Ebbw Gain a Bonus Point
The Steelmen travelled across the Heads of the Valleys on a glorious sunny day for rugby.
Jason Strange’s team were slow out of the blocks. Straight from the kick off, Merthyr were awarded a lineout in the Ebbw Vale 22 when an Ebbw player’s foot touched the line from the opening kick-off. Winning clean ball from the lineout, the ball made its way to the home sides winger Adam Hoskins, who went over the line to score within the opening two minutes of the match. Fly half Gareth Thompson successfully added the extra’s.
With the Ironmen having most of the ball, the away side were reduced to fourteen men, when Ebbw Vale flanker Chad Thomas was shown a yellow card. Merthyr made their numerical advantage count, when from a scrum inside the Steelmen’s twenty-two, the ball made its way to centre Morgan Sieniawski, who crossed the line unopposed. Outside half Thompson again added the two points.
The away side were soon back down to fourteen men, when second row Dylan Bartlett was penalised for an offence inside Ebbw’s twenty-two. From the resulting scrum, the referee decided prop Luke Garrett had caused an offence and provided a further yellow card. Again, Merthyr decided to opt for the scrum and from the resulting play, the referee went straight under the posts, to award the Ironmen a penalty try.
As the game entered the last few moments of the first half, the Steelmen made an enforced change when co-captain Joe Franchi was replaced by fellow co-captain Rhys Francis due to an injury.
Half Time: Merthyr 21-0 Ebbw Vale
A clearly fired up away side came out for the second half with a point to prove. After applying a sustained amount of pressure inside the Merthyr twenty-two, a charge down by Curtis Gregory, saw the second row chase the ball over the line to touch down to score the away side’s first points of the game. Full back for the day Evan Lloyd added the two points.
After the referee awarded the Steelmen a further penalty inside the Ironmen’s half, the home side were given a reprieve when Ebbw marksman Lloyd uncharacteristically missed the uprights.
With the visitors growing in confidence, outside centre Ethan Phillips continued his good run from last season, when inside the home side’s twenty-two, Phillips sliced through the defence to score a well taken try. Lloyd was unsuccessful with the conversion.
Within minutes of each other, Ebbw Vale coach Strange made a host of changes. Returning to the club Morgan Davies was replaced by Harry Drane and Cameron Regan for Chad Thomas, new signing Rory Harries came on for Jon Evans, Charley Kearns replaced the ever-present Luke Garrett and the ever-dependable full back Morgan Richards came on for Kieran Meek.
From a lineout, Merthyr were reduced to fourteen men when a replacement prop was this time of the wrong side of the referee. However, with reduced numbers, the Ironmen pulled further ahead, when on the sixty third minute, fly half Thompson successfully added three points to the home side’s tally, after the referee awarded the home side a penalty in front of the posts.
The away side emptied their bench on the seventy first minute when Amir Jiwa-Walji replaced the steady Ewan Bowden.
With the game entering the final five minutes, Ebbw’s Lloyd kicked a penalty to the corner. From the lineout, the forwards put in a driving maul which resulted in replacement Rhys Francis diving over the line to bring his side back to within a score. Marksmen Lloyd was unable to add the extra two points.
Merthyr kept the ball within the dying minutes to see out the game and win the opening match of the Indigo Premiership season.
Full Time: Merthyr 24-17 Ebbw Vale
After the game we spoke with Ebbw’s number eight Ryan Jenkins. Ryan was disappointed with the start to the game. He thought the squad prepared well and had a great warm-up, but everything went out of the window. He thought the side showed what they could do in the second half but believed it was a wakeup call.
The Steelmen return to action on Saturday 9th September when they entertain Pontypridd RFC at the Ciner Glass Community Stadium with a 2.30pm kick off.
Report by Alex Kinsella-Evans