05 November 2017 / Club News

Penallta make it ten from ten with a brilliant performance

Penallta made it ten wins out of ten with a brilliant 32-5 victory over league rivals Brynmawr.


Both sides arrived at the showdown in superb form, unbeaten in all competitions. The crushing run of results the two Division 1 East table-toppers had left in their recent wake justified the pre-match hype.


Brynmawr have always been tough nut to crack, but in recent seasons have struggled to compete for titles the way Penallta have done. At the outset of this season, they’d put themselves back in the title-chasing arena in a big way. Pre-season signings Damien Hudd and Nathan Preece demonstrated their ambition. Hudd had been captain fantastic at Ebbw Vale for many glorious years and he returned to his old club with ex Dragons star Preece. Both players have been instrumental in Brynmawr’s run of winning form and were the standout names on an intimidating Brynmawr team sheet.


Meanwhile, Penallta had quietly made their way to the top of the table. With a new-look side, some of the league wins had been very hard-fought, but the Pitmen managed to remain unbeaten and in recent weeks, looked back to their scintillating best.


In lovely conditions, a large crowd turned out at the Centre of Sporting Excellence. All of them were eagerly anticipating a tight contest.


What they witnessed was anything but, as Penallta played with such ruthless, faultless efficiency, they never allowed Brynmawr into the game.


From the opening minute, the tone was set. Brynmawr’s bigger and more powerful side looked to take Penallta by the throat. Their runners came fast and direct but met with a wall of Penallta steel. Gezza Dallimore’s hit on Preece in the first minute set off some early fireworks. The shuddering bang was so loud it had the dogs barking well before the first bonfire was lit.


The first scrum which followed that hit looked ominous for the home side. A huge shunt from the heavy Mawr forwards would’ve had a wrenching impact on a lesser side. But not Penallta, who are past masters at conceding the weight advantage and dealing with it. You could tell which way the match was heading even after those opening salvos. Penallta were organised, quick, steely in defence and nimble of foot. Brynmawr were big, uncompromising and direct.


If Gezza’s hit set the tone then Penallta’s opening try, just five minutes in, painted the first beautiful strokes of what eventually become an afternoon’s work of imperious art.


Penallta established their first slice of possession. They carried left and explored right but met with huge hits from a keyed-up Brynmawr defence. If anything, Penallta appeared to be going sideways, but there was no hint of panic or unease. Penallta’s scrum half Aeron Bidgood, who controlled the game throughout, fed his runners and allowed them to be swallowed up by the colossal Brynmawr shadows until finding the front foot. When he did, outside half Joe Scrivens pounced. Taken the ball at pace he cross-field kicked to winger Ryan Davies who didn’t need to break stride. Davies sprinted on to the perfectly weighted ball before popping inside to full back Laurence Pritchard who sped home. Just seconds earlier Penallta were in their own half appearing to go nowhere. In the blink of an eye, they were celebrating a try.


It was a wonderful try. It showed patience and maturity. Dazzling skill and speed. It brought the whole of the crowd to its applauding feet. All of a sudden, Brynmawr knew they were up against a side capable of special things.


The try appeared to shock Brynmawr and they subsequently struggled to get out of their half. Scrivens kicked the corners well and Lee Rowlands – who was superb all afternoon – disrupted the away side’s lineout. Penallta were executing things very well right from the off. The passing was slick, the rucking was fast and brutal. Brynmawr couldn’t stop the phase after phase of Penallta possession.


Scrivens kicked a penalty to make it 8-0 on the twenty minute mark before Brynmawr enjoyed their best ten minutes of the game.


Incredible though it sounds, it is difficult to recall more than a handful of Penallta errors throughout the whole game. Penallta just didn’t drop the ball or ever miss a beat, making things extraordinarily tough for the away side. But Brynmawr’s try did stem from one Penallta error. Penallta looked in command and were spreading it around at will. Then in full flow, Scrivens aimed a kick to the corner which was half-charged down before ricocheting into the hands of Preece. Preece is a seriously impressive runner and allowing him space was dangerous. His rampaging run around and through the Penallta defences led to a superbly taken unconverted try by winger Tom Ashmead.


One visit to the Penallta half. One try. Perhaps the counter-attacking route was the way to go for Mawr. And any concerns Penallta had about marshalling Preece were borne out. In space, he is devastating.


To complete a good spell for the away side, Scrivens was forced to leave the field. The Penallta 10 had just been unlucky not to score a try, touching a bouncing ball down over the dead ball line as Brynmawr came under increasing pressure. But then after another good positional kick, Scrivs was taken out late by Number 8 Craig Filler. It wasn’t dangerous, but it was perfectly executed, catching Scrivs on the shoulder and giving him a nasty stinger. Scrivens had looked magnificent at outside half and his exit was a sad loss for the Pitmen.


Not that it turned out that way. On came jack-in-the-box Rhys Gant, who stole the show after his introduction. Replacing the Prince of Penallta is never easy, but everything Penallta did after losing their talisman Ganty turned to gold.


Ganty played a big part in Penallta’s second try. He looked razor sharp and immediately brought his backs into play. After some lovely handling, and a turn of sheer pace from Elliott Keep, Brynmawr were back under pressure. They remained there for the rest of the game. Ganty dashed and weaved, the backs ran hard, and after a string of phases, Number 8 Max George eventually fed Gareth Edwards who touched down in the corner. The conversion was missed, but Penallta made it to half time at 13-5 and on top.


The second half was one-way traffic. Everything Penallta did put the away side under debilitating pressure. The experienced Pitmen forwards were thoroughly enjoying the arm wrestle. Gregg Haines, Kieran Mahoney and Lloyd Bridges, winners of more titles than you can keep count of, were in to everything. Lee Rowlands among them, outsized as ever by the massive forwards around him, was the best second row on the park. Perhaps the surprise package was loose-head Julian Spiller, who had his best game in a Penallta shirt. Spiller spent many years with the 2nds and wouldn’t mind being labelled a journeyman, but this season he’s been vital with injuries to other loose-heads and the loss of Matthew Angel. He had an excellent second half.


Behind the grizzled front five were the glitzy fireworks. We all know about Gezza. If it runs, he smashes it. But alongside him is some Premiership-standard culture. Max George took his turn doing the hard carrying into heavy congestion whilst Corey Tucker galloped into space. One run by Corey demonstrated all you need to know about his outrageous gifts. He loped away around tackler after tackler with his bizarre 6ft 5in sprinter’s pace and very nearly went all the way. Holes were appearing in the Mawr defence and Tucker was finding them.


So were Penallta’s backs. One searing break from Rhys Gant was lovely to watch, a piece of pure Penallta entertainment. Ganty’s 92 year old Grandad Alois was in the crowd watching and he would’ve been purring with satisfaction. Alois hasn’t been well recently but watching his grandson in such glitzy form would certainly have perked him up. Ganty was really enjoying himself, and the spring in his step was contagious.


Inevitably, the third try arrived. Relentless pressure took its toll and slick handling from  Spiller and Kieran Mahoney fed centre Lewis Alexander into the corner.


Alexander, affectionately known as Tuco, is one of those new names on the team sheet, stepping into the centre in place of legends like Andrew Jenkins and Jonny Wright – both long term injured. Tuco is a special talent and at just 20 he is going to be a big star.


Penallta missed another conversion to give Brynmawr some lingering hope at 18-5 but it was extinguished almost immediately. After more pressure, and resigned almost entirely to spending the game in their 22, Brynmawr tried to clear their lines only for Max George to charge through on a fumble and touch down under the posts and secure the home side’s bonus point. Full back Laurence Pritchard kicked the conversion to kill the game off as a contest.


Pritchard nearly scored a fifth just minutes later when Brynmawr found themselves back in their 22. The full back has been in revelatory form since returning from Blackwood and he busted through a number of tackles before stretching to touch down. He was convinced he’d scored but the referee adjudged that he’d spilled the ball over the line.


Pat Lewis came on for Penallta. It was great to have such riches on the bench, with Lewis playing on dual with Cardiff RFC after setting the Premiership alight with Bedwas last season. Lewis looked very sharp indeed and it’d be nice to see more of it at the club where his own Grandad, Allan Rogers, is President.


The final ten minutes of play were hugely enjoyable for Penallta but equally as demoralising for Brynmawr. An extraordinary final period of play took place where Brynmawr struggled manfully to break out from their 22. Phase after phase of carries were met with huge Penallta tackles, with the likes of Gareth Edwards thoroughly enjoying the battle of brawn. Each huge hit met with a complementary cheer from the baying crowd. Penallta were allowing Brynmawr to go precisely nowhere.


Inevitably, Brynmawr’s dying gasps were finally extinguished with the killer blow. Pritchard won a penalty turn over and a quick tap penalty from scrum half Aeron Bidgood saw him race in under the posts before anyone on the away side managed to react. It was a cruelly easy try which befitted Penallta’s day of absolute dominance, scored by Penallta’s man of the match.


It brought the end to one of Penallta’s finest ever performances and gave Penallta a thoroughly deserved thumping victory.


It isn’t a gushing exaggeration to say Penallta were brilliant on the day. The Pitmen squeezed the life out of Brynmawr, doing to the challengers what Bedlinog did to Penallta at the CSE two seasons ago, when Bedlinog’s treble-title-winning side pressured and frustrated Penallta to the point of exhaustion. The shoe was firmly on the other foot on Saturday, as Penallta played the almost perfect game. Their lack of errors, pace of play, invention, patience, confidence and defensive steel were an absolutely potent mix. Penallta in middling form are hard to beat. Penallta playing at full tilt without making any mistakes are a force of nature. It was a bad day for Brynmawr, but paradoxically for them, they can leave Ystrad Mynach knowing they were unfortunate to meet the Pitmen on a day as perfect as this. Brynmawr are still a strong side with some extremely good individuals, and they’ll know the return fixture up north will be played at their cauldron, on their terms. No side is going to find a visit to Brynmawr easy. The league is far from over.


For the Penallta players and coaches, a moment of satisfied pride is deserved. It was a testing summer for Penallta. Shorn of top players, and writing out team sheets full of young, untested names, was always going to be a tough ask for the coaches, requiring a steely leap of faith. But Stevie, Gregg and the other coaches worked incredibly hard, and a productive summer of brass-tacks coaching really rallied the players. The result so far is ten wins from ten. And Saturday’s game, the first crunch game of the season, brought a ten out of ten performance.



There doesn't appear to be any tagged photos.

Upload and Tag Photos

You must be signed in to add comments