By Daniel Thomas
Taffs Well came into the game looking to extend their unbeaten run this season whilst the North were looking for their first win. The game was an open exciting affair whereby both teams looked like they could win at different points in the game. It seamed to have everything; open running rugby, push over tries, a little bit of niggle and even a red card.
The North started the game well and seemed to have a spring in their step. The boys were running strong lines and getting beyond the gain line. It took just a few minutes for the team to sniff out its first opportunity and it was taken well. The ball was moved wide as Robert Sweetman took it on an outside loop; he ghosted past the defensive line and came up to the upcoming fullback. He deployed the chip and chase, despite having a willing runner in Sam Cartwright inside him, and scored the first try of the game in the corner. He successfully converted his own try – 0-7.
The North’s indiscipline allowed Taffs Well to get back into the game as they managed to secure some field position. Another infringement gave their kicker the chance to claw three early points and reduce the deficit. From the resulting kick off Sweetman did not manage to kick the ball the required ten meters (something he didn’t manage on three further occasions during the game) which again put us on the back foot. Taffs Well moved the ball well and managed to score their first try of the game out wide, however they were unable to convert it. They now led the game 8-7.
From here the North seemed to dominate the next ten to fifteen minutes. The forwards upped the ante at the breakdown and the resulting quick ball allowed the backs to find spaces out wide. The North’s second score came from quick ball as the Taffs Well defence struggled to realign themselves in time. Sweetman threw the ball out wide and through the hands of our fleet-footed and slight handed front row players, James Walters and Pat Howells, the ball was received by outside back Daniel Thomas. He immediately realised he did not have the required gas to go and the outside so gave the ball on to winger Sam Cartwright in space. Sam showed some decent pace and determination to finish from twenty five/thirty yards out beating a number of defenders. Sweetman converted his try and the North led 14-8.
The third of the North’s four tries came slightly against the run of play but did however give them what looked to be a fairly comfortable lead. Taffs Well had again got their hands on the ball and moved it wide well. The North’s defence was stretched and the lads continued to show determination to cover the ground and fill the gaps from one side to the other. As the ball went wide on this occasion the North’s pacey winger, Jack Tugwell, managed to gather a loose pass and sprinted for the line from around his own 22 meter line. He seemed to ignore the calls from the supporting runners (whether it was because they were too far away or he couldn’t hear them is still being disputed) and won the race as he galloped away from the defenders. Sweetman was unable to convert the try but later slotted a penalty goal to take the lead out to 22-8.
At this point the North felt like they had control of the game and perhaps started to ease off. However, Taffs Well were not ready to concede the game and battled back admirably. Their attitude towards the game has to be commended as they scored two vital tries before half time, which was a turning point in this excellent fixture. Again they were looking dangerous as they threw the ball wide and found space in the wider channels. After a number of infringements the scrum half took a quick penalty tap and threw the ball wide with only a handful of defenders against a full line of attackers. Their third try was scored in similar vein. They managed to pick up the pace of their play by being effective at the breakdown, strong runners in their backline were proving to be difficult to bring down and they levelled the game. The game was back in the balance at half time as the teams went in at 22 all.
The first fifteen minutes of the second half belonged to the home team Taffs Well. They kept hold of the ball and all of the momentum seemed to be on their side. The pressure mounted and they eventually scored from a Llandaff North scrum on their own 5 meter line. The North’s scrum had looked fairly solid throughout the game but unfortunately on this occasion it was found wanting at a crucial point in the game. As the ball was put in a well co-ordinated drive saw the Taffs Well scrum take the initiative and drive the North pack back over their own line to score what looked to be a decisive try. It was converted and the score now stood at 29-22.
The following fifteen minutes of the second half belonged to the visiting team Llandaff North. The pack were phenomenal during this period, they kept hold of the ball for long periods of time and the lineout was used effectively when gaining field position. Boys such as Lewis Wilkie and Eliot Gould were offering themselves as runners readily as we tried to wear down the defence. It was however outside back, Daniel Thomas, who managed to get the fourth bonus point try late in the game. Dafydd was organising his troops and keeping hold of the ball about 8 meters from the line. Danny managed to time his run well and Dafydd caught a glimpse of him on the charge; the ball was delivered on the gain line and the defenders found it difficult to stop the centre from close range. The try was converted and the game was at 29 all with ten minutes to go.
The game at this point had been enthralling. It had everything. It had all come to the final ten minutes and both teams were willing to fight tooth and nail for the victory, literally. There had been a few incidents of niggle throughout the game; one of which saw our giraffe Eliot Gould throw some question punches that found nothing but air… However this late in the game boys were starting to get tired and a bit more careless with the darker ‘goings on’ during the games. Taffs Well number 8 was caught throwing punches at the breakdown and saw the red card from the referee. With the North now up a man the inititative had now fallen their way. They upped the pace of the game and momentum was certainly on their side. However, Taffs Well’s defence stood strong and they found themselves victorious after a sweeping blind side move. They found themselves in possession and exploited space on the blindside to go over and score the winning try with the last try of the game. It was converted and the game finished 36-29.
A superb spectacle of club rugby in South Wales. Both teams, coaches and supporters were a credit to their clubs. We look forward to the return fixture.