Fixture

Taffs Well RFC | 1st Team 29 - 18 Abercwmboi RFC | 1st Team
Sean Crawford
1 Try
Rikki Evans
1 Conversion
2 Penalty
Paul Edwards
1 Try

Match Report
17 February 2019 / Team News

Taff’s Well Nail It With 29-18 Win Over 2nd Placed Abercwmboi

Over the past few seasons, Taff’s Well v Abercwmboi have become the must-see games of the season as a passionate rivalry has developed between the clubs involving cup games, reds, yellows, last-minute wins and draws plus a plethora of excitement both on and off the field; in other words - proper hard-fought village rugby! However, this season has seen contrasting fortunes for the clubs as Abercwmboi have been leading the division for the most part of the season and looking for a win to take them back to the top while Taff’s Well have been battling with both injuries and the need to stave off regulation in their first year of division two rugby.

Could the tide be turning?

Despite the record and obvious pedigree of Abercwmboi, there was a cautious air of optimism as the home side took to the field as it was generally felt that returning long-term injured players had enabled Taff’s Well to field what amounted to probably one of the most competitive team selections for many a month. Could this be the omen to change the fortunes of what has been a season of so many disappointing close losses? Could the wheel of fortune be starting to turn?

Taff’s quickly into gear

The Taff’s Well pack has stood up to all and sundry this campaign and they again laid down the gauntlet with some quality possession which when spun wide, enabled injury returnee and left wing Mike Lindon to break down the touchline to win an early 25m penalty opportunity for outside-half Matthew Hurley, but with the kicking tee back in the dressing room, the kick was scuffed wide. Minutes later, Lindon was to show that his long injury break has done him no harm as he profited from hooker Bradley James’ line-break who then linked with full-back Ronan Barratt to send Lindon in at the corner for a smart effort which went unconverted.

Abercwmboi Counter

Scrum-half Gwilym Edwards was starting to have a big influence on the game as he first countered with a kick and chase and then proceeded to smother his opposite number with a series of tackles which stopped him from getting the ball away. With all the endeavour, it looked like the tea-leaves had been miss-read as the normally metronomic Hurley was struggling to find his rhythm off the re-acquainted tee with another missed penalty attempt. Abercwmboi were not to be so profligate as a weakly defended 20m attacking lineout was to prove to be the Taff’s Well Achilles heel as visiting outside-half Paul Edwards took advantage of some missed man-for-man marking to cross over with centre Sean Davies adding the extras.

Touchline Tantrums

The game was hotting up and controversy was just around the corner. From a 15m attacking scrum, Taff’s Well swung wide to enable Lindon to barge over at the flag in front of the home touchline squad and coaching staff but the delight was short-lived as the visitor’s linesman had flagged for touch kicking off a barrage of protestations and a post-match photograph which certainly pours petrol on to the fire. The home side were enjoying the better of territorial claims aided and abetted by the impressive second-row partnership of Jon Barry and Ben Atkin and a rock-solid front row of props Lloyd James and the impressive Graeme Harvey alongside hooker James who again pulled off some great tackles. Be that as it may, some uncalled-for lip service enabled Abercwmboi centre Davies to punish the crime with a penalty shot with Taff’s Well profiting from the same unnecessary offence to reply with another Hurley penalty which showed that he was starting to show signs of regaining his kicking touch. Abercwmboi 10-8 up at half-time in a match that was to see the Taff’s Well pack contest the breakdown fiercely and gain the edge at the set-pieces but although the home side were looking comfortable, lapses of concentration were proving to be the undoing in a match that was anyone’s to win.

Half-Time Score:  Taff’s Well 8 v Abercwmboi 10


Second Half

Abercwmboi were the first to respond after sucking the oranges as centre Davies struck over a fine 42m penalty effort but Hurley was back into his stride as he responded with another penalty to take the score to 13-11 in the visitor's favour. Then came a moment of class as possession from a 25m defending lineout saw Hurley fire out a lovely miss-pass to take centre colleague Matthew Wright out of the line and see full-back Barratt take the ball to slice through at pace leaving defenders clutching at thin air. As he accelerated towards the Abercwmboi 20m line, centre Justin Jones had somehow managed to stay with him to receive the inside pass and stride away for a superb score which saw the conversion sail just wide. Back in the lead and 19-13 up.

Turning the screws

The home pack were well into the groove meaning that outside-half Gwilym Edwards was not only harassing around the edges – he was able to cause all kind of problems for the visiting back row with ball in hand. Flanker and Gloucestershire student Ben Wood has been a great acquisition for Taff’s Well as he constantly belies his size with a barrage of non-stop tackling and his nuisance value continues to rise by the game. However, his bid to become a naturalised citizen of Taff’s Well may well depend on the outcome of next week’s Wales v England match (sorry Ben, that’s how it works in Wales, you need to speak to immigration). Territorial pressure was starting to tell as Hurley slotted over another penalty to make it a two-score game at 22-13 and the home side well in control.

Bench Strength

Coach Rhys Watkins was now looking to close the game out as ex-Captain and prop Gareth Gibbs took the field with second-row Ben Atkin going go to prop, Daryl Mota filling the vacant second-row spot, hooker Matthew Desmier slotting in at hooker and John Stephens moving in at flanker. Captain Lewis Edwards looks another one who has enjoyed his long enforced lay-off as he put in another good shift at flanker doing a lot of the work that goes under the radar at blindside and his partnership with No.8 Max Watkins and co-flanker Wood is an impressive one.

Coup-de-grace

As the game entered the final phases and unlike many other games this season, you had an unqualified sense that the home side were in control forcing Abercwmboi into a series of uncharacteristic errors under pressure and turning the ball over at crucial times. The defence was solid and the Taff’s Well backs were looking dangerous – could this be turning into a watershed match? Fittingly, it would be scrum-half Gwilym Edwards who would have the biggest say in the outcome of the match as he broke from a scrum to fend off his would-be tackler to get behind the gain line in order to off-load to wingman Ryan Smith who scampered away to seal the match in the corner which was rewarded with a superb conversion by Hurley. Game, set and match but not before Abercwmboi showed their mettle by scoring a Scott Cutland consolation try thanks to a strong driving maul. A much-needed and well-earned win at 29-18 thanks to one of the best performances of the season and dare I say – a little left over in the tank?


The Verdict

The rivalry between Abercwmboi and Taff’s Well may have only lasted over four seasons but that hasn’t stopped it from providing some of the most exciting games I’ve seen with Welsh village rugby being the main winner. I swear some of the spectators take as much a part in the game as the players themselves. The visitors may have had a few players missing but they have a quality squad and it’s time that lady luck rolled the dice in favour of Taff’s Well in terms of injuries.

Arm Wrestle

The first half was the anticipated arm wrestle with the home pack securing the set-pieces while Abercwmboi impressively converted their limited opportunities into points for a two-point interval lead. The second half was a different affair as the home side dominated the territorial battle scoring two lovely tries as outside-half Hurley recovered from a shaky first half to score 14 points with the boot and impressively get his back-line going with some nice miss-passing.

Standouts

This was probably the most complete performance Taff’s Well have given this season and the win was probably a little more comfortable than the scoreline suggests which makes it almost unfair to single people out but as always, that’s the duty of an amateur hack. The front row, second-row and back-row combinations were all impressive as units with the luxury of mixing and matching when the need arose but I’m going to have to go for flanker Ben Wood as the pack standout as he tackled, harassed and harried all afternoon which was typified by him sustaining a nasty knock but still managing to get to his feet to make the turnover.

Cutting Edge Behind

The backs providing the cutting edge behind with some lovely passing and direct running which produced three quality tries with the SOC Unit (Scene of Crime) taking away the photographic evidence to support the case for the denied fourth try bonus point. It’s been a tough season but the one undeniable character of this side is that they don’t give in which makes them a side always worth supporting. If you wanted an example of a performance that typified the effort of this particular team performance, then look no further than scrum-half Gwilym Edwards who was prominent in almost everything he did. A threat with ball in and out of hand, he sparked the line, proved a handful for the opposition back-row and in defence and seems to forget that he isn’t a flanker.

Great performance from the lads which puts us right back in the mix and only three points behind our next opponents Llanishen who are one place above us and who have played one more game than Taff's Well. I don’t think Abercwmboi will have any complaints about the result and we wish them all the best in their quest for promotion but it would be a shame if we can’t keep these games going - it’s box office, it’s passionate, it’s raucous and it never fails to deliver.

Match Day Photos:  Press Here


Dave Beese mail davecbwales@gmail.com

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