PORTH HARLEQUINS 27pts
PENARTH RFC 1st XV 26
IF you’ve a jaded pallet for rugby and believe the current game is dominated by reset scrums and aimless kicks, then your faith would have been restored up the Rhondda Valley last Saturday.
These two sides served up nine tries in 80 minutes of high paced entertainment and skill, with only one point separating them at the finish; great stuff.
Penarth set off facing the cold wind and early pressure came from the home side. A five metres line out was successfully defended but the subsequent possession was turned over and flicked out to home centre Rowlands who faced a defensive gap wide enough for him to skip through under the posts.
The Penarth response was immediate and determined. Rhys Lakin ran forcefully and fed the elusive James Thatcher who just failed to wriggle through. Nevertheless, the attacking base was established and allowed the powerful Penarth front eight to shove the home pack back over their own line where Scott Mackie dropped down to set up the equalising score.
Seven points each was how it stayed for half an hour of vigorous to and fro competition until Penarth failed to secure ball and put pressure on themselves in their own 22. Porth sustained their attack at close quarters before releasing No 10 Morgan who needed only a two metres dash to touch down.
Penarth’s response was electric. Thatcher sidestepped from deep, releasing Lakin and then Ben Donovan who, although brought down just short, still managed to feed James Docherty whose delightful slip pass found Lakin re-entering and rounding off the move under the posts. The conversion was a formality and Penarth led 12-14. With scarcely time to draw breath, Penarth were back in home territory and this time it was Joe Page, normally a hooker, showing his versatility at flank forward and wisely holding to commit the defence so that Lakin, again, was clear to power over in the corner. In barely two minutes, Penarth had thrillingly turned a five-point deficit into a seven-point lead.
Porth, though, were not minded to roll over and, on half time, took punishing advantage of Penarth’s failure to secure their clearance kick. Possession became sustained pressure on the visitors’ line and home wing Coleman had just enough space to reduce the deficit to 17-19 at the break.
Porth ignored the wind disadvantage at the restart and mirrored their success from before the break, with forward pressure once more allowing wing Coleman to touch down wide out.
Falling behind unexpectedly spurred Penarth into determined attack, and Rhys Morgan, in looping support from full back, was only just forced out. Then it was the home side's turn to fail to clear their lines and in scrambled defence they conceded penalties which Penarth used to establish lines out rather than taking the points. Sadly, they failed to sustain the rolling mauls developed from Jon Bolan's clean takes and no score resulted.
Substitutions were made; Mike Clare relieved Matt Sutton and Louis Chandler came on for Jerome Bryan who had done well moving from prop to hooker.
The rearranged Penarth pack sustained pressure on the home eight and, when their maul functioned, they were able to release the outstanding Lakin to crown a powerful performance with a hat-trick try.
With a four-point advantage established and moving into the final quarter, a Penarth victory looked assured but then the wheels fell off.
Penarth’s bugbear throughout had been failure to sure clearance kicks. When they stood off again and pressured themselves into defence, second row Bolan was yellow carded. Play restarted and straight away the whistle blew once more; this time it was Mackie on the receiving end and the card was a harsh and disputed red for stamping.
The deficit of two in the pack was too much to quickly reorganise which Porth ruthlessly and immediately exploited with a fifth and final try from captain Lewis.
Thirteen man Penarth brought on Owain George for Chris Mortimer and defied the odds to launch a counter attack and gain a late penalty but Docherty’s long-range attempt just faded wide and the visitors had to be satisfied with the two bonus points that four tries and a close losing score gained them.
Penarth: Sean O’ Sullivan; Jerome Bryan (Louis Chandler); Richard Merrett; Richard Ball; Jon Boland; Matt Sutton (Mike Clare); Joe Page; Scott Mackie; Chris Mortimer (Owain George); James Docherty; James Crothers; Rhys Lakin; James Thatcher; Ben Donovan; Rhys Morgan.
Penarth's next fixture is this Saturday, March 29, at home to Wattstown.