On a sunny but showery day in the City of Llandaff in the shadow of the Cathedral, Taff’s Well completed the double over a resolute Llandaff side who were in with a shout right up until the final moments and could have possibly won it if not for a slightly unusual incident right on the whistle.
The Wellmen fielded a very youthful looking backline with a few changes in the pack to boot and after ten minutes, it looked like the plan would be backfire as the home side started strongly to put pressure on the visitors which was to yield an early penalty attempt from fullback Nathan Rees in front of the posts following an offside discretion which he duly converted to open the scoring. With a first foray into the Llandaff 22 following a break from flanker Justin Jones who fed second-row Jonathon Barry, things looked promising but the recycled possession perhaps could have been used a little more wisely than the choice to kick high over the top which saw the ball disappear over the dead ball line. As the visitors had started to get into the game, this let-off was to prove costly as Llandaff played themselves back up to the Taff’s Well 22 to gain another offside decision which Rees calmly converted to double the home side score to 6-0.
More bad news was to follow as home second-row Mike O’Connor took the ball up from a full 55m out and burst through the cover to place an expert-like chip to the line and beat the desperately scrambling defence to flop onto the ball for an excellent individual effort which took Llandaff to a comfortable looking 11-0 lead as the conversion went wide. Up to this point, the Taff’s Well pack had been taking the honours at scrum time as skipper Gareth Gibbs was giving his opposite number a torrid time but Llandaff were doing well to get the ball away when in contrast, the visitors were struggling with numbers at the breakdown which was slowing down possession even when going forward and even when the ball did get shipped, the backs were struggling to gel as a unit with a serious of handling errors and over running.
Book-end flankers Justin Jones and recently returned from injury Rhys Green were doing their best to light the intentions of Taff’s Well with the latter belying his size against bigger opponents at this level with another in-your-face display in both attack and defence. With scrum-half Ashley Bonetto also toiling away valiantly with limited possession, Taff’s Well were edging their way back into the game and nearly found a way over the line via the corner as right-wing Ronan Barrett was put away and bundled into touch a yard from the whitewash. With a yellow card for one of the Llandaff wingers, the visitors took up position with a scrum from the Llandaff line and with a the scrum ‘on the walk’, No8 Max Watkins was able to profit and plough over for a desperately welcome score on the stroke of half-time which was converted by outside-half Nick Hill to make the score 11-7 to Llandaff.
Half-Time Score: Llandaff RFC 11 v 7 Taff’s Well RFC
The second half started with the visitors again on the offensive with a chip’n chase by fullback Rhys Gant which was just minored in the nick of time but the attacking intent was to be rewarded with a penalty for offside which Hill converted to put the gap at one point and things starting to look a little bit more rosier for Taff’s Well. With hooker ‘Chimpy’ Desmier and centre Matthew Wright on for prop John Davies and scrum-half Ashley, coach Rhys Watkins was looking to up the tempo which was to gain immediate dividends as hooker-to-prop Lloyd James broke the defence to win a penalty and a subsequent lineout 10m out allowed No8 Watkins to drive over for his second try and put the visitors in the lead for the first time in the match with the conversion going wide.
The game was seemingly now going Taff’s Well’s way but Llandaff somehow managed to keep Taff’s Well from scoring again with a frantic maul in the in-goal area which was shuffled over the dead ball line. To their credit Llandaff regrouped immediately and with some nicely phased play found themselves in the Taff’s Well 22 and when the visitors were again pinged for offside, Rees converted from 20m to cut the deficit back to one point at 14-15. Following a yellow ticket for Taff’s Well winger Gwilym Edwards, the Llandaff pack were back in the Taff’s Well 22 and after sustained pressure, were awarded another penalty for Rees to put Llandaff back in the lead at 17-15 in a now topsy-turvy match. Although looking stronger, Taff’s Well were guilty on several occasions of over-complicating plays which resulted in a series of forward or dropped passes bringing promising attacks time and time again to a halt.
Centre Matthew Wright did manage some nicely timed busts up the middle but it took some great play from deep to spread the ball along the backline to put away winger Ronan Barrett who turned on the afterburners to outstrip his opposite number and steal in at the corner for the match winning score with the conversion going wide. I say match winning score with a certain amount of reservation as there followed a rather strange piece of play as Taff’s Well turned the screws to close out the match. With the game seemingly in the bag and Taff’s Well controlling possession with the last play of the game in the Llandaff half, a mix up in communication saw the ball squirt out to the unmarked Llandaff winger who saw nothing but empty field in front of him as the crowd held its breath but instead of striding for gold, he inexplicably slowed down a couple of times and ran towards the touchline darting in and out of touch until the final whistle sounded and everyone looking bemused. Did he think the whistle had gone previously? Had there been an obvious misdemeanour from his side? The Llandaff supporters said that the Taff’s Well cover would have probably got to him but the truth is that he couldn’t explain it himself and so perhaps we’ll never know, we have to put it down to ‘head rush’!
Final Score: Landaff 1st RFC XV 17 v 20 Taff’s Well RFC 1st XV
What we do know is that although not firing on all cylinders, Taff’s Well came away with a sixth win on the road against a home side fighting to stave off relegation and the truth is that although the visitors always looked the more likely to score, the game could have gone either way. In contrast to last season, there doesn’t appear to be the numbers at the breakdown to secure comfortable possession even when going forward and this affects the amount of time the backs get to work in against oncoming defences. We‘ve all got used to the customary slow start and the coaches continually struggle to put out a settled back-line with unavailability’s and injuries but the good news is that youth is definitely on our side and we all know what happens when quick ball gets wide to our back three regardless of who plays.
For Llandaff, second-row Mike O’Connor proved to be a handful and capped a good performance with a superb individual try and a mention must go to youth player Alex Christmas making his debut in a backline which tackled effectively to pressure Taff’s Well in to a multitude of mistakes; good luck to them in their quest to stay up and I’m sure we’ll see them next year.
For Taff’s Well, absent coach Axel Rees will be relieved to have a ‘won 20-17’ text from fellow coach Rhys Watkins but perhaps not so happy at the fact that his charges were forced to work so hard for their win. Ashley Bonetto at scrum-half worked hard to tidy up messy ball in the first half and outside-half Nick Hill came more into the game with some fine touch finding but the honours this week have to go up front as Captain Gareth Gibbs delivered in the scrum, hooker/prop Lloyd James showing some nice touches in the loose and the two flankers of Justin Jones and Rhys Green proving the difference between the two sides as they tirelessly took up the gauntlet, defending stoically and turning defence into attack whenever the occasion presented itself; Rhys Green just nudging it as Man of the Match for my money.
Taff’s Well 1st XV have qualified for the semi-final of the East District Cup and will face Llantwit Major at Llandaff North on Wed 19th April KO 6.30pm so we will looking to get sizeable travelling support for that one. Back to more immediate matters, the 1st XV will be away to losing WRU Bowl semi-finalist Cilfynydd next Saturday, KO 2.30pm so let’s get there to support the guys for that one too.
Congratulations to the 2nd XV on another fine 31-5 win against Pontyclun in the league, promotion still looking good!
The Ladies XV will ve taking on Bonymaen Ladies at home this afternoon so get down to wathch them in action against the league leaders, KO 2.30pm
Dave Beese email@example.com
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