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Wales On Sunday - - SPORT ON SUNDAY -

THE Merthyr pack was just too big and too pow­er­ful for the Steel­men to han­dle as they slumped to their sec­ond suc­ces­sive de­feat in the Prin­ci­pal­ity Premier­ship.

The reign­ing cham­pi­ons were very good value for their con­clu­sive vic­tory that put them six points clear of Ebbw Vale at the top of the ta­ble.

But for some in­cred­i­bly brave de­fence, the home side would have been buried un­der an avalanche of points.

“We were ob­vi­ously dis­ap­pointed to lose at home, but Merthyr have got some real power and strength up front. We are a bit bat­tered and bruised, but we kept them to two tries,” said Ebbw Vale head coach Greg Woods.

“We had a re­ally bad first five min­utes, but then we stead­ied the ship.

“I was pleased we didn’t con­cede when Ronny Kynes was off the field, but we didn’t carry hard enough or clean out well enough.

“I was pleased with the spirit we showed – we didn’t fold and we dug in hard.

“We’ve got a week off now be­fore a tough trip to Llan­dovery.”

Merthyr hit their hosts hard from the start of the game and came up with the first score of a cold and then wet night with a de­ci­sive driv­ing li­ne­out.

Nick White took the ball at the tail and the rest of the pack joined him in driv­ing up to the home line.

In­ter­na­tional ref­eree Nigel Owens spot­ted home skip­per Kynes pulling the maul down and not only ran to the posts to in­di­cate a penalty try, but also sent Kynes to the sin-bin in only the fourth minute.

It was still 7-0 to Merthyr at the break, two penal­ties from Matthew Jarvis’ big boot soon stretched the lead to 13 points.

Then, just af­ter the hour mark, the for­wards worked their way up to the home line be­fore re­leas­ing to al­low the im­pres­sive wing Jay Baker to power over.

Jarvis con­verted to take his league tally to 66 so far this sea­son and it was game, set and match.

The Merthyr skip­per Craig Locke led by ex­am­ple, twice get­ting up to, but not quite over, the home line, and was part of the unit that trashed the Steel­men’s line-out.

Miss­ing Ash­ley Sweet, the home side then lost two more tar­get men and ended the match with a back row that con­tained re­place­ment hooker Rhys Clarke, wing Toby Fricker and flanker Owen Young play­ing at No 8.

By con­trast, Merthyr had an out­stand­ing back row trip in Nick White, Jack Perkins and man of the match Phil Rees. They car­ried and tack­led hard and Rees in par­tic­u­lar showed off some great han­dling skills.

“It was much harder out there than it looked on the TV. We dug in and got the re­sult,” ad­mit­ted Rees.

“Ebbw are an out­stand­ing team, but our de­fence was phe­nom­e­nal.”

The only down­side for head coach Dale McIn­tosh was a first-half in­jury to cen­tre Terri Gee, who had to be helped off the pitch. He will have his leg in­jury mon­i­tored this week.

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