Champions elect Merthyr came withn a whisker of receiving a major blow to their title pretensions, stealing victory deep in injury time with a Kyle Evans try that was the game’s final play.
Ebbw started brightly with a classic Catch’n’Kynes after just 2 minutes. Merthyr came back strongly but could not penetrate the Steel wall and it was Dan Haymond who extended the lead to 8-0 just before the half hour. Ebbw’s pack was in rumbustuous mood, pushing Merthyr back in the scrums, stealing line out ball, carrying superbly and swarming all over the breakdowns which were, to be fair, something of a lottery as far as offences were concerned. Ebbw created several try scoring chances but could not quite finish off. Merthyr took the lead as half time approached, with Richard Powell kicking a penalty then converting Kyle Evans’s try from the bank side touchline. It was 8-10 at half time.
Powell had the chance to extend the lead but sent the kick wide. Dan Haymond made no mistake with his two attempts, and the hosts were 14-10 ahead in the final quarter. With fresh legs on, Merthyr again piled on the pressure but Ebbw responded magnificently to shut down space and prevent the Ironmen scoring. Frustration came from some refereeing decisions that, at least from the bank and stand looked, puzzling and kept Merthyr on the attack just when Ebbw had stormed up field. The small band of visiting supporters were delighted when, in injury time, Mr Davies judged that one of the Merthyr players had gone over following a series of rucks. However, delight turned to dismay on the AR’s intervention: knock on, scrum to Ebbw. It was surely the last play and Ebbw spirits rose, knowing that quick ball, hoofed dead, would seal the victory. All credit to the Merthyr pack for a huge 8-man shove that stole the ball and eventually saw Kyle Evans score the winning try, converted by Matthew Jarvis, for a 17-14 win. Massive credit to Ebbw for a wonderful effort that promises much for next season.
Merthyr can now become champions on Saturday, in a game that will be live on TV. It’s almost as if it was all scripted!
Man of the Match went to the all action Franchi twins, Dom and Joe, who were outstanding all evening.
The team was:
Dan Haymond, Stef Thomas, Paul King, Dominic Franchi, Toby Fricker; Callum Hall, Dai Jones; Ross Jones, Joe Franchi, Rob Sevenoaks; Kristian Parker, Lance Randall; Cameron Reagan, Ronny Keynes (Capt), Jonathan Davies.
Bench: Rhys Francis, Joel Harries, Curtis Hicks, Lewis Young, Ben Papp, Sam Ireland, Srdan Majkic, Luke Shore.
Many thanks to Newbridge RFC for agreeing permits.