22 April 2017 / Club News

First XV reach final of cup in enthralling match

The First XV reached the final of the Welsh Rugby Union East District Cup Competition on Wednesday evening as they beat Taffs Well 51-42 in a quite remarkable semi final clash played out in Cardiff at the neutral venue of Hailey Park, the home of Llandaff North. Also being played on an adjacent pitch was the other semi final between Dinas Powys and Cowbridge.

With the advent for some time now of the National League structure and its accompanied three tiered cup competition some may say that tournaments like the East District Cup and the Glamorgan Silver Ball have been devalued in their appeal. Well there may be some weight to that argument but try telling that to the two teams who battled for every blade of grass in this game; and the large crowd who on a glorious Wednesday evening were thoroughly entertained with tries galore and true cup excitement right up to the final whistle.
Llantwit lined up with three changes from their last game against Cowbridge with captain and hooker Huw Williams not available versatile prop Alex Bloomfield moved across the front row and was joined by Damon Gardner-Ponting at prop. Elsewhere Donovan Stoppel came into the back row and Rory Budina returned to the fold at full back after a few months sabbatical.
The game didn't start well for Llantwit as they failed to receive the ball from the kick off as it bobbled through several pairs of hands before Taffs Well took control and drove forward. Their scrum half quickly taking advantage of some poor defending to snipe forward and they soon crossed for a converted try to put Llantwit seven points down literally from the kick off. This left some wondering as they were playing a side a full division higher than them in the league that this was was going to be a bit of a mismatch.
However Llantwit soon brushed this off as some good gains in territory allowed Tom Winter to supply good line out ball which was quickly put through the three quarters only to be spilled, but Rhys Balmont covering from the opposite wing was soon on hand to pick up and with a lovely weighted pass released his fellow wing Luke Dawes who had far too much gas for the covering defence and raced over in the corner for an unconverted try.
Taffs Well though soon extended their lead with a penalty for offside before Llantwit drew level with a great individual try by outside half Josh Austin. After some good driving from the pack from another Tom Winter line out, Llantwit were camped on the Taffs Well try line and as the ball reached Austin without many options out wide took it on himself and instead of using his normal quick feet he bulldozed his way over, converted by scrum half Iestyn Jones.
Llantwit were well into their stride by now and looking to release their three quarters as often as they possibly could. The next try though coming from a period of pressure from Taffs Well as they put in a big up and under kick. It was well marked by Balmont in his 22, which he quickly took to himself and raced off, eventually being hauled down by the ten metre line, some great support in the subsequent ruck allowed quick ball to be released to fullback Budina who on seeing Taffs Well defence in tatters backed his pace and headed straight for the posts, going under from over forty metres out, again converted by Jones. Taffs Well though kept themselves in sight of Llantwit with another penalty from the kick off before more pressure from Llantwit put them back on their opponents line and quick ball allowed flanker Gareth Watts to charge over in the corner for an unconverted try. The Llantwit supporters only had time to draw a quick breath before they were cheering the next try as centre Wise Vakacegu raced away along the opposite touch line to also go over in the corner. 
With the score now at 29-13 and five tries scored and still a quarter of an hour till the break it was of course time for the Llantonians to implode as they received not one but two consecutive yellow cards for lack of verbal and tackle discipline. Taffs Well naturally took advantage as they crossed for a converted try just before the break and in doing so brought themselves right back into the game at 29-23.
With Llantwit still reduced to fourteen they couldn't have had a better start to the second half as they seized on a spilled ball from the kick off and spurred on by strong runs from forwards Donovan Stoppel and Geraint David had the try line at their beckoning. The old head of lock Shaun Shea then made the hard yards to tie in defenders before the ball was whisked across the back line for centre Jack Austin to crash through for a well worked try. Taffs Well were soon though taking advantage of their numerical ascendency as some good forward drives allowed them to cross out wide which they again converted. 
With Llantwit now back to fifteen the game stagnated briefly as both sides battled for territory which was broken when the ascendency was again gifted to Taffs Well as ridiculously Llantwit were shown a third yellow card this time for a dangerous tackle. Taffs Well taking no time to cross again for another converted try and with it took the lead for the first time since early in the first half at 34-35. A nervy ending then awaited the Llantwit supporters but they didn't have to wait long to calm their nerves as some early pressure from the kick off saw prop Damian ‘cannonball’ Gardner Ponting go on a trade mark crashing run through the defence to score another unconverted try.
Llantwit were now rampaging forward at every opportunity to try and put the tie to bed none more so than number eight Rob Carter who on driving from the back of a maul made good yards and a quick ruck saw the ball put out to wing Dawes for him to race off down the touchline for a fine individual, but again the try was not converted so Taffs Well were given yet another life line; and they duly responded as their big powerful fullback crossed and with the conversion brought the score back to 44-42 and now just minutes remaining on the clock.
Llantwit you would have thought now would have just looked to keep Taffs Well away from their line and grind out the remaining minutes; but this new adventurous team were having none of that and some pressure saw some lovely interchanging running and again Dawes was released to finally put the result in no doubt as he rounded the defence and raced behind the posts for a converted try. The final whistle soon to be heard to bring this breathtaking game to a final conclusion.
A great win then for Llantwit scoring nine tries despite playing for thirty minutes with fourteen men and their kickers having a terrible day at the office. It was a great team performance with making hard ground before going wide and support play being the keys to their success. Taffs Well must also be congratulated for their part in such an exciting game coming back into the game time and time again boosted by a top draw display of place kicking. You may think with all the running being made that perhaps this was a poor defensive game; but that couldn't be further from the truth as this was a tough contest at the tackle area, which was not for the faint hearted.
Llantwit would also like to thank the match officials for their part in this great game as they clearly refereed the game in the spirit of attacking rugby.
Llantwit’s opponents in the cup final will be the holders Dinas Powys as they won the other semi final beating Cowbridge 33-7. Llantwit will clearly be the underdogs by some distance going into the final as Dinas Powys sit at the top of their league, some two divisions higher than the Llantonians. But if Llantwit play with only a part of the same adventure shown in this game it will certainly be worth watching. The final will be played at the Cardiff Metropolitan University Ground, Cyncoed Campus, Cardiff at 7:15pm on Tuesday the 2nd of May.

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