The visitors to the Common for the first match of 2018 were league leaders Ystrad Rhondda. Having only lost one game all season and unbeaten since September 23rd 2017, a stiff test faced the Villagers of Dinas Powys. Hopes of a home victory, however, were buoyed as a raft of players returned having recovered from injury. The large crowd gathered were treated to a tense, physical encounter that brightened an otherwise gloomy day.
The home side started confidently and within the first quarter of the contest took the lead through a try from right wing Jim Wiltshire, following a passage of fine interplay between the threequarters. The flame-haired flyer is enjoying a fine season, improving consistently and developing into a fine rugby player. The try was converted by the impeccable Sam Middlemiss and the Villagers led the league leaders by 7-0.
The team from the Rhondda valley were stirred into action and the remainder of the half was dominated by the visitors’ bulky pack. The home defence stood firm as the visitors dominated possession. The Villagers looked to have held out the well drilled Ystrad team as halftime approached but the final play of the first half saw visiting hooker Carl Williams burrow over for a try that was converted by visiting fly-half Rhys Truelove. Halftime score 7-7.
The second half continued as the first half had ended with Ystrad dominating territory and possession. Valiant defending from every Villager ensured that the visitors were not to score a second try in the contest. The four backrowers used during the contest — Lane Dyer, Ryan Shallish, Corey Imperato and Lewis Dunleavy — were never far from the ball and hurled themselves into the tackle, consistently driving back their opposition.
The pressure exerted by the visitors resulted in the concession of two penalties that were converted by Truelove and, with ten minutes remaining, the Villagers trailed by 7-13. Despite being behind, there was always the belief that given some possession that the home threequarters were capable of scoring another try. Captain Tom Baister urged further effort from his team and centre Ciaran Driscoll gamely carried the contest to the opposition. As the game drifted to a close Gavin Cooper was introduced at fullback and soon found himself having to supplement the defensive effort. The visitors again pounded the Villagers defence with phase after phase of recycled possession. A dropped pass resulted in a fit of pique from the player that failed to gather the pass and a penalty was awarded to the Villagers. The pressure was relieved as the resulting lineout was won and the home side moved the ball between the backline. The ball reached Cooper who kicked it downfield towards the village of Dinas Powys. Several of the home supporters groaned at his decision not to keep the ball in hand, yet dismay turn to elation and those supporters were soon cheering as Wiltshire was clearly winning the race towards the bouncing ball. Taking it in his stride, Wiltshire lit the afterburners and raced away from his pursuers to score a stunning try. The conversion was vital as the Villagers still trailed on the scoreboard. Sam Middlemiss was the personification of calmness and slotted the conversion to roars from the home supporters. The home side led by 14-13.
The restart was regathered and the Villagers controlled the ball impressively for the remainder of the game. Scrum-half Tom Davies kicking the ball off the field of play once the referee confirmed that the eighty minutes had elapsed.
A committed team performance providing a stunning victory against a fine and confident side will hopefully provide the platform for a successful 2018.
The following images are courtesy of Dave Green