The first round of the cup saw local rivals, Caerau RFC, make the short journey to Hailey Park on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. After last week’s heroic win at Llandaff, the North were forced to make a couple of changes due to injuries and it was a good opportunity to give boys who haven’t had much game time a run out.
Caerau turned up with what seemed to be a full complement of players. Their usual dynamic and powerful back row again proved to very effective whilst their outside backs were able to run hard and make ground in the wider channels.
The opening exchanges looked positive for the home team. Early carries from some of the heavy forwards looked to set the tone of the game. However, a neat line out and strike move saw ex-Llandaff North player, Dwayne Isles, cross over in the corner. He almost scored a second try from another sweeping move within ten minutes but fortunately it was not given as the referee deemed the final pass to have gone forward. The visiting Caerau did however go two scores ahead as a loose forward showed true grit and determination to break a number of tackles down the short side from a lineout. He made excellent yards before being brought down just shy of the line; his teammates however were able to muscle over and ensure the score.
The North hit back with a superbly worked try. They showed great character and again ran hard towards the Caerau defense. Ex-club captain, Owain Thomas, was able to powerfully break tackles and fight his way over the line for his third try in two games. It was a barn storming charge which saw him add over 15 meters to his carrying numbers for the afternoon.
The momentum briefly swung in the North’s favour and they showed great endeavor to get back into the game. Unfortunately a couple of mistakes allowed Caerau to capitalise twice before the break. Owain Thomas surrendered the ball to the opposing scrum half and the half-back was able to gallop up most of the field to score. On another occasion I believe it was Owain Thomas who forced a turnover in the contact area but as the North looked to play the ball the move broke down. A couple of pairs of deft hands saw the ball go behind hard running prop, Jack Wiggins. He was unable to gather the ball whilst the Caerau outside backs outsprinted the cover defense to score again. The North trailed Caerau 24 – 7 at half time.
In years gone by the North would have capitulated and a cricket scoreline would not have been unusual. However, the current group of players are proving much better than that. Despite conceding another try or two in the second half they did not give up and scored a number of tries themselves. At times they worked themselves back to within a score or so but it was Caerau that seemed to control the game. Though, the North will take some pride in winning the second half 15 – 14.
The North stuck at their task, even after several changes being made. The likes of David Goodwin, Ryan Wall, Andrew Williams, Thomas Llewellyn and Chris Curnow all made their first appearances of the season. Unfortunately for Ryan, he was forced off early on into the game through illness. The others however all contributed well in the game. Andrew, Thomas and Dave battled admirably whilst Curnow reminded us how deadly he could be. From a well constructed scrum move, Chris was able to cross over the line in the far corner. A questionable offload out of the back from Owain Thomas, who claims it was the best offload in the world, ever (it looped over to Owen Marshall for about 5 seconds), saw Marshy deliver a neat 10 yard pass across to the hard running winger. Curnow had a lot to do at this point to beat the cover defense. He ran hard, like he had done previously in the game, and was able to cross the white wash despite incurring an injury which he could not overcome. Further amendments had to be made which saw usual loose forward coach Ryan Crimmins end up in the center.
Other replacements had to be made as the game went on and several players ended up in positions foreign to them. Jack Griffiths ended up operating at scrum half whilst Andrew Williams and Dave Goodwin continued to plug away despite worrying signs. Dave Goodwin took several knocks to the head but in fairness stuck to the task whilst Andrew just looked like he couldn’t breathe from about 5 minutes after his introduction. Despite the rearrangements the North continued to make inroads into the visiting team’s defense. Jack Griffiths, in particular, spearheaded the way. He made two excellent breaks from deep within his own half, beating several defenders with his pace and dancing feet. He also became an astute general, ordering the forwards to carry hard and controlled the way in which they went about their work. Jack was later voted for the North’s Man of the Match.
From some of the North’s surging breaks came two resulting scores. They spent small periods of pressure deep inside Caerau’s half. On one occasion today’s captain, Jordan Gibbs, was orchestrating an attack deep in the 22. He had plenty of time to assess his options and started to marshall the players around him. After looking up he saw Joshua Popple, a recent addition to the squad who is proving to be a willing and effective carrier, in support. A quick nod back and forth, and an inside call, and they were ready to deploy the deadly attacking move. Jordan took the pass and attempted to draw some defenders (of which not one took the bait) and offered the ball back inside to the tireless loose forward. Popple was given the ball with at least three defenders in front of him. On this occasion, even he had to succumb to their challenges and got stopped dead on the gainline. There is no shame in this Josh, please refrain from feigning injury in the future.
The two scores came from the North’s gangly forwards who decided to carry hard. Co-club captain, Eliot Gould, got his first score in four years as he powered his way over the line whilst fellow second row Josh Baker forced his way over the line for his first score for the club. Caerau were able to take advantage of space afforded to them in the second half and scored two tries for themselves. One of which gave me another moment that I reflect on with a smirk. Caerau worked the ball wide left and made a half break. As they were eating up the yards the North’s defense were scuttling in retreat. At that moment the ball was swung back right and most defenders halted their movements in order to stop the oncoming opponents. Not Thomas Llewellyn however, he had not noticed the ball coming back towards him and continued to run the same line. It stood out even more so as it was through his channel they ran. It looked as if Thomas was running a great supporting line rather than trying to append his opponent. The game ended 38 – 22.
We would like to thank Caerau RFC for coming to us for this cup fixture and look forward to seeing you in the league during the season. We would also like to take this opportunity to thank all of the support we continue to get, it is greatly appreciated. The bottom line is that we were not good enough this week. Back to training to prepare ourselves for the trip to Cefn Coed next week – keep up the good work lads.