By Daniel Thomas
Today’s fixture, away to Pentyrch, was an early kick of due to international fixture against Argentina. Many players had made themselves unavailable on what will be, I’m sure, an important weekend for the club. Both sides were going in to the game with an indifferent start to the season and looking to really kick start their season with a good victory. The North looked as if they were going to struggle upfront as no less than six players, who have already played back row this season, were unavailable and a make shift back row had to be deployed. There were three youth players in the starting line up and one on the bench as a depleted team took to the field.
The first 15 minutes of the game was completely dominated by the home side. They controlled the ball and seem to make yards up the field with each and every carry. The North seemed to be in for a long evening as they gave the home team far too much respect. In truth, Pentyrch could have been 20 points up within this period but for missed opportunities. They started the scoring off with a driving lineout that was unable to be stopped by the make shift pack. A further penalty was added moments later and the home side led 8-0 with less than 10minutes on the clock. The next period of play undoubtedly changed the game. Pentyrch had several chances to score tries and let each one slip as the North’s scramble defence defiantly denied them. This then gave the away team the belief they needed to take the game to their opponents.
The North eventually gathered themselves together and kept hold of possession for long enough to apply some pressure of their own. A penalty saw a kick up the line to gain field position around the opposition’s 10 meter line. A superb catch and drive from the lineout took the play a further 15/20 meters up the field; scrum half Dafydd Williams thought he saw a gap up the blind before being shepherded out into touch. From the resulting lineout Pentyrch threw the ball long and too deep for their line out jumper. Dafydd then helped the ball backwards toward out half Rob Sweetman. He in turn showed a good set of hands as the whole backline drew their men and allowed John Rhys Davies to score untouched in the far corner. The score went in 8-7 at half time.
The second half belonged to the visiting team. After the second half of the first period, confidence was now running high amongst the players. The unfamiliar combinations were starting to click and the driving maul was again deployed with devastating effect. A superb lineout drive saw prop, Gareth Harrison, peel off the blind side and dive over the line. The five-meter line. He did however have enough time to get back up, trudge along a further five meters and dot the ball down for the score. The North now led 12-8.
The North’s third try came from a superb attacking play which involved both forwards and backs. The hard running forwards managed to get go forward ball far beyond the gain line close to the rucks. The rucking was effective and the ball was clean for Dafydd to pick the right option. After a number of phases, and the defence retreating, the scrum half noticed that the defence had not numbered up to the attackers well on the right hand side. A quick couple of sets of hands saw Joseph O’Sullivan run clear and dot down in the far corner. A further two penalties were converted and the North led 23-8 going into the last ten minutes of the game.
Up until this point there were some very strong performances. Youth players, Joshua Edwards and Jack Copner, were holding their own in the pack. Josh was being tenacious around the contact area as Jack found himself effective at the breakdown and in the wider channels. A solid scrum performance from the tight five gave us a great platform to work from as George covered the number eight position admirably, continuing to give restless performances for the team. At this point I suppose we should mention that captain, Danny Thomas, made an appearance at six and did not look too much out of place (I promise not to talk too much about it – but I thought I had a really good game haha).
Out wide the boys looked comfortable (if we forget the first 15 minutes) and seemed to grow in confidence as the game went on. Rory ran some strong lines and on another day would have made many more yards, if it were not for the forward passes… Sweetman. Unfortunately we were unable to see the other youth player, Jack Griffiths, in all his glory. A player with obvious strengths (out and out pace), yet we need to stop passing the ball either a) behind him or b) behind him and to the floor.
The last ten minutes should have been where we went and pushed for the bonus point try. Pentyrch however had different ideas, they fought back admirably and didn’t give up until the final whistle. Late in the game our fourth youth player decided that he needed to do something to also make the write up… Step forward, Jack Wiggins. A Pentyrch player had been earlier sin binned for entering a fracas from half way across the field. Not to be outdone, Jack decided to make his way to a brawl late in the game from no less than 30 meters. For consistency the referee had no option but to show him the yellow card.
The game was at this point won as the North defended strongly and kept hold of the ball deep inside their own half. Joseph O’Sullivan was talking to the ref and knew it was a matter of seconds until the final whistle. What was he to do? Fall back deep inside the twenty two and receive the ball from Daf to kick it out and end the game? This was, I’m sure, his intention as the ref told him he had 11 seconds to go. Daf’s shocking pass however did not reach him, thus making Joe fumble the ball forward barely one meter shy of our own line… with 11 seconds to go. The resulting scrum saw them spread the ball wide (Where Jack Wiggins should have been) to score in the corner and claim a losing bonus point. 23- 18. (They must have had a kick somewhere too).
All in all a gutsy performace from a team that has not played together much at all. The lads who pulled on the jersey did themselves proud and will certainly help us in the long run when developing strength in depth. With so many regular first team boys to come back into the squad, things are starting to look more positive. Well done lads and thank you to Pentyrch RFC for hosting us.