“Another game of two halves” sees Wanderers hold on for bonus point win
“Story of our season so far” commented Mark Gould team manager “If we put could two halves into one game it would be special”
Another fine, warm, sunny day at the Memorial ground, where the Wands extended a warm welcome to the opponents who were having their first competitive outing at the Ely based club.
The Wanderers were still suffering with injury and unavailability problems but were confident with the match day squad and looking forward to making amends for a poor result the previous week.
Ystalyfera were in a similar position, having had a poor result at home last time out, however they were sitting above the Wands, having won, one more game.
The game kicked off in style and the sunshine seemed to inspire the Wands as they attacked with tempo and aggression. The tight five and loose forwards were maintaining possession and supplying quality ball to the backs. Dancing feet by both Wands centres created 3 clear line breaks with a real opportunity to score. Sadly that elusive pass in transition was not connecting and the good work by the team was frustratingly thwarted.
The Wands scrum was starting to dominate and force Ystalyfera penalties, the line out was functioning, great tempo and accuracy with the ball flowing to the dangerous three quarters.
It was all uphill for the visitors midway through the first half. Was it to be one of those days? Finally after 23 minutes play the Wands broke the deadline as a result of constant pressure and continuity. This time with the goal line in sight at a 5m line out, top execution from the set piece call resulted in Morgan Hughes powering his way over. Aled Evans converted, the Wands up and running at 7 – 0.
More of the same was required and the home side obliged with more great carries from the forwards and dangerous movements from the backs. This play kept the visitors firmly in their own half which resulted in more sanctions by the referee. Two penalties were slotted over by Aled Evans to make it a 13 – 0 score line with less than 10 minutes to half time.
The Wands faithful sensed that the score line should be healthier and indicate the Wands dominance at that time. If the visitors managed a score before the break, things could easily change.
However the Wands supporters were then treated to some sparkling inter play. The industrious scrum half Steffan Davies was like his team mates, a constant threat and he was on hand to finish off some more quality play to score, an effort which went unconverted, 18 – 0.
From the re start with only a couple of minutes left, the feeling was to keep possession and not give away a silly score just before half time. Not to worry, from the kick off, the ball went two passes to the impressive Amir Saleh. Once again dancing feet created a half break, then a clean break by Amir and a chance was on. Amir off loaded to his outside and the final pass back inside saw the supporting Steffan Davies gallop under the posts. Wow a contender for try of the season in October.
Conversion kicked so the Wands left the field 25pts – 0 at half time.
The second half kicked off could the home team carry on where they left?
It was very clear that the visitors were not going to roll over and the Swansea Valley men pulled their sleeves up and took the initiative right from the whistle.
The Wands seemed a bit tentative, perhaps content in awe of how well they played in the first half. Ystalyfera were pumped up and within 10 minutes had scored an unconverted try. They looked like a different outfit keeping the ball well and creating lots of pressure from ruck, maul and moving play out wide and probing down the blind side.
This pressure put the Wands on the back foot and a couple of low level high tackles gave the referee no option but to yellow card Theo Shinton, who was starting his first game for the club.
The visitors tails were well and truly up now and with a man advantage kept play firmly in the Wands half. Another transgression by the forwards resulted in another yellow card and for couple of minutes the home side were down to 13 players.
Was this the turning point, would the home side buckle under the constant pressure. Another score by the visitors made it 25 – 12 with still plenty of time left. Back up to 15 players with little over 10 minutes left could the Wands hold out. The visitors pounded the Wands defence but the home side dug in, everyone was working their socks off and giving their all. A few chances went begging for Ystalyfera but the Wands Spine stood strong.
Some much needed relief came with some better tactical kicking and the Wands were in the right area and creating pressure once more. That pressure in the visitors 22 resulted in this time a yellow card to one of the Ystalyfera forwards, would that be the fillet the Wands required to see out the game.
With renewed vigour the Wands kept a cool head and possession to create the final nail with a try by Captain Max Wootton and under the posts to boot. A fitting score by the skipper who lead well and was a fine example.
To coin a phrase “A Game of Two Halves”
It was a game both teams will look back on with lots of positives but with a few matters to attend to at training next week. Both teams played, hard, skillful rugby, fully committed and a credit to both clubs.
Final Score Wands 32pts Ystalyfera 12pts.
Tries: Eddie Drake, Max Wootton, Steffan Davies(2)
Cons: Aled Evans (2)
Pens: Aled Evans (2)
Management MOM: Max Wootton
Massiv MOM: Amir Saleh