Iron beats steel in heavy metal clash
By Robert Rees
Ebbw fell to their fourth successive defeat at the CiNER Glass Community Stadium as Dale McIntosh’s Merthyr came away narrow winners, 20-16.
It was the visitors who started stronger, enjoying a spell with ball in hand, sitting in the Ebbw territory for extended periods. It eventually told and just five minutes into the game, hooker Dan Wall crossing the whitewash, Gareth Thompson converting.
Ebbw grew into the game as the faithful on the bank became vocal. Thompson deliberately knocked an Ebbw attack on and was sent to the naught step for 10 minutes as a result.
Despite being a man down it was the ‘Ironmen’ who claimed the game’s next points, three coming from the boot of stand-in kicker Rhys Davies.
Ebbw’s set piece started to creak, and Merthyr took full advantage as they raised their game in hope of seeking revenge following a last-minute defeat in the reverse fixture earlier this season.
The power up front gave the backs a brilliant platform to work from and soon after winger Sam Jones grabbed Merthyr’s second try of the game.
Only a late penalty for Ebbw via Joe Westwood’s long rage effort would close the gap before half time.
Half time; Ebbw Vale 6-15 Merthyr
Playing into the wind, Westwood got the third quarter off with a bang, slotting a penalty over from right Infront of the dugouts, Ebbw looking more dangerous with ball in hand.
Unfortunately, some cutting edge attacks from the visitors saw them edge further ahead through fullback Rhys Davies. 20-9 up, it looked unassailable for Ebbw.
Some heavy shoving from the pack eventually granted the hosts some luck and former Wales international Daf Howells crossed for yet another try this season with the last play of the game.
Ebbw walked away with a losing bonus point as Merthyr climbed above Pontypridd in the table.
The Ebbw Addicts Man of the Match went to Joe Westwood as Greg Woods’ men get ready to go again in two week’s time at Sardis Road against Ponty!
Woods adding; “The group seems to be positive as they can see growth in their performances, the younger players are a shining light and we’re developing well in areas. Our attacking game was a lot better today, and we offered some threats. If we can get a platform, I think that could have been a win for us today, so a mixed reaction, but I can’t fault their effort.
“We had seven U20s in there today and that’s unheard of. Joe Westwood is looking amazing for someone with only three games of senior rugby under his belt and we’ll benefit from these guys in the next 18 months.
“It’s been a theme this year that we have to play more expansive now and Jack Harvey looks really good at giving us width in attack and some flow. We’re playing with scraps, but if we can improve the set piece then we’ll benefit.
“If we stay on this path, we’re looking ok, we’ll be fresh on a week off and have some injuries back to boost us. It’ll be a fast and expansive game. We were loose in defence against Newport, but we had that balance today.
“Injuries have given Joe Peard, Ben Moa, Connor Chapman and Westwood game time which you’ll see benefit everyone. I know the talent we have at our disposal that can be utilised in the next 12 months.”
Looking ahead to Pontypridd in a fortnight’s time he added, “the artificial surfaces have done us well this season, we can’t wait to play on it. Everyone can see we’re playing a more expansive game, but we must make sure we are sharp in defence because Ponty play a similar way and can hurt us if we make mistakes.”
Ebbw Vale: Luke Garrett, Connor Chapman, Rob Sevenoaks, Joe Peard, Dan Hill, Scott Parsons, Alex Grey, Ben Moa, Jack Harvey, Ryan Evans, Carrick McDonough, Ethan Phillips, Dom Franchi, Dafydd Howells, Joe Westwood. SUBS; Mikhail Blake, Joel Harries, Scott Evans, Ethan Doyle, Lewis Young, Che Hope, Dan Haymond, Euan Rosser.
Merthyr: Chris Phillips, Dan Wall, Ollie Rees, Craig Locke, Shaun O’Rourke, Paddy McBride, Daffyd Stonelake, Tom Daley, James Soanes, Gareth Thompson, Alex Webber, Arron Pinches, Harley Thompson, Sam Jones, Rhys Rhys Davies. SUBS; Rhys Williams, Neil White, Keiron Williams, Callum Bradbury, Masa Tutaia, Adam Hoskins, Josh Martin, Ben Jones.