Merthyr defeat Ebbw Vale to reach historic cup final:
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.
Try scorer Justin James
Merthyr celebrate a historic win