Ebbw experience a narrow defeat
By Alex Kinsella-Evans
The Steelmen made the short journey across the Heads of the Valleys to play the Ironmen on a glorious day for rugby, with their loyal and loud supporters in attendance.
Straight from the kick off, the away side were on the front foot. A knock on by Merthyr in their twenty-two gave Ebbw a scrum. After winning the ball, the away side’s forwards went through the phases, which resulted in captain Joe Franchi use his strength to go over and score his sides first try of the game, with only two minutes gone. Outside half Kieran Meek successfully added the extra’s.
With the Ebbw Vale forwards clearly fired up and taking it to the home side, referee Dewi Phillips awarded the Steelmen two penalties, which Meek was unsuccessful with when taking aim at the posts.
The home side got their first points on the scoreboard when former Ebbw fly half Josh Lewis kicked a penalty in the thirteenth minute of the game.
From a lineout inside the Merthyr half, the away side forwards again got the upper hand and after some fine handling, the ball made its way again to captain Franchi, who went over for his second try of the game. Meek was unlucky with the conversation when hitting the post.
Minutes later, the Ironmen scored their first try of the game when good play by backs and forwards ended in replacement Tom Daley crossing the line. Flyhalf Lewis added the extras.
With the Merthyr pack coming back into the game, quick and intelligent thinking by the Steelmen’s number nine Jon Evans, saw the scrum half take a quick throw in to winger Carrick McDonough in the Ebbw half. The winger with a lot to do, showed his speed to go three quarters of the field untouched, to cross in the corner for Ebbw Vale’s third try of the game. Meek successfully added the extra two points.
With the first half coming towards an end, the Ironmen got their second try of the game when winger Adam Hoskins scored in the corner. Lewis Kicked the conversation from the touch line.
On the stroke of half time, referee Dewi Phillips awarded Merthyr captain Craig Locke a yellow card.
Half Time: Merthyr 17 – 25 Ebbw Vale
With the Merthyr pack still down to seven men, the Ironmen’s flyhalf Josh Lewis successfully kicked a penalty after an illegal challenge by an Ebbw player.
Moments later, with home side back to fifteen men, some good play by the away side forwards led to referee Phillips award the Steelmen a penalty in the Merthyr half. Meek successfully kicked the penalty to extend his teams lead to eight points. Referee Phillips sent Dan Wall to the sin bin for Merthyr’s second yellow card of the game.
On the sixty first minute Ebbw Vale head coach Jason Strange replaced the entire front row. Co-captain Rhys Francis replaced the impressive Joe Franchi and props Joel Harries and Adam Court both came on for the industrious Luke Garrett and Dave Whiting.
The Ironmen scored their third try of the game with approximately fifteen minutes remaining. With their forwards going through the phases, replacement scrum half James Soanes dived over the line. Lewis added the extra’s to make it a one-point game.
The away side made further changes when coach Strange replaced the hard-working Gethin Williams with Lewis Young and influential outside half Kieran Meek with Evan Lloyd. Moments later Amir Saleh replaced the ever-dependable Amir Jiwa-Walji and Matthew Flanagan replaced the bright thinking but injured Morgan Richards, to take up an unusual position for him on the wing. To clear the bench, head coach Strange brought on Bevan Jay to make his debut when he replaced the strong ball carrying Chad Thomas with less than ten minutes to go.
There was a long stoppage in play when the Steelmen’s number eight Ryan Jenkins suffered what appeared to be a serious injury to the head. Also down at the same time was Rhys Francis. Both medical teams and Doctor Rhys Thomas were quick onto the scene to look after both players, with Jenkins unfortunately being stretchered off the field.
With play resuming, both teams took it to each other looking to score the winning points. Ebbw nearly scored their fourth try of the game when after good interchange between forwards and backs saw winger McDonough going over the line, only for the officials to decide the winger was in touch.
With five minutes of play to go, Merthyr forwards made in roads into the away side’s half. A break by a Merthyr forward saw the supporting Morgan Sieniawski receive the ball and go over the line for his team’s bonus point try, despite being tackled by opposing players. Outside half Lewis was successful with the conversation.
With the final play of the game, referee Phillips awarded the Ironmen a penalty, which flyhalf Lewis was unable to convert.
Credit goes to the medical staff of both teams and Doctor Rhys Thomas, who were quickly onto the scene and dealt with the injured Ryan Jenkins expertly.
Full Time: Merthyr 34-28 Ebbw Vale