Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Rugby Notes

A great win for Ebbw Vale over the evil townies Newport last night. Ebbw ran out 16-12 winners in a great performance reminiscent of the last home game against Pontypridd. Strange, then, that there was the anomaly of the dismal performance at Llandovery in between. Glad I missed that one.

Hit again by three players on Sevens international duty (the Lewis boys and Simon Hunt), the team bounced back from the 31-22 defeat by the Drovers in great fashion. Again the defence was immense, organised by Kristian Owen, John Bowd had another storming game and led the pack well.

Here’s a report from the Ebbw website website.

It was as if Llandovery had never happened. Ebbw picked up where they left off against Pontypridd a couple of Fridays ago, with the forwards in aggressive, controlled mode and the backs tackling tigerishly. The final score flattered Newport as Ebbw controversially had what looked like two perfectly good tries disallowed. In the first half, John Bowd, who had a superb game, crashed over and appeared to ground the ball successfully, only for a Newport defender to arrive late - but before the referee - and get under it. The second incident, late in the match, followed a wondeful break by Aaron Bramwell who was halted just a couple of metres short of the Newport line by Adam Frampton's excellent cover tackle. Ebbw recycled quickly and the ball reached Andre McLaughlan who had an easy run in. What happened next was the subject of some debate: there's no doubt that McLaughlan tried to get behnd the posts to offer an easier conversion but then decided to ground the ball because he was tackled. He appeared to do so successfully, the touch judge agreed, but the referee decided that he'd slid over the dead ball line and ruled the try out. While these decisions didn't affect the game's result, they did deny Ebbw a bonus point and allow Newport one.

It was 13 - 6 at half time, Ian George and Richard Wilkes scoring close range tries after controlled drives and, although Bryan Shelbourne missed the conversions, he did slot a penalty. Newport hadn't threatened the Ebbw try line but had Dan Griffiths to thank for a penalty and well struck drop goal that gave Newport a brief lead. The same player repeated the sequence after half time and Newport went very close to crossing the try line when livewire scrum half Andrew Quick ran turnover ball but was tackled into touch as he dived for the line. Down to 14 men with John McPhail in the bin, Ebbw had to fight hard to keep the visitors out of drop goal / penalty range and managed to do so, Griffiths' long range attempts falling short. In the end it was a Shelbourne penalty that settled the affair. For the third time this season - Glamorgan Wanderers and Bedwas were the others - a late yellow card for an opposing front row forward led to the farce of uncontested scrums, immediately removing the advantage Ebbw Vale should have had. Never mind the ELVs, law makers should look at this oft-abused sanction!

Scrum half Gareth WIlliams, on permit from Neath, shone for the Steelmen and formed a very effective partnership with Bryan Shelbourne, while the pack had the better of the forward battle with John Bowd leading by example and Matthew Griffin always in the thick of the action.

So here’s my solution to the passive scrum situation: if there are passive scrums because one of the only two ‘fit’ props is in the bin, then the prop should have to play and another player serve his time in the bin. I reckon that the other team should be able to pick who should go off, which may discourage teams to be sneaky (cheat? surely not) with the rules in future.

Team: A McLaughlan, J Williams, K Owen, A Bramwell, A Bevan, B Shelbourne, G Williams, I George, R Wilkes (M Williams 74), A Lott, M Griffin, W Jones, N Aiono (R Dicks 71), J McPhail, J Bowd (captain).

Scorers: Tries for Ian George and Richard Wilkes, and two penalties for Bryan Shelbourne

Man of the match: Gareth Williams, the scrum half on permit from Neath.

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