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29 October 2017 / Club News

Taff’s Well Lay Their Ghosts to Rest With 23-16 Win Cup Over Burry Port

Taff’s Well welcomed the unbeaten ‘Black’s’ of Burry Port in the 3rd round of the WRU Bowl - not just any visiting team mind you. This was the team that took the shine off the biggest day in the club’s history by pilfering the cup out of our outstretched arms at the Principality Stadium in the 2016 WRU Bowl Final when it seemed like a done deal. The sight of the Burry Port lads ecstatically parading the cup was a bitter pill to swallow and the images will long be scarred in the memory as we were forced to witness a masterclass in how to win a cup final when all seemed lost.

Putting the Record Straight

Today was a shot at redemption, nothing will ever take away the pain of coming runners-up in the final, but in terms of pride, putting the record straight and facing your demons in a Taff’s Well shirt in front of a large vociferous home crowd – then this was the place to be. Yellow cards aplenty, a red card, end-to-end play, commitment, niggle, emotion, drama, thrills, spills, noise – this game had it all in spades and lived up to all its expectations. 2016 was history and there was nothing more relevant than the present; we didn’t need an exorcist - we needed a win!

Chess Match Opening

The game kicked off in a well of tension as both sides tore into other with neither really getting the upper hand as each sought to see what the other had in the locker. Burry Port were first on the scoreboard as Taff’s Well were pinged for offside, scrum-half Benn Williams sweetly converting from 40m out but 18yr old home outside-half Brandon Thrasher was soon to equalise from a ‘tackle without using the arms’ penalty, the first of a haul 13 points for the young man who continues  to show amazing composure under pressure.

Line Breached

The home side was looking composed with the front row of prop Ben Atkin, hooker Matthew Desmier and prop Lloyd James ensuring that Taff’s Well were always on the front foot in the scrums but a lack of concentration in defence, and more than a hint of obstruction, meant that the ball was worked wide to speedy left winger Arden Davies who showed a clean pair of heels unmarked, to dive in at the corner to the delight of the travelling Burry Port supporters. No joy with the conversion but a warning for Taff’s Well.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The home side was starting to get the better share of territory with second-row Conor Barrett putting in a great shift as he constantly thwarted Burry Port’s intentions with his nuisance, ably supported by fellow second rower Jon Barry. But as to what was going to be telling factor throughout the game - losses of concentration were to cost dearly as in once instance only a last-ditch hand on the ball by scrum-half Gwilym Edwards saved a certain try. Newport referee Peter Hoole was not in a conciliatory mood as he waved the yellow card at Taff’s Well hooker Desmier and at Burry Port talisman and former Cardiff, Newport and Neath Captain - Gareth Gravell, in a bid to defuse the tension, but he was fighting a losing battle there.

Scrummaging Starts to Tell

The Taff’s Well scrum was started to gain in confidence and following a 10m shunt and subsequent penalty, the resultant 15m lineout enabled the home side to work the ball wide to set up a ruck yards out from the Burry Port line. Some nice interplay between substitute hooker Bradley James and prop Atkin saw a drive over the line for what seemed like a certain score but referee Hoole deemed the ball to be held up and awarded an attacking 5m scrum.

The Long Arm of the Law Intervenes

This was getting tense as you felt that Taff’s Well just had to score from this visit as half-time approached. With the ball worked from the scrum and into another ruck, Watkins charged and scrum-half Edwards lofted a pass out to centre Justin Jones who drew the defence to feed full-back Ryan Smith. Although tackled yards short, he had the presence of mind to pop up a pass to Jones who remained in support to charge for the corner only to be tackled agonisingly short but Burry Port hadn’t reckoned on his profession as a policeman coming into play as he stretched out with ball in hand to plant it by the corner flag – try!

Pressure Kick

With the whistle about to go for half-time, somebody forgot to tell young Thrasher the significance of the kick he was about to take from the touchline as he calmly walloped the ball between the posts for a magnificent conversion under pressure which was met with a huge roar from the crowd and a two-point lead to take to the break

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


                                        Second Half

Burry Port are no mugs, they’re unbeaten record is testament to the spirit they have as a team and their back row were both competitive and combative to say the least, ably led by No. 8 Dylan Evans. But the Taff’s Well back-row of Captain Lewis Edwards, No 8 Max Watkins and Rhys Watkins stood toe-to-toe with them as the latter continues to age like a fine wine with another barnstorming display. There was no quarter asked or given but Burry Port were about to be dealt a serious blow as player-coach Gravell was given a second yellow card for a high tackle and subsequently shown red to leave the seasiders down to fourteen.

Burry Port Roll Their Sleeves Up

With the home side smelling blood, you had the impression that it would be just a matter of time before Taff’s Well would be able make their numbers count but they hadn’t reckoned on a resolute Burry Port side. With Taff’s Well applying pressure on the visitors line but conceding a penalty, most of the home side turned their backs to the ball which enabled some quick thinking to take play all the way down to the home line for second-row Barrett to be yellow carded and the subsequent Williams penalty putting them back in the lead at 11-10.

Quick Response

Still more drama as Burry Port attempted to clear the restart but a charge-down led to a fine jinking run by right wing Chris Burgwyn which was to earn a penalty for Thrasher to put the home side back in the lead with a 20m penalty. With Burgwyn showing some lovely nice touches in defence, Taff’s Well were awarded another penalty 40m out but some back-chat lessened the distance by 10m to line up a shot for Thrasher - done deal, another three points in the bag and a 16-11 lead.

Turning the Screw

The home crowd were starting to feel a bit more confident as Taff’s Well were now looking the stronger with left wing Jack Shaddick carrying strongly, centres Jones and Wright locking the midfield and scrum-half Edwards running the show. Things were about to get better for Taff’s as Lewis Edwards fed Rhys Watkins in the tackle to put him through a gap that saw him sprint away and barge over the whitewash despite the best efforts of the Burry Port defence who managed to pick another yellow card for a spot of argy-bargy when Watkins attempted to get up off the floor. No need to put your money on the kicker, it’s already over: 23-11.

Burry Port Not Finished

This, you would have thought, would have been the death-knell for the visitors but they obviously hadn’t read the script as they mounted wave after wave of attacks on the Taff’s Well line with only outstanding defence saving the day. Just when you thought the danger was over, a poor clearing kick was gathered and ran straight back at the home team with the result seeing the ball worked for right wing Tom Bowen to cross wide out and put the visitors at a converted try behind as the conversion sailed wide. More drama with a Rhys Watkins yellow card.

Return of the Prodigal Son

Forced and unforced changes saw Axel Rees give game time to the bench which saw Deri Vaughan, Ricky Edwards and Martin Detorres enter the fray to see the game out but the great news was the return of Taff’s Well product Chris Tottle was has been playing for Championship side Rhydyfelin for the past few seasons and his impact was immediate. His gas enabled him to break from deep on several occasions but after working his teammates free, the disappointment was audible as the ball went to ground off his passes.

Defence Held

Taff’s Well had been guilty on several occasions of putting themselves under pressure with poor clearance kicks and several missed tackles but this was energy sapping stuff and Burry Port were throwing everything at them creating overlaps which perhaps could, and should have been capitalised on but the home side somehow managed to muster all stations to snuff the danger when called upon. With the clock counting down and the visitors trying to conjure up one more foray down the right wing, the Taff’s Well defence swarmed all over them to force the ball into to touch signalling the end of a pulsating game and a mighty roar from both players and spectators as the ghosts of finals past were soundly laid to rest.

               Final Result:   Taff’s Well 23 v 16 Burry Port


The Verdict

Having resurrected my career ending rugby back injury following the Fagins Brecon to Taff’s Well bike ride (what do Osteopaths know?), you will no doubt be aware that there have been no match reports as I have been flat on my back for four weeks. The very thought of having to write my first report in a while outlining a second successive defeat to Burry Port (no fault of theirs) was one that filled me with dread, such are the repercussions of the 2016 cup final defeat. The scar had been neatly placed in safe a place in the mind only to surface when this year’s cup draw was made, and I was not the only one.

Buzz About the Club

From the very moment the draw was made, there has only been talk of ‘putting the record straight’, such is the competitive attitude of this squad of players but the reality was that we would have to beat an unbeaten side which proved it has what it takes to win a cup. Burry Port would be under no illusions and came here to do battle, and what a battle it was. It had just about everything a cup tie should have including the obligatory yellow and red cards but there was an honesty to it all that never saw the game look like getting out of control which perhaps could have had a little more empathy from the man in the middle, but hey – I wouldn’t have fancied reffing it!

Burry Port Commitment

Even though Burry Port were red carded, this just seemed to galvanise them with their back-row giving everything for their cause and standout No.8 Dylan Evans in the thick of everything. Youth second-row Archie Davies manfully stood to the task and scrum-half Williams pulled the strings behind in a wholly committed display which didn’t saw them out of this cup tie until the final whistle.

The Opposition View

“It was tough for us after the sending off but I wouldn’t want to take anything away from Taff’s Well, your scrum went well and the jumpers were hit putting us under pressure in the set-pieces. Perhaps we could have finished a bit better but the defence was good and made it difficult for us. On the whole, no complaints here”. (Gareth Gravell – Player, coach and red card recipient)

Taff’s Well Relief

This was one of those special days at Taff’s Well rugby club as apart from the semi-final win against Cambrian Welfare in 2016, I can’t remember a game being as important to either players of spectators in terms of pre-match apprehension or post-match celebration. The clubhouse was a good place to be on Saturday night as the tangible relief was plain to see across the whole club and it’s the players we have to thank for that.

Tactical Stuff

From a tactical point of few, the scrum went well and the jumpers were hit in the lineout for the majority of occasions, tackles rained in but were missed later in the game as tiredness took its toll. Taff’s Well only really looked in trouble when they failed to clear their lines with some poor kicking and instead of closing the game out, there were a series of ‘miracle pass’ attempts which backfired but that’s where the criticism ends.

The Standouts

In a match report, there always has to be standouts and for me there were several. Full-back Ryan Smith did some neat clearing with his kicks when the need arose, scrum-half Gwilym Edwards sniped, tackled and covered like a demon, prop Lloyd James went well and flanker Rhys Watkins seems to be getting better with age! Chris Tottle showed glimpses of what Taff’s Well supporters can expect to see over the coming months with wingers Burgwyn and Shaddick showing some nice touches in both attack and defence. Outside-half Brandon Thrasher continues to impress as he piled the pressure through the scoreboard by landing some great kicks under pressure which always meant that Burry Port were chasing the game.

Man-of-the Match

But the man of the match for me was a young man who started the season plying his trade as second-team flanker and brought in through injury to fill in at second row – Conor Barrett. He put in a tireless shift which saw him in places where angels fear to tread as he consistently got in the way of Burry Port intentions through sheer bloody-mindedness – his second MOTM on the trot.  

Good luck to Burry Port as they continue their bid for promotion and congratulations to Axel Rees's management team and to those who wore the Taff’s Well club badge with such pride, let’s make sure we have more days like this.

Note: We're having issues with the WRU server so please go to our Facebook to see the fabulous Chris Edwards match photos. If you get the opportunity, please share this report on your Facebook timeline as we continue to build up our social media presence.

 


Dave Beese  mail   davecbwales@gmail.com

 

 

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