Fixture

Penallta RFC | 1st Team 38 - 12 Risca RFC | 1st Team
Gregg James Hains
Try 1
Joseph Scrivens
Conversion 3
Jon Wright
Conversion 1
Try 1
Aeron Bidgood
Try 1
Elliott Keep
Try 1
Ryan Davies
Try 1
Rhys Meredith
1 Try
Billy John
1 Try
Liam Thomas
1 Conversion

Match Report
07 December 2014 / Team News

Penallta v Risca Match Report

Penallta put together a terrific first half performance to defeat Risca, turning a tricky fixture into an emphatic win on the G4 surface at the Centre of Sporting Excellence.

Penallta led at half-time by 33-0. So complete was the first half effort that it ranks among Penallta's best ever days of rugby. Risca are a big, physical and well-organised side with plenty of threats but they were incapacitated by a superb display by the home side.

The coaching staff deserve to take a lot of credit. Most sides in Division 1 have good individual players, a game plan and structure, but to get all aspects of a performance running well takes a lot of coaching and managing. Penallta scored five tries in the first 30 minutes to end the game as a contest against a quality team and to achieve that takes a hell of an effort. All of the tries were superbly executed; featuring skill, class, speed and control. But more impressive was the attitude of the Penallta players, the pressure of their defence and attention to detail of every player on the field. When the clock ticks like it so evidently did yesterday, the coaches deserve the praise. From the minute the sides emerged the players were superbly focussed.

Penallta came out of the blocks and stopped every piece of Risca possession at source. When they tackled, they hit Risca backwards. They committed men into rucks with such speed and ferocity that Risca couldn't hold onto possession for more than one or two phases. Penallta's pressure play without the ball created the illusion of extra players in defence. The lineout functioned magnificently, the scrum was very good again, the half-backs and centres were excellent, the ability to keep possession and make yards with each phase was testament to supreme fitness levels and great understanding between the units. And the back three were dynamite.

The back row was one unit which went particularly well. Jack Condy and Rhys Fitzgerald emerged from youth only last year, Rhys Stephens the year prior to that, but they were excellent yesterday, almost completely dominant across the field. Fitzgerald is the find of the season and Stephens had a surprisingly high-quality day out given it was first game after a protracted absence. They complemented the front five, which was excellent again. Geraint Thomas was back in the second row and what an asset his return should prove to be; he is one of the finest forwards about, and arguably the best lineout practitioner at this level. It will be a step-up in challenge next week when Penallta face a well-resourced and unbeaten Rhiwbina in the Swalec Plate, but on yesterday's evidence, Penallta's pack are justified in having the confidence that they will cope.

Aeron Bidgood opened the scoring after good play from the Penallta forwards. It was trademark Bidgood: dummy pass, sniping run and a try under the posts untouched. His try scoring return this season from scrum half is formidable. He is another one in his first year of senior rugby, yet his performance level is consistently outstanding. He was Penallta's man of the match yesterday; completely faultless. His attacking game and his technical work such as passing and kicking is always very good, but what is just as impressive is his speed to the breakdown to ensure a Penallta function rapidly and his ability to be where the danger is. Like all quality scrum halves, when Penallta come under pressure through long kicks or a cut-through in open-field, Bidgood is on the scene. He is an excellent rugby player and yesterday he was key in knitting a superb forward display and equally superb back-division performance together. Joseph Scrivens converted his try to make it 7-0.

Within minutes it was 14-0. More Penallta pressure forced a lineout on the Risca line, and the rest was a formality. Hooker Gregg Haines nailed his throw to jumper Rhys Silcox, then a powerful forward drive and a simple try followed from Jack Condy. It was neatly converted from the touchline by Scrivens, who appears to have found his mojo with the boot. Condy had his best game for Penalllta yesterday. He is a force of nature when he concentrates on being a forward rather than daydreaming about hat-tricks out in midfield as a repressed centre. Everything he tackled was flattened; every ruck he hit turned over ball. Every carry hurt Risca. He was on fire, and clearly enjoying himself. One hit he made on a big Risca forward in midfield was brutal. He seemed to relish it even more than the crowd winced at it.

The third try was symbolic of the Penallta performance and followed soon after the second. Risca tried to run a downfield Penallta kick from their 22 and under normal circumstances it was on, but Penallta's kick-chasing yesterday was top-drawer. A committed kick-chase is a sign of a side willing to do the selfless work. Winger Gareth Edwards, who wears his heart of his sleeve more than anyone else, made a great diving tackle on Risca's full back as he tried to escape. Risca retained possession, but another missile hit from Edwards - who extricated himself from the first ruck with typical indifference to his personal safety - caught another Risca player deeper inside their 22. Edwards, strong and fast, managed to get on his feet and turn over the ball, and then Penallta, symptomatic of their control, put together a dozen probing phases, always punching holes and delivering impact with commendable patience, before a miss pass from Bidgood to Jonny Wright saw Jonny beat his man and amble under the post without an exhausted Risca player in sight.

Wright's try made it 21-0 by the 25 minute mark. Yet the rout continued. Penallta, now operating in top gear, scored two superbly executed tries.

The first was finished by Ryan Davies after some more rollicking play. Joe Scrivens went on one of his thrill-seeking missions, and suddenly - through his elastic balance and speed off the mark - found his way into space. Scrivens, amid all his tricks and gifts, is a fine distributor of a killer pass. Unselfishly, he threw a wide one to full back Ryan Davies who sprinted into the corner to finish, in his usual lightning quick way. It brought the whole crowd to their feet, apart from Davies's girlfriend, who in time-honoured, loyal-spectating girlfriend style, didn't have a clue what had just happened. It was the only unconverted try of the day, but another try came a long just seconds later.

It began with excellent work from centre Andrew Jenkins. Jenkins is having a fabulously rejuvenated season, and particularly enjoys the G4 surface. Dancing from his own half, he beat two then three men before offloading inside to the try-machine Elliott Keep. Winger Keep had two men to beat either side of him but it made no difference, his pace being such that defenders rarely prevent the inevitable. He galloped under the posts for Penallta's fifth try of the first half and Scrivens duly converted.

The only other activity of note in the remaining 10 minutes of the first half was Scrivens leaving the field to be replaced by Joe Merriman who slotted into centre as Jonny Wright went to 10. Merriman was his usual destructive stuff, tackling everything that moved and some things that didn't; or then couldn't, after he'd hit it. But unfortunately Merriman - despite playing on - added to the minor build-up of worrying injuries to backs as he broke his hand, putting him out of next week's game. Scrivens's absence deprived Penallta of his enigmatic, unpredictable game-sense. Without him Penallta, though still completely comfortable and seriously impressive in defence, seemed to lose their spark. Perhaps it was more to do with the mentality of knowing the game was over within the first half hour, but one suspects the coaches will want to ensure that Scrivens is fit for next week. Not even Scrivens knows what he is going to do next when he has the ball, thus he is a nightmare for defences.

Penallta opened the scoring in the second half with another well worked lineout move. Hooker Gregg Haines wrestled for the ball with his prop partner Keiran Mahoney at the back of another powerful driving maul and grabbed the try. Mahoney looked suitably disgusted that his Neil Back'esque try-pinching from the back of the maul had been sussed out by Haines, but he promised not to be so charitable next week. Former captain Mahoney was excellent again, just as he has been all season. His front row partnership with Haines and loose-head Martyn Dunn was as integral as ever to all the good things Penallta did. Martyn Dunn's excellently consistent service to the club was rewarded yesterday with the captaincy, replacing the suspended Lee Rowlands, who won't be back till after Christmas. Dunny is hugely popular and respected throughout the club, especially among his team-mates, and it was fitting that Penallta should put in such a sublime performance for him yesterday. The coaches were able to rest both Dunn and Mahoney with plenty of minutes left, and they were replaced by Matthew Angel and debutant Shannon Power. Both replacements, along with sub number 8 Luke Purnell, who may well start in Condy's cup-tied absence next week, hit the ground running. The depth of talent in the club, especially in light of the unbeaten 2nd team - who turned in their own magnificent performance yesterday to beat Bargoed 2nds - is great to see.

Risca played very well in the second half. They were understandably deflated at half time, and probably a bit shell-shocked. But they responded really well, winning the second half 5-12. Much of their good play revolved around scrum half Rhys Meredith, who was excellent. He took a bit of a hiding around the fringes given all the spilt ball and relentless pressure. But he was brave, daring and a constant, unflinching threat to the Penallta defence. He is without doubt one of the best players Penallta have come up against this season. Penallta knew they were home and hosed after thirty minutes but they still seemed to enjoy having virtually no possession during the final twenty minutes of the match and relished the defensive effort. That defensive effort became even more acute as first Mahoney and then Haines and then Fitzgerald managed to get themselves consecutively sin-binned for petty offences, leaving Penallta with 13 men for a quarter of the match. Yet the defensive display was such that it took Risca 60 minutes to score a try. They then scored two in ten. They got their act together in convincing fashion, especially their pick and punch game round the fringes, letting Penallta know that the return match over in Gwent will be no easy day out. They could've scored three if it hadn't been for a bone-crunching tackle from replacement full-back Matthew Williams. A show-stopper, one-on-one, right on his line when a try seemed inevitable. The crowd loved it. It summed up the supreme commitment and aggression of Penallta's day.

It really was a very impressive performance and Penallta will need another one next week. What a mouth-watering fixture it should be. Penallta v Rhiwbina in the Cup, both teams unbeaten. Both teams in great form.

 

Final Score Penallta 38 Risca 12

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