By Daniel Thomas
The Fairwater fixture is always a tough game that many of the boys pick out at the beginning of the season; it is often fiercely competitive with many scores to settle between friends and foe. This week’s fixture was to be no different and both teams were eager to start 2017 in the correct manner.
The first half was extremely frustrating. Both sides had periods of pressure but were unable to make any real impact on the score sheet. The North probably shaded the first half in terms of possession and control; but their lack of ability to convert chances into points meant the score line was only 3-0 going in at the mid way whistle.
The first period was littered with errors and missed opportunities. Our forwards played a hard strong running game around the fringes and often made a couple of yards with each carry. However, when it really mattered in the oppositions twenty two, mistakes were made in the manner of knock-ons or holding onto the ball when the pass was clearly on. Despite making the inroads in attack when Fairwater had possession they were also able to obtain momentum. Although there weren’t many missed tackles, we often let the oppositions pack come onto us in the tackle rather than meet them and challenge them on the gain line.
One real opportunity from the first half is worthy of a mention in the write up… It fell to fly-half Tom Jones who looked almost certain to score. The forwards continued to carry the ball forward close to the ruck, effectively gaining a couple of yards with each drive. The ball came out, from scrum half Dafydd Williams, as the space out wide became apparent. Although there was an overlap, Tom saw the defensive line scarpering back and spotted the gap from ten meters out. He darted between two defenders and broke clear; a dive from this range would have seen him score his first try for the black and ambers. However, a superb covering tackle managed to hold up the ball over the line and it was yet another clear cut opportunity that went missing. It is safe to say Lewis Wilkie was not happy with not being given the ball at this point (there may be a reoccurring theme through this write up).
At the half time the game was still very much in the balance despite the North having the lion’s share of possession and clear cut opportunities. It was discussed at how our forwards were being effective, yet how more width would make larger holes in the defensive line. Everybody’s eyes (including a raging Lewis Wilkie) looked towards skipper Lewys Jones and Owain Thomas who had this point taken it upon themselves to hold onto the ball on every occasion they had it in the first half.
The second half was more eventful and bared greater fruits for the home side. A number of cards were given as on occasions the game started to get a bit scrappy. This meant that there was more space on the pitch and it wasn’t long until the first score of the game came.
The score came from a line out deep inside the oppositions twenty two. A superbly executed lineout set a driving maul in action. The usual wrestle for the possession ensued and on this occasion Owain Thomas managed to get his hands on the ball and controlled the maul from the back. The front five led the way to the line as he broke off merely yards away to score his second try of the season. The try was unconverted by Tom Jones but at least the North had a lead of more than one score.
At this point the game was still in the balance and both teams were still trying to assert themselves on the game. With around twenty five minutes to go in the game the North managed to obtain a second score which really took the wind out of the opposition and made the game safe for the home side. Fairwater were in control of the ball and looking to probe the defence to find gaps; after a number of phases they looked to move the ball wide as they had drawn in defenders in the preceding phases. The North’s Danny Thomas read the play well from an unusual position on the wing and snapped up an interception on the half way line. A quick juggle to control the ball was required before the fleet footed winger took off. (By take off, I mean lumber his way in the direction of the try line). He ran clear of all defenders and support runners as he approached the ten meter line. At this point the Christmas binge had evidently taken its toll as the legs started to become heavy. The drone of faint laughter was filling the air around him. The giggle of Rob Sweetman on the side lines drowning out the chuckles of the faithful followers. By the time Danny had entered the twenty two nobody knew whether he had the legs or not to make it to the try line. He didn’t… hauled down barely five meters from the line. The ball was shuffled back but unfortunately the move broke down and a scrum to Fairwater was awarded.
From that scrum the North’s front row took heed and took control of the game. An almighty push took the ball against the feed and skipper Lewys Jones managed to score from the back. A try surely attributed to the efforts put in by the front five in front of him. The scrum had worked superbly well throughout the fixture, often making it difficult for the visiting team on their ball whilst providing an excellent platform for us to attack from… Though we did not get it into our centres hands as Lewys enjoyed picking it up from the base all day… I think that’s right isn’t it Wilks? The kick was converted and we now led in the game 15-0.
With the game now won the North started to throw the ball around and look far more dangerous in attack. A superb third try was scored from an excellent counter attack. Jordan Gibbs returned a kick and managed to offload the ball in the tackle to Tom Jones. He then managed to put quick feet on the defenders and break clear once again. This time he opted to draw the final defender and pass wide to the supporting Joseph O’Sullivan who swan dived over the line untouched. The kick was unconverted and the game stood at 20-0. The North were in total control and never really felt like losing the game in the second half. From here it was about pressing for the fourth try bonus point.
Unfortunately the final 10 minutes of the game belonged to the visiting team as they once again managed to keep hold of the ball and applied pressure of their own. Despite having a lot of the ball deep inside our twenty two they did not really threaten the line until ill discipline took hold. Danny Thomas was first to see yellow as he lined up a strong forward runner and struck hard, unfortunately the referee cited no arms in the tackle and he was first to receive his marching orders. Within minutes Kieran Scoble followed for infringements at the ruck. With thirteen men it was always going to be difficult to keep out the visiting team. Eventually the numbers told as the ball was thrown wide, and Rory tried to replicate Pup’s intercept unsuccessfully, and their winger cantered in untouched in the corner in the final play of the game. The kick was missed an the game finished 20-5.
A very tough fixture where we managed to pull through, well done to all of the lads – a huge effort after I’m sure was an unforgiving Christmas break. We need to keep working hard together to ensure we can keep our run going. A huge amount of appreciation goes out to those who came out to support the lads and everyone who helps us out on game days! A special mention goes out to fly half Tom Jones’ old man, Richard Jones, who showed his appreciation for the lads by buying a round for the boys after the game! Very much appreciated and anybody else wishing to do so in the future please feel free!