Despite a disastrous start that saw Penarth build a ‘commanding’ lead, Dinas found their rhythm to score five tries and thirty-four unanswered points to claim a bonus point win and the all-important Vale bragging rights having previously defeated Barry on the opening day.
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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his was a game that needed no introduction or hype. For time immemorial Dinas have relished the opportunity to put one over local rivals Penarth. In fact, there is only one match that could overshadow such an occasion, Wales versus England (and even then a few would disagree!).
Established just two years apart at the end of the nineteenth century, these two teams from the Vale have held a fierce rivalry for reasons that are best confined to the history books. However, to this day, pulling on the blue and amber jersey of Dinas and taking to the field against Penarth is a rite of passage for any self-respecting ‘villager’.
Any derby match is a potential banana skin. The passion and emotion generated by these fixtures can play havoc with even the most level-headed of players. The fear of failure leads to rash decisions. Overzealous passes are thrown with little chance of success. Desperate attempts to secure and keep possession result in increasing numbers of penalties. Frustration creeps in followed closely by ill temperament, and ultimately a large penalty count ensues.
Not this game. This game was different. This game had passion. It had heart. But the players kept their heads.
Dinas’ start disastrously…
Penarth started the match the far brighter of the two teams, playing at tempo with purpose and vigour. Within two minutes the first of Penarth’s scoring opportunities came courtesy of a penalty half way inside the Dinas half and slightly off-centre. Fortunately for Dinas, the kick swayed off course. There was no let-up from Penarth as they continued to apply pressure, eliciting a second penalty. This time, the home fly-half made no mistakes with his kick.
Things did not improve from the restart as Penarth quickly secured the ball and headed back into the Dinas half. The usually dependable pack were simply not finding their form and struggled to compete with the powerful home forwards. Sensing their superiority up front, Penarth kept the ball tight and gradually made the hard yards up-field, eventually crossing the try-line in the far corner nearest the home supporters. The difficult conversion from the touch-line was beautifully struck and bisected the posts neatly. With a little over thirteen minutes played, the Seasider’s had established a ten point margin.
The match was not going to plan for the Villagers. The concern could be seen upon face along the length of the touch-line, none more so than upon the face of passionate coach Luke Gibbson who paced up and down the touch-line offering guidance and encouragement.
Concern began to turn into dismay (and disbelief) when, just moments later, the home fly-half slotted the third of his fours kicks at goal. Fifteen minutes played and thirteen points behind!
… but find their form …
What Penarth had done in a quarter of an hour, Dinas undid in three wonderful minutes. Perhaps sensing the game was teetering on disaster, number eight and Dinas’ captain Josh Dunleavy, crossed for the visitor’s opening. The conversion from few from the right-hand touch-line was challenging yet successful by Sam Middlemiss.
Queue a brilliant piece of individual play. The ball was collected cleanly from the restart and quickly shipped to the hands of winger James Wiltshire who, upon seeing an opening appear before him, set off on a mesmerising seventy-five metre sprint to the posts. The conversion was a formality for Middlemiss. Three minutes and fourteen points later, Dinas were in front for the first time in the contest.
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Buoyed by a change in fortune, Dinas became more assertive in contact and contested manfully at the breakdown. Centre Dai Lloyd stripped the ball from home full-back on the Dinas twenty-two and passed it deftly to fellow three-quarter, Michael Smith. Coming off his wing, Smith made significant inroads into the Penarth half before being tackled. However, he kept on his feet and was promptly supported by his teammates. The ball was moved from the maul to Corey Imperato who slipped the first tackle before being stopped five metres from the line. Again, the ball was quickly recycled, this time into the hands of Josh Burridge. Unfortunately, the last pass to Josh Dunleavy was a little short and the ball dipped at the captains’ feet. Despite this, he appeared to collect it cleanly before crossing the line for what would have been the visitor’s third try. Sadly, the official thought otherwise, deciding that the ball to was knocked forwards.
Penarth were under the cosh and try as they might they could not clear their lines. The forwards and backs of Dinas were playing as a team, each willing to take the ball forwards and make the necessary hard yards.
On the thirty-third minute, Josh Dunleavy crossed for his second try of the day having obtained possession from a ruck just meters from the line. The delight on Dai Lloyd’s face showed just how much it meant to the players.
On the thirty-eighth minute, one of Penarth’s second-row players was sent to the bin for ten minutes. Within moments, Dinas were making the most of their man advantage and pressurising the home team once again. This time, it was hooker Tom Baister who powered his way through the crowd to touchdown in the corner but the difficult conversion was missed by Middlemiss.
… and secure the bonus point!
Dinas may have had a disastrous start but they had turned the game on its head. Where once there were frowns, there were now smiles of delight – half-time Penarth 13 – 26 Dinas (and a bonus point in the bag)!
But the game still had a few twists and dramas up its sleeve. Just three minutes into the second half the ever dependable Lewys Dunleavy received the first of Dinas’ two yellow cards.
Dunleavy, keen to make the most of the man advantage, used his hands in the ruck to illegally recover the ball. This was one penalty too many for the youthful official and he had little hesitation in brandishing his yellow card.
Dinas, heeding the lessons of the past, adapted their style of play appropriately, keeping the ball tight when necessary but exploiting opportunities as they arose. The ten minutes were largely uneventful and Dinas looked as though they were going to escape unscathed as Lewis returned to the foray.
Queue the second yellow card, this time for fellow forward Gaz Williams who became trapped on the wrong side of the ruck. The official, believing this an intentional attempt to prevent Penarth obtaining the ball, reached for his pocket and brandished his yellow card (again!) – ten minutes in the bin for one of Dinas’ most influential forwards.
No sooner were they back to full strength, the Villagers were reduced to fourteen men. Again the Dinas players adapted admirably. On the sixty-third minute, the official reached once again for his pocket, this time, to send the home scrum-half off the field for ten minutes. Middlemiss converted the ensuing penalty to notch up the first points of the second-half and extend the lead by sixteen points.
The following seventeen minutes were an arm wrestle, the game toing and froing between the two halves. The final twist came in the closing moments of the game when Penarth’s substitute forward was given his marching orders for a professional foul. Penarth had had a torrid day at the office and Mike Smiths last minute try in the corner did nothing to lift their spirits.
As the final whistle blew, the Seasiders must have been asking themselves how they had let the Villagers score thirty-four unanswered points to win 13-34!