CARDIFF HARLEQUINS 1st XV 63pts
PENARTH 1st XV 36
HOW many teams can you think of who ship more than 60 points but score five tries to gain a bonus point? That was the Penarth Rugby Club achievement on an afternoon's try rampage from the league leaders and third placed opponents. Definitely one for the quiz books!
With only one shy of a century of points mostly from touch downs, the game progress was at breathless pace and Penarth, with a back division disrupted by injuries and unavailability, played their full part.
They applied the early pressure through Joe Page who was held up illegally - a recurring home team practice that mars their otherwise excellent character. Three points were claimed but the riposte was swift and menacing as the Quins shifted ball dazzlingly to wing Franklyn who burst through to score.
Scarcely five minutes later on the other wing, the return of Tom Lock at full back saw him facing three attackers who he disrupted and dispossessed. This allowed Mike Rowe to make the initial break and feed James Docherty who likewise released a charging Mike Clare; sadly this gave momentary relief only. Quins regained possession and 11, 12 and 13 swung upfield at pace and around the defence and over.
After 20 minutes Penarth found themselves 12-3 adrift but, more than this, their back division had scarcely settled together faced with a slick and pacy opponent. So it was, with commendable positivity, they stuck to the task and a sparkling Hurley break found skipper Gary Power whose muscle only just failed to get him the distance because of illegal interference. This earned Quins a yellow card; Jon Bolan set up the following maul and, as the pack drove over, Rhys Morgan buried in for the try.
Quins returned to the offensive allowing Docherty to demonstrate his spectacular defence in a flying dive over the ruck. Morgan wriggled down the touch but ran out of support and, yet again, Quins profited by running from deep, slickly off-loading from the tackle and releasing speedster Haynes to score wide out. A simple tactic they applied again from the restart with the same outcome.
Yet again, Penarth refused to be dismayed, setting up a rumble in the dying seconds of the half. Morgan again it was who profited, diving in at the last minute to return the score to respectability at 27-15.
However. Quins opened the second half with more magic. No 9 Ellis traversed the width of the park without a finger laid on him and 11 Haynes yet again provided the unstoppable pace out wide.
Even so Penarth hit straight back. Jo Page showed that his running is elusive as well as powerful, crowned by a delightful step and go from Docherty who converted his own try.
Then, cruelly, Penarth suffered a couple of injuries; most significantly to Chris Mortimer who had been putting in a quite magnificent display out of position at flanker. All hope that his shoulder damage is not as bad as it looked.
Scott Mackie and Andy Pyman were now on as replacements and, despite contributing to staunch defence, were unable to hold Quins, who had picked up another yellow card. In succession both home wings and their scrum half used pace to exploit gaps in the visitors' defence.
With 15 minutes remaining, the home score had moved past the half century and it looked as if further embarrassment would be piled on. Quite startlingly, Penarth decided that they just didn’t believe in lost causes. Mike Hurley was the star of the revival. After being held illegally and Quins getting yet another yellow card, he found himself on the end of subtle interchanges and wrongfooted the whole defensive line by cutting sharply back inside.
Scarcely recovering his breath, Hurley, again, took a sweet slip pass on halfway and it was sheer individual brilliance that saw him avoid all challenges. Docherty converted from the touchline.
Penarth: Tom Luck; Ryan Thomas; Mike Rowe; Mike Hurley; James Crothers; James Docherty; Rhys Morgan; Gary Power (Andy Pyman); Joe Page; Jerome Bryan: Richard Ball; Jon Boland; Stuart Clarke; Chris Mortimer (Scott Mackie); Mike Clare.