Saturday 17th August 2013 By Daniel Thomas
It was the first game of the season, an opportunity for the boys to get out there and blow away the cobwebs, and low and behold the weather decided to ruin any chances of an open, free flowing game of rugby (not the skill level of the players involved). A slightly disappointing turn out for the North, however there were enough numbers for many of the players involved to get good game time and try out positions in which they have expressed a desire to play during the upcoming season.
The game itself was split into four 20-minute ‘halves’, which was decided upon before thegame started, which allowed both management teams to look at a range of different combinations. The first ‘half’ saw the away team start far quicker than the North. Llanishen managed to keep hold of the ball for a decent period of time an apply pressure whilst in the North’s 22. A dogged determination was shown by the defence to ensure they didn’t fall behind but errors and indiscipline allowed Llanishen to keep most of the ball and dictate the play. Even with most of the possession the North’s hardworking and well-organised defence did not succumb to the persistent attacks, and this was much of the story throughout the game. It was evident that Llanishen came with a plan of using their ‘larger’ front five with an effective driving maul from the lineout, they appeared to gain good ground each time they set it up but someone always managed to foil their attempts at crossing the line. The only score of the first ‘half’ came against the run of play. The ball seemed to bounce off several players, many of which were suspect knock-ons, after a scrapy lineout on one of the North’s infrequent visits to the away team’s 22. The ball eventually settled and Rhys Foley was quickest to react (mainly because everyone stopped expecting a knock-on to be called), snapping up the ball and running clear from a few metres out to score the opening try of the game. The conversion was successfully slotted over by the club’s fattest back, Rob Sweetman. North up 7-0 at the first first half.
The second half started with both teams making many changes in personnel and positions. The weather seemingly got worse throughout the game (again the poor standard of rugby not attributed to the players’ ability). This ‘half’ the North obtained a larger per cent of possession and were able to impose themselves on the game a little more. They had decided to slow the play down and secure the ball better than the first half (this was not going to be difficult). The pack stepped up their efforts at the contact area and very few rucks had the level of disruption that was experienced in the first period. With better ball we were able to get some forwards running short powerful lines and occasionally gave the ball out to the back to express themselves. The weather ensured the ball did not reach the wingers however… The only score of this half came after some solid work by the pack, two or three quick rucks from short powerful runs from the loose forwards gave the opportunity to move the ball. A perfectly weighted pass from the scrum half, who will remain anonymous, allowed the period’s outside half Hywel James to step his opposite number and cross the line from 10 metres out. The kick was this time successfully converted by Grant Hollingworth. Half time North 14 – Llanishen 0.
The third half, or actually the first of our second ‘halves’ did not catch much of the imagination as neither side were able to cross the whitewash. This period seem to be much more of an arm wrestle than the previous two with both teams having sustained periods of pressure. Moments of note during this period were when Jordan Gibbs decided to pick on the winger, and anybody else that stood in front of him (must have had his happy pills at half time), and where Bob Holwill almost scored a try that started from the North’s own 22. A break from Richard ‘Rooney’ Ham got the away team running towards their own line but the final line of defence proved too much for the elusive winger as he opted for the chip over the top. As the ball stuck in the moist puddles created by the adverse weather, Rooney was able to fly hack the ball towards the line on numerous occasions. A couple of defenders had made it back by this time with some of the North’s flyers and a fierce struggle for the ball ensued, it was only when the ball popped up in front of prop Bob Holwill, much to the amazement of most spectators (Most of the team playing as they were still a good 25-30 metres away from the ball) that everyone expected him to cross the whitewash. However, it was again the rain that hindered the performance of such an athlete as he was unable to gather the ball successfully and the chance went begging…
The final half, the second second half or whatever it should be called was probably the most exciting period. The weather for this final period actually started to improve… It’s typical that the only time we could actually start to play any rugby is when everybody was already knackered. There was no doubt about it that the North were probably the second best team during the final period, the resilient defence of the previous halves was found wanting on several occasions. It was out wide where Llanishen found most of their gaps as they expanded their game when the weather dried up, it was probably lucky for us they started with the forward driving game else it could have been a long afternoon… They were buoyed by the first score of the period where a sweeping move the their right with some accurate passing was executed well and saw their outside backs score a well-deserved try that was successfully converted, 14-7. It was against the run of play, as Llanishen continued their pursuit to get on level terms, when North scored what turned out to be the decisive score. As the away team looked to spread the ball wide Rob Sweetman sneaked an opportunity for an interception from the scrum half’s pass. It must be said that he must have been offside as a man of his size could not have moved the required 7 metres by the time the scrum half had passed the ball, this was a point that many of the away supporters were trying to make to the official which resulted in them getting a ‘school boy, finger waggling’ telling off after the conversion. When Sweetman did catch the ball he started running in the correct direction towards the posts, however he did not have the gas to go all the way. Fortunately for him there was a slighter back running alongside him who did have the required gas, a short pass to the North’s Danny Thomas saw him go over under the sticks which again was converted successfully by Rob Sweetman, 21-7. The final score of the game from the away team came again down the left hand side of the defence from a sweeping move. The post-game analysis found that the left winger was in fact the North’s usually dependable Hywel James… When asked about this in the club house he cited a ‘sore calf’ was the reason he did not have it covered. Final score Landaff North 21 – Llanishen 14.
A quick thank you for everybody’s efforts on the match day! That’s the referee, players, groundsmen (Shep), management, bar staff, caterers and of course our committed supporters who all braved the weather!