SWALEC NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP 2014/15
Jan 17 LLANHARAN 23 PONTYPOOL 17 (HT 10-8)
In the pre match dressing room, coaches Matthew Lloyd and Colin Malone reminded the Llanharan team of its ability and asked for consistency and application for the full eighty minutes.
Their young charges responded magnificently to turn the form book on its head, victory over 4th placed Pontypool lifting us off the bottom of the table and out of the relegation spots.
Their joy was clear to see, understandably so as it marked the first championship success for three months, a run which had seen us come so close on many occasions, the results not reflecting the abundance of talent in the ranks.
Former Sardis Road back row giant Lloyd was fulsome in his evaluation and praise as we at last delivered:
“Before the game it was mentioned that the elements demanded a game of ‘proper’ rugby and both teams certainly contributed to that.
“The result was in the balance until the final minute, and the fact that Llanharan seemed to want it more was the difference, a fact agreed by both sets of coaches and a fair few supporters.
“A victory in the league has not been far away since the Cardiff Met fixture back at the beginning of November. Elements of our game had been good, but not for the whole eighty, but yesterday the players saw it out.
“The front row (Collins, Huish and Piper) were superb, seeing off four Pontypool props with a dominant display. There was a huge workload from the second rows, where Bill Carey was back to his influential self. The back row (Malone, Thomas and Davies) carried, tackled and supported all game. The commitment in the side was epitomised by Thomas who left the field to have several stitches in a face wound and then returned to complete an outstanding contribution.
“The new half backs controlled the game superbly, Theaker playing after some six weeks rehabilitation, and Llewellyn serving up some superb kicking from hand and tee which we have been lacking all season. The centres (Farrah-Evans and Lynarch ap Myrddin) were direct and elusive, a threat all afternoon. The new combination certainly gave us a cutting edge. The back three (Morgan, Williams and Harry Davies) were also superb, constantly turning defence into attack and producing a kicking game of some maturity.
“So, all in all, a more than competent display from everyone. However, it's now the hard work starts. The players today produced a performance which sets a benchmark. There certainly is more to come and I’m sure the whole squad are keen to produce it. The season for us has taken a long time to ignite from the embers; we now have to maintain the flame.
“Lots of questions have been asked of individuals within the squad. One young man who has had to answer a few of these is Jack Davies. A 19 year old who has learnt all of his rugby in the last 5 yrs and in the ‘Rugby Heartland’ of Spain, Jack is now starting to become very influential. His game is now more and more complete. He is one of the reasons we enjoy coaching. Against Pontypool he was superb in all aspects of play and his performance belied his limited years or experience. For the coaches he produced a Man of the Match display.”
There certainly could have been no better score to win it with than our final try which came as we trailed 17-13 with just eight minutes to play and Morgan launching an attack from inside his own half. Wales Under 20 cap Harry Davies took possession and sped towards the line. Beating the last man for the try seemed a formality, but the young wing showed great presence of mind as he passed inside where Dafi Davies was supporting in a lung bursting run to finish off and give the accomplished Llewellyn a more straight forward kick.
And it was the young number ten who made certain there was no Pooler comeback as he slotted a final 46 metres penalty after himself being blatantly obstructed.
It had been a huge half for Llanharan who survived a Morgan Williams yellow card unscathed, but trailed the visitors as Clayton Gullis’s three penalties outweighed Llewellyn’s single effort, and it took some shuddering tackling to keep the Gwent men at bay.
But the black and blue shirted home XV were only building on a very good first forty that had given them a 10-8 lead.
Gullis had opened the scoring with a penalty, but the remarkable feature of the half was three consecutive heads taken by the home front row.
Old hands in the large Pooler following must have pondered how things have changed as Rob Nash’s men opted for a lineout instead of a scrum and changed their own front row at half time.
Such things would have been unheard of in the days of the legendary “Viet Gwent”, as Max Boyce once dubbed Price, Faulkner and Windsor.
It would also have given some pleasure to Llanharan’s on looking coaching consultant Dennis John who played at nine behind the formidable Pontypool pack.
It was no surprise when Scott Malone’s team got thefirst try, the rampaging Huish storming down the touchline, Llewellyn cutting through nicely, and then the attacking flair of Morgan finishing off, an excellent Llewellyn kick adding two more points.
Davies’s runs were opening up the defence and another penalty stretched the lead.
With half time approaching Llanharan seemed to have thwarted an isolated danger as we stole a penalty lineout ball in the corner, but kicked badly and set up another Pontypool drive from which prop Garin Harris went over, reducing the lead to 10-8 at the half way mark, still a sound foundation for what was to come from our basement side.
A pleasing day for the Dairyfield crowd was ensured by a gutsy second half when a fierce determination imbued all and brought a much needed victory.
· A minute’s silence was observed before the game in memory of former player Paul Morgan, whose sudden death at the age of 41 shocked everyone. The former centre scored 200 points for Llanharan in 2002/03.
Llanharan tries - Rhys Morgan, Dafi Davies; cons – Geraint Llewellyn 2; pens – Geraint Llewellyn 3.
Pontypool try - ; pens – Clayton Gullis 4.
15 Rhys Morgan
14 Morgan Williams
13 Lynarch ap Myrddin
12 Tom Farrah-Evans
11 Harry Davies
10 Geraint Llewellyn
9 Nick Theaker
1 Simon Collins
2 Nathan Huish
3 Tom Piper
4 Bill Carey
5 Jack Davies
6 Dafi Davies
7 Scott Malone (C)
8 Huw Thomas (Tom Williams blood, 58-75)
Unused Replacements -
Report by Hugh Smith. Images by Richie Jenkins.