kicking tee could not be located.
The away team managed to kick a penalty of their own to level the score before the North scored the first try of the game. A solid scrum (there were not many of those during the game) gave the North’s backline an opportunity to attack the much larger visiting backline. The inside backs were able to fix the defenders and send Lloyd Rayer around the outside of the centres. A neat slip pass to the oncoming Richard Ham saw him run clear with just the full back to beat. The sidestep was deployed and Rooney was able to run under the sticks to make the conversion simple for Jordan Gibbs to notch up another few points for his personal tally.
Another successful penalty for the North saw them take a commanding lead early in the game. However, the home team’s lack of ability to gather the ball from the restart gave the opportunity for the Old Illts to strike back. A number of phases came from a line out deep inside the North’s half. The away team came into the midfield and then returned back in the direction from which they came. A backrow player received the ball and was able to get on the outside of the defence cross the whitewash. Fortunately the try was unconverted and the North led in the game 13-8.
No further score occurred in the first half though there were some clear opportunities that were squandered by the North. A show and go from Danny T saw him run clear from deep within his own half. The lack of gas shown by the centre meant that he was unable to get clear of the defenders and was eventually brought down inside the opponents’ half. The ball was retained and the move looked promising before a knock on occurred. If players could get on shoulders when breaks are made perhaps further scores would be made. Another opportunity went begging as Paul Moulden picked up from the scrum and run hard into the midfield. As he was brought down he managed to offload the ball to Lloyd Rayer who was stood over him. From the standing start Lloyd managed to sprint clear, there was support behind Lloyd but unfortunately none of which were quick enough to keep up with him. As Rayer was brought down he tried to pop it up to club skipper, Dominic Scoble, who was unable to gather the ball cleanly. If the North had taken one of these clear chances the game would have been all but over.
The second half was a scrappy affair where the lead changed hands on a number of occasions. The first score came from the visiting team which looked very dubious. A scrum deep inside the twenty two was a result of some early pressure. The scrums at this point had become a bit of a lottery. In the first half the North were penalised for wheeling the scrum on a number of occasions though they were clearly going forward. On other occasions however, the Old Illts seemed to have the upper hand. No real dominance was established and nobody really knew what was going to happen at scrum time. The score came from the scrum as the ball popped out the side and the visiting players were quickest to react and ran under the sticks almost untouched.
As with the scrums the lineout also became a bit of a lottery as both teams tried to wrestle for the ball to gain a stronghold in the game. Unfortunately Wally found their front jumper on a number of occasions whilst Elliot was able to get in front of his man on their ball. As the game became more of an arm wrestle some of the North players started to come into their own. Just before he was taken off the field Victor Olaoye showed some of his finest form this year. He showed some serious aggression in the tackle area slamming boys to the ground and taking them back in the challenge. It must also be noted that Victor also did his bit clearing up the restarts as he managed to gather the ball cleanly on one occasion. This is a real achievement for Victor as he finds it difficult to catch a ball passed from 4 yards, never mind a kick off that travelled at least 20. Paul Moulden might want to take note as his ‘tapping the ball back’ is clearly not working. In fairness Moulden carried the ball well all game, constantly making yards from the base of the scrum and when running from rucks. From the ensuing struggles the North managed to kick themselves back in front as Jordan Gibbs to successfully convert two penalties to take the North back into the lead at 19-15.
The next score for the Old Illts was almost a carbon copy of their last. A scrum in a similar position to the last was again a bit of a lottery. At the base of the scrum their scrum half seemed to attempt to pick up the ball and fumble it. The referee had cited that the ball had gone backwards from which the flanker, who was in front of the scrum half, picked up the ball and run in unchallenged. The North now trailed in the game 19-22 and were feeling slightly aggrieved as the two tries that they had conceded in the half were unconvincing. The frustration was further compounded as the North had opted for several scrums from penalties deep within the opponents’ 22 from which the referee had seemed to pick up on all of the possible faults.
Chasing the game the North picked up the pace and ran the ball back well. When keeping the ball in hand and going through the phases the North looked strong. Moulden, Gaggsy and Elliot were making good yards near the ruck as Jordan Gibbs was proving difficult to bring down out wide. After a couple of phases the referee had awarded the North a penalty between the ten meter line and 22. Quick thinking Shaggy took the tap penalty and ran clear before drawing the final defender and passing the ball to Jordan Gibbs to go over for the winning score. He successfully converted his try and took his personal tally to 21, whilst maintaining his 100% kicking record for the day. The final scored was 26-22 as the North controlled the final three minutes of the game deep within the oppositions’ half.
Further points worthy of note in the write up. We have seemingly developed a need for kicking props, both Gareth Harrison and Nicholas Dimond took it upon themselves to use the kicking option in open play. Nic found himself on several occasions at first receiver, often pushing out inside backs, and in fairness his kick was decent and took the play out of our half and a reasonable kick chase followed. Gaggsy’s however was a totally different type of kick. He was retreating to field a kick from the Old Illts. He was the deepest player who proceeded to kick the ball over his shoulder whilst facing his own posts. The kick went directly into the midfield where all of their players were and all of our players were offside. An absolute shocker that saw him crowned ‘Dick of the Day’.
A great result for the North after a couple of disappointing weeks. The effort from the boy was unquestionable and it was pleasing to be involved in such a performance. Also pleasing to hear of a successful seconds’ result with some great displays that will surely start to push the first team boys for their positions. A huge thank you for Old Illtydians for coming down to Hailey Park and playing the game in the right spirit, we look forward to the return leg at your place. Our appreciation also goes out for all involved in making our match days possible including the coaches, groundsmen, bar staff, caterers, physios and the players.