Muddy mar­vels!

Merthyr de­feat Ebbw Vale to reach his­toric cup fi­nal:

Cynon Valley - - SPORT08 -

WRU CUP SEMI FI­NAL EBBW VALE .................. 6 MERTHYR ................... 10

THE pour­ing rain in the morn­ing had done noth­ing for the state of the Cross Keys Pandy park pitch and the qual­ity of the game suf­fered es­pe­cially in the sec­ond half.

This was a ding dong bat­tle that could have gone ei­ther way with only one try that set­tled the game in the sec­ond half.

Both sides took a while to set­tle due to the heavy go­ing and al­though Merthyr ap­plied early pres­sure, it was Ebbw Vale that had the chance to open the score, when out­side half Dai Lang­don sliced a 30-me­tre penalty after the iron­men were pe­nalised for not re­leas­ing.

Merthyr drove up field and made good me­tres from car­ries from cap­tain Craig Locke, back row men Osian Davies, Nick White, and Phil Rees. Full back Matthew Jarvis gave the iron­men the lead when he slot­ted over a 40-me­tre penalty straight be­tween the posts.

Ebbw Vale soon drew level 10 min­utes later and this time Lang­don made no mis­take with his penalty kick to tie the scores 3-3.

Merthyr than had the first chance of a try when a big drive up field from the Merthyr pack saw scrum half Justin James bring his backs into ac­tion and a try scor­ing pass from cen­tre Tom Ri­ley, was mis­han­dled by wing­man Kyle Evans close to the line and the chance had gone.

How­ever, it was Ebbw Vale that took the lead on 30 min­utes when a lon­grange penalty from Lang­don hit the cross bar and bounced over for a 6-3 lead.

Just be­fore half time Jarvis had the chance to tie the scores but his penalty kick from 35 me­ters out went wide of the posts.

With the pitch get­ting heav­ier under foot at the start of the sec­ond half both sides were guilty of drop­ping the greasy ball and the game be­came a real dog fight.

A cross kick early in the sec­ond half from out­side half Richard Pow­ell bounced on the Ebbw Vale line and only good de­fence from cen­tre Dom Franchi saved a cer­tain try.

Out­side half Pow­ell then had the chance to draw the sides level with a 30-me­tre penalty but his kick went wide of the posts and the chance had gone.

Merthyr then made sev­eral changes and brought on the ex­pe­ri­enced out­side half Gareth Davies who was brought straight into ac­tion when he made a side step break deep in­side the Ebbw Vale 25 and with the line in­sight his pass to sup­port­ing back­row man Osian Davies was in­ter­cepted by Ebbw Vale’s Cameron Re­gan and the chance had gone.

It was now all Merthyr as they tried to break down the Ebbw Vale de­fence look­ing for that all im­por­tant score, but once again drop passes and great tack­ling from Ebbw Vale kept them out.

A long kick up field from Josh Mar­tin pinned Ebbw Vale deep in­side their own 25 and when they tried to clear the dan­ger they dropped the slip­pery ball and Merthyr’s scrum half Justin James kick the ball on to­wards the Ebbw Vale line and won the race to the touch down to score what was the win­ning try, out­side half Davies con­verted to give Merthyr the lead 6-10 for the first time go­ing into the last 10 min­utes of the game.

Ebbw Vale then threw ev­ery­thing at the iron­men look­ing for a score but good de­fence es­pe­cially from cen­tres Ar­ron Pinches and Tom Ri­ley keep­ing them out and Merthyr held on for a fa­mous cup win.

Both sides should be con­grat­u­lated for a great cup tie con­sid­er­ing the heavy con­di­tions under foot.

It may not have been en­ter­tain­ing to watch but it cer­tainly was a good old-fash­ioned cup tie nail-biter where the re­sult good have gone ei­ther way right up to the fi­nal whis­tle.

This is the first time in Merthyr’s 142 year his­tory they have reached the WRU na­tional cup fi­nal and look for­ward to their sec­ond visit to the Prin­ci­pal­ity Sta­dium where on their last visit in 2014 they lifted the WRU plate when they de­feated Rhi­w­bina and now face the Black and am­bers of New­port in the fi­nal on Sun­day 29th April.

Merthyr this week turn their at­ten­tions back to league when they visit St He­len’s to face the all whites of Swansea.

PAUL LEWIS

Try scorer Justin James

Merthyr cel­e­brate a his­toric win

Joe Rees

Nathan Trevett

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