TATA STEEL 24 NEWCASTLE EMLYN 34
Newcastle Emlyn completed the double over division high fliers Tata Steel with a never say die attitude combined with a resilient defensive effort especially when the chips were down. By Aled Daniel.
The Ceredigion side enjoyed a hard fought victory with a dogged defensive effort at Dôl Wiber in September but Tata Steel, now riding high in third place in the Championship, would be a completely different proposition on their own turf.
Emlyn were also testing some completely new combinations with Ashley Sutton pulling on the 10 shirt for his first start and Calum Evans making his debut at open side flanker.
The excellent playing surface and the cold, dry weather presented ideal conditions for running rugby and this is what both teams tried to deliver from the kick off.
As the game proceeded Tata used their heavier pack for forays into Emlyn’s territory with their back row carrying the ball up the field and some powerful runs from flanker David Griggs.
The Red and White lineout stuttered while the new combination of jumpers bedded in. Tata took full advantage of this and when Emlyn lost a lineout against the throw it provided an attacking opportunity allowing inside centre Richard Carter to cross under the posts for Tata’s first try which was converted by outside half Lloyd Bradley.
Tata should have been several scores ahead but time after time they were frustrated by the heroic tackling of Emlyn back rowers Brynmor Jones, Joel James and Callum Evans whilst second row Dan Havard worked hard to ensure there was no quick ball from the breakdown which often resulted in knock ons and fumbles ending the move.
The attacks continued but the Red and Whites managed to win back the ball, unfortunately the clearing kick was not long. Tata scored their second try from the ensuing lineout with loose head prop Rhys Taylor crashing over for the score. Bradley was again successful with the conversion.
Emlyn battled hard to achieve parity in the scrum against a much heavier pack and as the new 9-10 combination started to gel they were able initiate more attacks which were met with very physical tackling from the opponents. As the first half ended, Tata were deemed to have transgressed in the tackle area by referee Matthew Thomas of Llanelli and Ashley Sutton kicked the penalty to finally open the account for Emlyn.
It is difficult to know which coach would have been most content at half time, whilst Tata were in the lead they will have rued several missed opportunities and should have been much further ahead with their heavier pack. Emlyn on the other hand had failed to cross the Tata line but had defended valiantly preventing the opposition from running away with the game.
The second half started in the same vein as the first with both teams trying to pass the ball and run at the opposition.
Five minutes into the half Tata attacked again but the Red and White defensive line was up quickly making an interception which after a few quick passes allowed scrum half Mike Jones to cross for their first try.
Emlyn continued their impressive defensive display with the back row nullifying any attacks Tata attempted to make. This pressure eventually forced an error from Tata, the loose ball being gathered and some swift passing allowing Dafydd Evans the replacement scrum half who had come on for injured winger Llŷr Freeman, to cross for the visitors second try. Ashley Sutton’s conversion took Emlyn into the lead a situation which would have seemed highly unlikely considering the run of play during the first half.
The second try boosted the confidence of Alex Williams and his side with the back row now excelling at the breakdown and winning the majority of any 50:50 ball on the ground were able to launch a series of attacks with some quick passing. The ball eventually reached the hands of hard running loose-head prop Emrys Davies who was able to break the Tata defensive line while deftly passing to scrum half Mike Jones who touched down under the posts for his second try.
Tata now needed to score twice to regain the lead and launched a series of attacks resulting in a lineout close to the visitors line. The defence held firm during the inevitable drive and an attacking scrum was awarded. When Emlyn were penalised Tata elected to scrummage again and the heavier pack forced a second penalty. Recognising the danger of a penalty try, scrummaging specialist Gethin Davies was brought on at tight head in his first game since returning from injury. The replacement made an immediate difference with the Emlyn scrum holding steady. The Red and Whites were again able to turn the ball over from the drive and clear their lines.
Tata moved the ball through the hands from the lineout but the defensive line was up quickly and made a second interception. The ball was hacked forward and the chase was on with one of the retreating Tata players arriving first and trying to kick the ball out of play. The sliced kick hit one of the uprights squarely and rebounded, it was juggled by several players before ending up in the hands of outside centre Teifion Davies who crossed for Emlyn’s fourth try, again converted by Sutton.
Tata redoubled their efforts after the restart and with some powerful running and deft passing and phase play allowed hooker Jordan Hawkins to touch down in the corner for their third try.
Following the restart, it was the same again from Tata providing them with a fourth try, this time for winger Craig Leyshon.
Sensing that the momentum was with them Tata launched another attack but the Red and White defenders were their equal and they were forced the knock on with some determined tackling. The resulting scrum near half way, which had been bolstered with some fresh legs with Carwyn Rees replacing captain Alex Williams at hooker and Elliot Rees at 8 for Brynmor Jones, was won comfortably. The pass from the base by Mike Jones allowed Emlyn to complete what looked like a training ground move as inside centre Steff Evans stepped past the Tata defensive line to score the last try of the match providing the small band of elated Emlyn supporters with an unexpected victory and moving their team to the top half of the table.
This bonus point win will surely provide the boost the Red and Whites need as they approach a run of three home fixtures over the Christmas and New Year period starting with Cardiff Met on the 16th December.