Llanishen welcomed Pentyrch to Usk Road for a game which meant the mid way point of the season had been reached. Looking to build on recent strong performances Llanishen went on the attack from the off and following good off the top ball from the ever springy Tom Barr
, Paul “Gonzo” Williams playing in the centre went on a powerful run breaking the gain line and winning an early penalty for a Pentyrch infringement at the breakdown. Spurning the attempt at goal Llanishen kicked to the corner but unfortunately the lineout throw wasn’t straight and from the scrum Pentyrch cleared. Llanishen collected the clearance and a kick ahead for territory was rewarded when the defender knocked on inside his own 22m. From the scrum No.8 Leon Burns picked up and was supported by the back row who drove him on, the ball was recycled to the backs and moved to Dougal on the wing who was tackled just short but again Pentyrch infringed at the breakdown and the penalty was awarded to the home side. Once again Llanishen opted to kick to the corner, and once again they couldn’t quite capitalise with the ball just being knocked on by the catcher in the lineout.
Llanishen continued to attack the visitors but the same scenario was repeated time after time with loose play allowing Pentyrch to clear the danger. However, with nine minutes gone Gonzo once again broke the first line of defence setting up the ruck for scrum half Matt Lewis to collect the ball and kick into touch just short of the Pentyrch try line. TB stole the lineout throw and the ball was moved to centre Mike Butler who powered his way towards the line and when tackled Pentyrch once again had hands in the ruck giving the penalty to Llanishen. This time Llanishen opted for the kick at goal and outside half Gareth Beili Jones made no mistake to make the score 3-0.
From the restart Pentyrch launched their first real attack of the day and were awarded a penalty of their own on 14 minutes which was duly kicked to tie the score at 3-3. Llanishen were straight back on the attack and when Pentyrch cleared poorly from the restart Dougal collected and chipped ahead but couldn’t quite win the race for the ball with the defender touching down to claim a 22m drop out for the visitors. As the first quarter of the game came to an end the Llanishen pack started to show their dominance in the tight quarters, much as they had done the previous week against Dowlais, and were disappointed when indiscipline was again at fault when a 15m rumbling maul made its way towards the visitors line but ended with a penalty to Pentyrch.
Although Pentyrch cleared Llanishen were now stealing lineout ball for fun and when TB took yet another against the throw, Llanishen showed patience working their way up field going through the phases until Les broke the defensive line and set up quick ball which the backs moved quickly to the wing but once again with the line just 5m away a penalty went to Pentyrch. Shortly afterwards Llanishen collected another clearance kick via a good take from winger Lee Dickinson, who put in a busy performance always looking for work, but again with the try line in site a mistake handed the ball back to Pentyrch. With 25 minutes gone Llanishen were forced into the first change of the game when a back injury forced second row Rob Mort off who was replaced by prop Sean Dunne
. The stats showed Llanishen with the major share of possession and territory but it was the home teams mistakes that were keeping the visitors in the game. However, there was a feeling amongst the crowd that it would not be long before the Lions clicked and the points would start coming and with 30 minutes gone the first try of the game did come with Les driving on from a scrum, the ball was shipped to the backs and then hooker Mike Dacey
was in support to stretch over. Beili kicked the conversion to make the score 10-3
Just five minutes later the Llanishen eight started to dominate the scrum and after taking the ball against the head again attacked patiently building through the phases with the forwards driving on well and then Ben Howie
and Mike Butler combined well to keep the move going but then another mistake crept in allowing Pentyrch to steal the ball on the floor and win a scrum and clear. Ben Howie
was then prominent again when with a minute of normal time remaining he stole the ball setting it up for the forwards to drive on but yet again with the try line in sight the final pass went astray. Captain Les called the team together reading the riot act and asking for an increase in performance and was immediately rewarded when Llanishen drove Pentyrch off their own scrum ball on the visitors 22m line, moved the ball to Dougal who was held up short but once again Mike Dacey
was on hand (in football I think they call it goal hanging!!!) to go over for his and Llanishen’s second try of the day. Beili unluckily hit the post with the conversion attempt and from the restart Matt Lewis put the ball into touch and the referee blew for half time with the score at 15-3.
Llanishen now had the bit between their teeth and went on the attack from the start with Tom Hannah
running out from his own 22m but again the penalties were going against the home side. However each time Pentyrch cleared to touch Llanishen looked capable of stealing the lineout from the visitors and when they did some good tactical kicking kept Pentyrch penned in their own half.
With the lineout struggling Pentyrch looked at the long throw option but this was also picked off by the Llanishen pack and when Ben Howie
collected one such ball another good drive by the forwards set up the platform for the backs to attack, Quarterpenny was held up just short of the line and Pentyrch gave away the penalty killing the ball to stifle the attack. Llanishen opted for the scrum 5m out and got the drive on but the scrum went down and had to be reset. Llanishen drove the scrum again and Pentyrch collapsed it once again so it was another penalty to Llanishen and thoughts of yellow cards and penalty tries entered the crowds heads. Choosing the scrum again Llanishen drove forward but then the scrum started to wheel and Les was forced to pick up and drive, the ball was recycled but then knocked on and another attack came to nothing.
As the 50 minute mark approached Tom Hannah
continued to run the ball from defence and was linking well with his support players, Matt Lewis was also starting to make some snipping runs and even Denis Pugh
(looking like a seventies throw back with his Movember tash) got in on the act appearing in midfield and putting defenders on their backs with some powerful running
In the scrum Llanishen were stealing opposition ball, driving the visiting eight backwards but the Pentyrch defence was holding firm and they were also looking to up the tempo of the game taking quick penalties / lineouts and looking to attack the home side as the game started to open up. Llanishen’s defence which has been excellent in recent games withstood the Pentyrch attacks forcing turnovers and one such turnover resulted in prop Denis sprinting down the wing and putting in a deft chip ahead to keep the pressure on Pentyrch.
With 18 minutes of the half gone Mike Dacey
after a good days work was replaced by fellow hooker Gwion Rees
and three minutes later Llanishen had their third try when good defensive work had forced Pentyrch back into their 22m and then Ben Howie
stole the ball in the tackle with some excellent ripping work and scampered over for the score. Beili was on target with the conversion taking the score to 22-3 which was his final act before being replaced by Phil Thomas.
Phil’s big boot was straight into action kicking down into the corner were a mistake by the defender when trying to catch the ball resulted in a lineout to Llanishen 22m out. Huw Bonner entered the fray replacing Rhodri Thomas and Howie took clean lineout ball to set up the driving maul. The forwards drove all the way to the line with Sean Dunne
going over and claiming the try and the bonus point on 65 minutes. Phil’s conversion was just wide and the score moved on to 27-3.
Full credit to Pentyrch who’s heads did not drop and went on the attack again from the restart but the resilient Lions defence meant they could get no closer than the home sides 22m and with 10 minutes to go when awarded a scrum Llanishen again ran the ball well out of defence up to within 10m of halfway for Phil to then kick for position pinning Pentyrch back near their own try line. Once again Llanishen stole lineout ball and Phil made a good break in midfield but from the resultant ruck Matt Lewis bizarrely put in the cross kick to the corner, a move for which he would be amply rewarded in the clubhouse later, and the ball went dead.
From the restart Dunney collected and fed Phil who again put in the touch finder to the corner. Pentyrch claimed the line out but could only clear to within 7m of their line and the crowd anticipated another surging catch and drive from the pack. However, Pentyrch actually stole the ball but then flanker Tom Austin won it back and went over for Llanishen’s fifth try on 33 minutes. Phil Thomas was successful with the kick and the score moved onto 34-3.
Again full credit to Pentyrch who looked to attack from the restart but they were unable to find a way through the Llanishen defensive line however from a quick penalty they almost did break through and it was good work by Howie who back tracked and put the tackle in to end the attack.
The last few minutes of the game were played out with both sides looking to run the ball from all areas of the pitch but no further scores were forthcoming and the referee blew for full time with Llanishen deserved victors.
So the first half of the season comes to an end with an excellent performance which saw Llanishen move to the top of the league. The entire team played well and showed great patience when things weren’t quite going to plan to keep their discipline and stick to the patterns of play which they knew would eventually bring points. A special mention must also go to the forwards who were outstanding for 80 minutes.
Next week it’s a home game to local rivals Rhiwbina so let’s hope the team can carry this form through to that game and record another victory.