By Jonathan Twigg
HENDY emerged from their battle of the champions with Whitland on Wednesday (May 2) winning 22-17 on a tranquil evening at Hendy Park.
Recognised by opponents throughout the division as the two teams who deserved to be playing at a higher level they produced an encounter not short on skill, passion and drama to which both camps can take acclaim from the spectacle provided in front of an appreciative crowd.
Amateur sportsmen and clubs thrive on games where their season hangs on the outcome, those long evenings during a rain soaked winter when their respective coaching teams planned like professionals, the next step in their quest for promotion.
In their 125th anniversary year, the Centreframe sponsored ‘green and red army’ showed their cards early, turning back a straight forward penalty attempt taking a scrum in front of the posts and outside half Rhydian Morris all but squirmed over the try line, Barry based referee Tom Spurrier ruling it out as he wasn’t convinced of the touchdown.
Morris did open the scoring with a well struck penalty, the work rate in the tight areas from lock Rhodri Hughes, flanker Richard Kinnear and number 8 Gavin Thomas, drawing visiting second row Dai Ebsworth over the ball, where both sides were ‘up for the game’.
Whitland settled and hassled scrum half Gruffyd Jones into a loose pass over Morris head in the goal area, setting a scrum which drew a penalty and outside half Nico Setaro set a line out five metres out.
Ebsworth took clean ball, the well drilled ‘green machine’ running in pods to roll around before number 8 Jack Mason was driven low over the line, Setaro landing the conversion, the credentials set for a game that had no parallels in terms of league rugby this season.
Players maybe be ‘categorised’ into Division 2 but their aptitude to absorb from their coaches and peers is without precedent, epitomised by scrum half Jones whose early loose pass was his only blemish in a high intensity game.
Home coaches Dorian Jones and Chris Morgan can call upon the expertise of the Shingler brothers, Aaron, a flying Welsh back row forward with the Scarlets and his brother, Cardiff Blues pivot Steven. No pretence in the warm up; solid counsel, knowledgeable of what their charges can engross and the little details that turn games, fine-tuned.
Whitland didn’t arrive to be bridesmaids, their intention to run the ball evident with the calibre of inform winger Sean Coles lurking. Scarlets academy player Scott Lloyd and Aaron Ebsworth on the wing were defensively strong, their efforts a principle of osmosis for their team mates, Hendy momentum nullified and skipper Marc Jones the catalyst to move forward with back row colleagues Ryan Morgan and Dan Evans.
Setaro, Lloyd and centre Gino Setaro brought full back Josh Thomas into the line, where he was direct, opening gaps and creating space with the visiting front five in support.
Props Aaron Mayne and Mike Ryan are not just anchors for a scrum with the experienced Raff Williams bedding down alongside an equally venerable Ebsworth, not that short of his own half century of birthdays, but still plying his trade alongside his nephew on the wing. Setaro took control, hoisting an up and under cross field, young Ebsworth winning the battle with his opposite number Tom Havard and the ball fell into the hands of Coles, looping off his wing to score a converted try.
14-3 wasn’t a fair reflection. The home charges had chances, not taken where the pressure, even at this level showed. “Not clinical in the key areas” said Coach Chris Morgan post-match, the ball spilled at significant times, centres Iwan Mayze and Josh Davies alongside full back Jake Neuman dangerous with ball in hand. Neuman found space combining well with winger Dyfan Williams, their second wind evident, flanker Lloyd Morris strong in carrying the ball as was second row Ashley Banfield alongside Kinnear.
“We talked about territory” Morgan went on to explain about the half time huddle. “We needed to make them play where it mattered and force mistakes, squeezing the game and then back our skill levels to capitalise.” Never have truer words echoed around the village as Hendy came out with purpose in the second half.
Whitland were forced deeper into their own half and ‘the squeeze’ applied onto the key protagonists, forcing choices which the ‘green machine’ may not have had to make all season. Touch kicks went awry, handling errors occurred, the ball lost at the central turnover area. With a sniff of victory in the air the Hendy pack were on song, tight in the scrum as the front three, props Ben Bachup and Shaun Williams alongside hooker Chris Bowen came to the fore.
Whitland were wilting, unable to play their expansive game, firefighting the advancing throng, their tackle count mounting to stop ‘men of the match’ second row Hughes and centre Davies.
Momentum with Hendy, Morris missed a penalty awarded by the Championship graded referee. Spurrier was a key player in the game, being ‘seen but not heard’, emphatic in his control but empathetic to the occasion, calling misdemeanours, although Morris was unable to transfer them into points. Neuman nearly crossed wide out as the home crowd vocal presence could be heard along the M4 corridor driving Hendy on, motivation if ever their heroes needed it.
Hughes once again claimed the ball off the top at a line out, seeing it set by the marauding home forwards, Morris releasing Neuman once more on a canter, the full back freeing Havard in space and fellow winger Williams touched down wide out for 14-10.
Gareth Bennett and Dan Mason, the Whitland gurus sensed the warning signals, making changes to stem the tide and revitalise their mantra. Not shrinking violets, the duo like their counterparts Jones and Morgan are years ahead of the game, innovative but humble of their contribution to local rugby. “A bitter pill to swallow tonight” stated Bennett, “but we go again on Saturday. Credit to Hendy, they won the game, did their homework on us and we congratulate them on their victory. The title is still there for us, two wins from our final fixtures will see to that and we have a collective team spirit which drives us on.”
Their changes did force play from end to end, Whitland having opportunities whilst Hendy were not rewarded with penalty goal attempts, needing their cargo to step forward. Baccup and Hughes were ploughing an unrivalled furrow, hooker Bowen taking a pop pass back from the line out to put his side into the lead 15-14, now a true reflection of the game.
Hendy, in their quest for the title knew they needed a bonus point to go with the victory which was there for the taking. Williams, standing tall out wide and number 8 Thomas now a terrier to equal Whitland skipper Jones around the Park.
It was Thomas tenacity which set the play for Neuman to cross the whitewash as the game entered its final ten minutes, calmness personified as the full back powered over, Morris getting his name on the scoresheet with the conversion.
Whitland replacement centre Josh Thomas had an impact down the inside channel but his side had let slip their efforts during a fine first half display. One more try would see the home side take a bonus point victory and leave Whitland with nothing for their performance, something the ‘eyes up rugby’ pushed by Bennet and Mason required.
Setaro, taking in the drama that had unfolded, quiet by his standards all evening had the opportunity to glean a point, the final kick of the game sailing through the uprights to reduce the deficit to five points, taking a point for his side which could turn out to be vital come the final whistle in ten days’ time.
Hendy take on Loughor on Wednesday (May 9) knowing they need a bonus point victory and hope Whitland slip up in their final two fixtures if they harbour any aspirations of lifting silverware. The Borderers travel to Fishguard on Saturday (May 5) before hosting Mumbles at Parc Llwyn Ty Gwyn the following Saturday.
Victory on the Moors against the Seagulls ensures the destiny of the title lies with them still, although the only other side to lower their colours besides Hendy this season were the team from the ‘Gateway to the Gower’.
Expect the GD Harries sponsored grandstand to be overflowing for the blockbuster, the ‘green machine’ putting behind any mental fatigue from recent games. League title opportunities are few and far between, the opportunity to be the bride and not the bridesmaid one to savour; an occasion befitting of an epic division 2 season out west.
Cefneithin hold off Cwmgors for second win
Cwmgors 22-31 Cefneithin
LOOKING for their first WRU Bowl victory since the restart, Cwmgors welcomed Cefneithin to Parc y Werin, the hosts kicking off playing towards Ysgol y Waun.
The visitors notched the opening score with an early converted try, before Andrew Mason sent a penalty over after 12 minutes for the home side.
The Cherries scored an excellent try on 20 minutes, a fine break from the impressive “Owz” resulting in a well-worked try; the resulting conversion unluckily came off the post, but ‘Gors led 8-7.
Some great work by the forwards brought due reward as Cwm grabbed a second touch down which Mason converted; but before the interval, Cefneithin hit back with a try of their own, to leave them trailing by just a point at the break.
Cefn then took the lead early in the second half with a penalty, and missed another minutes later, before breaching the Cwmgors defence to record a third try of the afternoon on 50 minutes.
Minutes later, the ever-industrious “Owz” popped up again, another clinical break and good support which saw Ioan Jones crash over the whitewash for the try; Andrew Mason’s conversion meant Cwm were just two points adrift.
But, ten minutes from the end, home hopes soon evaporated by a late try from the visitors which gave the Cherries too much to do and they ultimately went down to a valiant defeat.
Cwmgors travel to Tumble this Saturday (Sept 25) while Cefneithin host Amman United.
Amman United too good for Betws
AMMAN United earned their fourth win of the campaign on Saturday as they beat Betws 43-13.
After a short delay following the late arrival of the referee, it was Betws who opened the scoring when outside half Aled Rees Jones slotted an early penalty.
But the home side were soon on the attack; backrow man Alun Lewis’ jinking run opened the defence and his perfect pass put in supporting scrum- half Alex Williams to grab the try.
Following Dan Jones’ excellent run, Betws were penalised, and outside half Tom Caddell made no mistake with the resulting kick. A well struck penalty from the boot of Betws placekicker Jones made it 8-6 after 17 minutes.
Newly-married Iwan Davies showed no sign of flagging and was in the thick of things as his superb run typified his all-round effort, along with impressive centre Hacuna Bezzara.
Craig Ratliffe’s break then created space, and Rhodri Lewis’ pass put in Dan Jones for try number two, Caddell’s conversion making it 15-6.
Amman’s purple-patch continued as wing Eurig Morgan crossed for a fine corner try, but Betws showed their sheer grit, despite being down a man by now, peppering the Amman try-line before Rory McGhee forced his way over for a deserved try which Aled Rees Jones converted on the stroke of half time.
A gallant Betws defence was breached early in the second half as Iwan Davies’ pass put in centre Bezzara for a Caddell-converted try.
A superb individual try from Alex Williams which saw him sidestep in for another Amman try began taking the match out of the visitors’ grasp on the hour mark.
Eurig Morgan’s ‘try’ was then ruled out for a forward-pass, just before Alex Williams incurred the referee’s wrath, yellow-carded for a dangerous tackle.
Betws almost took advantage of the 14 men as scrum half Ryan Tancock, who had a solid game, made a searing midfield break which sadly earned no end reward.
Betws’ tiring defensive legs conceded a further score as Alun Lewis provided a try on a plate for replacement Liam Poole to gallop over with minutes remaining.
Caddell’s conversion completed the scoring on an entertaining encounter.
Amman make the trip to Cefneithin on Saturday (Sept 25), while Betws are next in action on October 2.
Ynys prove one hill too far
Cwmamman Utd Reserves 2-4 Ynysygerwn
AFTER two 5-1 wins Cwmamman Reserves, playing their second game in 3 days, put up a brave fight against an Ynysygerwn team with lots of first team experience while also having to play 70 mins of the match with ten men.
The last thing they needed on tired legs was the dismissal of Brieg Matthews after 18 mins for an off the ball incident and it had been a tight match to that point.
But then on 23mins a through ball to Rhys Brewer saw him open the scoring for Ynys.
The 10 men of Cwm fought hard and Ashley Twigg was causing problems on the flank while Olly Dymond was brought down for a strong penalty shout but the referee waved play on.
Grant Rees and Stuart Dunn were strong at the centre of defence. Then just on half time a failure to clear at a corner saw Josh Davies slot it home for the equaliser for CWM.
The second half saw Ynysygerwn increase their possession as Cwm tired and in the 50th minute Tom Phillips flicked in a corner which was quickly followed by a goal in the 53rd minute when a ball over the top saw Charlie Farrell make it 3-1 for Ynys.
Again Cwm came back with Rhys Williams and Rhydian Jones making strong runs and Cam Isaac who had been a safe pair of hands for Cwm in goals but playing out for the last 15 mins score a great individual goal for 3-2.
Cwm pressed and had another strong penalty appeal before themselves conceding a penalty in the last minute which was converted by Nathan Davies to seal a hard fought 4-2 win for Ynysygerwn.
Cwm will enjoy the week’s rest before entertaining Briton Ferry next Saturday (Sept 25).
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