April 25 2015
SWALEC NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
LLANHARAN 27 NEWBRIDGE 25 (HT7-22)
Young Harrison Evans became the hero of the day as he expertly dropped the goal that gave our side a vital victory in the final minute of play.
It meant that we moved out of the relegation spots to go one point above Tondu who lost 12-3 to Bridgend Athletic.
Skipper Scott Malone issued a “we can do it” rallying call, praising the attitude in a team that never knew when to give up even when all seemed lost.
And so it was in this game with Newbridge holding a 22-0 lead near to half time and home supporters fearing the worst.
Yet Llan found the resolve to battle back to lead 24-22, lost it again briefly to a Meek drop goal, then celebrated joyously as replacement number ten Evans did his bit.
The Gwent outfit, whose losing bonus point secured their own immediate championship future, dominated from the start, building on a Llanharan mistake for Kieran Meek to find the gap, converting his own try.
A tense Llanharan continued to make uncharacteristic errors, although hope came when Tom Farrah-Evans and Nathan Huish made ground only for a foot in touch to deprive Morgan Williams.
The Newbridge response was immediate with Meek slotting a penalty and then making it 17 points in as many minutes as he added to a try from burly centre Scott Williams.
However, gradually the Dairymen began to make ground and gained hope from a yellow card after Huish’s drive was the latest thrust to be stopped illegally.
Geraint Llewellyn’s penalty into the wind came back off the upright, but more pressure came as this time Josh Clark’s foot on the line cancelled a try after Rory Martin-Smith had done well.
A score seemed certain to come, Huish’s charge down leading to a scrum five – but the set piece wheeled and scrum half Lloyd Peart intercepted to race the length of the field and make it 22-0.
We needed a life line with half time a minute away, and got it as renewed momentum had Clark in the action again before the big frame of Jack Davies added the final touch.
Llewellyn put over a superb wide conversion and somehow his side were back in it at 22-7.
The gap closed further in the 50th minute when the irrepressible Huish drove over from Huw Thomas’s lineout ball, Evans converting, and when Newbridge threatened danger at the other end it was Huish and his props Simon Collins and Tom Piper who stole a vital head.
But the east Walians were still a danger and could easily have scored from three opportunities had it not been for a mixture of their own mistakes and determined defence.
Instead, it was Llanharan who served notice that they weren’t giving up without a fight, a bouncing ball just eluding Williams' finger tips after Huish and Martin-Smith had taken play forward.
Ironically, it was an overthrow which brought the all-important next score, skipper Malone somehow collecting at the back of the lineout and Williams squeezing in for Evans to put the comeback well and truly on course as his kick put the team two points ahead.
The dramatic closing minutes then saw the men of Gwent sneak back ahead with Meek’s drop goal only for Evans to show admirable composure with that drop goal.
There was still more anxiety for the home crowd as the visitors hammered the line in the final seconds, but the magnificent Llanharan pack won a turn over and Nicky Theaker belted the ball out of play for a praiseworthy victory.
Llanharan tries: Morgan Williams, Nathan Huish, Jack Davies. Cons 2, pen and drop goal – Harrison Evans; Con – Geraint Llewellyn.
Newbridge tries – Kieran Meek, Scott Williams, Lloyd Peart; cons 2, pen and drop goal – Meek.
15 Ollie Smyth
14 Morgan Williams
13 Sam Edwards
12 Tom Farrah-Evans
11 Josh Clark
10 Geraint Llewellyn (Harrison Evans 41)
9 Nick Theaker
1 Simon Collins
2 Nathan Huish
3 Tom Piper (Aled Rees 70)
4 Jack Davies (Tom Williams 70)
5 Bill Carey
6 Scott Malone (C)
7 Rory Martin-Smith
8 Huw Thomas
Unused Replacements: Gethin Cashmore, Mike Powell
Report by Hugh Smith. Images by Richie Jenkins.