THIS is where it starts to get interesting. After recovering superbly from a run of six straight defeats at the start of the season, the Seasiders had risen to ninth place by the beginning of December and were showing all the signs of being able to secure their place in Division 2 East Central in due course.

How things change in a month. Of course, losing three league games on the trot is never a good idea, even when the opponents are now third, fourth and fifth in the table. It’s just that the three teams at the bottom of the table, even Llantwit Fardre, are showing signs of life, so Penarth’s comfort zone is evaporating.

However, the good news is that the Seasiders aren’t alone in struggling to gain league points. Cardiff Quins, St.Peters and Llanishen are flat-lining, so next week’s game against the Quins could be kind of important.

Last Saturday, on the other hand, was just another case of Penarth failing to take care of a side from the upper end of the table that weren’t markedly better than they were, just perhaps a bit cleverer.

Once again the Seasiders had the opposition on toast in the tight and had total control in the matter of scrummaging. The problem was just that they simply couldn’t extract a single drop of advantage out of this.

In the first case, the referee, as is his prerogative, declined to award the sort of scrum penalties that are the norm in international matches as the Gilfach scrum disintegrated time after time. When he finally decided to intervene in the second half, the Gilfach pack found another string to their bow and the scrum wheeled this way and that, just never to Penarth’s advantage.

On a perishingly cold day, the Seasiders really didn’t play at all badly, although there were perhaps too many understandable handling errors, which the hosts didn’t seem to suffer from. Penarth dominated the opening phases, but immediately after James Docherty narrowly missed with an early penalty, the hosts came back strongly from the restart, forcing their way over from a catch-and-drive near the posts.

Docherty converted his second penalty after 15 minutes, but later received a yellow card for hands in the ruck as the hosts moved further in front with a try out wide from outside half T.Roberts. 12-3 was the half time score, but a bizarre score after 43 minutes made them look comfortable. One of their flankers intercepted Owain Lord’s pass from the base of an attacking scrum before feeding inside centre L.Davies as the referee waved play on. 19-3.

A brief ray of sunshine appeared on 54 minutes as Seasiders’ pressure brought a spectacular result with Richie Bowen ripping possession and breaking free to score, but after converting a penalty for dissent, the hosts claimed a late bonus point as outside centre M.Lewis accelerated impressively through a tiring defence for his side’s fourth try with four minutes remaining.

PENARTH Rhys Morgan, Ben Hill, Rhys Beynon (Morgan Smith), Chris Mortimer, James Crothers, James Docherty, Owain Lord, (Owen Rees) Sean O’Sullivan (Dave Thomas), Mason Good, Alan Doyle, Owen Thomas, Scott Mackie (Harrison Pugsley), Miles Jones, Alex Thau ©, Richie Bowen (Harrison Pugsley)

Scorers: Richie Bowen (try), James Docherty (penalty, conversion).