This week the North aimed to obtain their first home victory of the season against Hirwaun RFC, who have yet to win a league game. Over the previous couple of weeks the North have struggled to get going from the off and have left it to the last twenty minutes to try and get something from the game. The emphasis was on starting strong to build confidence and put them in a healthy position to win the game.
The North did exactly that. In the opening twenty minutes the home side asserted their dominance in the contact area and looked dangerous when the ball was moved wide. A number of charging runs at the heart of the defence proved fruitful whilst the outside backs were able to capitalise on the copious amounts of space afforded to them. Despite the promising start however, the North were unable to take advantage of the positive elements of their play. Several scoring opportunities went begging and perhaps the best part of twenty points were left on the field.
One neatly constructed move saw fly half, Owen Marshall, find space in the outside channels with his fullback and winger outside him. From the sidelines, it appeared to be a clear three on two opportunity with ample space to work within. Slight hesitation from the ball carrier and the runners outside him saw that extremely promising chance fizzle out. The next opportunity that went begging came from a lovely chip through into the backfield. James Wilson won the race to the bouncing ball with only 10 meters left to go. Instead of trying to dribble the ball over the line to dot it down he decided to try and pick it up. There wasn’t a player in sight and it was unfortunately knocked on with the try line agonisingly close. Another opportunity went as a huge overlap was created to the right. The ball sensibly went through a couple of pairs of hands, even Owain Thomas’, as it was obvious where the space was. Jordan Rockey found himself in the thirteen channel and decided the best option was to hold onto the ball rather than pass it to Richard Ham with a winger outside him. As Rockey hesitated the defender tackled him, ball and all, and the scoring opportunity had vanished. To rub salt in the wound Jordan decided to feign injury to win the support back from his fellow players. There were other opportunities too, but the last one that we will mention will be from our current top try scorer Owain Thomas. The powerful running forward once again showed his carrying prowess; bullocking through the defensive line and swatting off several defenders. With a clear run-in to the line Owain decided to pass the ball to the apparently supporting Eliot Gould. However, the ball just floated in the air before dropping to the floor and being gathered up by the defending team.
Even without capitalising on the opportunities mentioned above the North still managed to go into the break with a 12 – 0 lead. A superb driving maul from a lineout was deployed and Owain Thomas got his fourth try of the season so far; benefiting from the good work done before him. A second score occurred as Eliot Gould punched through a gap in the midfield. An obvious pass to the oncoming James Wilson would have meant a certain score. But this was just after a quick discussion about not throwing any more miracle passes. Eliot decided to keep hold of the ball as Jack Copner and winger Josh Bowen cleaned out the ruck effectively. The quick ball was presented back to Owen Marshall who found prop Jack Wiggins occupying the space left on the wing. He was able to power himself over the line.
The second half is where the North usually come into the game. It was however, Hirwaun that dominated the play during this period and essentially controlled the rest of the game. The North’s ill discipline, exuberant play and a couple of missed clearances meant that the lion’s share of the half was spent deep inside their own half. Owen Marshall uncharacteristically made a number of mistakes when kicking to touch which allowed the visiting team to keep applying pressure. There was a twenty minute period during which the North battled valiantly with their backs against the wall. The defensive line repelled almost all of the attacks that Hirwaun could muster. The pressure did however ultimately pay dividends for the visiting team. Jack Copner was the unfortunate recipient of the yellow card after a couple of penalties were conceded in quick succession. From the resulting lineout Hirwaun were able to obtain momentum in a driving maul which led to a penalty try.
The North has to develop better exiting strategies to relieve the pressure that will be placed upon them in future. On occasions the North bravely tried to run the ball from deep rather than clearing their lines and starting again from further up the field. Without wanting to quell confidence and ambition when going from deep, they have to be mindful when they are under the pump. There was one phase whereby prop, Jack Wiggins, flicked an audacious pass deep inside his own twenty two. Daniel Thomas tried to clear up from behind his try line passing it onto the other prop Joshua Gibbs. Josh admirably took on two defenders inside his dead ball area and slipped a cheeky offload back to Daniel Thomas. He then sent it out to winger Josh Bowen to power his way back into the field of play. From the resulting ruck it was Jack Wiggins who put boot to ball to clear. Not the sort of play we need in a game with such a close margin.
The North managed to get themselves on the ball and build some momentum themselves in the final ten or fifteen minutes of the game. One player that caught the eye was returning flanker Garin Prosser. It was his first game for the club this season and his impact was probably most notable in his defensive effort. He made several effective first up tackles, particularly from quick tap penalties that were taken. We will on this occasion forgive him for his poor handling skills as it was his first game; he dropped the ball from the very first kick off of the game without an iota of pressure being applied. Garin won the match day sponsor, David Edmonds of More Metrics’, Man of the Match. Captain Eliot Gould also stood out, not just because of his height, but his ball carrying too. He is becoming a more prominent carrier for the club and is often breaking defensive lines. The jury is still out on whether he is actually making yards with his carries or whether it’s just an optical illusion with his gangly legs. Eliot was later voted Man of the Match by his fellow players.
A couple more half chances were created before the end of the game but it just seemed like it was going to be one of those days for the North. James Wilson again broke clear through the middle of the park from a nicely timed pass from Daniel Thomas but the team were unable to build from it. The North need to become more clinical if they are going to continue to challenge at the top end of the league this season.
It was great to see that the North were able to field an athletic game this weekend as well. They played home against Canton and came second. It is just great to see more lads getting game time and boys starting to turn up more regularly. Other news had it that Galo scored his first try for the club too. No mean feat considering he still doesn’t understand the rules…
Thank you for all the match day support and volunteers. It could not be done without you all. We appreciate everybody that gives up their time to make it happen and it means a lot to the lads to see so many on the sidelines. We would also like to thank Hirwaun for the game and we look forward to coming up to yours later in the season.