“I think we have only got ourselves to blame. We dominated territory in the second half but failed to put points on the board.” Commented a disappointed coach Chris Ower.
“We created the chances but the Mountain Ash were tough to break down. They should never have been allowed to create the opportunity to win the game” added manager Gavin Walker.
On a dull grey afternoon at Mountain Ash the early exchanges were fairly innocuous with mistakes commonplace on both sides. The referee showed that he was going to be keen on the technical offences and neither team we able to bring early continuity to their play. The visitors saw a penalty go just wide and the Old Firm also had a chance with a drop goal just missing the uprights as both team strove to get ahead. After 15 minutes the deadlock was eventually broken. The visitors turned ball over in midfield but when they moved the ball wide an ambitious offload from Joe Sullivan landed in Mountain Ash hands and an attack was on. Moving the ball from right to left a mismatch in midfield allowed Outside Half Josh Lewis to run away to score. He converted his try to put the home side ahead 7-0. The visitors responded well, Using forwards to set up good field position it was not long before they were back on level terms. The ball was moved into the home side 22 and Loren Quick put in a little chip over the top. As the ball crossed the line it appeared that 2 defenders had it covered but they failed to ground the ball and Quick pounced to score. Gareth Cull converted 7-7. The Wanderers now had their tails up and they started to pressure the home side line. From a break by Haval Ibrahim, supported by Mel Lewis they entered the 22. Recycling the ball quickly they moved it wide as the Old Firm ran out of defenders and Owen Marshall had an easy run in to score 7-12. As the half entered its final minutes both sides had penalty chances but the score remained the same until the stroke of halftime. A penalty awarded against the visitors was kicked deep into Wanderers territory and the home side pack used a tight driving lineout to put a prop over for an unconverted try. Half time 12-12.
The early part of the second half was punctuated with a series of penalties for both sides and the Wanderers edged ahead 12-15 after Cull landed his first penalty of the afternoon. Straight from the kick off the home side hit back. Failing to deal with the kick the Wanderers put themselves under pressure and they struggled to clear the ball. After kicking to the halfway line the visitors defence was breached. From a lineout the scrumhalf darted through and with support very quick to arrive they crossed besides the posts for a converted try 19-12. The visitors responded well and they started to gain some ascendency as the play became camped in the home side half. Despite that the Old Firm line held firm and they withstood the pressure. Rhys Griffiths crossed the line but was deemed in touch as he grounded the ball and wing Joe Xiberras also got close to scoring. The pressure mounted and as the defence became more desperate a deliberate knock on in the Mountain Ash 22 resulted in the home side going doing to 14 for ten minutes. The Wanderers were camped in the opposition 22 and they threw everything at the home side. Eventually the line was broken down after a move of several phases found Quick free and despite the attention of several defenders he crossed in the corner to put the Wanderers ahead 19-20. It seemed that the visitors would go on and win with the domination of territory but they could not find the score to put the game to bed. As the match entered its final minutes the home side broke the shackles and they were awarded a penalty on half way. A superb kick under pressure put the home side back in front with only minutes to spare 22-20. There was one last chance for the visitors to snatch the win but poor execution and the resolute defence of the home side allowed The Old Firm to hang on to record the win 22-20.
match pics at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/12570451@N04/