By Daniel Thomas
Rugby season has yet again sneaked up upon us. This year’s first fixture was always going to be a tricky game, an away game to a side that finished up there with the title contenders last year, Taffs Well. The task was made even more difficult as several of our first team regulars were unfortunately unavailable this weekend also. However, we were still able to take a full squad to Taffs Well and the boys that played have shown that they are capable to fill the shirt if required; and they will have given themselves a chance of making next weekends squad.
The game itself was a very fast and open game and some of the standard of rugby played was a credit to both sides in their first outing of the year. Inititally Taffs Well took control of the game kicking the first penalty for an offside infringement from the back line.The North’s defensive line looked strong and organised but on this early occasion were pulled up for being too eager.
During the following 15/20 minutes Llandaff North took the iniitiaitive and really sped the game up. Some superb hands were being shown in getting the ball wide after a number of controlled phases close to the ruck. As the ball was spread wider the visiting team started to find gaps in the defensive line and made good yards on most occasions. There was also lots of space left in behind which neat little kicks exploited. The amount of space left in behind could be summed up in one moment, the North’s skipper Danny Thomas found himself on the blind side wing unapposed and managed to make at least 35 meters up the sideline until he was finally brought down (there must have been atleast 50 meters worth of space for him to get that far).
After trailing 3-0 and North now starting to find some space it wasn’t long before our first score of the game came. An infringement from the home sidce allowed us to kick our own penalty and level the score. This gave the impetous to the visitors as we started to control the ball. A number of phases took play deep into Taffs Well’s half and the ball was eventually spread wide for ex club skipper, Dominic Scoble, to collect with 10 meters to go and three defenders infront of him. He deployed the old stiff arm effectively to get rid of one of the defenders whilst carrying the other two over the line with him to get the first dab down of the match. Sweetman unfortunately missed the conversion but we now led in the fixture 8-3.
Within minutes the North scored thier second try of the game. A couple of quick tap penalalties, that Taffs Well were a bit slow to react to, took the North once again deep inside the home team’s half. The ball was slowed down briefly as number eight, Owain Thomas, carried the ball from a standing start (this was a running feature of his game throughout). In fairness I think he was doing it to give the lads a bit of a breather as it was a very fast and open game to this point. From the resulting phases Taffs Well conceeded another penalty from which the North’s second row, Jack Copner, took a quick tap penalty and set off. He outsprinted the first line of the defense from around 25 meters out and side stepped the fullback with the confidence and gile of an outisde back. Maybe some of our outside backs could learn a few things here (see later paragraph). Copner managed to dot the ball down as half of his team mates were still shouting at him for taking the tap which was certainly a kickable position. Sweetman converted the try and we now led in the game 17-3.
The final 10 mintues of the first half belonged to Taffs Well. A soft try was conceeded as they started to find a couple of gaps close to our ruck and mauls. On one occasion thier strong, hard running openside managed to break the first line of defense and race away from atleast 35 meters out to dot down infront of the sticks. The North’s defense held out admirably as some of the lads started to fall off tackles. The lads managed to scramble well as Taffs Well started to find gaps and some last gasp tackles allowed us to keep the home side out. This became increasingly intense towards the half time whistle as both sides started to get a little frustrated at the stalemate. Eventually some handbags ensued and the ref decided oranges were in order to bring an excellent half of rugby to an end. The North went into the break at 17-10.
The second half of the game unfortunately was reminicent of the same fixture last year. The North on that occasion gave up a 20 point lead to the home side. Taffs Well managed to score an early unconverted try in the second half whilst they dominated the early exchanges, often winning the contact area and making yards beyond the initial tackles. Within ten minutes of the restart Taffs Well took the lead again from which they would not surrender. A scrum from near the half way line saw their left wing take the ball as first reciever and score under the sticks breaking through atleast two tacklers, an early sign of what was to come later in the game as the lads started to fatigue. Taffs Well now led in the game 24-17.
The North knew they had to get themselves back in the game and controled the ball for the next fifteen minutes of the fixture, again deep inside the opposition’s half. A couple of half breaks were made but in fairness to Taffs Well they stood strong and repelled everything that we threw at them. There were two moments where we really looked dangerous and likely to score but unfortunately came unstuck on both occasions. The first saw some quick ball from a ruck in the midfield go left to Rob Sweetman. There were several players wide for him to choose from as he opted for the chip towards the corner where fullback Richard Ham collected and managed to dot the ball down over the line. It was unfortunate however that his foot was adjudged to be out into touch from our own side’s touchline offical no less! The second came from first phase ball from a scrum in roughly the same position just outisde the twenty two. A neat little midfield move allowed skipper Danny Thomas to put through debutant Ethan Kinney through a gap after hitting a superbly timed line. Ethan managed to glide through the defensive line at ease and only had the full back and covering scrum half to beat. Unfortunately he was unable to show the same kind of feet as our second row, Jack Copner, had done earlier in the game and the move came to a halt. Taffs Well’s scrum half’s covering tackle was enough to extinguish the danger. In fairness to Ethan he should have had at this point several options to chose from if players flooded through after making the break.
After the prolonged period of pressure Taffs Well turned to a well run lineout to get them out of trouble on numerous occasions. It worked efficiently throughout the game and it gave them the platform from which to obtain some further territory advantages. Taffs Well managed to kill the game with the next score of the fixture. As the North had fifteen minutes of pressure without being able to cross the whitewash, Taffs Well managed it with thier first venture into the visiting team’s half. Again thier strong running left winger caused chaos as the North lads started to fall off their tackles. Another Taffs Well try was scored later in the game by thier center which took the final score to 34-17.
An excellent example of club rugby in the first weekend of the season and we look forward to hosting Taffs Well later in the year. A huge game for us next week as we host arch rivals Llandaff RFC at Hailey Park. Can we make sure we get a good weeks training and hopefully enjoy the same amount of support as we did this week. Thank you to Taffs Well RFC for thier warm welcome and to our supporters who continue to follow us home and away.
|Taffs Well RFC||34|
|Llandaff North RFC||17|
|Taffs Well RFC|
|Clos Llewellyn, Taff\'s Well, Cardiff, Rhondda Cynon Taff CF15 7AT, UK|