FOLLOWING strong showings against two of the division’s high flyers in the last couple of weeks Penarth headed to Pontyclun on Saturday in confident mood seeking a victory that would have moved them further into the comfort zone in the middle of Division 3A East Central.

What unfolded in the 80 minutes however was an abject performance in which they were comprehensively outplayed in all departments by a side that started the day just 1 point and 1 position above them in the table.

The game started badly for Penarth as within three minutes the home side had crossed the whitewash for the first of their 11 tries.

A long kick saw Ben Hill isolated and strongly challenged on the floor by the Pontyclun winger, the referee missed a clear knock on by home player which saw the ball spill out and the Pontyclun player following up crossed for an easy try.

Another try followed shortly after as a number of Penarth indiscretions allowed Pontyclun to kick their way into the Penarth 22, secure possession and cross under the posts for a well worked try.

Being 12-0 down within seven minutes of kick should have sparked some reaction from the Penarth players but none was forthcoming and save for a couple of sharp breaks by lively scrum half Spencer Robinson Penarth never looked like troubling the scoreboard.

Four more tries followed before half-time each looking much the same as the last as the home forwards dominated and overpowered the Penarth pack whilst their back line tore through the Penarth three quarters with impunity.

The half-time score read 40-0 and whilst the second half couldn’t get any worse, it certainly didn’t get any better with a further 5 tries being added by the rampant Badgers.

As the match wore on the home side in their black and white tops looked more and more like the Barbarians as their confidence swelled in the face of very little opposition and the ball was repeatedly recycled in more and more inventive and crowd pleasing ways.

The final ignominy for Penarth came in the final quarter whereupon it became obvious that the referee was trying to limit the damage on Penarth’s behalf with decisions that appeared to be based more on pity than any particular infringement from the home side.

It is hard to put a finger on exactly what went wrong for Penarth, although credit must go to Pontyclun whose run to the quarter final of the Bowl has reinvigorated their season and whose simple but effective game plan was ruthlessly and relentlessly executed.

Whilst there were five changes from the Cowbridge match the previous week this was no excuse, indeed four of the five changes saw regular starters Richard Merrett, Kevin Maddox, Ryan Jones and Iwan Baker return to the line-up.

The departure of top scorer Tom Smith to the bright lights of London is undoubtedly a loss to the side but not to this extent.

Given the forward steps taken over the course of this season Penarth have little time to dwell on this hiding and they need to bounce back quickly with some big fixtures on the horizon. First up are Treharris, who are one of the favourites for the title and a side who have already handed Penarth a thumping 54-29 defeat earlier in the season, followed by the biggest game of the season to date away at Gwernyfed who currently occupy the second relegation position and sit six points behind Penarth in the table.

With winless Cefn Coed cast adrift at the bottom and Clwb Rygbi undergoing a resurgence following their progress to the quarter finals of the Bowl it increasingly appears that Penarth are now very much in a relegation battle, with Gwernyfed as their main rivals.

The Talgarth-based side are the only team to have played more games than Penarth in the league this season so a Penarth victory would open up a healthy looking gap with the return fixture at the Athletic Field to come at the start of April.

But for now all attention will be on forgetting the Windsor Park debacle and getting back to more acceptable standards of play on Saturday.

Penarth: R. Merrett (H. Wood), I Baker (L. Richards), S O’Sullivan, R Jones, H Pugsley (A Fulton) J Hughes, C Mortimer, E Smith, S Robinson, J Crothers, R Morgan, G Roberts (O Lord), B Hill, J Docherty (M. Smith)