Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Steelmen go top

Rather than write my own match report from Saturday evening floodlit (and flooded) encounter with Llanelli, here is a report from the South Wales Argus that tells a pretty good account.

Ebbw Vale 16 Llanelli 0

EBBW Vale showed those watching their clash with Llanelli on television just how tenacious they can be with a bullying victory that sent them to the top of the Premiership table.

The awful conditions that blighted sporting events throughout the UK meant that the S4C cameras didn't capture a spectacle that many would have hoped for, but it was an absorbing contest none the less.

It was weather that made the hardy souls getting drenched on the terraces realise how lucky they were not to be the poor cameraman stuck 50 yards up a crane in howling winds.

But while others grimace at such conditions, the Vale pack just get on with what they do best - grinding the opposition down. In fact, when the likes of John McPhail, Rhys Williams and John Bowd see puddles on the pitch they probably break into a smile. The Steelmen's back-row trio were immense and it was them who took the plaudits rather than Llanelli's promising youngsters.

Andrew McLaughlan was named man of the match by the commentary team, but while the full back's covering and big right boot was key to Vale's victory, the sponsors' choice of Williams was a better option.

The number eight has been blighted by injury since returning to the club from Cross Keys, but he looked back to his best on Saturday as he charged into Llanelli, making hard yards with every carry.

Vale bossed the game from the off and should have had a much more comfortable lead than the 6-0 one they held at the break. Two Aaron Bramwell penalties, the second with the last kick of the half, were all they had to show for their efforts with the wind at their backs, and a more experienced side could have made them pay for that.

Llanelli spent 20 minutes down to 14 men, Scotland prop Bruce Douglas and hooker Craig Hawkins both seeing yellow for pulling down mauls, but they defended with far more determination than they did in defeat to Newport a week earlier.

Vale were frustrated after numerous attempts to drive over the line were repelled, but were also fortunate to keep their lead when centre Richard Thomas intercepted a pass by Aussie outside-half Michael Delore inside his own half, only to throw an inaccurate offload to Alec Jenkins.

And things looked ominous when the visitors began to dominate territory and possession in the second half. However, not for the first time this season, the Steelmen showed tremendous discipline to defend their line without incurring the wrath of referee Jon Mason.

And that restraint paid off when Bramwell made it 9-0, a large lead given the conditions, on 53 minutes when Llanelli ended Vale's best move of the match from an offside position.

Lock Neil Edwards, who is ominously starting to regain the form he showed last season, came up with a couple of big steals off Llanelli throws to distinguish the visitors' hopes and then Vale added some gloss in the closing stages.

Llanelli were deep inside and put in to a scrum inside their own 22 but the front row of Ian George, Richard Wilkes and Anthony Lott applied the squeeze and won it against the head to allow McPhail to cross unopposed. Job done.

Ebbw Vale: A McLaughlan, J Williams, K Owen, A Bramwell, A Bevan, M Delore, R Lewis (B Shelbourne 65), I George, M Williams (R Wilkes 75), M Jones (A Lott 56), W Thomas, N Edwards, J Bowd (captain), J McPhail (G Donaldson 79), R Williams.

Scorers: try - J McPhail; conversion - A Bramwell, penalties - A Bramwell (3).

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