14 November 2021 / Club News

Just Short in the End

Yr Hendy RFC 28 – v – 26 Aberystwyth RFC

After a long layoff, rugby in the Admiral National League 1 West resumed on Saturday with Aber travelling to Yr Hendy for their opening game. Conditions were perfect for fast open rugby with no wind or rain to get in the way of good handling of a dry ball. Aber fielded a much changed fifteen with new half backs who had never played together, a new combination at centre and changes in the pack. However, this ‘new’ team started strongly after kicking off as they forced their opponents back close to their tryline. Then, for nearly fifteen minutes, they had drive after drive stopped in their tracks by the determined tackling of the home side’s powerful defence. Hendy turned over Aber possession in the loose two or three times and eventually drove them back.

From the early scrums and lineouts it became clear that domination up front in the set pieces and in the loose would be difficult for the visitors. Whereas Aber had been forced into making a few changes in their pack, the hosts’ well-drilled forwards had more experience of playing together.

After the frustration of failing to score early despite huge territorial advantage, Aber lost ground as Hendy’s forwards made progress upfield and opened the scoring with a penalty from 40 metres out. Aber then lost key back-row forward Lee Truck with a back injury to be replaced by Steffan Rattray. Hendy added another penalty and shortly after scored their first try when they broke up Aber’s scrum five yards from their try line and grounded the ball. The conversion failed but at 11 – 0 the hosts looked comfortable.

The visitors’ first try came from a long clearance kick by Hendy’s full back which was fielded by full-back Matthew Hughes well within his own 22 metre area. He set off on an amazing, jinking run which left the opponents snatching at his shadow as he broke to within five metres of the Hendy try-line before feeding Arwel Lloyd, well up in support, to score. Hughes converted the try he had so brilliantly created and Aber were back in the game at 11 – 7 at half-time.

The second half started badly for the visitors as prop Oisin Canney was yellow carded for blocking. This was just one of a number of baffling, one-sided  decisions made by the referee. Aber then won a scrum deep in their own half and before scrum half Benjamin could pick up the ball he was tackled by his opposite number who gathered the ball and raced over for a try that should never have been allowed. This was converted and the score moved on to 18 – 7.

Aber quickly recovered and from broken play, scrum half Dylan Benjamin scooped up the ball and made a break for the line. When he was stopped he found centre Dylan Evans on hand for the try scoring pass. Crucially, the conversion was missed but Aber had closed the gap to 18 – 12. More and more handling errors crept into Aber’s game after this as they tried too hard to get on top. It was from such an error that Hendy increased their lead with another converted try to move to 25 – 12.

The visitors were soon to close the gap. One of the many features of the senior squad’s game that Aber’s coaches, Iestyn and Ifan Thomas have made cast iron, it is the attitude never to give up.   

A break upfield by Dylan Evans took him to within ten metres of the Hendy line before he fed the supporting Ben Jones who found Sam Hesden storming up on his left to score Aber’s third try. Hughes converted and at 25 – 19 they had everything to play for. However, the home soon extended their lead to 28 – 19 with a penalty.

Aber had the final say as winger Ben Jones showed what he could have done had he seen more ball more quickly during the game. After a powerful break he fed Matthew Hughes who provided the scoring pass for Dylan Evans’ second try of the match. Hughes converted almost on the stroke of full time to close the scoring at 28 – 26 with Aber winning the try count by four to three.

On reflection this score reflected the overall balance of possession and territory both sides won but not the effort made by Aber’s reshuffled team. The visitors’ backs were put under a lot of pressure by their opposite numbers so there was no room for smooth, fluid movement of the ball to their strong wingers. This pressure also forced Aber into too many handling errors to launch any threatening attacks. As a result, most of their tries came from broken play relying on powerful running, excellent offloading and consistent support.

Up front, there were encouraging performances from three of Aber’s new wave of forwards – Will Caron, Steffan Rattray and Sam Hesden – helped by strong support from Bryn Shepherd and Paul Stubbs. Behind them young Dylan Benjamin at scrum half did well in a harsh baptism at scrum half against Hendy’s back row. Dylan Evans and Ben Jones also outshone their opponents with strong, physical performances. Matthew Hughes was, as ever, a towering force at full-back.

The whole of Aber’s squad and their coaches can draw a lot of confidence and optimism from this performance.  

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