By Daniel Thomas
The next home fixture for the North was to be against one of the leagues front runners Cilfynydd. The away team has had a solid start to the season, only one of two teams to boast a 100% record up until this point. This fixture was always going to be difficult but was made more challenging as some regular first team players also made themselves unavailable. A team with many new combinations took to the field and gave a relatively good account of themselves against a strong outfit.
The game started in a frantic manner as both teams tried to find their feet, where each side had periods of pressure applied on them. Cilfynydd’s set piece however took the upper hand to establish a strong platform from which they were able to attack from. Their strong scrum made it very difficult for the North to attack from first phase ball whilst their lineout was also very disruptive. From such foundations Cilfynydd rolled the ball through strong running forwards and eventually scored the first try of the game and they took the lead 0-7.
When the North did have the ball in open play we looked just as dangerous. Forward rumbles made yards as the likes of Pat Howells and James Walters carried the hard yards. On these occasions the backs also looked dangerous spreading the ball with real purpose and creating space in the outside channels. However, the last pass seemed to be missing and a more clinical edge needs to be developed if we are going to take advantage of such situations.
Eventually the North’s pressure told; a lineout deep inside the opposition’s twenty two was gathered cleanly and a driving maul was set up. Initially the away side defended it well but a well-orchestrated shift of power resulted in skipper Lewys Jones going over for the home side’s first try of the game. The kick was unfortunately not converted by Rob Sweetman, however a later penalty gave us the lead at 8-7.
Before the half time was out the away side’s upper hand in the set piece took its toll. They were able to gain some good field position and eventually managed to power over after ten minutes of pressure deep inside our twenty-two. After a strong scrum they managed to swing the ball out the blindside from which defenders had already come in to defend the previous phase of the game. The kick was successful and the game lay in the balance at half time 8-14.
Straight from the kick off Cilfynydd managed to score, it seemed to take the wind out of the home side and proved too much to overcome in the end. From the kick off the ball was collected and taken into contact. The next phase saw Max Cartwright lose possession in a collision and the ball chipped over the defensive line for the opposition’s winger to collect and dot down in the corner. The space was there as Dafydd Williams had collected a yellow card just before the break and winger Dominic Bryan went in to cover him at scrum half. They did not convert and the score was 8-19.
Discipline seemed to get the better of us at this point in the game as the referee saw fit to award a number of penalties against us. It was only a matter of time until a second yellow card came. The club’s ‘Mr Nice Guy’ John Rhys Davies was to be the recipient of the inevitable yellow card; he chased a kick up field and tackled a player just after he passed the ball on. The ref cited that JR did not use his arms in the tackle; a later explanation in the club house by the accused was that he didn’t use his arms because the player had passed the ball and he was trying to withdraw from the tackle.
During this period Cilfynnyd managed to score a fourth try and with it the game. Their forwards again took the ball forward strongly and with the extra man they managed to make it tell. This took their score to 8-24 and they seemed to be in total control of the match. The North were however not done just yet…
The last twenty minutes or so of the game was dominated by Llandaff North as they moved the ball well with more pace and purpose. Everybody seemed to raise their game and the players seemed to start running onto the ball instead of waiting for it. Powerful surges took the play up the field and eventually we found ourselves camped inside the oppositions twenty two. The forwards kept the ball close and kept the rumble on making yards each time. It wasn’t long until Pat Howell found himself with the ball from only 5 meters out. He has been in the position before and has been stopped way too easily, however on this occasion the powerful runner bashed his way over the line and managed to dot it down over the line (unlike last week). He is now on the same try tally as Danny Thomas… The score now 13-24 as Rob Sweetman missed another kick at goal.
As we looked to get back into the game Cilfynydd managed to score a penalty to take their lead out to 13-27, even though the momentum was with the home side. After that, the North again kept hold of the ball and eventually found themselves deep inside the opposition half. A number of half chances went begging before we eventually got our third try of the game. A delicate chip to the corner from Tom Jones (Yes, that is his real name) was well weighted and it seemed almost certain that the person on the end of it would score… until we realised it was front rower James Walters who proceeded to knock it on.
A second opportunity came and Cameron Slayer looked likely to cross the line as he ran a hard line a few meters out from the ruck but he was stopped well and the move eventually broke down too. As we got closer to the line we reverted to keeping the ball tight. The forwards once again utilised the pick and go effectively. After a number of phases ex club skipper Dominic Scoble managed to power himself over the line to score the final try of the game. The score ended 18-27 and Rob Sweetman missed another tricky kick, it could have seen us awarded a bonus point. Nothing taken from a game, that with one more score could have seen us come away with two well-earned points.
A big shout out to the two youth boys, Josh Edwards and Jack Copner, who came on during the second half and looked more than comfortable at playing at that level. A huge thank you to the match day help and most of all the support, it is greatly appreciated by all of the lads.