DERI 11 Old Penarthians 15
OLD PENARTHIANS 1st XV travelled to the top of the Rhymney Valley last Saturday to play bottom-of-the-table Deri in a Division 5SE fixture in the SWALEC sponsored National Leagues.
The weather in Penarth in the morning had not been favourable, but as the team made their way north the sun broke through and they were met by a picture postcard valley scene. The pitch may have been a bit on the heavy side but it was hoped that the performance could match the surroundings.
And the start could not have been better, as inside 10 minutes the Penarthians pack were asserting themselves through forward drives by Andy Gill, Sean Leach and Tony Kemp, backed up by a decisive thrust through midfield by Tim Naylor. A lineout inside the hosts' 22 was stolen by the Old Boys and they drove on again to within 10 metres of the Deri try line with Mark Smart prominent.
The referee then awarded a penalty which stand-in skipper Smart, deputising for injured captain Mark Sadler who failed a late fitness test, declined to kick at goal and elected to take a scrummage.
The spectators may have been dubious but after three dominant scrums which saw Deri driven back by front row Lee Brennan, Peter Harry and Steve Webber, starting at hooker for the first time this season, the referee decided that the continuous infringements by the home team warranted the award of a penalty try. The try was converted by Scott McCarthy to make the score 7-0.
Almost the perfect start to give Penarthians encouragement that their game plan was effective and to demoralise a Deri team who had acquired only one losing bonus point so far this season.
The next phases of play were not, however, according to the plan, and Deri began to create chances of their own by using their backline combined with some clever inside passes to target a disjointed defensive line that had seen James Williams inserted at inside centre in place of Sadler.
On 18 minutes, several good attacks saw the Deri outside half chip through for his winger and it was only a full-length dive by winger Alex Lewis that prevented a try. Four minutes later Leach left the field with a back injury that all hope is not a repeat of an injury sustained last season that saw him miss six months of rugby.
Leach was replaced by Paul Kemp who was straight into defensive action to prevent another Deri attack.
Some 29 minutes into the game and after the early territorial advantage to Old Pens, it was Deri who were gaining the confidence and dreaming of their first victory when centre Ross Price stepped up to land a penalty kick from about 45m. He followed this three minutes later with another big kick from 38m to take the score to 7-6. Deri were most definitely in the ascendancy and it was only more foraging defensive work from Gill and Tom Sidford that stopped a further attack, after a misunderstanding between full back Lloyd Davey and Charles Gore led to a kick ahead by Deri.
Penarthians did mount one further attack before the half ended and a break from scrum half Gareth Jones was carried on by Sidford, supported by Brennan, before Deri offended and a penalty kick was awarded. This time there was no thought of a scrum and McCarthy was asked to kick at goal.
The kick missed the target and the half time score remained at 7-6.
The second half started with Old Penarthians playing into a stiff wind and from the kick off Sidford took the high ball and drove again into the opposition. The other forwards were in support and good driving saw the team progress into the opposition half. At this stage Davey, sensing that the ball was not going to be thrown along the backline, offered himself as an additional forward carrying the ball close to ruck and maul. This did leave the defence a little short of cover but it was obvious the way the game was going to be won, and after 5 minutes the effort earned another 3 points from a McCarthy penalty after the Deri backline was caught offside.
The way the game was going meant that the other threequarters were not seeing much of the ball and when it did go their way, there were more errors than quality play, epitomised by a break by Jones that saw him beat two players from inside his own 22, draw the Deri fullback on half way and pass to Lewis who dropped a potential try-scoring pass.
On 15 minutes an injury to Gill saw the introduction of Langley at flanker and he was soon in the action, orchestrating the forward effort. This time eight or nine phases of play saw Penarthians advance from within their own half to score a try through James Williams that was efficient rather than spectacular. The try went unconverted to make the score 15-6.
The score seemed to make the Old Pens relax again and that brought Deri back into the game for the last 15 minutes and whilst not dominant, there were distinct feelings of unease amongst the Penarthian supporters as Deri created the better openings. One of these was capitalised upon when lock Andrew Hughes scored a try 10 metres to the left of the posts with 3 minutes to play. The conversion was rushed and missed in an attempt to get the game restarted and it left Deri trailing by 4 points.
A successful kick would have meant that a further penalty could then have won the game, but despite late pressure the experience of Smart, Langley and the Kemps denied final possession to the home team and an away victory was secured.
Despite the closeness of the result it means that the 1st XV have won three of their last four fixtures and are steadily progressing up the table. Treherbert are the next opponents in two weeks time.
THE Second XV entertained Cathays in a CADRU Division 1 league fixture, hoping to turn around a defeat at Heath Park earlier in the season.
The Old Pens, however, found the opposition in no mood to allow the home team to dominate the match in the forwards and their youthful set of backs ensured that they returned to Cardiff with the league points in a 29 points to 7 victory.
Perhaps the result should not have been a surprise because Cathays have lost only one league game this season and lie second behind Clwb Rygbi Caerdydd, the side who beat them.
The home side was boosted by the return of former 1st XV favourite, Jon Boland, back from his work contract in London and the 2012 debut of Captain Birdseye impersonator, Mark Bow. Their experience was added to by Rob Pearce and Ben Donovan but despite their best efforts, the students in the Cathays team had obviously been concentrating on their studies and fitness rather than the more usual pursuits of beer and women on a Friday night, and were the stronger finishers in a contest that had been tightly fought for 35 minutes.
The Old Penarthians scores came from a Ben Donavan try and a conversion from birthday boy Steve Thomas. Rhys Thomas and Matthew Reid tackled everything that ran at them, Dave Finlay tried hard at scrum half and Liam Wingren was a tireless flanker. It was also good to see that new dad, Jon Vaughan, must be getting sufficient sleep to allow him to complete the full game without a lie down.
Newly qualified referee, Peter Griffiths, was complimented for his handling of the game, that was played without incident despite him taking up some unusual positions for his decision making. It did not, however, stop the poor man being given the full extent of referees' assessor Glyn James' knowledge of the game. The conversation lasted about two minutes. He was rescued by local top referee Dave Swain but that conversation went on a lot longer and ranged from refereeing to sheep shearing. It is hoped that neither of them put the official off the game, and he will return a better man in a couple of weeks time.
And it will be a couple of weeks before the next rugby action for Old Penarthians as the England v Wales international takes centre stage this Saturday. Everyone watching live at Twickenham or in the clubhouses around Wales will be hoping that the team in red will be worthy Triple Crown winners. Come on Wales!