Old Penarthians: 1sts beat Caerau Ely, but 2nds lose to Barry
7:50am Thursday 11th October 2012 in Sport
CAERAU ELY 1st XV 15 Old Penarthians 1st XV 25
AFTER A week without a fixture, the Old Penarthians were back in league action at Trelai Park in a SWALEC Division 5SE fixture against Caerau Ely.
Although familiar opposition for the 2nd XV, this was the first time that Old Pens had played them at this level following their well-earned promotion from Division 6 last season so the strength of the team was somewhat unknown.
And it was not only the opposition that was unfamiliar as there was unexpected sunshine and a cloudless blue sky to welcome both sets of players and the referee.
However, remnants of the monsoon conditions were evident in one corner of the playing area that was only playable thanks to the efforts of the home club committee and supporters who swept water from the pitch in scenes reminiscent of the Dragons v Blues match last season.
After the warm-up sessions, both sides decided that the distance to the changing rooms was too far to walk and they wanted to preserve their energies so the referee gave the players his amusing pre-match instructions on the pitch. Thereafter, it was kick-off time and Caerau Ely started play with the wind slightly in their faces.
The kick off was well judged and gave a platform for a series of attacking plays for Caerau that made it difficult for Old Penarthians to get out of their own half. Fortunately the tackling was solid and the defence well organised so, whilst possession was very much in favour of Caerau, the try line remained intact.
To this was added some mistakes by Caerau which resulted in scrums and the opportunity to relieve the pressure. The scrum was, however, not at its best and it often took good work from No 8 James Cosslett and scrum-half Simon Davies to ensure that the ball was safely put into touch.
The line out was, however, functioning well and accurate throws from Mark Smart were well taken by Cosslett and Joel deClaire. This enabled Penarthians to launch some attacks of their own and, after a series of rucks, a pass from outside-half Jonathan Crimp back inside to Tom Sidford saw the lock drive into Caerau territory.
The ball was released quickly and, when the move broke down, the referee awarded a penalty to Old Penarthians for off-side about 40 metres from the posts. Crimp stepped forward and kicked the goal to give the visitors the lead by three points after 10 minutes; somewhat against the run of play.
On 18 minutes Caerau’s dominance of the ball was rewarded with a try following a series of rolling mauls and flanker Jonny Lovell scored a try converted by Chris Greenfield. Two minutes later, however, a scrum infringement by Caerau, forced on them by prop Lee Brennan, gave Crimp an opportunity for another penalty kick which he slotted home from 35 metres.
From the ensuing restart Sidford did not make use of his cricketing skills and he spilled an easy catch, handing possession to Caerau Ely who again attacked the Penarthians' try line. Sidford made up for his mistake with some fine tackling and he was assisted in his efforts by deClaire, Noel Etxragary and Smart. The backs were also putting their bodies on the line and Mark Sadler, Gareth Jones, Andy Gill and Gareth Welford all had to make important tackles.
In fact the resolute defence held firm and, improbably, Crimp was offered the chance of taking the Penarthians into the lead with three minutes of the half remaining but his kick went just wide of the posts; at half time Caerau Ely led 7-6. This was a good first half performance because, despite the pressure, the tackling was strong and the relieving kicks from Davies, Crimp and, surprisingly, skipper Lloyd Davey were effective.
Not so effective was the start of the second half when an infringement for offside in front of the posts after three minutes saw a penalty kicked by Greenfield; and then, after 10 minutes, an unconverted try was conceded when centre Danny Lovell ran through too many weak tackles to score. Caerau led 15-6.
In previous seasons this may have led to some heads dropping but the current team has some belief in itself and the team were soon back on the attack.
Astute substitutions by coaches Jeff Norman and Mark Bow, which saw Steve Webber replace Peter Harry and Stuart Clarke replace Etxragary, paid off almost immediately when a line out was won, Crimp ran into midfield and was tackled but, with the forwards in support, Sadler went to scrum half and Davey appeared on a well timed diagonal run into a defensive gap to score near the posts. Crimp converted and the score was 15-13 to Caerau Ely.
Tony Kemp now replaced Sidford and, from a lineout soon after, deClaire rose highest. The ball was slipped to Clarke who peeled around towards the touchline.
With 25 metres to go, Clarke was surprised to find that the Caerau hooker, scrum half, winger and full back were nowhere to be seen and he ran over to score an unconverted try to take the lead by three points Penarthians now had a spring in their step and their opponents seemed to be running out of steam so it was no surprise that, on 33 minutes, Gareth Jones, on his fourth attempt during the match, intercepted a poorly thrown Caerau pass and ran Forest Gump-style from 55 metres to score the decisive try. With the conversion from Crimp, the score was 25-15.
Caerau did pressure the Penarthians' line towards the end of the match but the defence was again strong and the game was won.
This was a gutsy team performance, with everyone contributing to the result, but special mention to Dean Pratt, playing a full game at hooker for the first time since a nasty head injury last season, and to Joel deClaire for his disruption of the Caerau attacking plays at the ruck situation where his foraging meant that his team mates had time to organise their defensive line.
AT Barry RFC, the 2nd XV competed in their S A Brain CADRU Premier Division fixture hoping to build on their success of the previous week against a strong Rhiwbina side. Unfortunately, Barry proved to be the better side on the day with a little more guile in the second half despite the efforts of Paul Langley and James Williams that saw them home 25-10.
Old Penarthians were probably the more constructive in the first half and two tries from Alex Holder and Alex Lewis were a good return for an interval score of 10-10. In that time the side tried to play some expansive rugby and, on several occasions, managed to organise an overlap.
On each occasion, however, the pace out wide was lacking because it always seemed to be the front row trio of Neil Margetson, Gareth Boulton and Mark Curtis. Any thoughts that they were in that part of the field because they could not escape up the famous Barry pitch slope are unfounded.
The loss of the excellent Alex Holder early in the second half was a blow to Penarthians but, thanks to the availability of some Penarth players who were without a game due to a late postponement, Ian Buckley’s team were assured of a full set of substitutes who were able to battle until the final whistle, albeit in a losing cause.
• On Saturday both teams are in home action at Cwrt-y-vil Playing Fields, with the Firsts playing against league new boys Markham RFC and the Seconds playing Cardiff Quins. The matches are scheduled to kick off at 2.30pm.