By Daniel Thomas
A cup weekend was used to fulfil a fixture that was called off earlier on during the season. It was wet all week and the weather quite hadn’t made up its mind on game day. Keith did not enjoy the short trip on his bike as hail forcefully rained down on him whilst stopping at the lights. Many were doubtful whether the game would be played at all and if so what state the pitch would be in for the game. On arrival the rugby gods must have been looking down upon us as the weather seemed to hold off for the teams to enjoy a hard game of rugby. The pitch itself was also a pleasant surprise, holding firm throughout the game and even allowing for a strong scrummage to express itself.
The first half was a bit of an arm wrestle. Both teams enjoyed small periods of pressure and the physical nature of the game was holding true, in some parts bending the rules to the limits. The North has not played a lot of rugby recently and it was important for them to start the game well. Dafydd had a superb game orchestrating his forwards around well, ensuring they kept hold of the ball as they incessantly charged at the Caerau defence. In turn when Caerau had the ball they also managed to put a number of phases together and look quite dangerous themselves, particularly with their driving mauls. The North’s defence was however able to hold out on every occasion, even when a break was made the scramble defence covered it superbly. It was very pleasing for the coaches that the team was able to complete the game without conceding a point, testimony to the defensive efforts and discipline.
The first score for the visiting team came off the back of a solid scrum. The backs ran solid lines to hold defenders whilst Lloyd run across the field to survey his options. The inside defenders were caught flat footed and Lloyd managed to scurry around the outside and break clear; as the fullback approached Rayer found centre Danny Thomas keeping up on his inside. It was again obvious that the centre did not possess the gas to canter in and looked for his slighter centre partner Jordan Gibbs to finish the move. Unfortunately however he was caught. A quick recycle at the ruck and spreading the ball wider in the same direction saw Max Cartwright show quick slight of hands, (whether he meant it or not was still being discussed in the clubhouse afterwards), to allow winger Joe Stokes to go over for his first try of the game.
After the score Caerau seemed to lose their heads a bit as the game turned a little bit scrappy. The North enjoyed a further 10 minutes of pressure deep within the home side’s 22 but unfortunately came away with no points which would have almost certainly killed off the game early on. The North enjoyed success at the scrum from 5 meters out. They got forward momentum on several occasions but were unable to control it well enough to ensure the 5 points were scored. The penalties kept coming but the referee was a little reluctant to impose any further sanctions at this stage in the game. The move eventually broke down as Dafydd was penalised for allegedly feeding at a scrum on the opposite side of the pitch which allowed the home team to clear their lines and relieve the pressure put upon them.
The struggle to gain the upper hand continued until the end of the half but nobody really took the initiative and held the ball long enough to put the opposing team under any real pressure. Caerau were making life difficult at ruck time, throwing themselves into rucks and making it difficult to obtain clear ball. It was adjudged however that a lot of their efforts at the ruck were illegal and the referee awarded another string of penalties to Llandaff North who were unable to put enough clear phases together to threaten the score sheet. The referee eventually produced a yellow card for coming in at the side, it was clear that both teams were getting frustrated as the half came to a close.
The second half saw a little more rugby being played but was unfortunately marred by a number of cards being brandished. The North knew the game had the potential to turn scrappy as both teams battled it out to win the break down area. The discussion at half time was clear; to keep calm, keep hold of the ball and don’t do anything silly to get yourself sent off and let the rest of the team down. In fairness everybody took heed to the message, including club coach Gav Lucas. The message at the break was discretely directed towards Gav as he had got himself involved in a number of incidents during the first period. Although he kept his head and did next to nothing, (just holding a guy’s shirt and explaining to him why it was not necessary to use his feet in the manner he did against one of our players), he still managed to get himself a yellow card; it may have been worth letting Gav get on with it next time as he seems to get a yellow card anyways. As the game went on Caerau got further frustrated and ended up with a number of cards of different colours. The game opened up as more space was created and in fairness to Caerau they seemed to play better when they only had 13 men on the field, throwing the ball around with gay abandon. (Yes, I have used this line before – I read it in a poem once and liked it…)
The North started to throw the ball around to exploit the numbers and space but it proved difficult as the pitch churned up a bit and the heavy mud took its toll on the players. The second score came from Joe Stokes again as he picked beautiful line to run in clear and between the sticks. Lloyd took the ball to the line and slipped the pass to Danny Thomas who took the ball into contact. He was able to get his arms free and deliver a neat offload to the oncoming winger who was running off the shoulder, I don’t know when he started to do this… We have been trying to get him to run these sort of lines for the best part of 15 years!
It is difficult at this point to think of boys whose performances warrant a mention – most of the lads had a super game! The pack played very well keeping hold of the ball for long periods of the second half, each taking their turn to carry the ball and clear out the rucks. Lewys Jones again proving to be amongst the most effective going forward in the tight, often gaining yards after the initial contact. Joshua Gibbs, Gareth Harrison and James Walters also made themselves available for carries frequently and played their part in wearing down the Caerau defence. Richie McShane’s carrying was also unforgettable – whether it was for the meters gained or for the fashion in which he wound himself up for them – I’m still not sure. It closely resembled a Gorilla preparing to charge at a trespassing National Geographic reporter… Both Scobles I suppose should get a little mention – club skipper Dominic was all over the park as usual. He done his fair share of carrying and tackling and put his body on the line on a number of occasions; he put himself in those positions where he was likely to get hurt for the benefit of the team. (The Caerau boys did their part to ensure this happened too) Kieran did likewise when he came on – he went into rucks and mauls ‘like a demented mole’ (Jonah Lomu, 1997) and often came out with the ball.
The backs should also have a paragraph on mentions but I’ll make it a shorter one to appease the forwards – you know they get upset when the backs get all the headlines! Dafydd and Lloyd controlled the game very well – putting the ball into the right areas and moving it when it was on. Jordan Gibbs was solid, kicked well and came up with the best piece of magic of the game. As it opened up he made a break and was spun around in the tackle and decided to offload the ball around the back which popped into the hands of an oncoming forward. Stoker caught the ball more times than he dropped it and scored two lovely fore mentioned tries. Grant was solid at the back taking some tricky balls and ran it back well, Kieran also done likewise when he came on to replace him as well. Rooney needs to working on his kicking out of hand – one super one and one out on the full! Then there is one other back – Danny Thomas, heavily involved in the first two tries and the scorer of the final score of the game… I think that is all you need to know about his performance…
The final score came when the game was all but over and the ball was being thrown about. A scrappy passage saw the ball knocked on from tackles and the ball ended up bouncing about on the floor. The quickest to react was indeed Danny Thomas. He spritely sprung into action to scoop the ball from the deck and gallop towards the line. The centre’s lack of pace was again clear for everybody to see and he inevitably got caught before the line. As he got caught he used some guile and dived for the line, knowing the conditions may help him get there. The belly sloped into the squelching, boggy mud as the physics of momentum came into play. The final push for the line was not enough to clear it cleanly; the centre had to reach out further to ensure the score was converted. This is further evidence to suggest that he does not have short arms, contrary to reports, and they are indeed long enough and fit for purpose.
Other noteworthy points – Lewys Jones stopped playing and sought medical attention after being struck by an outside half’s punch. (he has the black eye to prove it too) He was noted to be calling Keith from the other side of the pitch as, and I quote ‘I can’t see, it’s blurry!’ Jordan Gibbs did not get involved with any of the niggles which would have inevitably ended up with him being sent off- da iawn son!
The final score was 22-0 as Jordan also kicked a penalty goal during the match, he did miss one as well mind. A very good performance all around considering we haven’t played for quite some time now. A huge effort – Well done lads! A big thank you to everyone at Caerau RFC for the fixture – we look forward to the reverse fixture.
A further note for players – If you are not aware of our new selection policy. If you are unavailable for training that is fine, but you need to communicate it else you will not be considered for a starting spot. Only those who are either training or have communicated will now be considered – it will hopefully encourage some honesty. It should show who shows no effort for training and who is genuinely unavailable through their circumstances. Surely we can make an effort to make a few training sessions throughout each month if you want to be a part of our first team! Expect texts from the coaches – please reply so they can plan effectively for next week!