A six try demolition of St Albans by the ‘Villagers’ of Dinas Powys warmed the large crowd that had gathered on the Common on a cold and blustery day.
However the victory seemed unlikely for a long time as the home side were under pressure early in the game, trailing for the first half an hour of the contest courtesy of a successful penalty attempt within the first ten minutes.
The visitors from St Albans, known affectionately within the rugby community as the ‘Buns’, were hampered by a series of injuries that disrupted their game plan. The difficult conditions led to an encounter strewn with errors, but was brightened up latterly by some sparkling inventive play by the home three-quarters.
With a strong wind at their backs, the visitors dominated both territory and possession early on and only stout defence prevented them scoring further during this period. Indeed, had it not been for a last gasp lunging tackle by scrum half Nathan Williams, the ‘Buns’ would have chalked up the first try in the corner as their number 8 crossed the whitewash. Williams’ tackle had dislodged the ball from the attacking player whilst he was in the act of scoring, epitomising the heroic defensive effort and resolve that has become a trademark of the ‘Villagers’ during the first half of the season.
During this period the ‘Villagers’ squandered a handful of clear cut scoring chances. A searing break by centre Ciaran Driscoll came to nothing as, with the line at his mercy, he unselfishly offloaded to full back Dai Lloyd. The pass was unexpected and was spilt.
The home forwards were starting to match the aggression of their opponents and a series of slick passing with the backs saw them enter the visitor’s 22 metre area, earning a penalty in the process. Nathan Williams chose to take it quickly but was tackled immediately by the visiting open side flanker whose transgression earning him ten minutes in the sin bin. Again the ‘Villagers’ chose to run the penalty into the strong wind and an impressive charge by bulky second row Andrew O’Malia was stemmed by the defending players who held him up over the tryline. The resulting scrum, to the the surprise of many, saw the Dinas loose head prop yellow carded for boring and both sides were reduced to fourteen players.
Just after the thirty minute mark, Williams chipped delicately from the base of a scrum and the ball was caught by left wing Jim Wiltshire who charged down down the touchline. As the desperate covering players blocked his progress he passed inside to hooker Lewis Christopher who crossed for the match’s opening try. The conversion was added by outside half Gavin Cooper with the assistance of a kindly bounce off the left hand post and the ‘Villagers’ took the lead 7-3.
The ‘Buns’ responded with a period of sustained pressure and they looked likely to score. However ill discipline by the visitors was penalised by the official after they challenged him over his decision to award Dinas a scrum following a knock-on. Williams once again saw an opportunity to take it quickly. A stunning 95 metre passage of play ensued which saw Williams transfer to skipper Sonny Driscoll who blasted through the initial defence before passing to fellow centre Ciaran Driscoll, who in-turn put right wing Sean O’Brien clear to complete a sensational try.
With the half time whistle blown the score stood at 12-3.
The early stages of the second half saw little play worth of note. The home side continued to show their potent ability to counterattack as the visitors again pressed for that elusive second score. Superb defensive play at the breakdown by home number 8, Corey Imperatto, saw him gain a penalty as the visiting player refused to release the ball following the tackle. Scrum half Williams varied his play and kicked the ball downfield. With the aid of the tail wind, the ball bounced on the surprisingly firm surface. The chase was led by the home flanker Ryan Shallish who won the contest to secure the ball on the floor, and in one slick movement popped it up to fellow flanker Lewis Dunleavy for the try, extending the lead to 17-3.
The game had been turned on its head. Just when it appeared that the visitors may have been about to narrow the deficit the ‘Villagers’ had seized the initiative, spurred on by the need to secure that all important fourth try and an invaluable bonus point. Dinas were now riding high and playing with a team who had the self-belief that comes with continued success. The remaining period of the match saw them retain the ball for sustained periods, with inter-passing between forwards and backs, a high risk, adrenaline stimulating, expansive style of rugby as demanded by coach John Dunleavy.
A forceful run from right wing Sean O’Brien coupled with some clever interplay between Dai Lloyd and Ciaran Driscoll put the latter through for the crucial fourth try.
The introduction of replacements, veteran prop Nick Vagges and left wing Rhys Evans, was inspired as both players were to be instrumental in extending the lead. Vagges displayed fine footballing skills as he volleyed a clearance kick by the visitors back downfield. The home side were now rampant and the ball was moved to Dai Lloyd who ran in a mesmerisingly mazy try under the posts which he converted himself to extend the lead to 29-3.
Rhys Evans was to add a further try within minutes as a long clearance kick by Cooper was gathered by the visitors full back who was chased down and tackled by hooker Lewis Christopher. Lewis was quickly back on his feet to win the ball and feed Evans who delicately grubber kicked the ball down the touchline. With his searing pace he outstripped the defence to recollect the ball score another stunning try.
Final score 34-3.
The ‘Villagers’ entertain Cambrian Welfare on the Common in the 4th round of the SWALEC Bowl on Saturday 17th January in what is sure to be an extremely competitive match.