Saturday 31st August 2013 By Daniel Thomas
Due to a freak accident in the week, resulting in a bad shoulder, I was able to spend the day watching the game from the side lines rather than on the pitch so this week’s write up will be comprehensive! The sun was out and a sell-out crowd filled ‘the hill’ for this week’s encounter. The faithful travelling supporters were found in inappropriate clothing as they were caught in jeans when the temperature clearly warranted shorts, flip flops and cider… one of which they had an excessive amount of. Compliments must be mentioned to the groundsman, the pitch was perfect for a free running game of rugby, short grass, clear white lines and two posts on either side of the pitch!
The game was split into three periods this week, the previously planned 4 periods of 30 minutes was agreed to be optimistic by both coaches as they looked at their squads before kick off in the unexpected sunshine of South Wales. The first period saw Bridgend Sports gain momentum and obtain a stronghold early on during the match. Loose scrums and lineouts ensured that the North was kept under a lot of pressure in their own half for most of the period. In fact, a lost lineout on their own 22 resulting in two phases that spanned the width of the pitch and back again, allowed an opposing winger to cross in the corner to provide us with the opening score of the game. Their conversion attempt was unsuccessful… 0-5.
It was at this point that many of the travelling supporters had realised that the faithful ‘Sniper’ that spends many weekends down at Hailey Park had decided to travel away with us this weekend as well! The North’s Hywel James was first to be targeted in the midfield whilst Grant Holllingworth took a shot whilst trying to prevent the first score, in an off the field discussion Grant mentioned something about a hamstring but I’m not so sure… Due to the ‘shootings’ a couple of changes were forced upon the North where they had to call upon Chris Gordon and Jordan Gibbs to enter the fray.
The restart from the opening score saw Bridgend run almost the length of the pitch and gave the other winger an opportunity to stretch his legs. It was only the fact that Jordan Gibbs had fresh legs that he was able to scuttle across and deny them a second score with a superb try saving tackle, resulting in a knock on. From the wobbly scrum that ensued the ball escaped out the back, scrum half Richard Ham was unable to deal with it and it fell to the heroic acts of Chris Ferrier to dive upon it 5meters from the line, saving another almost certain try for the home team. By this time the sniper had had chance to reload, take aim and shoot… his next victim, Ginger Dave, who decided that his dead leg was enough to keep him out of contention for the rest of the game. The North’s Chris Gordon provided a moment of individual brilliance with his first touch since coming on, a shrewd dummy, sidestep and handoff saw him make a clear break from a scrum in the midfield. All that was missing was an inside centre with enough gas to cross over from an inside back’s break (I don’t know who did it in the last game). The support was not there and the move broke down. As the North obtained more possession and try to impose themselves on the game a second score came for the home team, a no-look pass wide from centre Darren Hatton on the 22 meter line saw their centre intercept the looping pass and cross under the sticks. The kick was successful and the North trailed 0-12.
The scrappy nature of the first period continued and resulted in many more scrums and lineouts. After another unsteady scrum the North were able to gain an unlikely boost before the break, a kick over the top from seething centre Darren saw the ball ungathered and bouncing in the home team’s 22. A chase, from the ever hardworking, Jordan Gibbs enabled him to juggle the ball past three defenders (how he did not knock the ball on is beyond me) and swan dive into the corner. He was unable to convert his own try and the North trailed in the game going into the break 5-12.
As the second period demanded coach Gavin Lucas sent on his heavy cavalry. The likes of Gavin James, Kel Ross, Dan Hyde, Josh Gibbs and skipper Dominic Scoble came into the pack to give them more steel. These players, with those still on from the first half were able to impose themselves more on the game during the period and the North ran some good looking patterns. A mixture of hard yards and wide expansive rugby was displayed as Rob Sweetman, the period’s outside half, orchestrated the play well. The first score of the period came as the North’s Hywel James was able to recollect a chip and chase, from his more accustomed position at fullback, and skilfully deliver a tricky pass to an unmarked Gavin James (who had definitely retreated the required 10 meters) on the wing to gallop the 35 meters required and score under the posts. The kick however was unsuccessfully converted by, the ever hardworking, Jordan Gibbs 10-12.
The next score of the period, which the North seemed to dominate, came after a beautiful phase of play which started in their own 22. A steady platform from the scrum gave the opportunity for the backs to counter attack from deep. A simple 2 on 1 was carried out effectively by Rob Sweetman and Chris Gordon with the latter striding down the field to be tackled by the sweeping fullback around the half way line. A couple of effective rucks saw the away team continue to gain ground into the opposition half and some fantastic interplay between forwards and backs broke the second line of defence which was retreating frantically at this point. The champagne rugby displayed was a delight for the travelling support. Prop Bob Holwill, again showing in successive games that he is able to keep up with play, showed a lovely set of hands with an inside behind the back slip pass to put outside back Hywel James clear only for him to keep onto the ball when surely a pass of similar calibre would have meant a certain seven points… The play broke down 5 meters from the line and the referee presented the North with a penalty from which they opted for the scrummage due to dominance of the pack during the period. The decision proved to be an inspired one as they managed to cross the line with a pushover try, the number eight James Walters dotted down for a try surely attributed to and shared amongst the pack. A successful kick was made by the club’s fattest back Rob Sweetman, 17-12 (the score, not his weight). The period continued to open up and loose kicks, flicks and tricks allowed for open rugby which was enjoyed by all on ‘the hill’ but there was no further score to be noted.
The third and final period was more of an even contest between the two teams. Some strong runs from forwards Kel Ross and James Walters were making notable contributions to the North going forward whilst Ieuan Bristow continued to chase the ball down and tackle fearlessly as he had for the previous two periods. It was Bridgend Sports however who had seemed to start quicker and appeared to score a perfectly legitimate try. A chip and chase from their outside backs saw them collect it and cross over in the far corner… It was only for their linesman (a fully paid member of Llandaff North RFC’s patron club) to scratch it off citing a foot in touch. Another almost certain seven points went begging for the home side as Rob Sweetman threw an intercept pass at the opposition 10 meter line but luckily for him the player was unable to gather it cleanly. It is at this point in the write up where I have remembered to note that I had no concerns in defence down the right hand side… The North’s prop Josh Gibbs had made it his own responsibility to ensure that area of the field was covered for most of the game! Well done son – it was just as well mind as he did save a try, coming in to close down a clear overlap during the second period!
With around 12 minutes to go Bridgend Sports took the initiative and the lead which they wouldn’t surrender again. A powerful run from their centre broke the tackles of three North defenders who will remain unnamed. I am sure however, he did make the brake through the centre, bounced off the skipper (Scoble, not Elfy) trying to cover and then broke the challenge of the tallest man on the pitch, Kel. The kick was successful despite the exhaustive efforts of Gavin James to charge it down so late in the game. North trailed 17-19. The final score of the game also unfortunately fell to the home team. A scrum on the 10 meter line in the middle of the park gave their scrum half (could have been a forward mind) an opportunity to run around, the ever hardworking, Jordan Gibbs with relative ease. A professional opinion from the club’s physio Keith Davies was that Jordan Gibbs did not get shot from the evidently present sniper when the try was scored, but did suffer from a serious case of embarrassment injury. The kick was unsuccessful and the North managed to secure a losing bonus point… 17-24.
I would just like to take this opportunity to note that the rumours of the transfer saga of Nonu coming to the North, to sure up the midfield, before the transfer window closes are unfounded. Chris Ferrier has showed the coaching staff that he is clearly up for the role. Well done all for taking part! A decent turn out!! Thanks to the referees, Bridgend Sports, the faithful travelling support, the coaching staff and of course the lads for their efforts on the field!
Don’t forget BEACH PARTY next week!! Bring a friend please!