By Daniel Thomas
The first game of the season, away to our arch rivals Llandaff. The kick off had been moved forward to ensure the game was finished before the Wales game started. The local derby was fiercely contested last year with the teams drawing at Llandaff and the North getting the better of their opposition at Hailey Park.
The North’s team for the first game of the season looked fairly unfamiliar. Club skipper, Dominic Scoble, a notable absentee as he is off enjoying his honeymoon whilst a host of players were playing their first game of the year as they missed the pre-season friendly. There were also four men who were making their first team debuts: flyhallf Daniel Lloyd, centre John-Rhys Davies and second rows Adam Beachey and Tom Ronicle. With many more boys to come back into the squad this can only bode well for the rest of the season.
The North started the game extremely well and took a commanding lead within the first 15 minutes. Considering the limited preparation the squad has had together; the rugby played in the first quarter looked impressive. The side appeared to run simple but effective patterns that looked well orchestrated and controlled. Strong powerful runs from the forwards were complimented by solid lines out wide. A couple of lovely touches from the boot of debutant out half Daniel Lloyd took the play deep into the home team’s 22 and it wasn’t going to be too long before the first score came. The team kept hold of the ball for a number of phases until Gav Lucas managed to force himself over the line from 10 meters out. A later penalty took the lead out to 10-0 and the game looked as if it was all but over. The rest of the half seemed fairly comfortable for the North. They appeared to be comfortable in defence with many of the lads making solid tackles but they were unable to add any further scores, which proved to be their undoing.
The rest of the game in truth got a little bit scrappy and we didn’t manage to play the same level of rugby that was played out in the first period. The breakdown was ferociously contested and not even the referee could make sense of it. The physicality of the game took its toll on a number of players throughout the game. Adam Beachey managed to hurt his ‘good knee’ and Danny Thomas damaged his ankle. This gave the opportunity for John-Rhys and Tom to come off the bench and both performed well on their respective debuts. Tom actually carried the ball into contact without losing it and JR made some solid tackles in the midfield. We also would like to send our wishes to the Llandaff openside flanker for a speedy recovery; he appeared to come off second best in an unfortunate collision and had to leave the field.
As the game went on Llandaff North’s defence didn’t seem to be as confident at holding out the home side’s efforts to breach the gain line. The game got a bit loose for a 10 minute period where Llandaff capitalised scoring two tries to level the game. The opposition’s outside half was a good runner and when given space beat defenders with relative ease. After passing a couple of defenders he managed to spread the ball wide to score the first. As the game went on they dropped the same player to fullback as the North tried to pin them back. A loose kick found their elusive runner who repeated his exploits for a second. The North took control of the game for the last ten minutes and had a number of opportunities to win the game with long range penalty kicks. Both Jordan Gibbs and Rob Sweetman attempts unfortunately went wide and the game finished 10-10.
The North’s pack played very well. They took the ball on well and created some solid momentum throughout the game. Usual suspects ran the ball hard and well; Gav Lucas probably the most effective on the day, gaining yards each time near the rucks. We seemed to have the upper hand in the scrums but unfortunately didn’t reap the rewards that they perhaps deserved on occasions. Kieran Scoble had another blinder of a game but was again unlucky not to have won a number of penalties or turnovers. The North’s backline didn’t see much of the ball as the game got more scrappy but when they did have it they created chances. There was one occasion that was quite eye catching which had the coaches’ hearts in their mouths. A deep attack starting in their own 22 meter saw fly half Daniel Lloyd run across the field and switch with JR. He then in turn threw a second switch to Rob Sweetman who thew a miss pass to winger Richard Ham who had acres of space in front of him. As he got motoring the referee brought them back for a forward pass; it was pleasing to see the boys however run the ball back well when it was on.
A huge thank you for everybody that contributed to match day preparations. Daniel Blakemore has taken his role to new levels, it was greatly appreciated by all of the lads. Thank you to Llandaff RFC for hosting the game and we look forward to the return fixture. We were extremely grateful for the amount of support that travelled to the game to watch us play and hopefully we will get the same turnout for Aberdare at home next week.