Tata Steel 24
“It wasn’t pretty but a great advert for Championship rugby. 12 months ago we’d have lost that fixture. Great to see Phil Pariyo with his appetite back and with players away with the Blues A squad who’ll return we are feeling really positive” commented Martyn Fowler. “We know things will only get harder, this is a really tough division and there are some tough times ahead which will test the mettle of this squad, but at this stage there are plenty of positives”.
On a lovely afternoon at the Memorial ground the early exchanges were cagey as both sides felt their way into the game. The Wanderers had some good early possession, going through the phases but defences in the Championship are well drilled and when play reached he Tata 22 they stepped up and snuffed out any threat. On one attack the ball was spilled and the visitors took it downfield only to see a kick ahead run dead preventing a score. Tata started to warm to their task and soon it was the home side that were on the back foot. Fortunately, the Wanderers defence have stepped up a gear this season and they covered any threats jackaling well and working hard in defensive lineouts. The pace of the game remained high and something had to give and a neat break from the visitor’s scrum half pierced the defence and once behind they took full advantage crossing for the first try. 0-7. The home side were then forced into a change when openside Mike Owen left the field to be replaced by Dan Watts. The Wanderers remained on the back foot as Tata probed and attacked but the visitors kept their shape and despite a lack of ball they remained in the game. The Wanderers, at this stage, were rare visitors to the Tata 22 but after 31 minutes they finally found their try scoring touch. Phil Pariyo, always a threat, made good ground out wide and after several phases with forwards carrying well the ball went wide left and Will Adams Jones crossed in the corner. Paul Short added a touchline conversion and the home side were back on level terms 7-7. The try gave heart to the Wanderers but their next attack saw the ball spilled when in a great position. The game ebbed and flowed and one thing the Wanderers must learn is that you cannot, against such good opposition, switch off. That is exactly what the did soon afterwards and turnover ball saw Tata race away to score their second try 7-14. As the half drew to a close the home side showed that they are capable at this level. When the visitors failed to clear ball from deep in their half the Wanderers countered and once again Adams Jones showed great strength to force his way over and send the sides into the break at 12-14.
The home side were straight on the attack at the start of the half and Pariyo showed the form that took him to so many tries a season ago. Short moved the ball blind from a scrum and he took an inside ball and scythed through the defence, raced away and crossed under the posts. Short converted 19-14. Tata reduced the arrears with the first penalty of the afternoon 19-14 and the game continued at a pace with both sides showing good skills in attack and defence. The Wanderers sent for some cavalry in the form of Tom Penry Ellis and soon they extended their lead with the try of the game. Both forwards and backs heavily involved they pounded the “red zone” and when the move seemingly halted a pick and go by Pariyo reenergised the move. More recycling and when the ball went wide a looped pass from Rhys Beynon put Ryan Matthew over the line. 24-17. Back came Tata showing determination to get back into the game. Making ground in midfield they once again broke the defensive line and with ruthless efficiency they crossed for their third try levelling it up at 24-24. Back and forth went the game as both sides looked for an opening and the Wanderers gained the advantage after a ruck was killed deep in Tata territory. This allowed Short to step up and put the home side ahead again 27-24. More cavalry arrived in the shape of props Luc Williamson and Gareth Reid and there was plenty of defending to do as the home side tried to protect the lead. On 3 or 4 occasions the Wanderers were reliant on great jackaling when the defence was stretched. Short had a chance when he broke clear of the defence but great scrambling from the visitors prevented a telling score. Injury time arrived and Tata threw everything at the Wanderers but a lineout saw a knock on which allowed the home side scrum ball which they cleared to touch ending the game with a narrow victory.
Tries: Will Adams Jones (2), Phil Pariyo, Ryan Matthew
Cons: Paul Short (2)
Pen: Paul Short
Management man of the match: Rhys Beynon
Massiv Man of the match: Phil Pariyo