Penarth 10 – Aberdare 39

IN A MATCH of shifting fortunes it was the hard-working St. John’s Ambulance people who seemed to have the busiest time as the opening game of the new season against the visitors from Aberdare unfolded at the Athletic Field last weekend. Despite the early injuries, by the end of the first half, Penarth were still in contention leading by 10 points to seven against what looked like an average Aberdare team, while by the end of the match, with three of its key players in the waiting room of the Heath Accident and Emergency Department, they had to acknowledge defeat at the hands of a more determined and purposeful opponent, who dominated the last quarter, scoring at will.

Aberdare scored the first try, but not long after that Penarth bounced back with a try scored by veteran wing-forward Owain George, who has made a comeback after several years of inaction. The first injured player to be carried off was number eight and vice-captain Alex Thau, who snapped a ligament in his right foot after about ten minutes of play. As the main ball carrier his absence was sorely felt, not to mention his abrasive tackling, and when scrum-half Gareth Mathias, another uncompromising tackler, joined him in the ambulance with a damaged knee, the writing was on the wall. The third to be carried off was outside-half Morgan Smith, who broke his wrist in a tackle early in the second half.

The loss of the entire midfield combination of 8-9-10 blew apart any meaningful game plan Penarth may have had, not to mention a gratuitous yellow card which saw Penarth inside centre Owain Lord sent to the bin. In the second half loss of discipline and concentration at the lineout denied Penarth valuable possession, a situation compounded by a spate of shoddy tackles in defence, which let the speedy Aberdare wings in, time and again. Despite all that and the increasingly one-sided battle at the breakdown, one has to give the Penarth players credit for their resilience and spirit, in adversarial circumstances. The loss of the three key players for several weeks does not bode well for the plans of head coach Matthew Bolton, not to mention the decision of the backs coach John Colderley to step down for family reasons.

Penarth: Sean O’Sullivan (Richard Merrett), Liam Richards (Chris Mortimer), Matt Holder, Owen Thomas, Anthony Pine, Scott Mackie, Owain George, Alex Thau (Miles Jones), Gareth Mathias (Rhys Morgan), Morgan Smith (Tom Hillman)

Scorers: try O.George, Pens J.Docherty, Cons J. Docherty.