SSE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
LLANHARAN 6 BRIDGEND ATHLETIC 17 (HT 6-7)
Llanharan may still be without a win this season, but their performance against the Athletic showed that when they are anywhere near a full squad they are certainly a match for the sides in the lower half of the championship.
It was a case of a few crucial incidents not going their way, while Huw Thomas’s surging seventy metres run to the corner in the final move deserved a better outcome than Paul Spurrier’s final whistle.
A score and bonus point would have been no more than Scott Malone’s battlers deserved.
The Dairymen certainly enjoyed the better of the first half, largely thanks to a dominant scrum. The bedrock of Tom Evans, Rhys Taylor and Rhys Haines with the hefty backing of powerhouse men Kieran Martin and Owain Howe had the Bridgend team in trouble and allow3ed the back row of Malone, Tom Wilson and Thomas to forage effectively.
It would have been a pleasing sight to head coach Colin Malone and forwards guru Jeff Pick, both past members of strong Llanharan packs.
The visitors led only 7-6 to at half time, Llanharan certainly unhappy about the yellow cards for Haines and Gavin Parsons that reduced them to thirteen at one stage as the interval approached.
Mr Spurrier found a lot of fault with the Black and Blues, although to be fair he also dished it out the other way, carding prop Matt Muir in the second half.
It looked like another heavy defeat on the cards for home team when Sean Williams strode through from the breakdown and touched down under the posts for Lewis Evans to convert in the second minute.
However, Llanharan shrugged off the setback with determined play, the later yellows given perspective as Athletic conceded four successive penalties without a sin bin sanction.
Scott Jones landed two kicks to leave just a single point deficit.
When the Athletic attacked they were either careless in their handling or met resolute defence.
At the other end, their opponents were still going strong, Thomas, Malone, Burton and Jones particularly prominent as their side asked the questions.
But the team that now plays out of the Brewery Field gave themselves breathing space early after the restart with an Evans penalty for off side and rode out the yellow card ten minutes without conceding.
The game was now scrappy, injuries and replacements disrupting the fluency, but Sean Williams’ XV struck the crucial blow twelve minutes from the end.
Ironically, it was a lost head that led to corner pressure and a driving maul ended with number eight Stuart Edbrooke over the line, Evans converting to finalise the score.
Thomas’s last despairing drive brought matters to a close, with disappointment for the home outfit for whom Prop Paul Boddingham, centre Liam Union and scrum half Rob Chen made encouraging debuts.
The Athletic will be pleased with the win which helps keep them above the relegation places, but will find Pontypridd a handful in this week’s cup game.
For Llanharan, Malone expressed disappointment at coming away with nothing to show for a good effort, unhappy aboutthepenalty count against, but will look forward to giving Narberth a good game when they arrive at the Dairyfield on Saturday.
His main injury worry will be energetic second row Howe who took a blow to the upper body in the second half.
Llanharan: Pens (2) Scott Jones.
Bridgend Ath: tries – Sean Williams, Stuart Edbrooke; pen and con – Lewis Evans.
HUW RUSSELL (CHRIS SHARKEY 71)
CRAIG BURTON (ROB CHEN 71)
RHYS TAYLOR (RHYS HAINES 75)
RHYS HAINES (JAMES HOLMES 35) (PAUL BODDINGHAM 54)
OWAIN HOWE (RICHARD LAWRENCE 62)
SCOTT MALONE (C)