Old Penarthians battle in opening game of season
8:40am Thursday 6th September 2012 in Sport
ON THE RUN: Old Penarthians' Simon Davies tries to break clear in Saturday's clash with Abertysswg. Picture: Ken Langley.
ABERTYSSWG 32 Old Penarthians 1ST XV 15
WELL, summer arrived just in time for the rugby season and it was glorious 20 degree heat that greeted Old Penarthians 1st XV at Abertysswg last Saturday, for their meeting in Division 5SE of the SWALEC sponsored National leagues. Put that together with the picturesque scenery of the Rhymney Valley and it was time to pitch a tent and enjoy a picnic rather than play an intense rugby match.
But rugby was the order of the day and the rivalry that started last season was recommenced, with Abertysswg kicking towards the visiting 22. The ball was well taken by second row Danny Godfrey who set up the ruck, supported by his fellow forwards, for Simon Davies to clear his lines. First action of the season and all the summer training had paid off with possession won, retained and cleared.
Perhaps the only surprising factor was that Danny Godfrey was playing second row, but this converted football-playing threequarter thoroughly deserved his opportunity following good trial matches, despite the absence of some bulkier team mates. Others to impress in the trials such as Gareth Boulton at hooker, and Dave Owen on the wing, were also given first team starts.
Other good phases of play soon followed and new boy Dave Roberts was soon making an impact with two direct runs at the opposition fed from outside-half Jon Crimp’s short passes.
The moves broke down however, with lost possession and the concession of two penalties. It was, therefore, somewhat against the run of play that Abertysswg scored with their first attack when Jamie Howells touched down after eight minutes. Howells converted to make it 7-0.
Old Penarthians responded with territory in the opposition half after breaks from Simon Davies and Mark Sadler and good forward carries by Noel Etxragary and Mark Smart. The forwards may have been lighter than their opposition but they were acquitting themselves well in both tight phases of the game.
The front row of Lee Brennan, Gareth Boulton and Steve Webber were unyielding, having mastered the new scrummage engagement laws that has seen the removal of the ‘engage’ command from the referee’s rituals. The line out was also very effective, with Andy Gill, James Coslett and Mark Smart combining well.
The loose play was not so effective and is something the coaches will have to work on. It appeared that speed to the breakdown by most of the forwards was good and that the ball was secured for reuse; however too many times the supporting ‘bridging’ players were shunted backwards by aggressive counter-rucking by Abertysswg, causing ‘turn-over’ ball.
The loss of possession could also be put down in some cases to the Abertysswg forwards falling on the ball in the contact area and preventing a quick release.
That said it was good handling by the Abertysswg backs and forwards combined that saw the next score for centre Judd Theophilus on 24 minutes. The try went unconverted, but further points were added four minutes later when Howells stepped up and punished an Old Pens infringement at the ruck with a conversion to make it 15-0.
Old Penarthians were still competitive and another drive by David Roberts, supported by Coslett and Owen, saw a penalty award. The kick at goal was unsuccessful but, shortly afterwards, in the second minute of injury time, Jonathan Crimp kicked the first points of the Old Penarthians season to make it 15-3 at half time.
The urging of coaches Jeff Norman and Mark Bow was all about consistency of approach in attack and defence and building on the work done in pre-season. New captain Lloyd Davey was more direct with his pep talk whilst coach Norman sought half-time advice from the referee on his interpretation of the ‘break down.’ Whatever was said remains a mystery as the situation did not change, with Abertysswg still the more aggressive at this phase of play and being awarded the greater share of penalties.
And it was from one such infringement that outside-half Howells kicked Abertysswg into an 18-3 lead. On nine minutes good work from the home forwards gave room for scrum-half Steve Klein to score a try that was converted by Howells.
A couple of injuries saw Dave Mason and Gareth Jones come on as direct replacements for Noel Etxragary and Andy Gill but also saw Dave Roberts move up into the forwards. These changes brought a better balance to the side and the team rallied with runs from Lloyd Davey and Dave Owen and support from Crimp and James Williams. Simon Davies was also given more room to exploit his speed.
One more replacement saw the introduction of Huw Morgan for his second game in Old Pens colours after his debut a couple of seasons ago in a loss against Cefn Coed. This change saw the withdrawal of Williams and another reshuffle of the backs. Shape was not, however, lost and the backs looked to have the beating of a tiring Abertysswg XV.
But it was the forwards who were to gain the rewards of the efforts, having severely disrupted the Abertysswg scrummage about 15 metres from their own goal line, Davies pounced on the ball and passed to Coslett who raced over for a deserved try. Crimp converted from wide out to make it 25-10.
President, and official time keeper, Roy Churchill recorded the score at three minutes into injury time but the referee decided he was enjoying the sun so much that he allowed play to continue.
In fact it looked as if this extra time may play into the hands of the Old Pens as they launched an attack from within their own half, with the full back line extended across the field just as coach Bow wanted. Unfortunately, two of the players decided to run into the same space to catch a pass and between them spilled the ball, with an overlap beckoning and the chance of a breakaway try.
To make matters worse, opposition full-back Daniel Woods collected on the first bounce to run 50m to score under the posts. Howells converted with the last kick of the game to make it 32-15.
The players were disappointed although they acknowledged that the opposition were the better team particularly through their physicality at the break-down.
In turn, Abertysswg applauded the Old Pens during the after-match meal and awarded strawberry blonde, Prince Harry lookalike Dave Owen their man of the match award. Needless to say, this family newspaper will not be printing pictures of his escapades later that evening!
THE 2nd XV travelled to Llanishen for their first fixture in the S A Brain sponsored CADRU Premier Division. Unfortunately, due to absentees, they travelled with only 12 players. The opposition lent the team a player and Craig Mohring appeared out of the woods to make up the semblance of a team, albeit with passive scrums from the start.
All the players worked hard, with particular mention to Alex Holder who was a nuisance of an open side flanker all afternoon. When he fills out, he will be a real handful for any opposition.
Others to catch the eye were Gareth Welford, newcomer Bali Salisberry, a serviceman from Portsmouth living locally, and ‘oldcomer’ Alan Haines, back for more service.
It was also good to see the Goldsworthy name appear in an Old Penarthians team again, this time Matthew who played his part despite carrying an injury during the second half. His father, Mike, is going to have to teach him how to avoid contact!
The final score was 22-7 in favour of Llanishen, with the Old Pens try scored by Alex Lewis when he collected the ball within his own 22, ran, chipped ahead, chased and caught the ball and touched down for Scott McCarthy to convert. Ten minutes later Lewis had an opportunity to repeat the effort but, on this occasion, he forgot to collect the ball in his own 22 and the opposition picked it up instead and scored.
* On Saturday the 1st XV play their first home game of the season against Canton RFC, with the Seconds travelling to St Peters. Both league games are scheduled to kick off at 2.30pm.