This local derby between the only two unbeaten sides in the division was played in front of a large and passionate crowd on a dry and sunny day at the Reservoir Ground. The sunshine masked a bitterly cold wind that swept down across the pitch towards the town and once thriving docks.
Sadly the previous week had seen the passing of Dinas Powys RFC stalwart Gwen Jenkins. Gwen, along with her late husband Rollie, frequently organised Christmas parties and trips to West Midland Safari park for children associated with the rugby club and their names are forever embedded within the folklore of Dinas Powys RFC. Gwen’s son Gary Jenkins represented both Barry and Dinas Powys rugby clubs during his playing career and therefore it was a significant and apt setting for her life to be remembered during the minute silence that preceded the match.
The two teams had fought out a thrilling 26-26 draw on the Common in September and both sides had overcome all league opponents since that encounter.
Playing east to west, the ‘Villagers’ of Dinas Powys kicked off what ultimately proved to be another tense and highly competitive contest which saw robust committed defence from both sides. The statistics for the two teams this season are impressive with each having an average of over five tries per game, however this contest would see just a solitary try.
The visitors had worked particularly hard on their scrummaging technique in the training sessions leading up to this fixtures as this was a perceived strength of their hosts, and the scrum was to be a solid base from which the ‘Villagers’ unleashed the powerful runs of skipper Josh Dunleavy from number eight. The home side defended stoutly and relied heavily on the boot of their fly half Einan Scott to clear their lines and relieve the pressure.
It was fully twenty minutes before Barry mounted a meaningful attack during which Dinas’ fly half Gavin Cooper was alleged to have tackled an opponent without the use of his arms. The coaches and supporters of Dinas considered this harsh as it appeared that Cooper had lost his footing going into contact. However the official had taken a view and the infringement earned him a yellow card and ten minutes on the side-lines.
With Cooper off the field the visitors defended stoutly and took the opportunity to gain good field position when the chance presented itself. Ironically Cooper’s first act upon resuming play was to kick a penalty and gain his side a lead that they were never to relinquish.
As half time approached the home side were to have a player yellow carded themselves; the unfortunate player taking the punishment for a number of penalties incurred by his team in quick succession.
A raking kick from Barry fly half Scott forced an attacking lineout deep in the ‘Villagers’ half which was deftly stolen by Lewis Dunleavy. The ball was moved through scrum half Nathan Williams to Josh Dunleavy who bullocked his way on for twenty metres before recycling it to centre Ciaran Driscoll. With the defence drawn in, Driscoll produced a neat pass to full back James Wiltshire on half way. The athletic and pacey Wiltshire outstripped the remaining defence to score a stunning try in the left hand corner in front of the Barry clubhouse. Whilst this was the only try of the day it is one that will long live in the memory of those who witnessed it. As the conversion fell wide the official indicated the end of the first half with Dinas eight points to the good; Barry 0 – Dinas Powys 8.
A nightmare opening to the second half for the visitors saw Barry enjoy their best period of the contest with just reward coming ten minutes from the restart courtesy of Einan Scott who converted a penalty opportunity. The hosts, boosted by the score, tried to move from deep and good play in midfield involving Tiernan Scott and Tomos Perry sent Brad White clear. Had it not been for a last-ditch ankle tap by Dinas centre Sonny Driscoll, White would surely have crossed the whitewash. The Villagers were stung into action and pressed for a further score. Unfortunately a rehearsed three-quarter movement broke down as a pass was dropped, the loose ball hacked up field by a Barry player. As the ensuing footrace unfolded James Wiltshire was adjudged to have obstructed the run of the attacking player and was shown a yellow card. The situation was further compounded when, within two minutes, an exact replica of this occurred again and centre Sonny Driscoll was sent to join Wiltshire in the sin bin.
The ‘Villagers’ adapted to the situation by moving flanker Lewis Dunleavy to fill the centre position, so for eight minutes the home team would have one extra forward and one extra three-quarter. Once again the resolute defence of Dinas Powys was to be their saviour. The heroic actions of each and every player was truly immense as wave after wave of attack was stemmed. Both Lewys John and Corey Imperato put in huge thumping tackles that drew gasps from the crowd.
Barry declined a number of opportunity to kick at goal in favour of a try that would draw them level and provide the impetus to progress to victory. However the home side lacked the necessary penetration and a series of lineout steals by second row Gareth Williams ensured they did not score during this period of numerical advantage.
This period saw the introduction of gnarly prop Mike Jones for Andrew O’Malia who had moved to hooker to cover an injured Lewis Christopher. The combination of Jones, O’Malia and the outstanding Tyler O’Connell at loose head ensured that the seven forwards of Dinas were able to challenge the eight Barry forwards. The welcome return of Wiltshire, followed by Driscoll minutes later, boosted the ‘Villagers’ and drained the confidence from the home side.
With the clock rapidly becoming Dinas’ friend and Barry’s foe, the ‘Villagers’ took control the game through numerous bouts of tactical kicking and by strong direct running from their ball carriers. The final act of the game saw Josh Dunleavy pick up from the base of a five metre scrum within the Dinas half, recycle the ball quickly to scrum half Williams and onto centre Sonny Driscoll who blasted towards the try line. The ball was again recycled and fed to Cooper who dropped one of the shortest drop goals in rugby union history. As the ball sailed between the posts the referee blew the final whistle and the Dinas Powys’ victory was sealed. Crucially the winning margin, thanks to Cooper’s boot, had been extended to eight points therefore depriving Barry of a losing bonus point.
Barry’s match report can be found on there website.