By Daniel Thomas
The North’s next opponents were Taffs Well RFC. It turned out that the weekend we were to play them was also the weekend of former North player, Matthew Wright’s birthday. Many of the boys traveling there were desperate to make it three wins out of three and deny him the opportunity to celebrate a win with his hometown club. The side that travelled were bolstered as several players had made themselves available for the first time this season. The likes of Paul Moulden, Gavin James, Victor Oldegvadsjm (God knows what his surname is) and Tobias Woods came in to bring weight and bulk to the pack whilst club coach Gavin Lucas threatened to take the field as he watched from the side line with his shorts and socks on.
The North started well with some powerful forward runners. Taffs Well looked like they were going to be in for a long afternoon as the North started positively, even spreading the ball wide and still making good yards. Within a few minutes we were awarded a penalty from which the three points were taken. It was important for the North to start well as in the previous two games we have taken ten minutes to settle into the game and start playing. Our habit of starting poorly however was not going to change this week… From the resulting kick off, we were unable to execute a clean exit play and take the ball into the opposition half. This became something of an Achilles’ heel throughout the afternoon and resulted in the home team scoring the first try. Taffs Well opted for the shortened lineout just outside our 22, leaving two or three runners in the midfield. It was one of these runners, a strong boy it must be added, that made the break as he shrugged of Victor’s challenge and got behind our defence. The scramble defence got back well but he managed to offload the ball and it was spun wide into the hands of none other than Matthew Wright who ran the try in unchallenged. He was unchallenged due to the fact the Rob Sweetman had a serious case of embarrassment cramp and couldn’t keep up with him to make the tackle that the North boys needed him to make. His serious injury was enough for him to leave the field after 4 minutes of play and saw Todger make his third appearance of the season and the North back line rejigged. This seems to be happening every week as well…
The score was perhaps a wakeup call as stern words were exchanged under the sticks. Whilst trailing 7 points to 3 the North looked the stronger team with ball in hand. The forwards were making solid yards, often beating the first defender, as a number of half breaks out wide were starting to look more promising. The pressure started to mount and it didn’t take long for the North’s first score to occur. The score came from a scrum five meters out. A solid scrummage allowed the North’s Lewys Jones to pick up from the back and deliver a neat pass off to Rhys McCarthy who squeezed through two defenders and dotted the ball down over the line. The North’s dominant display upfront was probably the story of the game and it became more apparent as the game went on. The North had now regained the lead at 10-7 and they knew they had to put clear daylight between the teams on the scorecard.
The North continued to play superb rugby; Rhys McCarthy and Lloyd Rayer were managing the game well. The simple but effective running from the forwards continued both from scrum half and one out. The enthusiasm shown by the lads to get on the ball and come from relative depth allowed them to gain momentum and get over the gain line on numerous occasions. The patterns that the North were running allowed them to play on the front foot and occasionally go wide with great effect as the centres ran strongly. The second of the North’s tries came after many phases and more pressure was applied. The ball was spread wide left as the North galloped in to the opposition 22 with relative ease. A number of tight rucks were used to try and edge closer to the line as the backs tried to assemble some sort of shape. Unfortunately that was not going to happen… Danny Thomas found himself standing in at outside half with Gavin James standing at inside centre and Lewys Jones at outside centre, no intricate move was going to be completed successfully here so a more direct option that was deployed. Puppy took the ball to the line effectively and a superbly timed pass saw Gavin James squeeze between the two defenders as the gap opened up. He was caught just before the line and looked as if he wasn’t going to get the score. However, his outstretched limbs just managed get the ball on the line as he was tackled to the ground. No further score for the North occurred in the first half. Taffs Well had a couple of penalty attempts, only one was successful and the teams went into half time at 17-10 to the North.
The first score of the second half came as the North were under a bit of pressure themselves. Whilst defending deep in their own half a quick turnover saw Rhys McCarthy dash up the blind side. He seemed to think he made many yards but it was surely after he gave the ball to Rooney that the yards were eaten up. With little space, a chip kick was deployed and a chase towards the posts ensued. The Taffs Well defence scrambled back well and regathered the ball barely 5 meters from their line. The ball was held up and the referee awarded the home side a scrum. The North’s pack were at this point ready to stamp their authority on the game as we pushed on to ensure the game was won. The front row turned it on as the rest of the pack helped run the home team into their own try zone. As the scrum broke up the North boys went straight over the top of them just to assert their dominance once again. Their number 8 was unable to collect the ball as they stumbled back at a rate of knots and Shaggy pounced on the ball for his second of the game. The kick was unsuccessful and the North led 22-10.
The North continued to struggle to clear their lines, particularly after just scoring. The fact that Paul Moulden was slapping the ball back, and not catching it did nothing to help sure up the ball from the kick offs. The game at this point was as good as over and the North didn’t seem to run the same patterns as they did in the first half. The emphasis was more on playing down inside the opposition half. Kicking for position and maintaining a solid defensive line became the priorities of the half. The game got scrappy and neither team took the initiative and kicked on. Their boys started to get frustrated as hits continued to come in. The defence looked strong as the home team found it difficult to penetrate. The home team’s answer was to send a big Fijian up the middle… He was well marshalled and both Todger and Puppy had him easily covered. It was in fact the intimidating duo that probably put him off as he was about to receive the ball as he knocked it on. Lloyd Rayer managed to react quickest to fly hack the ball and chase the ball up field. It was a clear race, Lloyd, Scoble and two defenders. Lloyd managed to control the ball as his first kicked came up around 15 meters short to nudge it over the try line. It was a close race as Lloyd managed to dot the ball down as the two other defenders dived upon him and missed the ball. Scoble was a further five meters behind at this point… The North now 29-10 up and the bonus point secured!
Taffs Well scored a try with a wide pass that looked forward but if we were honest most of us had switched off at this point. The game was won and by enlarge the defence was untroubled. Further North pressure occurred as we started to resemble some of the neat patterns of the first half. The pack worked well and took play deep into the opposition 22 from a tidy lineout. Some strong running took them towards the post and gain momentum. Wally took a lovely crash ball coming around from the blind side only to be checked by an armless challenge from the opposition’s no.8. He saw a red card after spending 10 minutes in the bin earlier in the game for reacting to an alleged stamp.
Josh Gibbs has suffered yet another season ending injury, although we may have to take this one more seriously as he wasn’t seen sprinting to the bar straight after like last time. See you training on Tuesday Josh.
From the penalty the North opted for the scrum. Another surge saw them head towards the line as the scrum popped up and the referee award a penalty try. A score that will be shared amongst the pack, but surely attributed predominately to the front row; Elfy however was not happy as it was almost a certain dab down for him. It was the third try of the game that came directly from the scrum – Well done lads. Big hand!! This took the final score to 36-15 and a great bonus point win was attained.
Players worth a small mention. Elfy showed he still has an eye for the game after his first game in 7 months. A couple of nice runs, one included a dummy, sidestep and handoff, which saw him clock up many meters throughout the afternoon. Lloyd made some super hits in the midfield – textbook around the ankles stuff that Dan Lydiate would have been proud about. On two occasions making the tackle and taking the ball as he got up! Tobias Woods was an absolute machine when he came on. Running through lads like he was playing under 8s rugby when he was 12 years old. One occasion it was noted that he tackled some guy, took the ball off him and then decided to run it back a further 10 meters. Doesn’t sound particularly noteworthy? He did this whole thing with three of their players on his back… Some great forward running from the lads upfront, Shaggy got two tries and I guess it’s only fair to mention again the front row! Da iawn Gaggsy, Wally, Josh and Shakey! Keep up the good work lads.
Many thanks again to all who turn up to make our Saturdays worthwhile. Big hand to Taffs Well RFC, catering and bar staff, coaches, faithful supporters and most importantly the lads. Cup week next! Big game at home lads!! Let’s keep it on!