Graig Park, home of Penygraig RFC, was the venue for the Villagers’ latest encounter in this season’s Brains Silver Ball competition and their opponents were Division 2 league leaders Maesteg RFC.
A large contingent of travelling fans ignored the wet and blustery conditions, and made their way up the Rhondda Valley to support the players who, without doubt, were the underdogs in this memorable encounter.
The game kicked off on time under the floodlights on a heavy and somewhat waterlogged pitch. Within minutes Dinas were handed the dream start, securing the match’s first points through the boot of Gavin Cooper. Ironically this was to be the only points of the first half as Maesteg quickly settled into their game, keeping the ball tight amongst the forwards where necessary and pinging kicks over the top into each corner, making full use of the wind to gain all important territorial advantage.
Ill discipline at the breakdown proved costly during the half and the seemingly faultless boot of Maesteg’s full back Ed Howley ensured that the Villagers were punished thoroughly. The addition of a ‘catch and drive’ try from the opposition’s forwards saw the score stand at a formidable 3-19 at the half time break.
As Maesteg took to the changing rooms for a team talk, Villagers coach John Dunleavy gathered his players around him in the centre of the pitch, ignoring the torrential drizzle that was driving across the field from one end to the other. This young Dinas team has incredible fighting spirit and their desire to succeed is second to none. Where others may have deemed the margin insurmountable there were no such thoughts for the 15 players, subs and coaches standing in the floodlight.
Although a well used cliché, this truly was a game of two halves. Dinas came out of the blocks with determination and purpose, and within minutes of the restart they had crossed the opposition’s whitewash courtesy of some committed forward play, with Lewis Dunleavy dabbing down for the points. The conversion from a difficult angle was good by Cooper and suddenly the Villagers looked back in contention with the score 10 – 19.
Loved that second half performance from @DinasPowisRFC, did yourselves proud lads. – @starky88, Twitter
The momentum of the game seemed to have swung a full 180 degrees as Dinas launched wave after wave of attack into Maesteg’s half. The wind which had hindered them in the first forty minutes was now assisting the Villagers in much the same way as it had their opposition earlier in the contest. Two further penalties where successfully converted by Cooper to bring the scoreline tantalisingly close at 16 – 19 to the elation of the Dinas supporters who were present in the stands on both sides of the pitch.
Nerves were on edge as the clock continued its relentless march towards full time. A sublime break by centre Sonny Driscoll (who had been making hard and valuable yards all evening) looked to be the movement that would eventually swing the scoreline in favour of the Villagers for the first time since the opening five minutes. However the greasy surface caused Driscoll to loose his footing at the most inopportune moment, saving the division two opposition.
The game was so tightly contested during the final ten minutes that it was almost impossible to predict the outcome with any degree of certainty. On small margins games are won and lost, and unfortunately this was just not the day of the underdog. A loose pass deep in the Maesteg twenty two was hacked clear and a foot race ensued. Only the blistering pace of winger James Smith was to prevent a breakaway try, it has to be said, against the run of play. A desperate lunge at an interception was deemed to be an intentional knock on by the young official and the resulting penalty was converted by Maesteg to extend their lead by a further three points to 16 – 22.
However the danger was far from over and Dinas were forced to defend with only 14 players as centre Ciaran Driscoll had to pull up with a hamstring injury (only after he had put in a heroic tackle with one good leg). A period of sustained pressure caused a chink to appear in the Villagers’ defence allowing Maesteg to effectively kill the game off with a try on the wing. A difficult conversion into the wind was missed but with lead now two scores to the good the opposition fans could breath with a sigh of relief for the first time in the second half.
As the final whistle blew, the Villagers were applauded and left the field to a standing ovation. To a man, woman and child, everyone associated with Dinas could see that the players had left absolutely nothing on the pitch. Bodies were battered and bruised but heads could well and truly be held high.
@DinasPowisRFC thanks to everyone who made the trip tonight you are our 16th man for sure big thank you from the team – @DunleavyJohno, Twitter
Just wanted to thank all the supporters as they are appreciated very much! – Josh Dunleavy, Captain