Honours even at the Memorial Ground
“A cracking game of rugby for the neutral” commented Martyn Fowler. “Both sides left with plenty to ponder going forward.”
“A first half with less than 10 % possession, no field position and no lineout ball yet we went in winning 12-9. Plenty of scope for improvement!” added new forwards coach Brendon Lampitt “goes to show what we might achieve when we get our structures right.”
On a sunny afternoon at the Memorial Ground both sides served up some attractive rugby in the 24 all draw with Narberth heading back West wondering how with so much possession they didn’t win and the Wanderers wondering how, having got ahead with minutes left they couldn’t shut the game down!
From the kick off the Otters came racing out of the blocks and straight away took the game to the home side. The Wanderers were forced into a number of defensive sets, but they managed to shut the attacks down with some impressive tackling, Tom Richards especially evident with some solid hits. The modified rules were brought into force on many occasions as several free kicks were awarded instead of scrums (an area the home side seemed to have an edge in). These generally resulted in Narberth sending the ball high into the sky and the home side managing to clear their lines. Against the run of play the Wanderers then set the game alight. Ruck ball on the halfway was sent blind and with some slick handling Richards was given a chance. Showing great footwork and speed he carved a path through the defence and raced away to score. Paul Short added the conversion 7-0. The game then settled back into the Otters attacking and the home side defending as the game got camped in one half of the field. Despite their efforts Narberth could not make inroads and when an attack on the Wanderers line broke down the home side struck. A neat breakaway from Zak Fifield set them on the attack and he fed Jamie Murray who took off on a 60 metre run to the line to add the Wanderers second try 12-0. Once again normal service was resumed with Narberth on the attack and the home side struggling to get any real field position. The penalty count started to mount and the Otters started to chip away at the lead with a penalty 12-3. Forays into the Narberth half were few and far between but the home goal line still remained intact. A drop goal reduced the arrears to 12-6 and the Otters saw a penalty drift wide soon afterwards. The Wanderers’s plight was further compounded when Max Wootton saw yellow and with the half in injury time a Wanderers scrum that appeared to be going forward was penalised and a second penalty sent the sides into the break at 12-9.
The referee sought the attention of the Narberth physio at the break as he had sustained a leg injury not as one member of the crowd commented “have you hurt your left shoulder from raising your arm to give free kicks and penalties to the visitors all the time!”
With Wootton still in the bin the pressure was once again heaped on the home side but at last the Wanderers did establish some field position. There was an early change for the Wanderers as hooker Jack James was replaced by Owen Hatherill. From a rare attack into Narberth territory the home side looked for a breakthrough only to lose the ball and see the play taken downfield. Richards was once again evident in defence as he raced back and stepped an attacker to clear the ball to touch. Another lineout failure deep in Wanderers territory then handed Narberth a chance. This they took and they crafted a neat try out wide to take the lead. A superb touchline conversion added the extras 12-16. The game that now ebbed and flowed with more freedom certainly had the crowd on the edge of their seats as both sides moved the ball around. The Wanderers had a chance to take the lead but a Short penalty hit the post. With a much more even game now the home side backs once again had a chance to impress and Josh Male was on the end of a neat move in midfield that sucked in defenders and sent him clear to score 17-16. The referee had further treatment to his leg and then soon afterwards he held a long discussion with both captains, but he continued. Narberth edged themselves ahead again with as penalty as the game entered its final minutes the game was up for grabs. Play became a little frantic but another moment of magic saw Murray accept a pass, round the defence and score what looked like to be the winning strike after a Short conversion at 24-19. The Otters clearly had other ideas. As the game entered its final play a superb cross kick was wonderfully deflected into the arms of a grateful Otter who crashed over to make it 24-24. Unfortunately, for the visiting team they could not replicate the touchline conversion and the game ended with honours even at 24-24. A great game with both sides having plenty to think about as the league season gets closer.
Tries: Jamie Murray (2), Tom Richards, Josh Male
Cons: Paul Short (2)
Management MOM: Tom Richards
Massiv MOM: Tom Richards
Special Mention: Eddie Drake, Ryan Matthew, Jamie Murray