After a mixed bag of preseason games, the first game of the season was soon upon us. We opened the 2019/20 season at home against Ynysowen and were hopeful to get the ball rolling on a positive foot.
The boys started the game exceptionally well. Keeping hold of the ball and making surging runs through the defensive line. The likes of Jack Wiggins and Lewys Jones carried past the gain line and gave the team the momentum. We had spent the majority of the opening 20 minutes deep inside the opposing half but were unable to capitalise on the pressure created. Whether it be giving away a needless penalty, throwing a speculative pass or just fumbling the ball, we couldn’t turn pressure into points.
The first score of the game came the way of the visiting team. After repelling the North’s efforts in the first 20, despite losing a man to the sin bin, they were able to build some pressure of their own. A couple of needless penalties gave them great field position from which they were able to hold onto the ball. Their 14 men kept the ball and they were eventually rewarded with a penalty; they duly knocked over the kick before being returned to a full complement of players. As the North tried to regain control of the game they were dealt a huge blow. Openside flanker, Jack Copner, had to be removed from the field after trying to provide the spark needed to lift the boys. He took the ball into contact against two defenders and landed awkwardly on his ankle. Early reports are that it is nothing serious and he will be ok.
The first try of the game, and the season, came from club stalwart Daniel Thomas. A neat couple of strong runs by the charging forwards in midfield gave the team momentum. A swift move out the wing saw players brought down about 10 meters from the line. Danny Thomas was able to pick a line and run hard from the resulting ruck. Despite two defenders trying to stop him he was able to, just about, stretch out his arms and dot the ball over the line. The try was unconverted but the North now led in the game 5-3.
The remainder of the first half was much the same as the rest of the half. By and large the North held most of the possession and pressure but just could not turn that into points. Errors and indiscipline costing them both territory and points. Fair play to the Ynysowen boys, they battled hard and didn’t allow the North any respite in the contact area. The only other additions to the score line were from two penalties from which Ynysowen went into the break 9-5 ahead.
The final noteworthy event that took place in the half was during the final play. Ynysowen held onto the ball for a number of phases and started to build some rare pressure of their own. A loose ruck resulted in their scrum-half making the most of heavy defenders around him. He was able to dart through small gaps and offload the ball to supporting runners. The clean break ended up with their outside backs running straight towards the posts. A superb cover tackle from Lewys Jones about 20 meters out in front of our posts saved us from going further behind. Not only did he manage to bring down his opponent but Lewys was able to get back to his feet and jackal for the ball and ultimately win a penalty. First half ended 5 – 9.
The second half’s story was very different from the first half. After talking about keeping things simple and building further pressure the North unfortunately went through a purple patch in the game. A series of penalties gave Ynysowen their first prolonged period of pressure. However, they were able to capitalise on the opportunities that had presented themselves to them. Their first try came after a succession of penalties deep inside our own 22 meant that Owain Thomas (Chabs/Fat Jesus) was sent to the sin bin. The resulting tap penalty was taken and the North were found half asleep just after the break. Ynysowen were able to take advantage of additional numbers as the North’s defenders failed to match up correctly five meters from the line. Simple hands saw a forward canter over untouched. Score now 5 – 16.
Their second try came quite quickly and the game could have easily ran away from the North. A clean break was made through the midfield from about half way. Fortunately our back row players were able scuttle back and prevent the score, for the time being at least. A couple more phases once again saw that Ynysowen were capable of taking advantage of a numerical mismatch, this time out to the right hand side of the posts. They were unable to convert their try and the score at this point was 5 -21.
In true North fashion, they only started to play when we fall at least 15 points behind… From this point in the game we started to play with some passion. This was epitomized within a few short highlights. Josh Bowen capped his return to rugby with a strong run from deep; returning the kick he sized out his opponent and ran straight through him. It took about 65 minutes, but Eliot Gould eventually showed the boys the aggression required at ruck time; despite giving away a penalty, the manner in which he obliterated the ruck is the sort of moment the North need early in the game to motivate others to do the same. Another player who did not take a backwards step was debutant, Joshua Popple. He was aggressive throughout the game, carried well and if there was a blow up for a scuffle he was inevitably in the middle of it! Josh was later voted Man of the Match by his fellow teammates.
With the added sense of purpose in their game the North went about getting something out of it. And that they did. The final 15 minutes would once again belong to the home team. After initially withstanding some pressure, the home team worked their way up the pitch and took the opportunity to strike from a set piece. A clean ball was presented from the set piece, which in truth was a bit of a lottery for both teams throughout the afternoon (it must be noted that the scrums changed when Elton John, Seb O’Donovan, came on to sure up the scrum at tight head), and was delivered to outside half James Wilson. He set the back line in motion and neat lines from centers Daniel Thomas and Owen Marshall manipulated space in the outside channel for the looping James to exploit. Both wingers and fullback, Jack Griffiths, followed the ball around but James was able to beat the final defender by himself and cross the line to bring the score back to 12 – 21. James was later voted Man of the Match by the match ball sponsors, this week the sponsors were Sheppy, Ghandi, DH, Lloyd Morgan and Porky.
The onsurge continued as the North built further pressure and again found themselves deep inside the opposing 22. A number of penalties were conceded and yet another glorious opportunity went begging. A tap penalty was taken with several hard running options. Ex club captain, Owain Thomas, had worked himself out towards the opponent’s half backs and fancied his chances to get over from 5 meters out. The pass was delivered by Jay Bowen, another returning from his time out from the sport, but Owain was unfortunately unable to field it and the move broke down.
In credit to the North, they never gave up hope and battled until the final whistle. The enormous amount of character shown by the lads, in this instance, was rewarded with a losing bonus point; I’m sure if there was another ten minutes to play they could quite possibly have gone on to win the game. With the game coming to a close the North again found themselves deep inside the opponent’s 22. A series of unstable scrums meant that it was difficult to get clean ball to work from. The forwards carried hard and tried to get over the line but the Ynysowen defense held out valiantly. It was another ex club captain, Lewys Jones, who salvaged a losing bonus point for the team. Much like Daniel Thomas’ try earlier in the game Lewys picked out a Hadleigh Parks-esque line to beat the defenders and power over the line for the final score. The game ended 17-21.
We would like to thank Ynysowen RFC for the game and wish you the best for the rest of the season. We look forward to coming to you later in the year. We would also like to thank all of the supporters and volunteers that support the club on match day, without your support it would not be possible. We would like to congratulate our Youth team on their superb 59 – 5 victory over local rivals Old Illtydians. Onwards and upwards to next week where we travel to our nearest rivals Llandaff City.