NARBERTH 34 LLANHARAN 8 (HT 10-8)
The team tried its hardest but the weakened side went down 34-8 after trailing 10-8 at half time.
A mixture of injuries and unavailability saw the team take the field with only three on the bench.
Outside half Codey Rees was the latest casualty as he withdrew with a hamstring pull, but the vice-captain travelled with the side to lend moral support.
Relative newcomers Rory Martin-Smith and Brendan Mais made up the back row and Jamie Uren got his first start in the front row.
Behind the scrum the line up was unrecognisable from the normal squad permutations. Chris Poole stood in at number ten and back row man Lewis Young took a centre berth, with new comer Elliott Jones from Llantrisant on the wing. Normal wide man Rhys Walker went to full back.
Attempts to raise replacements within the club were unsuccessful, despite the Seconds being without a game.
We had the elements at our backs in the first half and despite an early Narberth score we were making a game of it. Rhys Walker ran well for his try, showing his versatility by also kicking a penalty.
But the Otters were in front by the turn around and monopolised play thereafter, dominating possession as they retained the ball to frustrate us in the difficult conditions, earning a bonus point with their six tries.
It was no surprise that referee Jonathan Mason called time early with a vicious thunder storm sweeping the ground and Matthew Lloyd and his fellow coaches will be hoping for a return to something like normal playing strength before Saturday’s fixture with Cardiff Met, recent problems having ripped the backbone out of the team.
It is also worth asking the WRU why, on the second holiday Saturday, we are again away from home, depriving the club of a lucrative festive season occasion and the team a chance to get back on track with the help of home advantage.
Narberth tries – Rhys Lane 2, Stuart Worrell 2, Johnny Morgan, penalty try. Cons 2 – Ianto Griffiths
Llanharan try and pen – Rhys Walker
15 RHYS WALKER
14 TOM FARRAR-EVANS
13 LEWIS YOUNG
12 MORGAN WILLIAMS
11 ELLIOTT JONES
10 CHRIS POOLE
9 MATHEW WILLIAMS
1 JAMIE UREN
2 NATHAN HUISH (CAPT)
3 TOM PIPER
4 ADAM SCANLON
5 ANDREW ROSEN
6 BRENDAN MAIS
7 RORY MARTIN-SMITH
8 HUW THOMAS
Reps used: GETHIN CASHMORE JORDAN HUGHES JAMES BEATON
It may have been a fifth defeat in a row, but apart from Bonymaen these have been teams riding high in the division, and both the head coach and chairman had plenty
positive to say after the Narberth reverse.
Matthew Lloyd commented: “The boys did remarkably well considering the disruption to the team, with some fifteen players unavailable through injury or illness since the RGC game.
“Although results have not gone our way there has been a huge shift in attitude which we coaches asked for.
“Players like Bradley Mais and Rory Martin-Smith have come in and showed that they are more than comfortable at this level and hopefully they will be with us for a few more seasons yet.
“We are looking forward now to the New Year and turn around in our fixtures and results.
“The vast majority of our walking wounded should be back shortly though we wish Dafi and Harry speedy recoveries from their long term injuries and hope that 2014 brings them better luck.
“From the players and coaches we would like to wish everyone at Llanharan RFC a very happy Christmas and a prosperous new year.”
Adrian Tattersall was impressed by the attitude shown in adversity.
“Lewis Young’s willingness to play in the centre because of our crisis spoke volumes for team spirit while Rory Martin-Smith was again a revelation in only his s second game at championship level. Llantrisant boy Elliott Jones is also to be commended for answering the call while several other players willingly played in unfamiliar roles to help the team.
“Rory and Mathew Williams even drove from Worcester to Pembrokeshire to take part, and Codey Rees still travelled despite his injury and smoothly slotted into the position of honorary committee man in charge of hospitality!
“We had our own moments of pressure and Rhys Walker’s try was a good one, but with the wind behind them Narberth were able to win and hold the ball to frustrate us.
“We will return to winning ways when the full squad is once more available and I look forward to the second half of the season.
“In the meantime I wish everyone a happy Christmas and New Year from the club’s committee.”
LLANHARAN 10 EBBW VALE 36 (HT 3-17)
It is going to take something extraordinary to stop unbeaten Ebbw Vale marching to the championship title on this evidence.
Up against a team of impressive all round strength, Llanharan recovered a lot of self respect with their unstinting efforts following their unexpected capitulation at RGC 1404 the previous Saturday.
But they were facing an impressive unit, home head coach Matthew Lloyd describing them as “very powerful and organised”.
Even so, he complimented his own team’s efforts, adding: “We competed well and produced what we as coaches were after following last week’s debacle up north.”
He singled out back row man Rory Martin-Smith for particular commendation, describing the university student’s contribution as outstanding considering it was his first game at this level.
“We still have lots to work on, but there were encouraging signs ahead of next week’s outing at Narberth,” he said.
Indeed at one stage it looked as though Llanharan were about to give Vale a major challenge.
The score was 17-10 to the visitors when Chris Poole went for an interception on the half way line. Had he managed to seize the ball there was nothing between him and the try line, and a simple conversion would have levelled the scores.
But the ball ended up in Gwent hands and it was their left wing Wes Cunliffe who sprinted forty metres to score, Smerdon’s fine conversion making it 24-10 with the game three quarters over.
The signs for Llanharan were ominous from the start with Damien Hudd’s pack exerting huge pressure on their line.
The combined efforts of Jonathan Lewis and Morgan Williams from Adam Scanlon’s line out ball brought temporary relief, but in the 10th minute slick handling from deep inside their own half brought the reigning champions a converted try from outside half Ian Smerdon as they ran back a loose clearance.
The big Ebbw pack was causing the home eight lots of scrum problems, though it was a line out drive from skipper Hudd’s ball that produced the second try, flanker Ronnie Kynes getting the touchdown.
The Dairymen did eventually get on the score sheet with a Codey Rees penalty, only for the opposition to once more return an infield kick with interest, this time centre Carl Meyer darting over to the side of a ruck, and Vale had a useful 17-3 lead at the turn around.
The only down turn for them was the serious leg injury to Gareth Williams in the 12th minute, the number eight despatched to hospital and sadly facing Christmas in plaster.
The rain arrived as forecast as the second half got underway and it was typical of Nathan Huish’s men’s re-found resolve that they survived a Scanlon yellow carding, great tackles from Rees and Chris Poole helping keep the Steelmen at bay.
And they got some worthy reward as centre Gabriel Davies seized the ball on the half way line and raced in giving Rees a straight forward kick.
However, Cunliffe’s score brought his team the bonus point before live wire number seven Ronny Kynes capitalised on a kick ahead for another try, Smerdon once more converting.
Although 31-10 down, Llanharan were still making a valiant attempt to make an impression as Lewis Young led an assault, but lethal Vale underlined a worthy victory as replacement Leighton Bellamore scored at the other end in the pouring rain to send the large following happily back to the head of the valleys.
Llanharan will be hoping skipper Huish recovers from what appears to be a stinger injury before Saturday’s long trip to Narberth.
Llanharan try: Gabriel Davies. Con and pen: Codey Rees.
Vale tries: Ronny Kynes 2, Ian Smerdon, Carl Meyer, Wes Cunliffe, Leighton Bellamore. Cons 3 – Smerdon
RGC 1404 64 LLANHARAN 7 (HT 40-7)
Llanharan were torn apart by a rampant North Wales side at Colwyn Bay.
The strangely listless Dairymen allowed the home team to repeatedly rip through their ranks.
Some speculated that the five hour coach journey had taken its toll, quipping that they hadn’t got off the bus, attracting the riposte from another that they hadn’t even got on it!
And to add to their woes another serious injury saw back row man Dafi Davies stretchered off ten minutes from time after a long hold up.
The Blues Academy youngster was operated on in Glan Conway Hospital on Sunday for a broken tibia and dislocated ankle.
One of the coaching team, Adam Rosser, accompanied him in the ambulance and Dafi’s parents were due to travel up from Llantwit Major on Sunday.
Head coach Matthew Lloyd reports thatThe Blues immediately took care of the arrangements to get the Wales Sevens squad man back to South Wales once discharged by the hospital and all at the club wish him well.
The game itself was all over as a contest in just eight amazing minutes as RGC ran through inept tackling to collect three tries from Bryn Williams, Lewis Barker and Josh Leach. Afan Bagshaw, Kelvin Davies and Harry Evans added to the list before half time, Llanharan’s solitary reply a good number eight effort from Lewis Young as he drove over from a scrum for Codey Rees to convert.
Even two yellow cards awarded against RGC did not stop them attacking relentlessly, often from their own twenty two.
With the score at 40-3 when the sides changed ends it could only be a damage limitation exercise for Llanharan at the impressive Eirias Stadium.
And they did actually stem the flow, until Davies’s injury at the end of the third quarter seemed to produce another downturn, although the immediate response was to mess up a clear scoring chance in the corner through a bad pass.
But there was no compassion from a sparkling home XV who ran speedily skilfully with good angles, and four more tries were accumulated in the closing stages courtesy of Tom Hughes, Lewis Barker, Liam Leung and Huw Grundy.
Barker also collected five conversions for a twenty points haul, Rhodri Carlton-Jones getting the other two.
And if the disconsolate black and blues are in need of a stiff challenge to rally their spirits it will come this Saturday when undefeated Ebbw Vale are their visitors.
RGC Tries – Lewis Barker 2, Bryn Williams Kelvin Davies, Josh Leach, Harri Evans, Afon Bagshaw, Liam Leung, Tom Hughes, Rhodri Carlton-Jones.
Cons – Barker 5, Carlton- Jones 2.
Our try – Lewis Young. Con – Codey Rees
LLANHARAN 19 BONYMAEN 22 (HT 14-17)
With two tries and fourteen points on the board inside ten minutes against bottom club Bonymaen, home supporters could be forgiven for indulging in try bonus chat.
Yet quarter of an hour later the Swansea side had shaken of their hapless start to lead 17-14 and look anything like strugglers.
They conceded the lead again in the wake of James Bijas yellow carding, but rattled the Dairymen with a dramatic winner just minutes from the end, leaving the home team with only a losing bonus point to muse over.
Not for the first time this season, Llanharan squandered the benefits of a breathtaking try scoring opening, failing to consolidate as their play became too loose and fragmented, and allowed a dogged away team to battle back for what was a worthy victory, only their second of the campaign.
However, Nathan Huish's side were not helped by a remarkable catalogue of injuries.
Forwards Callum Thomas (broken arm) and prop Simon Collins (shoulder ligaments) had both left the field in that opening fifteen minutes, and before the end fullback Richard Lovering had become the team's second dislocated collar bone victim in successive games after Scott Malones misfortune at Bargoed.
It had looked so promising as left wing Morgan Williams featured in an exciting build up with Jonathan Lewis and Lewis Young to finish off with a fine run in just the first minute of play.
The rampaging Young was again prominent as Will Singer went over for the next, Codey Rees adding a second conversion, and at this stage Bonymaen looked every bit relegation material.
But the Parc Mawr outfit suddenly found self belief as John Hindman went over from the back of a scrum.
Richie Cuniffe converted then added a penalty after the hard working Young found himself the only man back to deal with a kick, and Bony struck a major blow by taking the lead, back row man John Hindman going over from a long range attack on 28 minutes,
Penalties were missed on both sides in the minutes leading up to half time, but it was the away XV calling the tune as dangerous wing Nathan Brooks had a try disallowed by referee Kelvin Shorte for having a man in front of the kicker.
Nippy scrum half Jonathan Lewis revived hope in the black and blue ranks as he scurried over for a corner try just after the restart, but despite some territorial pressure it was their last score.
There was a flow of good lineout ball from Andrew Rosen, Kieran Marin and Huw Thomas, but Llanharan could not achieve cohesion and were again relieved as a Cuniffe try was ruled out because of an infringement back on the half way line.
The red and black shirted West Walians saw another try chance go a begging as scrum half Connor Salter lost the ball over the line after more fine work from Brooks, only to clinch the game as the home side allowed them to counter from an inadequate clearance and send wing Joe Millen diving in at the corner flag.
Huish and his men made a desperate effort to save the game, declining several kicks at goal which could have earned a draw in search of a winning try, but it was not to be.
Llanharan tries Morgan Williams, Will Singer, Jonathan Lewis. Cons Codey rees 2.
Bonymaen tries Rhys Leonard, John Hindman, Joe Millen. Cons 2 and pen Richie Cuniffe.
BARGOED 32 LLANHARAN 13 (HT 13-3)
Llanharan’s four match run of wins came to an end at the Stadium as Bargoed powered their way to a bonus point victory in torrential rain and gale force winds.
The conditions were ideal for a bigger, more experienced home pack that exerted increasing pressure as the game progressed, although Llanharan never gave up and scored the final try of an encounter that was not short of entertainment despite the wild weather.
Ironically, the away side had declined referee Greg Morgan’s pre match invitation to call the game off as frequent storms blasted their way across the ground.
And there was more bad news for the Dairymen when replacement Scott Malone was despatched to hospital with a serious shoulder injury after just ten minutes as a second half replacement.
Josh Prosser and Codey Rees exchanged early penalties, but Bargoed showed their ability to rise above the conditions when scrum half Jason Pizey broke from the ten metres line and found good support to allow left wing Luke Smalley to dive over.
The away side though, began to get territorial footholds and there were strong runs from Callum Thomas and Gabriel Davies.
However, they found it hard to retain the ball and Bargoed launched length of the field counters, only a knock-on over the line saving Llanharan in one such scenario.
As half time approached, timely work by Ryan Evans saved another dangerous situation, but a charged down kick had the home team on the offensive again and their pack wheeled a scrum to the narrow side to send Lewis Prothero over, making it 13-3 at half time.
The next score was clearly going to be crucial to the final outcome and it went to Bargoed.
A sequence of pick and drives ended with prop Rhys Morgan making the finishing lunge and it heralded a nine man almost continuous close quarters assault on the Llanharan line.
The visitors put everything into it but bulk and technique were the critical factors as Mr Morgan awarded a penalty try, converted by Prosser against an opposing pack which had lost the services of tight head Tom Piper and the score went to 25-3, Bargoed securing the try bonus in the process.
But Nathan Huish’s men made the most of a rare attack with Tom Farrar-Evans scoring to the right of a scrum.
It proved only a temporary respite, with the mud splattered Mid District outfit returning to the other end where the scrum was again the platform for number eight Geraint Edmunds to touch down on the blind side.
Prosser’s kick made it 32-8, but showing commendable spirit Llanharan went through the phases and replacement wing Will Singer got their second try in the left corner.
Forwards coach Colin Malone, a big number eight who would have thrived in such circumstances in his own playing days, commented that in atrocious elements against a big and adept set of forwards it was a learning experience for the young Llanharan pack.
Llanharan tries – Tom Farrar-Evans, Will Singer. Pen: Codey Rees
Bargoed tries – Geraint Edmunds, Lewis Prothero, Rhys Morgan, Luke Smalley, pen try; cons 2 and pen – Josh Prosser.
BRIDGEND ATHLETIC 21 LLANHARAN 23
Llanharan fought a desperate but successful battle to claim victory at Newbridge Fields after surrendering a 16-3 lead and trailing 21-20 into stoppage time.
Their saviour was Codey Rees who calmly slotted the late penalty that won the game and took his league tally to an impressive 107.
The opportunity came on the back of a superb effort from Nathan Huish and his pack, props Tom Piper and Simon Collins offering valuable aid as the away team put the Athletic under huge pressure, taking a head in the process as they strove to achieve the outcome they deserved.
Even then Mr Bessant somehow found an extra nine minutes of time to prolong the tension, but Llanharan were not giving up what was rightly theirs.
In fact the Nantymoel official was a source of strife to the black and blues all afternoon, the penalty count against greatly outnumbering the home team’s, while the sin binning of Lewis Young at the end of the first half was another challenge.
But head coach Matthew Lloyd summed it up as a good win against tough opposition.
“It was always going to be tough after their excellent away win at Bargoed. Changes were made for this game and it’s all credit to the players that the win was achieved.
“The squad has far more depth to it this year than in past seasons and the players will benefit later in the campaign.
“Changes will be made for another very tough game on Saturday against Bargoed where we will hopefully be competitive.
“We will look at the footage of this game and try to improve our discipline because it left us on the wrong side of the referee in many points scoring situations.
“The win could perhaps have been more comfortable - but we could have lost.
“Next week we will have to be more clinical and disciplined if we are to continue our good run – the team are certainly learning quickly and there is a good atmosphere among the squad.”
The pack performance was all the more praiseworthy as enforced changes meant a makeshift second row – but Huw Thomas and Adam Scanlon, happier in back row roles, were equal to the task and didn’t take a backward step.
An early exchange of penalties between Steven Lewis and Rees was followed by Llanharan’s now customary flourish of attacking play in the first quarter.
It brought a try after a concerted build up in which loose head Simon Collins featured twice with strong drives and ended with Harry Davies continuing his promising development by diving over wide out on the right.
Rees converted and followed a Steven Lewis penalty with another three pointer.
The home side were living on scraps, but Llanharan could not further enforce their superiority and as Young saw yellow Bridgend persisted with quick penalties and got their reward, centre Rhys Jones diving over to make it 13-8 at half time.
The green and yellow shirts came more into play after the restart and a good Harry Davies tackle snuffed out the advantage of an overlap before a Lewis penalty reduced the lead again.
However Llanharan seemed to have restored match winning control as full back Richard Lovering, safe under the high ball all day, made a penetrating run and found centre Ryan Evans in hand to score, Rees’s added points making it 20-11.
But Llanharan were paying the price for repeatedly offending in the eyes of Mr Bessant and unexpectedly the Athletic were in front. A Lewis penalty gave the home outfit hope and then ironically a bad pass caused a misalignment of the away side’s defensive formation and left wing Aled Thomas scooped up the ball and raced over, Lewis’s touchline kick giving his men the lead for the first time.
Llanharan were not giving up though, and four minutes into extra time with the likes of Scott Malone and Daffy Davies straining every sinew to turn the result around, the Llanharan pack put in an amazing spell of work to create Rees’s match saver and then maintained the effort as spectators mused humorously that perhaps the ref had turned his watch back early!
Llanharan tries – Harry Davies, Ryan Evans. Cons 2 and pens 3 – Codey Rees.
Bridgend Ath tries – Rhys Jones, Aled Thomas. Pens3 and con – Steven Lewis.
TATA STEEL 27 LLANHARAN 34 (HT 8-18)
Llanharan outside half Codey Rees returned to one of his old stamping grounds with a vengeance, his deadly boot supplying nineteen points to help his team to victory and move them into third place in the championship.
The 24 year old spent 2011/12 at the Margam Sports Ground and on Saturday he reminded them of what an asset he is.
This was a hard fought victory for his team and the Dairymen had to dig in defensively on several occasions as they allowed Tata to grab the four tries that always kept them in the game.
In fact Llanharan fell behind in the 14th minute as former Dairyman Ross Pritchard went through a well worked gap at the front of the lineout, but the visitors soon found their feet.
Tries from prop Tom Piper and back row man Scott Malone plus contributions from Rees helped them to an 18-8 interval lead, the home side adding a Simon Evans penalty to their score.
A second Evans penalty and another Pritchard try brought Tata right back into it at 18-15, but Llanharan forged ahead once more as they combined well to put centre Gabriel Davies over under the posts.
The conversion took the lead to 28-15, but again Tata hit back as their opponents lost possession near the home line to allow wing Paul Bamsey to score at the other end.
However two more Rees kicks seemed to make the game safe until an unnecessarily ambitious line out call conceded possession and gave the opposition both a losing and a try bonus as full back Andrew Collins waltzed through to score and Nicky Hardwood converted.
It ensured a tense final five minutes, but the Llanharan pack responded magnificently on the back foot to hang on to a victory they just about deserved.
Said head coach Matthew Lloyd: "A good performance. But as a team we still have a lot of work to do. However, the boys showed great commitment and will gain confidence from this victory against a very good Tata side. But we must improve defensively and we will have a solid week's training to work on these things and prepare for what will be another difficult game against Beddau. The players are developing well and enjoying themselves.As a coaching team, myself, Adam and Colin are very pleased with the way the squad is gelling and the boys are playing for each other."
Tata tries - Ross Pritchard 2, Paul Bamsey, Andrew Collins. Con and pen: Simon Evans. Con: Nicky Harwood.
LLANHARAN 17 BEDDAU 8 (HT 7-3)
This Local derby turned out to be a close affair only decided by an exciting late try, but Llanharan know they should have been out of sight at half time. They dominated play but repeatedly failed to nail down try opportunities.
It is probably the hall mark of a young team, impetuosity and a desire to execute things at a hundred miles an hour bringing both excitement and disappointment in their play.
It meant that Beddau turned around only 7-3 behind, their own heroic defence, with former Dairyman Glen Slater to the fore, contributing to Llanharan’s frustrations.
Yellow cards also disrupted the home team’s cohesion, referee Jason Bessant sending Tom Piper and Mathew Williams to the sidelines either side of half time, despite their relatively innocuous offences being committed inside the visitors’ territory, in Piper’s case right on their try line. Beddau’s Dave Ellis too suffered a similar fate, his exclusion overlapping that of Williams.
However Llanharan head coach Matthew Lloyd described the win which took the club into second place as one they would have gratefully taken before kick off.
He added: “It was a good win played in difficult conditions - a hard, well contested game was what we expected and that was exactly what we got. Anything different wouldn’t have been llanharan/Beddau.
“Our start was very pleasing, but our accumulation of points was very disappointing. Beddau were always going to have a spell in the game and they did, some thirty minutes in, coinciding with our first card.
“We did well to defend and score a crucial try before half time. In the second half we asked for a more concentrated effort and the players gave us just that. We were far more comfortable and played with more pace and fluidity which is what we will be working on again this week.
“Generally the attitude of the players is commendable in that we are a squad and not individuals.”
It was all Llanharan in the opening quarter, skipper Nathan Huish at the vanguard of so many attacks and his forward colleagues like Huw Thomas, Andrew Rosen and Man of the Match Scott Malone fuelling the momentum.
Yet Beddau somehow escaped thanks to individual rescue acts from the likes of Dan Fox and a collective determination that coach Brett Davey would have demanded in such a contest.
Howwever, in a rare incursion into opposition territory an off side decision gave them the lead as Rhys Morgan kicked the three points.
Still it seemed only a matter of time before Llanharan prised open their defence as Adam Scanlon made great inroads, but skipper Slater and industrious second row Graham Hartt were having none of it.
It was only a matter of time though before a breach was secured. Huish and strong left wing Harry Davies prompted an assault before a quick free kick from Huw Thomas saw Codey Rees go close, for tight head prop Tom Piper to force his way over for a second try in two games, Rees converting.
Piper’s reward just seconds later was a yellow card as Mr Bessant signalled half time with Beddau again hanging on.
It was end to end after the restart, a good Adam Scanlon tackle and confident play from full back James Morris halting Beddau one end, then Rhys Walker close to getting a touch on Davies’s kick the other.
Williams was the second yellow card for not retreating ten metres, Beddau soon showing resolve as Howell Chatham and James Cashin made a strong attack up the right flank only to see a good Llanharan turn over thwart their ambitions.
But they took the lead with both sides down to fourteen, scrum half Dai Francis going over on the left from his own clever kick from a lineout.
Malone led the response and Rees cashed in with a penalty to regain the lead, but as the game moved into time added on, the Dairymen broke Beddau hearts with a try that not only clinched the win but deprived them of a losing bonus they probably deserved.
And a fine try it was too, Rees’s intelligent kick creating the foot hold, Huw Thomas setting play going with speed of thought and a action, and Gabriel Davies coming at an angle in Scott Gibbs style to score on the right. Rees converted with just seconds left to play.
Llanharan tries – Tom Piper, Gabriel Davies. Cons 2 and pen – Codey Rees.
Beddau try – Dai Francis; pen – Rhys Morgan.
LLANHARAN 37 NEWBRIDGE 24
Llanharan got back on track with a bonus point win at home against Newbridge.
It was the response demanded by head coach Matthew Lloyd after the side’s surprising demise at Tondu the previous week.
Then, Llanharan’s young team let a 14-0 lead go adrift as they lost sight of the game plan and ended up 20-17 losers.
No such problem this time round though for the young Dairymen who were 18-5 up at half time and were never behind.
Llanharan were awarded a penalty try as Daffy Davies was illegally impeded and also crossed the line through Codey Rees, Rhys Walker, Tom Marley and Huw Thomas.
Rees also put over three conversions and two penalties to bring his tally to 68 for the season.
Llanharan were strong in the set pieces but Newbridge themselves got a try bonus as Steffan Morgan 2, Andy Evans and Andrew Coope went over. Bryn Phillips and Iwan Phillips got a conversion apiece.
Despite, the high scoring, the game was not a classic with periods of fluent play somewhat patchy.
Llanharan tries – Penalty try, Codey Rees, Rhys Walker, Huw Thomas. Cons 3 and pens 2 – Codey Rees.
Newbridge tries – Steffan Morgan 2, Andy Evans, Andrew Coope. Cona – Bryn Phillips and Iwan Phillips.
TONDU 20 LLANHARAN 17 (HT 5-14)
Llanharan again got off to a dream start against Tondu only to lose their way after half time as a purposeful home side pressurised them relentlessly to earn a deserved victory.
The visitors looked good as they cruised to a 14-0 advantage in the first quarter, following the pattern of every league game to date this season.
They even then survived a crucial ten minutes defending valiantly as Tondu put in an unbroken sequence of scrummaging against the pack who had lost Scott Malone to Mr Evans's yellow card.
No one was exactly sure what the young flanker had done wrong, but centre Gabriel Davies was drafted into the back row to help Nathan Huish's pack hold out valiantly, the attackers surprisingly unwilling to move the ball against a now depleted Llanharan back line.
Yet ironically with the opposition backs restored to a full formation they did spread it and in the 5th minute of time added on wing Mark Roberts scored to give his team renewed hope which they proceeded to turn to gain.
Yet the Dairymen had started so well.
Outside half Codey Rees, second oldest in the black and blue ranks at just 24, was instrumental in creating the pressure as he followed up a kick, and was the man to put the finishing touch after second row Josh Turner had been help in the corner. The number ten took Huw Thomas's pass to grab the try, adding the conversion himself.
When the Waterwheelers tried to make inroads there were hard tackles coming in, Callum Thomas especially prominent, while prop Tom Piper made good yards in the opposite direction.
And a second try soon followed. Scrum half Matthew Williams made a quick break from a penalty and Tondu were unable to stop Callum Thomas crashing over, Rees again converting.
But Llanharan seemed to have turned off the burners as Mathew Phillips' men strove to reverse their 14-5 deficit.
A huge scrum effort gave them an advantage, and from a quick penalty scrum half Joe Heatley darted over. Murphy converted, then gave the home crowd great heart as his penalty put them in front.
Rees briefly recaptured the lead with his own kick, but flanker Mathew Morgan made it 20-17 as he made the most of a kick through.
Llanharan belatedly began to win better possession as young replacement hooker Gethin Cashmore found his man consistently, but played a game that was too loose and fragmented, ideal for the rampaging home pack to disrupt.
It was crying out for a spell of consolidation with phases rugby that would have allowed them to re-establish a pattern and take control again.
But it never came and it was undoubtedly justice that Rees's two late penalties failed, the first hitting an upright and the poor chase perhaps reflecting an off day for the team.
Head coach Matthew Lloyd was disappointed by his team's lack of control after the previous week's great win against Pontypool.
He said: "Tondu have to be commended on the way they fought back and dominated us. We will look to freshen things up next week and hopefully get a win against Newbridge."
He lamented what appeared to be an uncharacteristic lack of interest for a long period. Attitude's got to be for eighty minutes and no side wins a game after just twenty, he said, promising that the players would learn from it, train hard, and show improvement on Saturday.
Tondu tries - Mark Roberts, Joe Heatley, Mathew Morgan. Con and pen – Mathew Murphy
Llanharan tries - Codey Rees, Callum Thomas. Cons 2 and pen – Codey Rees.
LLANHARAN 21 PONTYPOOL 6 (HT 5-3)
With a mighty display of committed rugby, Llanharan brought an end to Pontypool’s hundred percent start to the season.
It was a resurgent outfit that came to the Dairyfield, their form this time round a continuation of a run at the end of 2012/13 that brought six wins in seven attempts to raise them from the basement.
But by the end there was no doubting who the worthy winners were as they eventually succumbed to a heart warming display from the home team.
Scott Malone led the side out in the absence of Nathan Huish, and he formed an outstanding back row with the Thomas boys, Huw and Callum, a unit which dominated the loose phases of play.
Forwards coach Colin Malone described the trio as “awesome” and head coach Matthew Lloyd added that the whole pack had stuck to the task well, particularly praising young hooker Gethin Cashmore who stood in for Huish and “never took a backward step”.
However, the outcome was not clear cut until the final phases.
Llanharan had got away to their third successive flier before the visitors, urged on by the large travelling contingent, began to seize the initiative.
Some of the Dairymen’s kicking out of defence was feeding their momentum and the scrum started to experience a few wobbles, but a combination of Pontypool’s sometimes ill directed handling, ferocious defence, and missed penalty attempts by Niall Martin meant that their effort faded out.
In the final minutes they also paid the price for having already utilised their back replacements when the loss of scrum half Aaron Quick enforced a reshuffle which contributed to some lax play as they tried desperately to get something out of the game.
Llanharan started well, Gabriel Davies punching through the defence before successive kicks to the corner brought a try around the narrow side for second row Dan Partridge.
However, they could not add to it, and after Pontypool had enjoyed a lot of possession, outside half Martin succeeded with his second penalty attempt to make it 5-3 at the turn around.
An early penalty from Codey Rees extended the lead after the restart and some aggressive defence from number eight Huw Thomas pushed the Gwent side back and helped his black and blue shirted warriors to regain the initiative.
There was plenty of pressure from the Dairymen before away skipper Tom Organ was penalised by Wayne Davies for a late tackle and Rees added three more points.
Llanharan though were starting to have a few set piece problems and Martin reduced the lead to 11-6 with the big crowd still unsure of how this titanic battle would conclude.
But Malone’s men had the answer as Rhys Walker took them forward again with a run out of his own half and the defence erred once more to give Rees his third penalty.
The back row was now rampant as it pounced on anything that moved and returned it with interest, and left wing Ryan Griffiths, so safe under the high ball, was close to Morgan Williams’s deft kick ahead.
The final nail in the coffin of the famous old club came as their disorganisation and desperation saw a ball dropped under the posts allowing Morgan Williams to collect and scamper over, Rees’s kick a formality to seal a win that takes Llanharan up to 4th place as they make the short journey to Tondu this Saturday.
BLACKWOOD 16 LLANHARAN 33 (HT 6-13)
An outstanding display from the Llanharan pack laid the foundations for this impressive win at Blackwood.
Nathan Huish’s men destroyed the Glan yr Afan eight in the scrums, were solid in the lineout, and were a vibrant force in loose play.
It emphatically banished any hangovers from an opening day defeat against Cardiff Met when the rub of the green did them no favours.
Luck played no part in Saturday’s proceedings as Llanharan attacked from the off. Codey Rees and Dan Butler exchanged early penalties before number eight Lewis Young led an upfield charge. The pressure brought a penalty, Rees put it to touch and Scott Malone took the lineout neatly to set up a drive over the line which ended with skipper Huish getting a try, Rees’s conversion making it 10-3.
Another crunching scrum enabled Rees to add three more points from a penalty, and the away side’s fast moves, often prompted by scrum half Jonathan Lewis, were giving Blackwood headaches.
A yellow card for Malone might have turned matters around for the Gwent side but apart from Butler’s penalty they held firm, one crunching tackle from Gabriel Davies exemplifying their solid defence as they reached half time with a seven point lead.
The Dairymen were playing with plenty of confidence and Rees slotted another penalty as home centre Kyle Scrivens was given a yellow card by match official Gareth John.
However, the numerical deficit only served to inspire the home team who came into the game strongly.
Back row man David Ford collected a try wide out from a scrum, and although Rees kicked yet another three pointer dangerous wing Mathew McGovern got a second try for his side as he completed a mazy run to the line.
With the lead reduced to just three points Huish rallied his forces and once more the Llanharan pack piled on the pressure. A sequence of scrums came to a positive conclusion with back row man Callum Thomas stretching to get the touchdown, Rees converting.
There was more to come as Lewis again split the defence only for a double movement to cancel the try. However, it was right wing Chris Poole’s turn to show his paces just minutes later. Huish gave support and then it was Huw Thomas who took his inside pass to get the third and final try.
Rees’s kick gave the outside half an impressive eighteen points haul and Llanharan will be in good spirits to welcome unbeaten Pontypool on Saturday.
Llanharan tries – Nathan Huish, Callum Thomas, Huw Thomas. Cons 3 and pens 4 – Codey Rees.
Blackwood tries – David Ford, Matthew McGovern. Pens 2 – Dan Butler.