17 August 2021 / Club News

Excellent win after 18 months break

Ystalyfera 20 pts Narberth 24 pts


After 18 months with no rugby, a young Narberth side travelled to Ystayfera and came home with an excellent win in the first match of the Championship Cup.

There is still no definite word from WRU as to when the league programme will eventually start and at the moment the Governing Body has organised a pre-Xmas round robin cup competition in order to get rugby up and running again. In view of these circumstances the Otters have decided to take this opportunity of developing the younger players at the Club and slowly introducing them to Championship rugby.

A squad made up of seasoned senior players and younger players just out of the Youth team took the field at Ystalyfera in what turned out to be a very entertaining match.

This was Ystalyfera’s fifth match of the season and Narberth’s first so a very close game was envisaged and this proved to be the case.

With the new rules in place with scrums being awarded onlyfor knock-ons and other offences resulting in a tap and go situation, something like rugby league, spectators could be forgiven for wondering what all the tap ‘penalties’ were for.

Ystalyfera were first to get on the scoreboard with a penalty after Narberth were caught offside at a ruck and their full back kicked the goal to put the home team ahead. Shortly afterwards Narberth were awarded a penalty ten metres from the home try line and scrum half George MacDonald, making his debut for the Otters, quickly tapped the ball and when confronted by the opposition he gave a lovely pass to his supporting hooker, Rhodri Owens, who scored close to the posts. George is only 18 years old and is the son of former Narberth stalwart Chris MacDonald who played for the Otters with distinction for many seasons. Chris and his wife, Jane, were both in attendance and were very proud to see their son start his senior career with the Otters. The try was converted by full back Nick Gale.

Within minutes of the restart Narberth lost the ball in the tackle whilst trying to run out of their 22 and the home team nosed ahead when they moved the ball quickly along the back line for their right winger to score in the corner. The try went unconverted.

For the next twenty minutes Narberth had the upper hand and there was some strong running by centre Joe Hutchings who on a couple of occasions breached Ystalyfera’s defence but the attacks came to nothing. Then just before half time co-centre Josh Davies brushed through the opposition and when confronted by the home full back he slipped a great inside pass to his supporting flanker, Tom Powell, who scored close to the posts. By this time Nick Gale had left the field injured (to be replaced by Ianto Griffiths) and the conversion was kicked by fly half Jonathan Rogers to take the Otters into half time leading 8 – 14.

After the break Ystalyfera came out strongly and after turning over the ball within the Narberth 22 metre area, they spread the ball wide and for the second time in the match the home right wing sped over in the corner for a well-worked try which again went unconverted.

At this stage the game was very evenly contested with both teams trying to gain the upper hand. After putting the home team under a lot of pressure Narberth were awarded a penalty and Jonathan Rogers stretched the Otters’ narrow lead by kicking the goal.

Both teams then looked to make some changes with the Otters replacing Prop Bradley Davies with Dan Smith and flanker Tom Powell being replaced by Harri Phillips.

After some excellent kicking out of hand by Jonathan Rogers who continually tested the home full back, Narberth found themselves at a ruck close to the home try line. When the ball emerged, the Ystalyfera scrum half attempted to kick the ball downfield only for it to be charged down by another youngster, Rhys Williams, making a strong and powerful debut for the Otters in the second row and the ball fell to hooker Rhodri Owens who merely had to touch it down over the line for his second try of the match. The try was again converted by Rogers, taking the score to 13 – 24.

Narberth then made further changes with two former youth players, scrum half Jordan James and hooker Tom Clarke making their debuts at senior level and replacing respectively George MacDonald and Rhodri Owens.

However, Ystalyfera refused to give up and were keeping the Otters pinned close to their line with only dogged defence from the visitors keeping them out. Eventually the pressure told and the home flanker barged his way over the try line with ten minutes to go. The try was converted by the home full back to complete the scoring.

The local supporters were now in full cry and with minutes to go a home victory seemed a possibility. However, the young Narberth team clung on and when Narberth were awarded a penalty inside their own half Rogers calmly stroked the ball into touch to bring the game to an end.

Head Coach Sean Gale was delighted with the performance of the whole squad. Whilst he admitted that there had been some ring-rustiness due to no matches being played for almost eighteen months, the blend of youngsters and seasoned campaigners had worked well. He had been impressed with many of the players who were making their first appearances for the Narberth 1st team. After consulting with the other coaches, young debutant flanker Guto Davies was named Man of the Match.

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