Old Penarthians have plenty to work on...
9:00am Thursday 20th September 2012 in Sport
POSERS!: Seconds teammates Alun Haines, Ian Buckley and Paul Kemp prove that, when you get to a certain age, you all have the same pose. Picture: Ken Langley.
ST JOSEPH'S 1st XV 57 Old Penarthians 1st XV 6
OLD Penarthians' 1st XV travelled to Blackweir last Saturday to play their SWALEC Division 5SE fixture against St Joseph's in a good frame of mind after two encouraging training sessions following a defeat a week earlier against Canton.
The mood was also improved by the return of some of the players absent against Canton and the first starts of the season for Joel deClaire and Tony Kemp. Added to this was the inclusion of Dale Norris, a work colleague of David ‘Twins’ Jones, a prop playing on permit from Neath Athletic, and the atmosphere was right for a reverse of the results of last season.
Those games had seen three defeats for Old Pens in league and cup fixtures but each game had been fractious and decided by errors rather than skill levels.
Fortunately the game was a much better affair this time, with the skills of both teams much improved; however, it was the St Joseph's team who were the more tactically astute and eventual runaway winners. Old Penarthians did, however, contribute to the game and were able to show an improvement over their performance the previous week.
But they did come up against the best opposition they have faced so far this season and the Joes will be title contenders if they maintain their direct brand of rugby, which saw them attack wide through two big wingers as well as play tight through some strong forwards.
The end result was not something that came to mind initially as Old Penarthians mounted a few decent attacks at the start of the game through Dave Owen on the wing supported by Mark Sadler and Jonathan Crimp. There were also forward led charges by Dave Roberts and Tony Kemp that produced good ball for Simon Davies to see his backs attack.
And it was Old Pens who took the lead when a shoulder charge rather than full arm tackle was penalised by the referee and Scott McCarthy landed the penalty kick.
At this point St Joseph's decided that a more direct approach was required and their forwards started to dominate through close mauling drives. One such resulted in the first yellow card infringement of the day when Dave Roberts was penalised for collapsing a maul.
From the resulting penalty kick to touch, St Joseph's repeated the tactic from the line out that they won and rumbled their way to the try line for Grant Harrington to score. The conversion was kicked by Richie Elliot and, after 17 minutes, the Joes led 7-0 On 23 minutes a second yellow card for Old Pens, this time for Simon Davies for a trip tackle, was punished in an identical fashion when a penalty to touch resulted in another line out success and a try for the other lock forward Aaron Jones.
It has to be said that, at this stage, St Joseph's had also been reduced in numbers by a yellow card of their own, when a stamping incident after the whistle had seen a reverse of a penalty decision.
Two more yellow cards were to follow in the game, both to St Joseph's players, for back chat and arguing with the referee. The number of card offences would suggest that it was an over physical and petulant game but that was not the case and the referee should be applauded for his handling of the game. He set his stall out early about what he expected from the players’ discipline and he punished those who offended in a consistent manner.
After conceding the two tries, Old Pens mounted some attacks of their own and Lee Brennan and Dale Norris were both able to set up platforms in the opposing half. Mark Smart also drove forward with purpose but is was often left to the supporting threequarters to secure the loose ball in the absence of the other forwards, leaving the second and third phases of play without structure.
The play was, however, in the opposition 22 and it was hoped that there would be some reward for the endeavours. Unfortunately from a St Joes 22m kick off, which had been expertly taken by Kemp with support from deClaire, a promising opportunity to run the ball wide was interrupted when a Crimp pass was intercepted and centre Ryan Moore ran 55m to score under the posts for Elliot to convert.
From the kick off Old Penarthians were again able to hold the Joes in their own half through aggressive tackling by Alex Holder and Gareth Jones and, from one ruck situation, Old Pens were awarded a penalty which McCarthy kicked to reduce the difference to 15 points.
This was not, however, the last score of the half as, in injury time, a well timed move off the base of a scrum saw the No 8 break to the blindside before releasing the centre and then winger Corey Ludvigson who left skipper Lloyd Davey flat-footed as he ran 40 metres along the touchline to score a try wide out. The conversion was missed to leave the half time score 26-6.
The second half could not have started any worse for Old Penarthians as, almost straight from the restart, St Joseph's scored two tries through full back Nathan Ashley and flanker Ieuan Matthews. This effectively ended the contest and it was all to do with damage limitations.
The forwards did continue to battle and, despite retaining parity at the scrummage through good hooking by Gareth Boulton, the more direct play in the loose was coming from St Joseph's. deClaire and Holder were resolute in defensive roles and were often able to steal possession but it was not sufficient to ensure sustained attacking opportunities.
The St Joseph’s dominance was emphasised by three further second-half tries by scrum half Fred Rowlands, winger James Egan, who bounced through three ineffective tackles, and, finally, Lewis Tumelty. Elliot kicked three second half penalties to make the final score 57-6.
Coaches Mark Bow and Jeff Norman will be happy with some aspects of the play but there was too little team cohesion and too many individual errors. It left Norman with much to think about after the game as he drove north to Nottingham for a work commitment the next day and it is hoped that, by the time he arrived, he has planned out some hard sessions for training this week.
The Seconds played at home to Sully in a game rearranged because scheduled opponents Pentyrch had been unable to field a team the week before and, due to a violation of a referee notification requirement, the referees’ organiser had withdrawn the appointed official.
This did not, however, prevent Old Penarthians being offered an alternative official and it was good to see former player Chris Watts blowing the whistle in his first senior match. All agreed that he did a very good job particularly the home side who ran out winners by 59 points to 5.
The superiority was, however, nothing to do with the referee but the experience of the home team who melded old and young players with older players to play an entertaining brand of rugby that saw them score nine tries. There was even a touch of American Football as centre Stuart Gunnarrsson tried a 50-yard touch-down pass, aka Dan Marino.
Sully were steadfast opponents who were handicapped at the start by having insufficient numbers but were lent some Old Pens reserves, and always tried hard to compete. In the end, however, it was slightly one-way traffic, in particular for man-of-the-match Liam Union who played in the centre and scored five tries as well as kicking six conversions.
Union is more used to playing as a flanker and this was his first game for a number of seasons following repeated shoulder injuries. It is hoped that Matt Goldsworthy (a try scorer himself) can persuade him to play again when he returns from college with the promise that he can play wherever he likes.
Other try scorers were Rhodri Smith, Huw Morgan and Paul Kemp.
Tim Miller played his first ever game of rugby at second row but his lack of experience was made up for by fellow pack members Alun Haines, Crevvie, Neil Margetson, Bob Denning, Ian Buckley and Paul Langley.
On Saturday, September 22, the first XV play a home match against Pontllanfraith, who are also without a victory so far this season, and the Veterans have their first run out of the year against Barry III. Both games are scheduled to kick off at 2.30pm.