WRU Championship: Narberth 32-13 Newcastle Emlyn

It was a case of job done for Narberth at the Lewis Lloyd ground today as they notched a bonus point win over Newcastle Emlyn to ensure captain Alex Jenkins marked his 250th game for the club in style.

Steffan Phillips, Rhys Lane, Yannick Parker and Rhodri Owens all crossed for tries in a deserved win, with Emyln’s cause plagued by a late red card to replacement Hayden Baldwin.

Jenkins was given a warm reception pre-kick off and there was also a minute’s silence for Roger Price, once a pivotal player for The Otters, after he died last week aged 65.

It was Emlyn who were quickest out the blocks though and after a sustained spell of pressure in the Narberth 22, full back Shaun Leonard kicked them in front with a penalty.

But The Otters soon took control and twice Jenkins turned down three points as No 10 Jonathan Rogers kicked to the corner– and the second time it paid dividends with No 8 Steffan Phillips touching down from a lineout drive.

Nick Gale converted brilliantly from out wide.

The pressure continued as some deft hands from Phillips in midfield sent Tom Powell on a charging run down the right wing, but Sean Gale’s side blew a golden chance to go further ahead when Parker failed to hold Gale’s pass with the try line begging.

The latter soon added three points though with a 40 metre penalty and as the penalty count mounted for the visitors, the winger made it 13-3 with a much simpler effort.

And then just before half time came a decisive score. After Leonard was caught isolated and pinged for holding in his own 22 Rogers again went for the corner – and after the Emlyn pack held out an off the ball melee resulted in yellow cards for home centre Jack Price and Emlyn second row Bleddyn Davies.

Three successive Narberth scrums followed, the second of which resulted in another yellow as Emlyn prop Ifan James was sent to the bin, and inevitably the pressure told as Phillips went blind and set up Lane to dive over.

Again, the touchline conversion proved no problem for Gale.

But in the opening 20 minutes of the second half, the contest stagnated somewhat as Emlyn managed to shore up at the set piece while flanker Jon Hill was instrumental at slowing down, and twice stealing, Narberth ball at the breakdown.

Leonard landed another penalty to reduce the deficit to 14 points but on the hour mark, Narberth struck again.

And they did so with the best moment of the match as Rogers’ miss pass instigated a run around move in midfield that culminated in Parker finishing clinically in the corner.

For once Gale was off target with the conversion but as The Otters chased for a bonus point try, their cause was helped by a red card to Emlyn replacement Baldwin as he carelessly threw punches while grounded in a ruck right in front of referee John Darcy.

The official promptly showed a red card, and in truth he had little option.

And yet it was the visitors who struck next as centre Carwyn Evans, playing on permit from Aberystwyth, weaved his way over 15 metres. Leonard converted and suddenly at 25-12, Emlyn senses a glimmer.

But it was short lived as The Otters soon sealed the fourth try they craved, hammering away at the Emlyn line before hooker Rhodri Owens finally broke Emlyn’s resistance with a powerful burst to the posts.

Gale converted as Narberth rounded off 2018 in perfect fashion.

Sean Gale (Narberth head coach): “The first half I thought we were very good defensively and I like to think we could have had more points as well. We created chances just didn’t take them.

“But in the set piece we had the upper hand and are backs always looked dangerous.

“Overall it’s a bonus point win and a very good end to the year. So we have to be happy with that.”

Narberth lay the foundations:

The Otters controlled possession and territory for large parts of the first half, and it was in that first 40 minutes that the damage was done.

The front row of Bradley Davies, Rhodri Owens and Tom Slater were in the ascendancy in the scrum and replacement Tom Kajaks also made a real impact - and put in two bone crunching tackles to boot.

Sean Gale was quick to emphasise the defensive effort afterwards but would also have been happy with the way Narberth threatened with ball in hand. The third try was sublime and in Jack Price and Kieron Jones, they have a centre pairing that can both mix hitting it up with going wide.

Emlyn improved in the early stages of second half, and the half time introduction of scrum half Dafydd Evans seemed to speed up their play. But prior to that their set piece had been all over the shop, and as well as being on the back foot in the scrum, four times they lost lineouts on their own throw.

They did improve the latter bit after the break but by then, had left themselves too much to do.

Overall, the score line was a pretty accurate reflection of the contest.

250 not out:

The Championship is a physical, uncompromising league (as was the old Division One), so for any player to play 250 times for one club at that level is admirable.

In an era where players tend to move about at will, the loyalty and durability of Jenkins should be commended. The result was a nice way to mark a landmark day for him.

Fitness permitting, I’m sure he’ll have 300 in his sights too.

Man of the match - Steffan Phillips:

Both Phillips and fellow back rower Tom Powell put in serious shifts, defensively and with ball in hand.

And both can play too, with the No 8 at one point showing soft hands to set Powell off on a charge down the wing.

Phillips maybe edges it courtesy of also scoring from that early lineout drive, although I note the popular ‘Deadball Line’ Twitter account gave the nod to Powell – with a crate of Budweiser as his prize.

Sorry Steffan I can’t match that. But you’ll get a mention in the paper.

Narberth: Ianto Griffiths, Nick Gale, Kieron Jones, Jack Price, Yannick Parker, Jonathan Rogers, Rhys Lane, Bradley Davies, Rhodri Owens, Tom Slater, Jake Simms, Alex Jenkins (capt), Andrew Cooke, Tom Powell, Steffan Phillips. Replacements: Dan Jacobs, Tom Kajaks, Harry Phillips, Lewys Gibby, Jake Jenkins.

Newcastle Emlyn: Shaun Leonard, Llyr Jones, Carwyn Evans, Andrew Owens, Llyr Davies, Sion Edwards, Mike Jones, Emrys Davies, Alex Williams, Ifan James, Bleddyn Davies, Osian Davies, Callum Evans, Jon Hill, Brynmor Davies. Replacements: Scott Hill, Lee Griffiths, Hayden Baldwin, Dafydd Evans.