OLD PENARTHIANS 1st XV finished their league season last Saturday with an away game against Cardiff Saracens at Roath Park. The match was supposed to be an easy victory against relegated Saracens but someone forgot to tell the home side the part they were meant to play in the afternoon’s entertainment.
And it was far from an easy end of term celebration as the home side dominated large parts of the match with their exceptional backrow exposing defensive weaknesses in the Penarthians team throughout the match.
To some extent it was not a match that Old Penarthians should have won, but win they did with the last action of the game when Luke Crockett broke from a breakdown near the Sarries tryline and stretched to score the try that brought a 10 points to 8 victory.
It may have been harsh on Cardiff Saracens but it was just reward for the efforts of the Old Pens who withstood the pressure and eventually found a way to win. Many other close matches this season have been lost at ‘the death’ so it was good to end the season on a high.
The victory meant that Old Penarthians finished eighth in their 12-team division with 46 points from nine wins. The champions were Penygraig with Cefn Coed also promoted. St Albans were the other side relegated from the division.
The match itself was played on a bone hard pitch and many players ended battered and bleeding after impacts with the ground and it could not have started in worse fashion when Sarries carried the ball deep into Penarthians territory from the kick-off and earned themselves a series of penalties. From 25m and after 3 minutes the Saracens kicked a penalty to lead three nil.
Penarthians were however ahead after 10 minutes through a try from Gareth Clancy. Much of the hard work had been completed in advance by the forwards through Callum Wingren (on permit from St Josephs), Reggie Blake and Joel deClaire but Clancy was on hand to finish the close quarter encounters on the Saracens tryline. The conversion was missed by Jonathan Crimp, captaining the side for the last time this season.
The Penarthians lead lasted to half time but it took some valiant defence from Rowan Allcock and John Patterson on two separate occasions to bring off try saving tackles. Others to defend well were Josh Allcock and Matt Stingl but much of the tackling was not to a high standard. Whilst the line out functioned well through Blake, deClaire and Allcock, the scrum was always under pressure and on too many occasions players opted to attack without support from their colleagues leaving themselves exposed and losing possession.
Coaches Simon Hurley and Anthony Davies chose to make some changes at half time with Dave Hosking replacing Wingren and George Kynaston replacing out-of-sorts Rhys Lakin. Soon after Rowan Allcock had to withdraw with a hand injury making way for Chad Wilson.
It was however Cardiff Saracens who again started the half the stronger and after ten minutes took the lead with a try. The relatively easy conversion was missed but Sarries led 8 -5.
Further changes saw Matt Sutton replace Tony Kemp and one move between the two substitutes Sutton and Wilson nearly led to a Penarthians try but unfortunately the last pass went to ground. Another opportunity went astray when a pass from deClaire to Liam Union was adjudged to have gone forward by the referee with the centre free of the defensive cover.
With no one commanding the possession it took another last-ditch tackle by Crimp to prevent the Sarries number 8 from adding to the opposition total.
In the final five minutes, Old Pens did gain some territorial advantage and a few breaks from the referee gave Scott McCarthy the opportunity to kick to the corner in order to exert pressure from the lineout. Firstly, Simon Barry went close to scoring, then Blake but each attack was repelled until the last gasp decisive dive for the line from Crockett to score the all-important try.
With the clock ticking down to the end of the game Crimp took enough time to take and miss the final kick of the season and the referee blew the whistle for full time.
There was not too much celebration immediately after the match but the team should be proud of their season which has seen them competitive in most of the games and they are worthy of their place in the division for 2017/18. It is hoped that after the promotion last season and consolidation this, then the foundations are laid for a move up the table next season