Penallta RFC | 1st Team 23 - 5 Rhiwbina RFC | 1st Team
Kieran Lee Mahoney
Try 1
Ryan Davies
Try 1
Elliott Keep
Try 1
Joseph Scrivens
Conversion 1
Penalty 2

Match Report
14 December 2014 / Team News

The Pitmen Progress in the Plate

Penallta continued their remarkable run of form and saw off unbeaten Rhiwbina in the 3rd Round of the Swalec Plate at the Centre of Sporting Excellence. The win sees Penallta into the post-Christmas last 16 of the Plate for the fourth time in five seasons, which is an excellent record and great for the buzz around the club.


It was a tough game of rugby with fine margins between the sides in terms of creativity and defensive play. Rhiwbina are a very big side with arguably the strongest scrum Penallta have faced since RGC 1404 away from home two years back. Eventually Penallta ran out 23-5 winners, seeing the game out comfortably during the final twenty minutes after getting 23-0 ahead. But it was a tense affair for large periods.


The win was the result of a good performance level from the home side and through winning the pressure plays. Rhiwbina enjoyed purple patches during the game, especially during the first 10 minutes of the second half, but failed to turn pressure into points, only troubling the scorers with a consolation try through replacement scrum half Rory Harries at the end. But Penallta took their chances well, expertly edging the score up at critical moments of the game; always converting field position into points.


The fine margins meant there was barely a cigarette paper between the sides when the ball was in play. Both sides kicked ball out of hand looking for field position and did it largely ineffectually, and the majority of counter-attacks rarely amounted to anything, with defences on top. But there was clear daylight between the sides in three critical areas of play: scrum, line-out and tackle-area. Rhiwbina had the upper hand in the scrums from start to finish but only one of their scrums led to a penalty and none of their scrums led directly to any points, which is a feather in the cap for the Penallta forwards, who are past masters at conceding scrum superiority to bigger sides (Rhiwbina must have had a twenty stone advantage over Penallta) without it adversely affecting the bigger picture. Crucially, Penallta managed to retain possession from every pressured put-in, with Luke Purnell at Number 8 handling things well. And Rhiwbina, despite huffing and puffing to blow the Penallta scrum down, were continually frustrated by the Penallta front five who refused to wilt and continually dug-in. Without suspended captain Lee Rowlands in the second row and with Rhys Spanswick rehabilitating from injury with the F Troop, the home side played two specialist back-rowers - Geraint Thomas and Rhys Silcox - in the second row, conceding weight in the scrum but benefiting from their speed and athleticism elsewhere.


If Rhiwbina failed to turn their scrum pressure into game advantage, then Penallta certainly turned their areas of dominance into a match-winning performance. Penallta were massively superior in the line-outs. Rhiwbina picked a 6ft 7inch giant but couldn’t effectively get him off the floor, with Penallta winning 100% of their own ball and about 50% (perhaps more) of the Rhiwbina ball. Rhys Silcox took three Rhiwbina line-outs from four when the away side were trying to get a foot-hold and Geraint Thomas was his usual majestic self, arching high in the air with faultless grace. Penallta hooker Gregg Haines was also spotless; his line-out throwing impregnable. He nailed every pressure line-out for Penallta when defending and hit Geraint Thomas at the back of the line to set-up some wonderful platforms for the home side. Man of the match Haines gave his best all-round display of the season, symbolic of the Penallta resistance. Despite being out-weighted and out-sized at the scrums he was superb around the park. He made numerous tackles, carried with his usual cleverness around the fringes, covered when Rhiwbina kicked behind and cleaned out an incalculable numbers of rucks. His only blemish was a failed drop-goal attempt from twenty-five yards out. His father, a former Trinant prop, had his head in his hands, saying he needed to have a word with him after the game about it, such was his disgust at a very un-Trinant thing to do.


From one Penallta line-out on the half-hour mark, with Penallta narrowly ahead from a Joseph Scrivens penalty, Penallta took a driving maul forty metres up the field. It was a drive with menace, with dominance and with heartbreak for Rhiwbina who looked shattered as it finally came to a halt. From the pile-up, scrum-half Aeron Bidgood conducted the play. First to the right, where Rhiwbina’s defence held firm, then back left deep into Rhiwbina’s 22, punching holes through Rhys Stephens and Geraint Thomas. And then the sublime finish. With Rhiwbina out on their feet after a breathless number of phases Joseph Scrivens applied the coup-de-grace, with the Penallta back-line going at full pace he zipped a flat wide pass to full back Ryan Davies, who sprinted into the corner untouched. Rhiwbina’s dug-out found themselves instinctively applauding a superb piece of play which punctured a hitherto tense and frantic first twenty five minutes. Then they found themselves ducking for cover when Scrivens attempted conversion went closer to hitting them than it did the posts.


The other area of domination by Penallta was the tackle area. With Rhiwbina going for a broke with a heavy, less mobile pack at scrum time, they conceded the open play to Penallta. Penallta were quicker, technically better and more ferocious than Rhiwbina at the breakdown. They also got there in more numbers. Rhiwbina’s back-rowers had a torrid afternoon and it became apparent that the high-flying Rhiwbina pack aren’t used to going backwards in open play. Flankers Rhys Stephens and Rhys Fitzgerald were excellent again for the home side, hustling and harrying, tackling and chasing, and completely outplaying their opposite numbers in every facet of loose play. The turnover rate was one-sided, and it would’ve been worse for Rhiwbina had the referee’s unsure interpretation of the tackle-area not led to as many penalties against the home side as it did. Penallta conceded four times as many penalties as Rhiwbina; a bit of a head-scratcher and something the coaches will need to analyse on video. There were some penalised turnovers for Penallta which looked like clear, legal wins, and other more dubious ones which he appeared to let go unpunished.


Number 8 Luke ‘Nelly’ Purnell also had his best game for Penallta. Nelly had big boots to fill following the absence of injured number 8 Jack Condy, who was brilliant last week. This wasn’t a problem for the Cefn Hengoed boy who loves physical combat. Nelly carried well throughout the game, threw himself selflessly into tackles and cleaned up extremely well at the back of the scrum. He also lasted the full eighty minutes, proving that match-fitness makes no difference to boys from Cefn Hengoed, the absence of hill-running, protein shakes and CrossFit from the staple diet more than made up for by a work-horse engine and a fearlessness bordering on craziness.


Rhiwbina had flurries of activity in the first half. One interception brought about momentary excitement but the threat was snuffed out, and in the first ten minutes Rhiw came close to scoring from a five-metre scrum a but a good gang tackle from Purnell, Stephens and winger Gareth Edwards ensured the opposing player ended up in touch. The near misses counted, as Penallta put themselves into a 13-0 lead with a try through prop Keiran Mahoney on the stroke of half time. It came following another round of keep-ball, with Penallta executing phase after phase during a long, exhausting period for the defence. Centre Andrew Jenkins and captain Martyn Dunn were involved in the relentless runs and drives at the heart of the Rhiw defence and eventually the away side ran out of resources and Mahoney kept up his recent try scoring exploits with another fine effort. It was a dagger to the Rhiwbina heart which could’ve been worse if Scrivens had put Penallta 15 in front and not instead taken out a floodlight with his attempted conversion.


The miss gave Rhiwbina a glimmer going into the second half, a second half in which they saw plenty of the ball but couldn’t find a way to unlock their dangerous back three, particularly winger Sion Summers, who looked rapid. Huge centre Lloyd Summers also looked a threat but he was well marshalled by Jonny Wright and Andrew Jenkins. Sion Summers managed to break loose once in the second half but it was largely a frustrating game for the two back-lines; defences certainly on top. The frantic, tense nature of the game also did nothing for a breakthrough of creativity. Rhiw’s outside half Josh Davies struggled to find a defence splitting pass, constantly swarmed by Penallta defenders. And as the game wore on and players got tired any hope of a decline in Penallta’s defensive structure was counter-balanced by the declining industry of Rhiwbina’s front five: the away side struggling to put together enough punishing phases; always getting turned over at critical moments.


Scrivens had managed to find the middle of his boot early in the second half to add a penalty which put Penallta a comforting 16-0 up. And despite the interim twenty minutes of possession from the away side, Penallta made it 23-0 and ended the game as a contest on the hour mark with a freakish try from prolific winger Elliott Keep. It came after a spell of Penallta pressure which included the drop-goal miss from Haines. Trying to clear their lines, Rhiwbina saw a kick charged down and Keep - a finisher not unfamiliar with the sensational - scored the most simple try he’ll get all season, picking up the loose ball and falling over the line unopposed. Scrivens managed to kick another conversion without killing any nesting birds and it was all over as a contest.


The return league fixture next week will be interesting. Penallta have never played at Caedelyn and are aware that it is a fortress for Rhiwbina. With Penallta just three bonus points ahead of their unbeaten rivals in the league it will be - in football parlance - a definite six-pointer. Penallta proved yesterday what they have learned from seasons of playing against top sides like Merthyr and Ystrad Rhondda, that you need to get the set-piece right, defend well and pressure the opposition and when the heavy lifting is done, make sure you convert enough chances through your gun try-scorers. That’s exactly what Penallta did yesterday with a confident, energetic, aggressive and sure performance. The Penallta players said after the game that Rhiwbina are the best team they’ve played this season; that they managed to kill the game by the 60-minute mark is testament to how well they are functioning at the moment - the Squirrels will be looking to turn the tables next week in what promises to be a cracker.


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