Stop-start performance earns points for Ironmen
MERTHYR .................... 29 BRIDGEND ................... 15
THIS was the first visit of Bridgend Ravens to the Wern Sports complex and they made the Ironmen work hard for their bonus point win, which keeps them top of the Premiership league table.
In perfect playing conditions both sides took a while to settle into any pattern and Merthyr were guilty of not winning clean lineout ball, and poor passing by the threequarters. Bridgend were on the score board first after Merthyr were caught off side and visiting outside half Jamie Murphy made no mistake with a well taken penalty.
Merthyr were struggling to win good clean lineout possession, and this seemed to frustrate the Merthyr side.
Wing man Kyle Evans looked as if he would give the Ironmen the lead when he broke up filed to create an overlap and with a man outside him, his pass was adjudged forward, by Referee Thomas Spurrier and the chance was gone.
Murphy then should have double the visitors lead but his penalty went wide from 35 meters out. The home crowd tried to inspire the Ironmen on, but they couldn’t find a way passed the Bridgend defence.
However, just before half time a catch and drive from a lineout 15 meters out saw the home forwards at last drive back Bridgend and home number 8 Phil Rees crashed over for Merthyr’s opening try.
As the second half started it was Bridgend that began to move the ball around to attack the home defence, but it was home full back Matthew Jarvis who edged the Ironmen further ahead when he slotted over a 40-meter penalty after Bridgend had infringed at the set piece.
This seemed to settle Merthyr as they then began to string several phases together with back row men Osian Davies and Phil Rees making good meters with their ball carrying skills.
A line out 30 meters out won by young second row Ben Sier, was driven forward by the Merthyr pack and a perfect cross kick from outside half Gareth Davies found wingman Richard Carter in space to race over under the posts, Jarvis converted to give Merthyr a 15-3 lead.
Things then got worse for the visitors when second row Jack Pope was yellow carded for collapsing a Merthyr drive 20 meters out. From the Penalty Merthyr elected for the scrum and after 5 attempts which saw the scrum collapse the Referee yellow carded Prop Cai Lewis and awarded a penalty try to extend the Ironmen’s lead 22-3. Merthyr then took advantage of the 13 men Bridgend as they spread the ball wide from a lineout which found Richard Carter in space to race over for his second try, and the all-important bonus point, outside half Gareth Davies converted to extend Merthyr’s lead 29-3 with 10 minutes remaining. Credit to Bridgend they kept going and were rewarded firstly when wingman Aaron Grabham broke through some weak home tackling to score a try which replacement outside half Ryan Evans converted.
It was Bridgend who had the final word when replacement prop Dewi Lake crashed over from short range after some could work from the Bridgend forwards, but Merthyr were too far in front for the Ravens and ran out winners 29-15.
This was a scrappy performance from the Ironmen who struggled to find any rhythm form both forwards and backs, however at this stage of the season it’s all important to keep winning.
Merthyr now have a busy Easter period with firstly Neath away on good Friday, kick off 2:30pm followed by Llandovery at home on Easter Monday again 2:30pm kick off, before a WRU Cup semi final on the Saturday against Gwent rivals Ebbw Vale at Cross Keys, 5:15pm kick off which is being televised live on S4C.
Phil Rees makes a break