Penarth RFC look strong, despite narrow defeat
8:50am Thursday 20th September 2012 in Sport
ELECTRIC: Outside half James Docherty makes another telling break to put Penarth into the opposition half. Pictures: Alun Roach
PENARTH RFC 22 CARDIFF HARLEQUINS 25
AFTER the encouragement of a two good performances away, especially last week’s hard-fought victory at Porth, how will this re-invigorated Penarth squad measure up?
Saturday gave the home crowd their first chance to judge and despite a narrow defeat, the verdict is that they’ll do very well.
On paper the opposition looked stiff. The Harlequins, or for the traditionalist the High School Old Boys, brought a flawless played-two-won-two and two try-scoring bonus points record with them. Add to this that they look a young, fit and well drilled side and they promised a stern examination indeed.
And so it proved. From the off the Harlequins showed they are very comfortable running with ball in hand. They offload effectively and use the full width of the park. So it was encouraging to see James Docherty exploiting the faintest of gaps to burst through the first line of defence to allow Chris Mortimer to set up and control a series of pick and drive moves. Frustratingly Richard Merrett was held up over the line, the defence was cleared and a penalty earned at the other end.
Then salt was rubbed in as the Harlequins straight way involved all their back division across the park for their left wing to run unopposed for a try in the corner.
So 15 minutes in and eight points adrift, Penarth demonstrated the real strength of character they’ve found by hitting back through another electric burst from Docherty. This time the pick and drives left enough space for Chris Mortimer to successfully back himself against the defence. The conversion put Penarth within one point and sustained pressure afterwards led to a penalty - and the home side were in the lead on the half hour.
By this time the game had everything to delight both partisan and neutral, and the see-saw advantage continued as the Harlequins centre sidestepped a flat-footed home defence to score close in. The try was unconverted.
Sadly there was still time in the half for Penarth to pick up two injuries in quick succession with James Thatcher then Rob Pearce forced to give way to James Candy and Matt Sutton.
Half time Penarth 10 Cardiff Harlequins 13.
Perhaps crucially for the final result, Penarth were still digesting the half time refreshment as their fragmented defensive line admired the Quins scrum half weaving his way through them all and gifting seven points in the process. But, and for the hardened Penarth supporter, a very significant but; at this point the flood gates did not open.
Penarth had already established an effective platform. The front row was solid, the young engine room of Daniel Hoffman and Jon Boland was doing effective damage.
So it was no surprise that powerful back row Adan Cole was able to make plenty of hard yards with Chris Mortimer in strong support, and this time no-one could deny Richard Merrett.
Shortly afterwards Mortimer took a well-earned break to give the home crowd a good look at the sweet service from the base of the scrum by replacement Gareth Mathias. Also Sean O’Sullivan gave way to veteran Andy Pyman. It is most encouraging that substitutes of the quality of all those used on the day are available this season.
Home pressure continued and confidence grew such that Tom Luck showed his power to set up for a fine forward try which Daniel Hoffman deservedly claimed.
So 15 minutes to go and Penarth back in the lead promised another result. It was not to be however and once more lack of shape in defence allowed the winning five points to the visitors.
Nevertheless, Penarth had shown against top class opposition that they have all it takes this season. Once the occasional defensive frailties are eliminated they will establish themselves as a force in the division.
Next Saturday there’s a short trip across town to Fairwater for further evidence of progress.
Finally a very special thanks to Evan, Jack, Sam, Joe, Cai, Iolo and Lewis all from the Penarth Under 9s, who added a splash of colour to the sidelines acting as ball boys for the day.
Penarth: Rhys Morgan, Ben Donovan, Tom Luck, James Thatcher (James Candy), James Crothers, James Docherty, Chris Mortimer (Gareth Mathias), Alex Thau, Rob Pearce (Matt Sutton), Adan Cole, Daniel Hoffman, Jon Boland, Sean O’Sullivan (Andy Pyman), Joe Page, Richard Merrett.