The record of having played in every possible round of the WRU Bowl over the last 17 months came well and truly to an abrupt end on Saturday as Taff’s Well met a very ambitious Caerphilly outfit. You kind of got the drift of how much the castle town wanted this match as the impressive ground housed a giant TV screen and pyrotechnics as the ‘Cheesemen’ strode out into the arena after a huge crowd had responded to the media and social media campaigns which had lead up to the kick-off.
As the game got underway, it quickly became apparent that referee Aaron Parry would have his work cut out as the two sides tested the other in the blinking stakes and it wasn’t long before he had need to reach for his pocket as flankers Will Oliver for Caerphilly and Rhys Watkins were yellow carded before the game had a chance to get up any steam. If Taff’s Well had any ideas of getting on top of the Caerphilly eight, then the home side had other ideas as they secured a constant stream of possession in the visitor’s half which ultimately led to a try from left wing & club steward Chris Thomas following an attacking 5m scrum.
The Castlemen were straight back on the offensive with scrum-half Jac Jonathan splitting the Taff’s Well defensive and feeding flanker Will Oliver for another try which again went unconverted, maybe due to the distraction of the linesman’s foxy combo of yellow jersey and bright pink socks. With Caerphilly knocking on from the restart, the attacking scrum gave Taff’s Well their opportunity to apply some pressure but a rifled miss-pass from outside-half, just nosed in front of winger Ronan Barrett and went straight into touch with the line at his mercy. From this let-off, the home side worked the ball from their own 22 in an impressive movement sparked by right wing Gareth Dare which led to a fine try for right centre Paul Kawulok converted by outside-half Matthew Hurley - 17-0
Caerphilly were winning an abundance of possession which fed a back-line looking so very comfortable with ball in hand and were not afraid to run it from anywhere. With a rare incursion in to the Caerphilly half following a penalty for a high tackle and a subsequent lineout on the home 22, Rhys Lott’s pass was picked out by Hurley who gleefully accepted the invitation to sprint the full length of the field and score under the posts unchallenged which he duly converted himself. This really was the killer blow which not only gave Caerphilly a half-time lead of 24-0, it also forced coach Axel Rees into making a raft of changes up front to try and change the dynamics of the game.
Half-time score: Caerphilly 24 v 0 Taff’s Well
If you thought that things couldn’t get any worse then you obviously hadn’t read the script as from a Caerphilly lineout on the Taff’s Well 22, home No8 Joshua Williams couldn’t believe his luck as the waters parted and he ghosted through completely unmarked to touch down under the posts for another Hurley conversion to make the scoreline a rather astonishing 31-0. Everything was going Caerphilly’s way including the bounce of the ball which kind of makes you think of Arnold’s Palmers quote “The more I practice, the luckier I get.” which alludes to the fact that you make your own luck in the end. Taff’s Well were looking down and out and the misery continued as left winger Thomas had a simple run-in added to by another Hurley conversion to take the score to a rather unbelievable 38-0. Make no bones about it, Caerphilly were playing some great rugby and were denying the visitors quality ball but through a mixture of turnovers, knock-ons and bad decisions, Taff’s Well were make life incredibly difficult for themselves and you had a sense that the home side were about to rack up a massive score against a well beaten team but to their credit, Taff’s Well dug in and started to produce a little bit of magic of their own.
Replacement prop Ben Atkin raced out of the line to pick out an interception and tore down the field but the pass to flier Ronan Barrett was adjudged to be forward just when he had his sights on the tryline. Buoyed by this, the visitors managed to hold on to some possession to sweep the ball down the right to put away the ever-threating Gavin Close who beat several defenders only to put his foot in touch 5m from the whitewash. Although frustrating, it showed what Taff’s Well could do with a little more composure and believe and it wasn’t long before the travelling faithful had something to shout about as replacement scrum-half Gwilym Edwards broke to feed centre Mike Lindon who tore a hole in the Caerphilly defence to send away replacement flanker Ieuan Parsons to score a fine try which was converted by full-back Tom Benjamin.
After several indiscretions from both sides, Caerphilly chose rather surprisingly to go for goal with a penalty attempt to take the score to 41-7 followed by two more yellow cards for Caerphilly’s Keiron Thomas and Taff’s Well’s Darryl Mota but it was Taff’s who were to have the last word. As replacement left wing Chris Kidley-Burgwyn picked up the ball in space, he crossed field to link up with fellow winger Close who handed off two defenders as he sped down the line to feed outside-half Lott for another fine try which tantalisingly showed what Taff’s Well can do with ball in hand. With a final score of 41-14, the game ended with a lot of dejected Taff’s Well faces who had been on the end of inspired Caerphilly performance based on a constant supply of quality possession and a back-line which played with a swagger which you had to admire.
Final score: Caerphilly 41 v 14 Taff’s Well
Caught a few ‘Wouldn’t want to be you writing this up tomorrow Dai’ as I left the ground, leaving me to dread waking up this morning and picking up my pen mouse, but my kip enabled me to put things into perspective in terms of where the club has been and where it finds itself now. If you had said two years ago that Taff’s Well Rugby Club would be in the final of the WRU Bowl one season, competing in the quarter-final the year after, reach the semi-final of The Silver Ball, gain promotion as Champions playing champaign rugby, featuring very positively in WRU marketing campaigns, having a 2nd XV gaining promotion and looking for promotion the following year again playing great rugby, having a well-run Ladies team with a big squad plus a youth team who will remain unbeaten in the league up until February, a Mini & Jnr section and a vibrant social scene - you would have been branded a heretic. In a nutshell? We are the envy of so many clubs which has resulted in us having over 2,000 Twitter followers and over 1500 ‘liked pages’ on Facebook – and growing.
Yesterday, we were beaten by a better side which outplayed us in nearly every department but we didn’t give in, this is the measure of who we are as a club and not whether we win or lose. We showed what we can do towards the end but it was nowhere near good enough on the day and the disappointment really should come from the fact that we didn’t do ourselves justice on the day. The coaches and management teams have helped bring this club from some pretty dark times and they haven’t just moulded a team, they’ve moulded a squad which seamlessly allows second XV players to play in the 1st team and vice-versa with youth players given the opportunity to play for the 2nd XV, in other words - a successful system based on everyone doing their bit and appreciating where they fit in to the bigger picture.
Caerphilly are an ambitious club with over 30,000 people to call on as opposed to our 3,000, they showed yesterday that they have huge strength in depth with an 8,9,10 combination living off the spoils of a pack which delivered quality possession and to the neutral or Caerphilly supporter, it would have been a joy to see the backline run so confidently from deep with pace, good handling skills and not a mistake in sight, we simply ran out of numbers, no shame there, if they play like then in the semi-final, they will take some stopping and good luck to them.
From our perspective, it was difficult to single out individuals when we were up against it in most areas of the game but I will mention Lee Jones who had a fine game as replacement and Ieuan Parsons who’s skills suited the looser type of game in the second half, winger Gavin Close who ran with menace every time he touched the ball and of course our never-say-die attitude which has been the cornerstone of many of the games over the past couple of months. Great to see the club bumping last night with some quality Karaoke rapping from 2nd XV Manager Barry Morgan and youth player Ithan Prescott 'in the house' (so many skills in the club we don’t know about!); yep, time moves on, this is not the end of the story, it’s the start of a new journey and I realised how lucky we should all feel to be attached to such an ambitious, prosperous and admired club.
Vivimus ut alteri bello
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Dave Beese firstname.lastname@example.org
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