Penarth 21-22 CRCC

THE signs of a tentative Penarth recovery, identified in the last week’s away match at Cardiff Harlequins, have been confirmed by a stirring performance in a one point defeat at the hands of the visiting Clwb Rygbi Cymry Caredydd, at the Athletic Field at the weekend. Without a shade of doubt, Penarth, as they won the first bonus point of the season, played the best 38 minutes of rugby since the league commenced in September, as head coach Matt Bolton confirmed after the match. It was stirring stuff. It was controlled, it was skilful and it was exhilarating - the kind of rugby Penarth seemed unable to string together this season. The forwards, outmuscled by the assertive Clwb pack for forty minutes, had suddenly lost their inhibitions and turned the tables on the bewildered visitors.

The key to the miraculous Penarth recovery were the two half-time changes: the return of Mason Good at hooker for the first time this season and the entry of Richie Howells in the back row, taking over the open side berth vacated by the injured Owain George - who had earlier singlehandedly turned over the rampaging Clwb captain, as he was going over the line in the closing stages of the first half. Then there was the half time pep-talk of coach Bolton who urged his players to build the phases near and in the opposition twenty-two, making sure that the carries suck in their defence.

After the break, a six point deficit (9-15) was turned into a six-point lead, as Penarth front five Merrett, Good, O’Sullivan, Seal and Thomas took control of the scrummaging and whole pack including the rest of the back row of Jones and Davenport revelled in the Howells-led onslaught in the loose. Merrett and Morgan capitalised on all that by scoring the tries with Docherty kicking the points. Why 38 minutes, rather than 40? Simply because, with three or four minutes left on the clock and Penarth leading 21-15, the match was there to be won, a much-needed win after a dreadful start of the season. Then, two minutes later, Penarth lost the plot, taking a couple of puerile options, instead of closing the game and jealously guarding the possession. Disaster struck as they were turned over, which was followed by the habitual penalty given away, and ended up with a CRCC try converted by the jubilant visitors. There was still time to perhaps snatch an increasingly improbable win, but all of a sudden Penarth of the old took over, as haste, lack of composure and poor options replaced the earlier controlled approach.

It was distressing to see the Seasiders snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, but then perhaps handling success in this increasingly tough battle for survival in the second division is another lesson they will have to learn. Another positive aspect of an otherwise exciting day was the quality match-management of Francesca Martin, the first female official to handle at a match of the senior fifteen in Penarth.

Penarth: (1-15) Richard Merrett, (Harrison Pugsley) Liam Richards, (Mason Good) Sean O’Sullivan, Owen Thomas, Dan Seal, Miles Jones, Owain George, (Ritchie Howells) Nick Davenport, Rhys Morgan, Rhys Lloyd, Rhys Beynon, Owain Lord, Tom Luck (capt), Tom Smith.

Scorers: Tries: Merrett, Morgan, Pens Docherty 3, Cons Docherty