A tale of two halves 24-31
By Alex Kinsealla-Evans
The Steelmen went to St Helens fifth in the table, looking to continue their good run after victories against Llanelli and Bridgend, on a day that was perfect for rugby.
However, the team were slow out of the blocks in a first half they are likely to want to forget.
With the home side forwards on top, the first opportunity fell to the All Whites centre Osian Knott, who entered the Ebbw Vale twenty-two. However, the play came to nothing when the referee awarded a penalty to the away side.
The home side scored the first try of the game when through some good backs play, centre Knott with space in front of him showed pace down the wing and put in a kick which eventually found the supporting scrum half Gareth Rees, who went over for the try. Fly half James Davies successfully added the extras.
From a lineout in the Swansea twenty-two, the Steelmen forwards drove to the line, with captain Rhys Francis diving over to score his sides first try of the game. Outside half Evan Lloyd was unable to add the two points.
On the halfway line, with Ebbw winning a line out, scrum half Matthew Flanagan threw a long pass which was read and caught by the home side’s outside centre Tom Florence, who raced away unopposed to score the All Whites second try of the game. Davies again added the conversation.
With Swansea’s outside half James Davies marshalling his backline well, an excellent 50:22 by the number ten gave the home side a lineout in the away side’s twenty-two. From the lineout the referee awarded the home side a penalty, which Davies successfully kicked to put his side 17 – 5 ahead.
Swansea were awarded a scrum after the ball become stuck from a lineout inside the Steelmen’s twenty-two. From the scrum, the All Whites number eight Scott Jenkins picked up the ball and ran down the blindside to score in the corner. Fly half Davies successfully kicked the conversation.
Despite efforts by both sides, no further points were added to the scoreline before half time with Swansea deservedly going into the break ahead.
Half Time: Swansea 24-5 Ebbw Vale
The Ebbw Vale side came out for the second half clearly fired up. From a penalty, fly half Lloyd kicked into the Swansea twenty-two. Good home defence initially held up the attack before the referee awarded a penalty to the away side. Another kick to touch led to the away side nearly scoring a try. However, the Swansea defence held firm.
Ebbw coach Jason Strange replaced props Luke Garrett with Charley Kearns, Dave Whiting with Adam Court and flanker Joe Thomas with Lewis Young after fifty-seven minutes gone.
A further penalty awarded by the referee to the Steelmen saw outside half Lloyd kick to within the five-metre line. With the forwards building up a head of steam scrum half Matthew Flanagan cleverly picked up the ball and dived over to score his team’s second try. Lloyd missing the conversation.
With the Ebbw replacements starting to make an impact, a surging break from Lewis Young was only stopped by an illegal offence by the All Whites second row Tristan Davies. Referee Newman showed the player a yellow card.
Within a few minutes the home side were down to thirteen men, when flanker Callum Bowden was shown a yellow card for a foul. Lloyd kicked to the corner. However, the home sides thirteen men held the Ebbw attack up over the line.
Influential centre Dom Franchi was replaced after sixty-eight minutes by last week’s hero Kieran Meek.
The away side took advantage of the extra men when outside centre Ethan Phillips continued his recent good form by running at speed through a gap in the Swansea defence to touch down in the corner. Lloyd expertly added the extras to bring the Steelmen within seven points of their opponents.
Coach Strange cleared the replacement bench over the remaining minutes with captain Rhys Francis being replaced by Alex Watkins, Joe Bartlett replacing his brother Dylan Bartlett to mark his first game back, Dylan Davies making his debut for Ethan Phillips and Liam Lloyd coming on for Morgan Richards.
Referee Newman gave Swansea their third yellow card of the game when prop Ben Warren was penalised for a professional foul. However, the away side were unable to take advantage from the set play.
From a scrum on the halfway line, the Ebbw pack won the ball against the head. Quick ball out to the backs saw the ball at speedster Carrick McDonough’s hands, who showed a clean pair of heels to go over in the corner. Lloyd kicking the conversation from out wide to make the score 24 all.
From the immediate kick off, the ball was won by Ebbw’s second row Joe Bartlett, who went down with an unfortunate injury. The game was stopped for a period whilst the medical staff attended to Joe. Credit goes to all who attended so quickly and expertly.
The home side won a penalty from the resulting scrum. However, outside half Davies was unsuccessful with the kick.
With the play going into the last moments, the ball was caught by the Swansea’s number ten, who ran towards the half way line and threw a pass, which was expertly intercepted by replacement Lewis Young. The replacement flanker backed his own pace, put his head down and ran in unopposed to score the final try and win the game for the Steelmen. A brilliant kick by Lloyd from out wide added the extra two points.
FT: Swansea 24-31 Ebbw Vale
Whilst coach Strange will be happy with the five points from the game, he will no doubt be hoping his team put in an eighty-minute performance against Merthyr on Friday evening.
After the game we spoke to second row Dylan Bartlett. Dylan believed the team did not start from the off. They went 24-5 behind and made it difficult for themselves. However, he praised the squads work rate and was happy to grind out the win with a bonus point.
We then spoke to Ebbw Vale back’s coach Steve Lang. Steve acknowledged going in halftime the team needed a massive second half. The squad had spoken all week about making sure they stayed in the game and it is exactly what they did. He finished by praising the difference the replacements made and was pleased for the squad with the end result.
Finally, we caught up with Swansea backs coach James Hook. James was disappointed with the end result, especially after such a great first half for the home side. He was pleased with the tries his team scored, however, he felt the home side let Ebbw back into the game. He finished by praising the Ebbw Vale pack, who he felt were good but was frustrated to lose it at the end.