Wanderers through to Silver Ball Final
“Another tough game against a very good Ystrad side. There were plenty feeling that history of the last few weeks would repeat itself as they powered back into the game but this group have learnt a lot this season and the way they dug in to defend the lead was superb.” Commented Martyn Fowler after the Wanderers hung on to defeat Ystrad Rhondda in the Silver ball semi final.
On a grey evening in Penygraig the Wanderers had first use of a decent wind on their backs and like the previous two encounters between these sides they began brightly. Going through the phases pressure was put on the Rhondda side but solid defence kept the Wanderers at bay. It was clear that both sides were here to play rugby and the ball was moved through the hands whenever an opportunity arose. Rob Lewis went close for the Wanderers then young centre Cameron Gibbon made a telling break from a scrum. He was hauled down near the line, but James Loxton was up in support and he crashed over for the opening score. Luke Fish converted 0-7. With their tails up the Wanderers soon extended their lead. Good work in defence from Loxton set up play in midfield and after a couple of phases a long pass out wide set Will Adams Jones away. He raced clear and despite the attention of the defence he skipped his way clear and cantered away under the posts. Fish converted again 0-14. Ystrad responded well, showing the spirit that has taken them to the verge of the league title, they piled on some pressure from a driving lineout. The Wanderers conceded a penalty but as the referee allowed the advantage they crashed over to open their account 5-14. The game was well and truly on now but against the wind Ystrad struggled to clear their lines. The Wanderers struck with their third try after another move of several phases resulted in a ruck on the Ystrad line. A few close quarter drives set up the position and Adams Jones popped up to squeeze in on the blindside for his second try. Fish converted superbly from the touchline to extend the lead to 5-21. The game ebbed and flowed with Ystrad using the driving maul as a weapon as they had done on the two previous encounters against the Wanderers. The defence was stretched but remained firm and whenever Ystrad moved the ball they were not quite as sharp as they probably would have liked and the Wanderers were able to relieve the pressure. As the half entered its final minutes the Wanderers edged further ahead. From their own half they struck. A neat chip over the top was gathered by Gibbon who broke downfield. He found support in the form of Lee Highgate (who clearly had been hiding in the grass to get there that quickly) and when he was hauled down the ball was recycled wide to top try scorer Phillip Pariyo who evaded the defence to score the fourth try. Again Fish converted 5-28. As the half entered injury time Ystrad rallied. From a kick out of defence from the Wanderers they countered. Moving the ball well and with forwards and backs carrying they powered into the 22 and with defenders struggling they crashed over to make the score at the break 12-28.
Despite the score-line the Wanderers faithful sat uncomfortably in their seats at the break with a distinct feeling of “we’ve been here before”. With the wind now on their backs Ystrad were bound to pile on the pressure. From a penalty on halfway they kicked deep and set up a prolonged period of pressure on the Wanderers line. Again moving the ball well they went back and forth and eventually found the space out wide to cross for their third try to make the score 17-28. With plenty of time in the half to go it was clearly a ‘backs to the wall’ situation for the Wanderers. Ystrad went back on the attack again after a turnover in their own half and as, once again, the defence was stretched another score looked on the cards. As the ball went wide in the Wanderers 22 a long pass found the tall figure of Dylan Lawley instead of another attacker. Young Lawley, who is not really built for an 80 metre footrace, had the support of recently arrived sub Josh Male and he took off downfield. The game seemed to go in slow motion as, after passing halfway, Male went through a whole series of “gurning” expressions as did the chasing defenders. Despite that he had the stamina to hang on and crash over for the Wanderers fifth try. Fish converted again despite the attention of someone heckling in the crowd to make it 17-35. Both sides sent for the cavalry and the pattern of the half was soon resumed with Ystrad throwing everything into the attack. Pounding the Wanderers line the tacklers all put in massive shifts to stop further scores. It was inevitable that the pressure would take its toll and Ystrad crossed for their fourth try after another move of several phases to make it 24-35. Despite still needing two scores nobody felt that Ystrad were out of the game and every time the Wanderers broke clear from their line there was a collective sigh of relief from the “Massiv” and the game entered its final minutes. More sterling defence prevented in the vital score with bodies certainly being put on the line. Finally, injury time started to run out and with the final play of the game Ystrad gained their fifth try to make it 31-35 but for them on this occasion time had run out and the Wanderers were through to the final.
“These games against Ystrad have been the best 3 games of rugby this season” commented Chairman of rugby Chris Dowell Bennett “Ystrad will be deserved league champions and we wish them all the best in the playoff with Brynmawr but I think we just about deserved this one!”
Tries: Will Adams Jones (2), James Loxton, Phil Pariyo, Josh Male
Cons: Luke Fish (5)