PONTYCLUN RFC 1st XV 18pts
PENARTH RFC 1st XV 17
WITH league leaders Cardiff Quins going down at home to a resurgent St Peters, this was a game the Seasiders would have preferred to win.
Both teams were unable to field their first-choice selections, but the hosts were able to field something like a regular kicker and this proved decisive.
The hosts were simply intent on charging headlong at any chances that fell their way and this yielded a dividend as early as the fourth minute. Full-back Adam Lewis received a pass outside the Penarth 22 and just ran straight. About four tacklers in turn failed to get a grip on him and he was over for an unconverted try.
The Seasiders’ approach was more measured – dominance up front and work it wide when the game opened up. However, they had to win over the referee and this they noticeably failed to do, falling further behind at the end of the first quarter as the Badgers converted a penalty.
Penarth came back strongly and laid siege in the home 22. Several thrusts were held up on the line, but, when they were finally awarded a five-metre scrum, the writing was surely on the wall. So it proved, as the Seasiders’ eight drove straight through and over for the score. Unfortunately, referee Gavin Roberts saw it rather differently and declared that the scrum had gone through 90 degrees.
There was no let-up for the hosts, though, as Penarth continued to dominate. Stand-in kicker Rhys Morgan pushed a penalty just wide from 25m and then a breathtaking break from a sidestepping James Thatcher was halted 20m out. The ensuing penalty was tucked safely into touch and, after Joe Page was stopped in the first thrust from the line-out, Geraint Blake made sure with the second.
The teams turned around with the home side still 8-5 in the lead, but the Seasiders seemed to have mastered the conditions and surely knew how to secure the points. Pontyclun naturally burst out of the traps and, as Penarth held on grimly, they lost Blake to a yellow card and it began to look like an uphill struggle. Pontyclun struck the penalty just wide and the visitors made quick progress from the restart over the halfway line. A penalty was kicked to touch, the line out secured and a second penalty won, also put to touch, this time inside the home 22. The home side were clinging on under immense pressure and, even though they gained a scrum, they still managed to spill the ball and the Seasiders worked it wide. A wonderfully-weighted miss-out pass by Thatcher to James Crothers wide on the left put Penarth into the lead at last although the conversion was again missed.
Trailing 8-10, the hosts threw everything into trying to retrieve the situation and the referee obliged them with a kickable penalty from which they edged back in front. More pressure from the Seasiders brought on a yellow card for a Pontyclun replacement and, when Thatcher tapped and went from the penalty, Blake was over for a second try, which was again declined by the referee. With the ball not having gone dead, the hosts were able to hack it upfield and into the visitors’ half. The Badgers sensed a chance and once again threw themselves at the Penarth defence in a series of bursts. In a near repeat of the first try, right wing Llewelyn Rees burst clean through and around behind the posts.
Trailing 18-10 with six minutes to go, the Seasiders came back again and again as Pontyclun conceded a string of penalties and a yellow card for their hooker, before the referee finally relented and awarded a penalty try. With only a minute left, Liam Bevan duly converted with Penarth’s only successful place-kick of the game.
Pontyclun had scored two tries, but kicked eight points, while Penarth had out-scored them with three tries. There were all sorts of reasons why the Seasiders really should have won this one, but, ultimately, the lack of a regular goal-kicker proved the difference between the sides.
Happier times may lie ahead as Penarth held on to second place, with Wattstown drawing 6-6 at home against near neighbours Porth Harlequins. Eleventh-placed Aberdare are the visitors to the Athletic Field next Saturday.
Penarth: Rhys Morgan, Louis Chandler, Paul Collett, Liam Bevan, James Crothers, James Thatcher, Chris Mortimer, Gary Power, Joe Page, Sean O’Sullivan, Stuart Clarke (Jerome Bryan, then Mike Clare), Jon Boland, Richard Ball, Matt Sutton.
National League Division 3 (SE) - Saturday , April 12 - PENARTH v Aberdare (The Athletic Field, Lavernock Road); kick-off 2.30pm.