The game started brightly for barg and after only a few minutes Liam Matthews who was returning from a long-injury lay-off went over in the corner to give his side a dream start. The team looked confident and were putting together some good phases of rugby.
After 10 minutes however the pitmen got back into the game. From a deep defensive lineout the ball was lost and young flanker Scott Matthews powered over to level the scores at 5-5. This gave the Pen team confidence and it was them who were to go in front when after a series of penalties flyhalf Dai Hooper slotted over a penalty to make it 8-5. The game was intense and although both teams tried to build phases good defensive work and counter ruck skills stopped both sides dominating. Bargoed hit back shortly after when young wing Lewis Hudd put over a very good 40m penalty to level the scores at 8-8.
As the half grew Penallta were starting to enjoy more success at the breakdown with flankers Donovan and Matthews causing problems. Bargoed had the larger share of possession and although they kept the ball reasonably well did not take the right options, lacked composure and several players basic skills deserted them at vital times which meant they did not go back in front during the half. With the lineout a little inconsistent Barg were under pressure yet again deep in their own half and another missed throw allowed Scott Matthews to go over for his second Penallta try which took the score to 13-8. Just before half-time Hudd put over another well struck penalty to take his team to within 2 points at half-time and it all to play for in the 2nd period.
At half-time James Richards was introduced to help sort out the barg problems at the lineout and the coaches asked the boys to up the tempo and to start playing heads up rugby and to identify opportunities that were presenting themselves.
Barg started the half strongly. Richards was prominent at the lineout and in open lay. Herbert and Luke Morgan
carried effectively along with Nicky Thomas
. Minutes into the half barg went back in front when from close-range skipper Herbert lept over a ruck to touchdown and take his team into a 16-13 lead. When Penallta were reduced to 14 men following a yellow card for a ruck offence it looked like barg were starting to dominate and were looking good value. However after a good attack and a clear opportunity the ball was spilled with the line in sight. This let Pen off the hook and when flanker/Hooker Luke Morgan
was then also yellow-carded Penallta grew into the contest once more. The game was generally played in the middle of the field and with both teams working hard in defence there did not appear much between the sides going into the final quarter. Bargoed discipline was yet again letting them down and with some players taking back to the referee Penallta had the opportunity to level the scores with a penalty from 40m which Centre Matthew Williams
slotted superbly well to once again draw the game level.
Both teams had opportunities late on to win the game with penalties. Luke 'the ginger one' Smalley ran hard and was barg's best attacking player. He also put in some huge hits in an all action performance. Jordan Purcell almost stole the points late on when after he had beaten 2 defenders and almost away a great last-gasp tackle stopped him and the referee blew his whistle to end the contest soon after.
Barg were disappointed and expected to win the game. However, Penallta worked hard and stoppd the barg side from building momentum. Lessons need to be learned and barg need to make better decisions and play with their heads up. Their contact skills need to be better and they also need to stop giving away silly penalties which are allowing sides back into games. The biggest disappointment for the coaches was the fact that in the last 2 games the team has conceded 4 tries off their own mistakes (interception/poor kick/2 missed lineouts).
On a positive note it was good to see the team starting to use their slow ball options and it was also pleasing to see Liam Matthews back in action after his long lay-off. With the Sarries 5 points ahead and playing a game more the league can still be won but barg now need to beat Sarries at home in a few weeks and also try and ensure that they have a better points difference/try count to win it on this difference. Although both sides will need to also win their other remaining games. Barg have one away game left against Newport HSOB, but have home games left against Cwmbran, Caerphilly, Newport HSOB and the big one against the unbeaten leaders who have also been held to a draw against Penallta.