SSE Swalec Championship
LLANHARAN 14 GLYNNEATH 16 HT 14-6
Without a win and just a single bonus point all season, Llanharan were on course for a remarkable first victory with just two minutes of normal time to play.
They had performed with tremendous strength, ability and resilience against the second half wind to hold Glynneath at bay, leading 14-9.
It was a sad irony that when they eventually broke the territorial stranglehold and advanced to a position where they could have realistically held on, two kicking miscues brought the away team back on the counter, fullback Mathew Llewellyn rounding the scrambling defence to touch down under the posts and Craig Jones’s conversion winning the game.
Said head coach Colin Malone: “Great effort from the boys today after what happened last week and devastated to see the win snatched away at the death.”
Llanharan had made a mockery of their championship record with a first half in which they scrummaged strongly and attacked with neat combinations, much of it stimulated from the back row duo of Scott Malone and Tom Wilson.
The starting line-up was considerably changed from the previous slamming at Merthyr.
Props Rhys Haines and Joel Ringer added much needed bulk to the front row, while regular second XV performer Richard Lawrence came into the back row after a late non-appearance and worked hard.
Halfbacks Craig Burton and Scott Jones were doing well behind this platform, and from a Jones grubber to the corner the home side were able to drive at the line allowing Burton to get the touch down and his half-back partner to add two points for a 7-0 lead.
Unfortunately, a Jones penalty attempt then came back off an upright to give the Neath Valley men a reprieve, and they took advantage despite good tackles from Malone and Lee Edgecombe, presenting Lloyd Thomas with a penalty success.
A telling up field kick from left wing Gavin Parsons put his men back on the offensive and again the Wilson/Malone combination from the scrum ended with Morgan Williams taking Jones’s pass to score on the right.
The conversion took the lead to 14-3, and although more thumping tackles from James Holmes and Ringer halted an opposition response, Thomas added a second penalty before half time.
If ever proof was needed of Llanharan spirit it came early after the turn around. Owain Howe seemed to be on the harsh end of a yellow from referee Dai Cambourne, but his depleted outfit denied Glynneath a single score, a seven-man pack actually pushing the opposing eight back on one scrum with Harry Griffiths and Parsons contributing useful play in the loose.
Ironically, once back to fifteen some poor decision making thwarted the Black and Blues’ effort and replacement outside half Craig Jones landed a drop goal with a penalty holding.
The Dairymen continued to thrive under pressure with turnovers and one huge line out steal by Howe at the front.
It had been significant that Glynneath had abandoned their efforts to drive .lineouts over the try line in the face of such ferocious resistance.
However, just when the bottom club looked to have done all that was necessary, came the vital lapses which deprived them of a victory that by sheer effort and character they certainly deserved.
But despite those final heart breaking minutes, Llanharan can take encouragement from this display as they make the long journey to Newcastle Emlyn Saturday.
15 BEN BURGESS,
14 MORGAN WILLIAMS,
13 LEE EDGECOMBE,
12 HARRY GRIFFITHS,
11 GAVIN PARSONS,
10 SCOTT JONES,
9 CRAIG BURTON,
1 RHYS HAINES (TOM EVANS 55),
2 RHYS TAYLOR,
3 JOEL RINGER,
4 JAMES HOLMES,
5 OWAIN HOWE,
6 RICHARD LAWRENCE,
7 SCOTT MALONE (C),
8 TOM WILSON.
Unused reps: Sam Llewellyn, Carl Leather, Harrison Evans