The ‘Villagers’ of Dinas Powys remain unbeaten in all competitions this season following a win at Llantwit Major and remain second in the league, a single point behind leaders Barry and 13 points ahead of the hosts who are in third position after gaining a losing bonus point in this narrow defeat.
On a day that saw a raft of rugby matches across the nation called off due to waterlogged pitches, Llantwit took the decision to abandon their two larger pitches and moved the contest to their smallest pitch. With water running down the slope off their usual first team pitch, the playing surface quickly deteriorated into a mud bath as the game progressed. The claggy surface ensured an attritional contest between warriors barely distinguishable from each other.
The arrival of replacements during the game would initially allow that player’s shirt number to be seen but within no time the mud would envelope his identity and again only the referee would be recognisable.
The ‘Villagers’ played up an appreciable slope in the first half and defied the conditions to produce a period of sustained attacking pressure that included some slick passing between forwards and the threequarters. The home defence was sound and the only reward for the early pressure was the conversion of an early penalty by fly half David Lloyd.
The home side, with the elements in their favour, soon levelled the score with a penalty of their own after an offence at the tackle area.
The interpretation of advantage was questioned by some after a Llantwit knock on was cleared some thirty metres to touch by Lloyd but was adjudged not enough advantage and the play was brought back for a scrum to the ‘Villagers’ at the initial location of the transgression. This scrum resulted in a penalty to the hosts and without setting foot into the opposition’s 22 metre area the men of Llantwit led by 6-3 after half an hour.
The remainder of the first half saw the ‘Villagers’ set up camp on the opposition try line and only robust defence held out wave after wave of attack. The commitment from both sides was admired by the large crowd on either touchline as David Lloyd and half back partner Nathan Williams both were held up over the line. The bulky forwards Luke Dyer and Andrew O’Malia carried strongly and a further carry from skipper Josh Dunleavy drew the tacklers allowing the ball to be released to the centres Ciaran Driscoll and Sonny Driscoll who drove yet closer to that elusive score.
The ball was again recycled and a pass by Williams from the base of a ruck to set loose head prop Tyler O’Connell on a strong run towards the line. The home support cheered loudly as the young prop was driven back in the tackle by three of the opposition forwards. However their cheers were promptly muted as they realised that the ball had been off loaded to wing Jim Wiltshire who drew defenders before passing to flanker Corey Imperato who in turn transferred to wing Sean O’Brien who crossed for a stunning try. With Lloyd kicking the conversion, at half time the ‘Villagers’ held a well-deserved 6-10 lead.
The ‘Villagers’, with the slope now in their favour, started the second half with great intensity. A fluent back move setting right wing Jim Wiltshire free, only to be dragged to earth a tantalising ten metres short of the try line. Wiltshire turned in the tackle and attempted to play the ball back to his supporting scrum half, but the home winger lying on the floor slapped the ball forward. The referee had no option other than to show a yellow card and must have considered a penalty try, but Dinas would have a numerical advantage for ten minutes.
A man to the better, the ‘Villagers’ pressed relentlessly but a determined defence held firm, a series of rolling mauls and individual forays were all to no avail. A break to the right hand corner worked an overlap and as Ciaran Driscoll drew the final defender and passed to Nathan Williams the home full back slapped the ball to the floor. Again a yellow card was brandished and again the ref declined the option of a penalty try.
The home side were depleted with only thirteen players on the field of play, but they had prevented two certain tries and still only trailed by four points. The ‘Villagers’ failed to maximise the two man advantage during the following period due in part to the muddy conditions, some poor decision making and heroic defending.
A series of scrums resulted in Nathan Williams sniping from the base and scoring a try in the right hand corner, the difficult conversion was missed and the score limped to 6-15.
The credentials of the home side were evident as they enjoyed their best period of the game. A series of penalties from the referee saw Dinas pegged back in their own half and a number of consecutive rolling mauls from various lineouts eventually saw a steaming mass of muddy forwards collapse over the Dinas try line. The try awarded and the conversion added the score advanced to 13-15 and a tense final quarter would ensue.
The Dinas front row, bolstered at half time by the canny veteran prop Mike Jones alongside hooker Nick Vagges and the impressive O’Connell, were gaining control of the scrums and with replacement second row Ryan Shallish adding energy to the dogged determination of Lewys John in the boiler house the ‘Villagers’ forwards controlled the rugby ball. They ground out a victory that only fleetingly looked in peril as the home centre scurried away as the visitors defence relaxed after a blatant knock on that the young official failed to notice.
The home support cheers for their scampering hero were silenced as he was caught and hauled down by full back Rhys Evans. The lines were cleared and the ‘Villagers’ controlled the remainder of the game which saw no further scoring and a hard won but thoroughly deserved victory was secured.
Within such a team victory it seems churlish to highlight an individual, but as is the demand of society for a hero, special mention must be made of the contribution of Lewis Dunleavy, whose tackling and understanding of the game belies his years
A game played on an atrocious surface, in which the ‘Villagers’ still attempted to play adventurous rugby and thrill their burgeoning travelling support, their 16th man as described by coach Dunleavy
Dinas Powys RFC attempt to maintain their unbeaten season this coming Saturday, January 10th, when they welcome St Albans to the Common, KO 2.30pm.