YSTRAD RHONDDA 24
“It may not have been pretty but it was certainly pretty effective” commented director of rugby Martyn Fowler.
“We knew that if we stuck to our structures we could compete with Ystrad and for the most part we stuck to the script” added captain Haval Ibrahim.
On a lovely sunny afternoon at the Memorial ground it was clear from the outset that there was to be no quarter given from both sides. An early frank discussion amongst the packs, on the choice of suntan lotion to use, resulted in the referee laying down the law to both captains and the arm wrestle continued. There was a clear distinction in the approach of both sides as the power game of the home side competed with the wider approach of the visitors. The Wanderers forward dominated game got the scoreboard moving first. A penalty allowed Codey Rees to establish a good field position and the first of several rolling mauls put the Wanderers on the front foot. The well organised drive by the forwards saw Dan Crimmins clutch the ball as the eight drove over for the first score. Rees converted 7-0. The game ebbed and flowed in a very even contest but the home side were just shaving the early exchanges. The powerful home side scrum was in the ascendancy and soon afterwards the visitors transgressed at a ruck and Rees stepped up to extend the score to 10-0. Not surprisingly Ystrad responded well. Getting into their stride they started to put pressure on the Wanderers defence but the well organised home side kept them at bay. Despite that the visitors reduced the arrears soon afterwards. A speculative kick downfield was poorly dealt with by the home side defence and Ystrad stole the ball. With the defence struggling to regroup the incisive play of the visitors resulted in a try under the posts by Nathan Hughes converted by Corey Sheppard 10-7. With their tails up the visitors put the pressure on but a chance to level the score with a penalty saw the shot at goal go wide. The Wanderers then grabbed an opportunity to surge further ahead. From a kick into home side territory Crimmins mounted an attack. As he crashed through the defence Matt Arnold was on hand to continue the attack. Aaron Fowler who had a superb afternoon at the forefront of most of the Wanderers attacks was up in support and despite the attention of many defenders he crashed over to score 15-7. There then followed a bizarre conversion. One Ystrad player prematurely charged Rees’s attempt but the kick went over. The referee having blown his whistle insisted on the kick being retaken but unfortunately the second attempt went wide! That sent the teams into the break at 15-7.
The second half followed the pattern of the first. The Wanderers using their powerful pack to drive into the heart of the opposition. From an early penalty good field position set up the home sides third try. A driving maul from the lineout took play right to the visitor’s line and after more close quarter driving Owain Thomas popped up and his outstretched arm grounded the ball between the posts. Rees converted 22-7. Seeing the game slip away galvanised Ystrad into a superb response. Once again pouncing on a Wanderers mistake they quickly broke the home side line and some slick handling resulted in a second try converted by Shepard again 22-14. Ystrad were now having their best period and the home side started to creak. Losing centre Darren Ryan with a nasty cut made things worse. The visitors continued with better field position and possession and substitute Mazin Al-Azzawi scored their third try to make it a one point game at 22-21. Both sides rang the changes and the game was in the balance. Now it was the home side who responded. Regaining a modicum of control to their play they once again established some dominance. Rees landed a penalty to extend the lead to 25-21 only to see Shepard cancel that out with a kick of his own 25-24. The game entered its final minutes with everything to play for. The Wanderers established a lineout position deep in opposition territory but instead of the drive the ball went out wide and Luke Fish on as a sub, in the centre, took a snap drop goal to once again extend the lead to 4 points. This lead to a frantic end the game with the Ystrad side striving for the try that would give them victory. Unfortunately for them the Wanderers defence is built of stern stuff these days and a huge effort from 1-15 held the visitors at bay to record a well-deserved but hard fought win to remain top of the league. Final score 28-24.
Tries: Dan Crimmins, Owain Thomas, Aaron Fowler
Cons: Codey Rees (2)
Pens: Codey Rees (2)
Drop goal: Luke Fish
Ystrad Rhondda scorers
Tries: Nathan Hughes, Harvey Connolly, Mazin-Al-Azzawi
Cons: Corey Shepard (3)
Pens: Corey Shepard
Wanderers “Massiv” man of the match Owain Thomas