By Jonathan Twigg
“A HAPPY camp is a winning camp” according to Coach Gareth Bennett and the GD Harries sponsored ‘Green Machine’ of Whitland were in buoyant mood on Saturday (Nov 4) after they kept their unbeaten start to the season in tact after against previously unbeaten visitors Pontardullais.
The Borders are committed to play a style of rugby where they are willing to play the situation which falls before them, where a precarious 9-7 lead at half time in the face of a swirling wind could have led to them wilting in the face of a side intent on leaving Parc Llwyn Ty Gwyn with something to show for their efforts.
They scored the only try of the game two minutes before the break when winger Gethin Williams crossed wide out for fellow winger Paul Geary to add a majestic conversion to put the ‘Ambers’ 7-6 ahead, but had to settle for a losing bonus point as the home sides outside half Nico Setaro kicked them to victory with five penalties.
Setaro took a while to settle into the flow of the game as he was guilty of some poor tactical kicking as his side were second best in the early exchanges in all aspects.
The scrum found itself disrupted from the start, as skipper Marc Thomas lost one against the head and throughout the first half they continually failed to secure line out ball which would have allowed them a platform from which to play on the front foot.
Setaro missed an effort from just beyond the 22m line after six minutes before ‘The Bont’ lost influential Loose Head prop Andrew Williams two minutes later as he found himself exposed to some rough treatment on the floor and the ebb of the game swung in Whitland’s favour.
Hooker Thomas was tenacious in his tackling and driving play supported by the ‘boiler house’ veterans Raff Williams and 47 year old Dai Ebsworth.
Ebsworth experience of playing for three decades, including at Narberth was evident both on and off the ball as he became a go to man in the line out which led to a second penalty failed penalty attempt for Setaro after winger Liam Price had run over 25m with the ball in hand.
Fellow winger Sean Coles also combined in a sweeping 50m run with Price and the home pressure finally paid dividends midway through the half when Setaro’s penalty was successful after Pontyates referee Justin Thomas marched forward for ten metres after some dissent.
The visitors were penalised eight times in the first half, mainly for not releasing the player in the tackle as they slowed the game down with many on field injury assessments.
The tactics galvanised Thomas, Ebsworth, Number 8 Jack Mason and flanker Benji Kirk to put in the hard yards for their side and a second Setaro penalty after 32 minutes extended the lead. Williams try came about thanks to second row Jordan Daniels and flanker Dean Courtney setting a platform for the winger to cross.
In time added on at the end of the first half a counter attack from their own half saw Setaro’s angled kick fielded by full back Aled Stone, a product of the Clubs junior and youth set up. Instead of putting the ball out of play to end the half he tried to run from within touching distance of his own posts to be caught by the marauding home back row and the resultant penalty from wide out for not releasing allowed Setaro to lead his side from the field with a 9-7 cushion.
Centre Josh Thomas entered the fray after half time for Whitland as ball player Johnnie Thomas moved to the wing to replace Sean Coles, victim of a dead leg.
The second half game management from the home side saw them stifle any effort by Pontardullais to get ahead with some excellent handling and miss moves shipped the ball wide to winger Thomas and Price ensuring the game was played deep in the visitors territory.
Setaro and full back Scott Newton are composite ball handlers and kickers from hand, alongside Thomas and Price as they dictated both the tempo and tactical play which saw them combine and travel at times over sixty metres with ball in hand.
Coach Dan Mason was complimentary of this play as ‘the players are encouraged to express their ability at all times’.
He added: “There may have been a hangover from our last game at Tumble alongside nerves due to the ‘magnitude of the game’ at the start of the afternoon but we are all confident in our own and our team mates skills. Bennett, added ‘there is no better feeling for a front five forward to get up from the battle on the floor to see the ball 40m downfield and it keeps a spring in our step and a smile on our faces.”
Replacement Thomas also added a new dimension to the play after the break by taking and carrying the ball to the first defender with fellow centre Alun Davies enjoying the freedom created to ensure Setaro and the back three could perform.
Flanker Ryan Michael was instrumental in leading a high defence line alongside scrum half Adam Davies who edged out his more experienced counterpart Adrian Killa or the visitors as the game wore on, which restricted the ability for Stone et al to run back from deep, resulting into the kicks into the hands of Newton, Setaro and Thomas.
Setaro landed two more penalties as the graft of his forwards put their side 15-7 ahead with ten minutes remaining although it could have been different had Geary not slipped when attempting a straight forward penalty attempt a minute later; he made amends with five minutes left after work from Daniels drew Michael offside as his side felt the loss just when his side most needed him most of Number 8 Jacob Miles, an attacking dynamo alongside his scrum half Killa all afternoon.
A vociferous visiting contingent in the stands became frustrated as the play couldn’t transfer to give their idols an opportunity to win the game where a Club spokesman at the end of the game praised ‘Whitland’s second half performance, which ended our unbeaten league start, although the losing bonus point may prove crucial as the season draws to its climax.”
The final word on an absorbing Whitland Ladies sponsored top of table encounter was left to Bennett. “As coaches it’s a case of osmosis as these players just want to take everything we are giving them onto the pitch. We have no expectations beyond our next game and we are able to use players out of position when the need arises; our philosophy of trying to play rugby beyond our outside centre will remain.”
Next week Pontarddulais entertain St Clears whilst the unbeaten Green Machine travel to Mumbles to take on a side which were unable to field a team last weekend.
Old Gold made to work for win
CARMARTHEN progressed to the Fourth Round of the Welsh Cup with an ultimately comfortable victory over Goytre United on Saturday (Dec 8) – but they were made to work hard for that achievement by the competitive Welsh League side and only secured success thanks to three moments of clinical finishing by experienced strikers Luke Bowen and Liam Thomas.
United almost took an early lead when after only 4 minutes Joe Hopkins produced a speculative long-range shot that skidded unpredictably off the saturated turf, catching Lee Idzi by surprise and forcing the experienced ‘keeper to bundle the ball clumsily around the post.
From thereon the match quickly developed into a fast-paced, end-to-end affair although, with both defences looking quite secure, no further early scoring chances arose until the 16th minute when the Old Gold went ahead after a brief spell of pressure. Luke Cummings fired a searching corner-kick into the crowded goalmouth where Bowen arrived with perfect timing to plant his close-range header past ‘keeper Luke Martin and into the back of the net.
Goytre immediately responded with a series of spirited counter-attacks but Town’s experienced and well-established back-line of Lee Surman, Dave Vincent and Jordan Knott were, as so often in recent games, in commanding form and capably resisted any serious threat to their goal – and directly ahead of them, industrious midfielders Mael Davies, Greg Walters, Cummings and Declan Carroll eagerly provided a further valuable layer of defensive support whenever necessary. Consequently, Idzi was never really tested again during this period.
Meanwhile Carmarthen’s strikers were always an available outlet, willingly using their pace and mobility to keep the home defenders fully occupied – and on 35 minutes they went close to extending their lead when, after a slick interchange of passes with Bowen on the edge of the penalty area, Sean Hanbury released a rasping strike that Martin, diving swiftly down at full length, resisted.
In the 41st minute the Old Gold were successful. Cummings, an increasingly influential figure in midfield, surged forward from the centre-circle before producing a sublime pass that set Thomas racing towards the penalty area and Town’s all-time top scorer completed this incisive move with his customary composure, smartly driving the ball beyond Martin’s reach and into the corner of the net.
After the interval the same pattern of end-to-end football soon emerged but the pace of the game had noticeably quickened with United pouring forward at every opportunity, clearly intent on reducing the deficit. However the Old Gold defence again comfortably withstood that early pressure – moreover, from those positions, deep inside their own half, they were frequently able to launch rapid counter-attacks.
On 74 minutes Carmarthen further increased their lead in just that fashion. The ball was played out of defence to Hanbury who moved forward along the left flank before firing a long cross deep into the penalty area where Bowen, with impressive anticipation of the scoring opportunity, created the time and space to power another close-range header into the net leaving Martin well beaten.
Goytre, stung by that further setback, immediately swarmed upfield and soon went close to reducing the deficit when Hopkins, from 25 yards, struck a promising drive that drew a fine save from Idzi, diving low at full stretch to turn the ball around the post.
Then on 77 minutes Rhodri Cole, from near the left touchline, delivered an inviting free-kick into the packed goalmouth but saw Adam Jenkins direct his close-range header just wide of the goal.
The Old Gold, with some rapid counter-attacking, were still posing a serious threat at the other end of the pitch. After 81 minutes Walters moved in from the left-wing and, from the corner of the penalty area, released a stunning angled volley that Martin, with a spectacular flying save, turned past the far post.
The exhilarating end-to-end pattern of play continued to the end of the match. In the 89th minute Hanbury, enjoying possibly his best performance for Town since he joined the club at the start of this season, made ground along the left touchline then lifted a huge cross-field pass that reached Bowen on the right-wing – he, in turn, fired the ball across the goalmouth where Hanbury, having enthusiastically continued his run, sadly managed only a weak shot that Martin easily gathered.
Then in added time at the end of 90 minutes a corner from United substitute Zac Brown reached Thomas Doidge in the goalmouth but from a good position he wastefully sent his looping header over the bar.
This was a highly satisfactory performance by Carmarthen playing away from home against a very capable Welsh League side (that included several former WPL players in its squad), and on a pitch made increasingly difficult by poor weather conditions which was in complete contrast to the 3G surfaces which they have regularly encountered so far this season – all the ingredients for a typical Cup upset were there but, thankfully, overcome by the Old Gold.
For their next fixture Town return to League action when they entertain Barry Town United at Richmond Park on Friday, December 14, k/o 7.30pm.
Llangennech hold off Crymych charge
LLANGENNECH secured their seventh victory of the season on Saturday (Dec 8) but only after they withstood a late Crymych fightback to win 27-24.
Llangennech started the game well and held a 17-5 lead at half time with Brandon Wood getting himself on the score sheet again.
Richard Thomas and Rhys Davies also went over for the home side while Wood was successful with one conversion.
Nick Bevan replied for Crymych to keep his side in the game going into the break.
In the second half Wood added his second try of the game which he converted and he later added a penalty to seemingly put the game out of Crymych’s reach.
Crymych had other ideas though as Iwan Mullin and Guto Davies both went over for tries while Ifan Phillips added two conversions.
Llywellyn Rees also scored for the visitors but the conversion was missed and Crymych were only three points down with some time left to play.
Try as they might they were unable to find a winning score as Llangennech held on for the win.
Crymych’s late surge ensured they would earn a bonus point for their four tries and another point for being within a score of their opponents, all of which could prove crucial come the end of the season.
On Saturday (Dec 15), Llangennech will go in search of another win as they make the long journey up to Aberystwyth. Crymych will look to bounce back as they take on Tenby United at Heywood Lane.
Spirited Blues knocked out by Aber
CWMAMMAN United bowed out of the JD Welsh Cup on Saturday (Dec 8), as they were beaten 4-3 by Aberystwyth Town at Grenig Park.
It took a late pitch inspection by the match officials to deem this cup tie on but in the end the match officials were proved correct and a real old fashioned cup tie ensued.
Both teams were keen to play and the crowd were treated to a seven-goal thriller.
Aberystwyth Town were always the favourites to win this game and they were on the front foot from the kick off.
As early as the 12th minute Aber striker Ashley Ruane rounded Blues’ keeper Chris Curtis but side footed his shot wide of the goal.
A few minutes later Aber captain Declan Walker forced a good save from Curtis.
After 20 minutes Aber got the goal that their attacking play deserved and a pin point cross by Matthew Jones found his team mate Porya Ahmadi who as unmarked and the striker controlled his shot well and hit the ball into the back of the Cwm net, 0-1.
Cwmamman’s never gave up attitude was there in abundance for all to see and the game became more of an open affair.
With 37 minutes gone Aber striker Ashley Ruane rounded Curtis again and had his effort cleared off the line.
Two minutes later Cwm played themselves down to the Aber end and from a resulting corner the visitors failed to clear the cross and Cwm’s James Bryan finally poked the ball into the back of the Aber net to level the score 1-1.
The half time whistle blew and it was Cwmamman who were buoyant as they headed for their half time pep talk.
Aberystwyth would have been a little disappointed that they hadn’t capitalised on their first half chances.
The second half was only two minutes old when a cross found the head of Ashley Ruane who powered his header into the roof of the Cwm net, 1-2.
Less than 10 minutes later it was that man again, Ashley Ruane who added the visitors’ third goal despite appeals from the home defence, 1-3.
Several minutes later the same player Ashley Ruane grabbed his hat trick as Cwm had failed to clear a thunderous shot that had rattled the Cwm crossbar and Ruane did the rest to make it 1-4 to Aber.
For most this would have been game set and match. But this Cwm team didn’t give up the cause.
Cwm responded and within three minutes they had won a free kick some 30 yards out from the Aber goal and a well-rehearsed move ended with a cross into the Aber box which was headed into the back of the net by Blues striker Chrissy Allen, 2-4.
With time running out Cwm were dominating the last 14 minutes of this cup tie and it took a fine save from Aber keeper Terry McCormick to deny Cwm a third goal.
But hold the back page as Cwm weren’t finished and continued to push forward and it was defender James Bryan who had been pushed forward from defence who found a gap in the Aber defence and found himself in a one on one with the Aber keeper.
James Bryan kept his nerve and despite a hand from Aber keeper Terry McCormick couldn’t stop the shot from going into the net off the inside of the post to make it 3-4.
With minutes to go it was Aber taking the ball to the corners to run down the clock.
Cwmamman’s players to a man had tried hard for the equaliser but as the referee’s whistle blew it was the visitors Aberystwyth who were celebrating but there were lots of tired players on both sides after a gruelling encounter on an energy sapping pitch.
On balance of chances in this game then Aberystwyth deserved to progress to the next round of the JD Welsh Cup and certainly avoided this potential banana skin but make no mistake that this Cwmamman team are a quality outfit and showed their Premier League opponents why they are in the top half of their division.
Aberystwyth Town Manager Neville Powell was obviously very pleased to be in the next round of the cup but very complimentary about the Cwmamman team in his post-match comments.
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