By Jonathan Twigg
WHITLAND emerged from their local derby with a 23-17 victory over Carmarthen Athletic at Park Llwyn Ty Gwyn on Saturday (Jan 6), in a game which saw the sides share five tries whilst both had a player yellow carded by Trimsaran referee Alan Emmanual.
On a pitch, described as spongy at best to a quagmire in places and where a biting Northerly wind made handling errors more pronounced, the game was won in the last ten minutes when Whitland capitalised on outside half Nico Setaro’s rebounded penalty attempt from the upright.
Having just conceded a converted try to lead 17-16 the green machine showed true character to take play deep into their visitor’s territory and glean a penalty when down to 14 men after winger Liam Price was side lined for being off side at the ruck.
Setaro’s kick from in front of the stand fell nicely into the hands of flanker Ryan Morgan following up the kick. He set up a ruck situation which allowed the ball to be recycled by replacement scrum half aaron Ebsworth to Setaro who put his skipper Marc Jones on a straight angle in space.
As he was tackled the ball was popped up to supporting second row Micaiah Jones who crashed over wide out, capping a fine all round performance from the youngster alongside his boiler house partner Raff Williams.
Promotion chasing Whitland had led throughout the game after Setaro had opened the scoring just after a quarter of an hour when hi slotted over his second penalty attempt after good work by scrum half Adam Davies had made ground down the blindside with his winger Liam Price before the penalty for offside was awarded.
The referee’s whistle was a predominant feature of the opening period with the black and red shirts running a close line on infringements which Setaro had decided to nurture into touch until he was comfortably within his kicking range.
The plethora of home penalties’ had come as the outside half ran an array offensive of lines, incorporating inside centre Josh Thomas on the heavy ball down the middle interlinked with missed passes from which Price and fellow winger Scott Candler benefitted from.
Number 8 Jack Mason, like his opposite number Richard Bloomfield was excellent carrying from the base of the scrum, setting up second phase from which Davies and Setaro could stream quick ball.
The opening try came after a free kick for delaying the scrum was kept alive by prop Aaron Mayne taking a quick tap penalty; Davies and Setaro found their skipper Jones in midfield and the hooker made ground with Kirk who put centre Johnny Thomas in the clear to score in the corner.
Whitland had the upper hand, having more than parity in the scrum set piece but for all their game time dominance they weren’t clinical in turning the possession into points.
Prop Dafydd Bowen scored an excellent try for the Athletic after second row Williams caught the ball in an offside position as they got a foothold in the game.
Centre Gethin Francis had put in a thumping tackle on Thomas in midfield, as young skipper Dan Evans and second row Llyr Owen came to the fore alongside Bloomfield.
From the penalty given for Williams offside the visitors set up a line out, won by James Williams and his pack got a head of steam in the maul to destroy the home defence, with Owen touching down for an unconverted try.
The first half ended 8-5 with the visitors reduced to 14 men after hooker Paul Gravell took a yellow card after Emmanuel’s tolerance gave way, but it was a catalyst for the Athletic to start the second half with tenacity and spirit. Full back Robbie Davies was adventurous when running the Setaro line kicks back upfield linking well with his back row and scrum half Nick Rees.
Mason, for the green machine and his backrow colleague Ryan Morgan were doing a lot of unsung work on the floor and Mason set up the second try as the hour mark approached.
He won the wrestle for the ball as it went to ground, allowing Setaro to free Johnny Thomas and Price to make haste down the field. Young centre Josh Thomas had held pace with the fast moving break up field to arrive on a definitive angle where his strength carried him over by the posts for a converted try and a 15-5 lead.
Whitland were off colour with their finishing, perhaps the upshot of playing back to back derby games had clouded their focus as they lacked a spark and fizz from their back division.
Carmarthen were back in the game thanks to the opportunism of winger Josh Watson, after the flyer received the ball from Bloomfield.
Prop Carwyn Francis and Evans created the platform before Watson saw a half gap appear and he didn’t need a second invitation to put on the afterburners to leave his opponents failing in his wake, for Tom Gravell to convert.
Setaro extended the lead to 18-10 thanks to another penalty but the Athletic had an attacking axis as Carwyn Evans and Chris Howells set up a line out deep in the Whitland 22 metre area.
The catching line out had been an attacking platform all game and the visitors from up the A40 saw this as their D day.
Formed as a Club on June 6, 1944 they went through over a dozen phases of play where the forwards made small and direct gains, with Bloomfield the centre of the cyclone. Liam Price was dismissed and with a man advantage at the scrum the no 8 and Evans set up an opportunity for fellow back row man Rhydian Walters to score and Gravell convert.
Credit to Whitland who knuckled down to win the game when perhaps in seasons past the opportunity would have passed them by.
“We maintained our belief and mental toughness despite facing a storm in the final onslaught” said a delighted home coach Gareth Bennett.
“We showed tremendous character to come away with a victory and the players heads are down as they felt it should have been more comfortable than what it was in the end. We play with a smile on our faces and will work on the learning points in training this week.”
Whitland head to bottom of the table Llanybydder on Saturday (Jan 13) welcoming Loughor in a needle encounter the week after before heading to Hendy at the end of the month.
“One game at a time” chortled Bennett. “Let’s enjoy today’s result but both Dan (Mason) and I know where we have to improve and will be nurturing the players along this week towards our goal, promotion back to Division 1 West.”
Carmarthen Athletic next welcome St Clears to Trinity Fields with the confidence shown by their young side allowing them to fear no opponents in the Division.
Sometimes the difference between winning and losing is miniscule or on the ball falling kindly.
If the Setaro penalty hadn’t fallen back into a team mates hands the Athletic boys may have been waking up ‘Early in the morning’ and looking back on a win as opposed to just the losing bonus point they achieved in the Swansea Building Society sponsored match.
Old Gold charged by FAW
CARMARTHEN Town have been charged with allegedly playing an ineligible player in their 2-0 win over Llanelli Town on New Years Day.
A statement from the Football Association of Wales states that the charge relates to David Vincent who had been suspended having accumulated five yellow cards.
The statement reads: “The Football Association of Wales (FAW) has charged Carmarthen Town AFC under FAW Rule 38.1.6 and Welsh Premier League Rule 18 with allegedly playing an ineligible player during their 2-0 win over Llanelli Town AFC on Tuesday, January 1, 2019.
“The charge relates to the playing of David Vincent, who was suspended as and from December 28, 2018 for one match for the accumulation of five yellow cards.
“Carmarthen have seven business days until January 16, to respond to the charge. The matter will be heard by an FAW Disciplinary Panel at the earliest possible opportunity.”
Llanelli and Llandovery through in Cup
LLANELLI and Llandovery are both through to the second round of the WRU National Cup after they secured first round victories on Saturday (Jan 5).
Llandovery eased through to the second round as they scored a century of points against Championship side Beddau.
The Drovers scored 16 tries and 12 conversions with Corey Baldwin scoring four of those tries.
Kristian Jones also scored two tries and had all twelve conversions for a personal points haul of 34.
There were also braces for Joseff Powell and Carwyn Evans. Dino Dallavalle, Lewis Ellis-Jones, Lee Rees, Rhodri Jones and replacement Llew Smith also crossed the whitewash as the home side sealed a 104-0 victory.
Llanelli also went through after also beating Championship side Ystrad Rhondda 18-32.
Taylor Davies was first on the scoresheet for Llanelli and Ashley Sutton then added a penalty. Kalum Evans and Thomas Rogers then scored tries for the visitors while Sutton converted the second of the two.
Gareth George also scored while Rogers grabbed his second try to which Sutton added the extras to seal the win.
Carmarthen Quins were agonisingly knocked out of the first round after a late Rhys Jones penalty gave Ebbw Vale a 19-20 victory.
Aled Thomas scored an early penalty for the Quins to level things up but the Vale took the lead only for Osian Knott to score a try to which Thomas added the extras to level the game at 10-10.
The Vale took the lead again but a Thomas penalty on the stroke of half time kept them in it at 13-17.
Thomas then kicked two second half penalties to put the Quins ahead and it looked as if they would go through but Jones had other ideas as his penalty won it for the Vale.
Newcastle Emlyn bowed out of the competition as they were beaten 21-36 by Premiership strugglers Bargoed.
The Emlyn were very much in the game at half time with the score at 21-22 in favour of Bargoed but they took control in the second half to seal their passage.
The draw for the second round was made on Tuesday (Jan 8) and it saw Llanelli drawn away to fellow Premiership side Pontypridd.
Llandovery were given a home tie against Trebanos who saw off Maesteg Quins in the first round.
Those ties will be played on the weekend of January 26, but before that all sides return to Premiership action on Saturday (Jan 12).
The Quins face Bargoed looking to respond to their Cup defeat while Llandovery are at home to Bedwas and Llanelli are away to Merthyr.
Blacks hold on to deny Seagulls
BURRY Port held off a strong second half comeback from Fishguard as they earned victory by a single point in a thrilling game which finished 35-34 in favour of the Blacks on Saturday (Jan 5).
The Blacks were on a five-match losing streak while Fishguard were looking to bounce back after being beaten by Pembroke in their last game.
The game started at a frantic pace with Burry Port’s Luke Ruddal gathering their own kick at kick off and piling on the pressure on the Seagull’s try line, and with quick ruck ball Ruddal darted over for the opening score.
The Blacks definitely had a spring in their step and looked dangerous with ball in hand, a cross field kick looked as if it would bring another score only for winger Tom Davies to just lose control. This didn’t stop the Blacks and from a driving lineout 10m out and the home pack rolling to the try line, the referee awarded a penalty try and yellow card for collapsing the maul.
Burry Port continued to apply the pressure and tried hard to make the extra man count and with Youth winger Tom Davies making up for this early mistake finished a fine try, A penalty soon after by outside half Ceiron Thomas stretched the lead further.
Fishguard however were in no mood to roll over, a rare outing into the Burry Port half saw a lovely cross field kick work perfectly for Ed Bendall to run in unopposed.
This started a period of good play by the visitors and forced Burry Port into some errors and giving Penalties away, and with good field position managed to force another try from close range through Chris Shousha.
Burry Port hit straight back with a move on half way slicing the defence apart for winger Tom Davies to race in for this second and the bouns point try.
The game continued to be played at a frantic pace and Burry port were enjoying themseleves, another excellent team try was finished off by that man again Tom Davies who completed his Hat trick and surely left Fishguard to much to do to get back in the game, score 32-10.
The last play of the half from the restart saw Fishguard regain possession and manage to put the Blacks under pressure and after a few advantages from the referee for Burry Port ill-discipline saw a yellow card given to Burry Port.
With Fishguard knowing a penalty wasn’t enough to get back in the game they opted for a scrum and after a few phases a missed tackle allowed Ben John to cross under the posts and give them a lifeline for the second half.
The second half was a totally different affair with Burry Port looking to protect their lead by opting for territory rather than possession and resulted in them kicking far too much ball away.
Fishguard seemed to enjoy having the ball more and with some powerful runners in their ranks started causing Burry Port problems. A few loose kicks were capitalised on by the Fishguard back 3 and after another fine cross field kick saw them get a well-deserved try, scored by Jordan James to make it 32-22 and bring the Seagulls back in the game.
Burry Port failed to convert a few chances and the supporters could sense a bit of uncertainty creeping in. Another yellow card added to the worries of the Burry Port team, and a break by the visitors led to another try from Ed Bendall and the momentum had most definitely shifted to the Seagulls.
The score was now 32-27 and both sides knew the next score would be vital with time running out.
Finally Burry Port stopped kicking the ball away and after a long phase of ball in hand worked their way up field and once in kicking range forced a penalty which fullback Ben Williams put over to put the Blacks a crucial 8 points ahead with only a couple of minutes remaining.
Fishguard had already secured a try bouns point and even though there might not have been enough time to get the two scores needed for victory there was a losing point up for grabs and to their credit they managed just that with the ref calling last play and Fishguard managing to keep the ball alive and James crossed at the death for his second to also get an important score which could prove crucial come the end of season.
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