By Daniel Thomas
After a week off, where a number of boys treated their loved ones with a romantic trip to Edinburgh last weekend for Valentines day, the lads were looking rather hungry for a game of rugby. It was our turn to travel up to Barry rugby club who have been turning out great results, having only lost once so far this season. It was going to be a tough afternoon and it was imperative that the boys put it the same sort of effort as they did against Taffs Well.
The game itself turned into a real battle from which either side could have taken the spoils. The first half was very competitive with both teams exerting periods of pressure on the other. A number of yellow cards during the half did little to help either side gain the initiative. Gareth Harrison was the first to get a card for allegedly stamping on an ankle. It was unfortunate as it is not in Gaggsy’s nature to do something so silly, especially when we had a great attacking position in the opponents 22. The next to receive a yellow card was winger Jack Tugwell along with his opposite number, both players were seen by the referee swinging for each other after the whistle had gone; I thought they were just discussing each others’ techniques at clearing out the would be ruck. This incident was closer to the half way line so he will be forgiven sooner for sure.
Although at one point being down to 13 men the North held strong and the forwards’ efforts were outstanding. Our ability to keep hold of the ball for sustained periods of time gave us the edge going into half time. Some strong running got the North on the front foot as Barry seemed to be soaking up tackles rather than meeting them on the gain line. After a number of phases in Barry’s 22 it was inevitable that eventually we would manage to cross the line. It was scrum half Dafydd Williams that snuck around the tired defenders close to the ruck to gain the first score of the game after the excellent surges made by the North’s forwards, notably that of club skipper Dominic Scoble. I’m not sure why I remember Scoble’s run so well; was it because of the ground he made or was it Megan’s familiar shout, ‘Go on Dom!!’? Who knows… The kick was unsuccessful and the North led in the game 5-0.
The North started to establish themselves on the game. The defensive efforts were excellent and Barry were finding it difficult to find gaps to impose themselves on the game and get points of their own. It was Lewys Jones that was making perhaps the biggest hits of the game thus far – you would have thought he had someone come to watch him play… Whilst Barry found it difficult to break the North down the visitors managed to enjoy more of the ball deep inside the opponent’s half. The forwards again provided the go forward required (even Victor Olaoye looked good with ball in hand) to set themselves up for another score but on this occasion the Barry defence managed to scramble well enough to prevent the try, though they came in from an offside position to do so and Rob Sweetman kicked the penalty to increase the lead to 8-0. From the resulting kick off Eliot Gould has a Weston. A loud shout of ‘mine’ was called and there was not an opponent within 10 meters of the willing receiver. He managed to put both hands up and it looked to be a simple catch, one of which I’m sure Grant Hollingworth would have managed after his previous exploits under the high ball… The clumsy second row managed to knock the ball on in spectacular fashion! Not much else to report on the first half 8-0.
The first 10 minutes of the second half is something most of the boys would rather forget I would imagine. Barry were quick out of the blocks in the second half and managed to score two unanswered tries. Their backs ran good lines as the North’s defence went amiss for a small period of the game. Clear breaks were made and although the scramble defence scuttled across admirably they were unable to stop the home team from taking the initiative. The second try conceded was a little less convincing with a possible ‘holding on’ infringement and a hint of a forward pass as they crossed in the corner. Barry had clearly stepped up the tempo and perhaps deserved the lead.
The North were still in the huddle at half time it seemed and things didn’t get any easier for them as the referee found fault with Victor and the opposing inside centre at a break down and sent them both off for 10 minutes. This allowed Barry to dominate the scrum with the extra man and put the North under a large amount of pressure. Fortunately however the North showed great resilience and managed to clear their lines after some heroic defensive efforts. The North kept them out for the period but were at this point trailing 12-8.
When the players came back onto the field the North seemed to step up their efforts again and tried to impose themselves on the game. Penalties were exchanged with about 10/15 minutes to go. At 15-11 the North needed to score and went about their business in a positive attempt to overturn the deficit. The final 10 minutes were played out deep inside the Barry 22. The North again showed great patience with the ball in hand and managed to control a number of phases of play but were unfortunately unable to find that sought after gap to score the required try. Penalties were conceded and with so little time on the clock it was decided to for the driving lineout. On two separate occasions the North managed to set up the maul and appear to go over the line. Although this was the case they were unable to get the ball to the back and make it easy for the referee to award the try. The mess of players lying all about the place over the line made it incredibly difficult for the official to award the try. On reflection after the game club coach Gavin Lucas admitted, ‘I definitely got over the line but the ball didn’t… I left that behind me.’.
The final play of the game had been reached. It was another lineout, on the opposite side to the previous two attempts. The driving maul was attempted again but the Barry defence managed to stop it at source effectively. The ball came out and Jordan Gibbs was sent up the middle, he was making good ground as the support came in behind him to clear out the ball. The North had kept hold of the ball well for large periods of the game and now was the time to do it again and hope to break down the home defence to score the winning try. A couple of phases had passed and the North looked good just outside the 22; forwards were running hard and gaining ground whilst those around them were ensuring the ball came back. At this point mismatches had developed and it seemed that the North had a number of players wide to their left. Rob Sweetman stepped up to first receiver to ensure the ball went out to where the players were. He received the ball with Jordan Gibbs, an elusive dangerous runner, outside him calling for the ball. Rob looked up and instead opted for the worst dummy, step combo that was as convincing as Eliot’s earlier catch attempt. He ran into not just one defender but about three with very little support around him. Once he realised that he had made the wrong decision he proceeded to fain injury. The squeal released from the bottom of the ruck was at worst comical. It closely resembled the mating call of the endangered white rhino.
An excellent effort from all of the lads, unfortunately it was not to be our day. An excellent game of rugby which in truth could have been won by either side. Thank yous go out to all the regulars: Barry RFC, bar staff, groundsmen, coaches, supporters and of course the players. Da iawn pawb. Big game against arch rivals, Llandaff RFC, next week so good numbers to training to make sure we are best prepared.