Pint sized winger Jonathan Foster was the toast of Dowlais as the Dragons welcomed a much changed Penarth team to a windy Klondyke for their penultimate league fixture.
In a match littered with mistakes from both sides Penarth took an early 0-3 lead as no8 Simon Griffiths was penalised for offside. The Dragons took the game to the sea-siders with a number of forward carries with flanker Aaron Davies and prop Jamie Cross to the fore and were soon level as Foster was successful with his first kick. Unfortunately, for Dowlais the build up to the penalty resulted in an early end to the game for outside half Nathan Pritchard who fell heavily in the tackle and was replaced by Alun Hicks. Penarth had first use of the wind and experienced outside half James Docherty made good ground for his team with a number of fine kicks making the Dragons attack from deep. The hosts lineout was working well with David Kelly and Jonathan Davies providing good ball for scrum half Ceri Morgan who launched his three quarters at pace centre Matthew Shotton made the initial burst before off loading to co centre Chris Cooksey who’s overhead pass seemed to provide captain James Quirk with the opening try only for the referee to adjudge the ball had been held up resulting in a 5 metre scrum to the Dragons. The Dowlais faithful didn’t have long to wait for the try as the pack shunted Penarth back over their own try line leaving number 8 Griffiths with an easy score Foster adding the conversion for a 10-3 lead. Although without a win all season Penarth’s result have improved in recent weeks and they were far from willing to roll over making the home team work for possession especially at the breakdown and forced a number of turnovers with the last kick of the half Docherty reduced the gap to 4 points with his second penalty to leave the score 10-6.
Dowlais were finding it difficult to impose themselves on the visitors and often found themselves forcing the pass or taking the wrong option which as well as keeping Penarth within a score gave them heart for the win. When Dowlais did manage to string some phases together they looked threatening and some neat interplay from flanker Lloyd Morgan and prop Aled Walters gave winger James Kelly some space and when he was felled by a high tackle up stepped Foster who dissected the posts again and increased his sides lead to 13-6. The introduction of replacements Jonny Pinch and James Churchill seem to lift the Dragons as the pair combined to take Dowlais down field a breakaway by Cross took play well into the sea-siders half only for the ball to be lost and Penarth counter attacked the visiting centre then skipped away from the Dowlais defence and looked odds on to score until a an excellent cover tackle form no8 Griffiths halted his progress, a miss kick to touch kept the pressure on the Dragons and when the ball was recycled Penarth had worked an overlap which saw Alex Thau cross, Docherty adding the extras to tie the game. The Dragons frustrations continued and a series of kicks out on the full kept the home team in their own half a lineout steal by Morgan gave Dowlais the opportunity to get into the opposition half and thankfully this time it wasn’t wasted as Quirk kicked the ball to the safety of the touchline. Another lineout steal put pressure on the visitors and the referee awarded a penalty for hands in the ruck allowing Foster to nudge his team in front at 16-13. Again Dowlais couldn’t settle and they gifted 3 points back to Penarth for the same offence. Some harsh words by captain Quirk finally seemed to focus the Dragons and the forwards drove hard at the visitors a neat overhead kick by scrum half Morgan caught the defence flatfooted and only an unlucky bounce stopped Dowlais from taking the lead. A powerful scrum drive disrupted the visitors and they were penalised for holding after the tackle allowing Foster to kick the Dragons into the lead at 19-16. Penarth were finally starting to crack and conceded another penalty on the halfway which Dowlais kicked into the visitors 22, David Kelly secured the lineout ball and the rest of the pack drove on the sea-siders had a number of goes at collapsing the maul but the Dragons held firm and continued to drive for the line, the forwards drove within inches of the whitewash before the referee lost patience and awarded a penalty try, Foster added the simple conversion for a personal points total of 16 points. Although pleased to gain the win the coaches were far from happy with the performance and will be looking for a big effort in training this week before the final league game of the season at home to promotion chasing Nelson.