WEATHER-WISE this match had everything - a sodden surface, a howling gale, misty gloom, a monsoon and ultimately some winter sunshine.
Not a great day for flowing rugby in spite of that with an unhelpful overdose of the whistle, the sheltering crowd were served up with a keenly contested spectacle. Finer skills were not appropriate and ultimately it was the home side's graft that prevailed and even allowed them the luxury of an outstanding length of the park try to crown their endeavour.
First up Penarth faced the gale and applied exactly the right tactics. Nothing adventurous, nothing flash - leave the back line boys to keep as warm as they were able and stick the ball up the jumper. Play was limited to a sequence of short telling forward carries and retaining possession. This worked well and when James Docherty's normally sound clearance kick blew back to the midst of his own three-quarters, he straight away opted either not to kick or to kick at about knee height.
Despite facing the gale and going a penalty down, it was Penarth application that won a five meter scrum which firstly collapsed but, on the second time of asking, allowed Mike Claire the familiar pleasure of falling on a ball already comfortably in goal. Quite amazingly Docherty defied the elements to blast the extra points for a 7–3 lead.
Gwernyfed however had not come to make up the numbers and their response was to use the wind to gain territory and a further three points from the boot of their number 10, Williams.
In the ensuing period of stolid home defence, the visitors strangely declined a couple of kickable penalties. This and firmly sticking to the game plan allowed Penarth the considerable achievement of defying the storm to take a half time lead as both sides galloped from torrential rain into the dressing room's welcome shelter.
To help proceedings the lights were switched on and Penarth emerged in new shirts but with unchanged tactics. In fact a replica try as, once again, a five meter scrum collapsed and it’s repeat was walked over the line. This time it was Jon Bolan dropping down and Docherty finding a wind assisted conversion easier.
The next half hour was deeply strange. Holding an eight point advantage, it was obvious that Penarth would just float the ball on the wind at every opportunity and wait for points to accumulate.
Two factors militated against this obvious scenario. Firstly and admirably Gwernyfed decided not to give Penarth any possession to kick. Additionally they were considerably aided in this by the match official who awarded a steady string of penalties, every one of which was against Penarth. Most telling of these was a yellow (Penarth's second) against the hard working Sean O’Sullivan. Jerome Bryan came on to bolster the front row at the expense of James Crothers. At the same time James Candy was substituted by Ben Donavan.
Significantly the visitor's efforts lead to nothing as Penarth's first half short ball carrying heroics now became solid tackling. Memorably in this was one absolute crasher from Docherty which dumped Dodds of Gwernyfed two meters back onto his backside and forced the end of a promising attack.
After much rugged defence the crowd enjoyed the diversion of Penarth wing Paul Collett's buttocks brightening the gloom, as not only he but his shorts got dragged down in the tackle.
Less entertainingly when the home side did break the stranglehold and force play deep into the visitors territory, only for yet another infringement decision to go against them and for the unfortunate O’Sullivan to have his second yellow which translated into a red.
No adverse decision could prevent Penarth's sterling response.
Collett again and doing much better this time as the sun emerged to spotlight him snaffling loose ball and dancing out from his own 22. His long pass swung out to a delighted Ben Donavan who looked up, didn’t rate the three opponents facing him, swerved wide and put on the afterburner. The full back did get him but such was his momentum they crashed over together. There was only time left for a failed but irrelevant conversion.
A miserable afternoon had been lit up by a glorious piece of rugby enterprise and the Penarth support celebrated victory.
A pause for international action now leaves Penarth's next scheduled action away at St Peters on Saturday, February 15.
Penarth team: James Candy (Ben Donovan), James Crothers, James Thatcher, Michael Hurley, Paul Collett, James Docherty, Rhys Morgan, Richard Merrett (captain), Joe Page, Sean O’Sullivan (Jerome Bryan), Stuart Clarke, Jon Boland, Geraint Blake, Mike Clare, Matt Sutton.