THE gale that combined with torrential rain to produce horrendous conditions at Cwrt-y-vil on Saturday proved an ill wind for the fortunes of the hosts who slumped to yet another defeat.

With fellow strugglers Cardiff Saracens securing an unexpected win away to Taffs Well, these latest results see the Old Boys lapse into the penultimate position in the table, just one point above bottom club Newport Saracens who have a game in hand.

Hopes were high that this could have been the game to end the run of reverses and it must be said that, territorially, the honours were probably even. The solitary penalty goal from Jonathan Crimp was, however, a poor reward for the total domination of the wind-assisted opening half.

That slim lead disappeared within seven minutes of the resumption when Bettws secured a try from centre Wayne Whitehead that appeared to contain a suspiciously forward pass. However, the hosts had a chance to regain the initiative through a marvellous driving maul at the opposite end, only for a wayward pass, ironically from a forward, to put an end to a golden opportunity.

Penarthians worked hard to get back into the game but their handling lacked fluency, whilst efforts to run the ball failed through a sad lack of penetration even though substitute Liam Union did his best to make inroads into the Bettws cover. Matters took a turn for the worse on the half hour when a complete misunderstanding in midfield allowed outside half Martin Williams to race clear from 30 yards for an unconverted try, whilst the visitors denied the hosts even the comfort of a losing bonus point when another defensive bloomer saw Williams clean through for a second try that was converted by Mathew Tabb to extend the final score to 17-3.

With conditions again preventing much in the way of back play, the Old Boys were grateful for the efforts of Geraint Evans, Tom Sidford, Danny Godfrey and skipper Joel De Claire, whilst it was good to see Dale Norris back in action after his trip to Thailand. Spare a thought, however, for diminutive physio Ellie Murphy who spent most of the afternoon battling against the horrendous wind in her efforts to avoid becoming a latter day Mary Poppins!

Also at home, the Seconds found themselves up against a very good St Albans side and were forced to play second fiddle for most of the game as the visitors rattled up 38 points without reply.

Even so, Mark Smart contributed his customary wholehearted effort throughout, whilst Richard Peregrine was well to the fore in a lively display on the flank. Rhys Loveless, switched from scrum half to second row, was another to catch the eye with a physical commitment that left him with little opportunity to implement his normal running commentary.

With Six Nations matches taking precedence over the next two weeks, the players not only have a chance to re-charge batteries but must also seek ways of recovering the winning ways that are needed to avoid a recurrence of the previous one-win only season in 1996/97.