PENARTH RFC 1st XV 17pts
THIS game had all the promise of a cracker, with the two sides lying second and third in the division, and both with 11 victories this season and on 51 points.
As it transpired, nerves played a major part and, time after time, promising build ups by both sides slipped away with knocks on and stray passes. In the end, the side that held its nerve triumphed, albeit at the very death.
Wattstown had clearly turned up to claim the spoils and put pressure on the league leaders. Their travelling support gave full voice from the start and the side responded with a full out assault. They displayed great ball handling skill, with deft inter-passing and rapid recycling which kept the home defence at full stretch and pinned in their own 22.
Sustaining this series of short carries and recycles constantly varying the angle of attack paid off. After only 10 minutes, flanker Adam Phillips found just sufficient space to score close in.
At seven points adrift and under the cosh, Penarth had a game on their hands. Their response was strangely muted; with Wattstown sticking to a policy of getting the ball wide as quickly as possible, Penarth worked steadily up front. A stolen line out by second row Stuart Clarke developed into a maul and series of scrums deep in the opposition half. This graft earned them three penalty points which were presented straight back when the visitors' clearance was kicked back with a wild skew that gave away more advantage than it gained and resulted in a penalty which rattled the post followed by a sweet drop goal from centre Dano Roberts.
Then came an intervention by the match official; heavy pressure on the home line was relieved when Wattstown try scorer Phillips turned villain by not being able to resist sticking his hands into an attacking ruck. Penarth’s one-man advantage lasted less than a minute as a deeply puzzled James Crothers departed in a case of mistaken identity.
Back to rugby business, Penarth produced the move of the match. All the back line were involved, with Rhys Lakin providing thrust and James Thatcher elusiveness, whilst half backs Rhys Morgan and James Docherty kept thing flowing by short, swift and accurate passes. This worked the ball upfield and from one wing to the other, finally finding the energetic Trevor Blake wide out right faced by a denuded defence. Docherty capped the display with a fine touchline conversion.
Wattstown full back Rhydian Williams threatened to reply with an individual 40 metres weaving through all attempts to grab him but his final pass fell short of its target and half time arrived with points even at 10-10.
The restart was scrappy, with Penarth conceding position when a long clearance flew out on the full. The subsequent visitors' attack was illegally held up and three points conceded.
Despite this setback and the Wattstown lively back division, the home eight had been grafting away and steadily achieving domination. Whereas an early scrum had seen tight head Sean O’Sullivan penalised for boring in by now either he had reformed or the referee changed his point of view. Whatever the reason, O’Sullivan, Richard Merrett and Joe Page were starting to make a right mess of the Wattstown front row. Add to this line out control by Jon Boland and Stuart Clarke and the result was Penarth enjoying a full 10-minute period entrenched in the far left corner of their opposition territory. But the visitors showed total commitment to the cause, didn’t give an inch and, amazingly, survived.
After this onslaught, play shifted back to midfield. Owain George replaced Morgan but was most unfortunate to be concussed in initiating his first attack and stayed on for only a minute.
Richard Ball replaced Jon Bolan and play settled back to home domination up front and occasional forays from the visitors. However, the home front eight had not forgotten school day injunctions - “if at first you don’t succeed, then try, try again.” Jerome Bryan joined the front row and, with seconds ticking away, Penarth took up camp yet again in the deep left corner. Wave after wave of forwards piled over each other until brave Wattstown resistance could hold no longer. A touch down resulted and, despite mischievous claims from Blake, it was the industrious Joe Page who clung on as the pack powered over.
Intelligently, Docherty realised that, using up the full minute, was more important than the two points which he, nevertheless, gained.
Time remained only for referee Nigel Jones to blow time and, at 17-13, Penarth became second in the league.
The next home game is Saturday, April 12, versus Aberdare.
Penarth: Paul Collett; Ben Donavon; James Thatcher; Rhys Lakin; James Crothers; James Docherty; Rhys Morgan; Richard Merrett; Joe Page; Sean O’Sullivan; Stuart Clarke; Jon Boland; Scott Mackie; Mike Clare; Geraint Blake.