Autumn finally arrived on Sunday when the Old Penarthians U10s travelled to take on Whitchurch RFC on a very cold but glorious morning. Whilst the ever-cold Whitchurch High Pitch had parents and coaches reaching for the hats, scarves and gloves the boys put in an on-fire performance.
Although only 25 of the 39 strong squad were available, Penarthians were still able to field two teams, handing debuts to new players Jimmy Lloyd and (returning after an absence of two seasons) Alec Davies.
As ever Whitchurch were fantastic hosts and all players, coaches and parents conducted themselves in a manner befitting the game of rugby. Playing four 12 minute games it was the Old Pens Blue squad who were first up and after a reminder from the coaches that they need to switch on straight away they flew out of the blocks.
Summer signing Gethin Jones took on the role of scrum half and had an excellent game. Making several tackles as well as a lovely individual try with a show and go that left the Whitchurch defence wrong footed, he burst through the line to run in from 30 metres. Also showing a clean set of heals was Luke Dennett who made several breaks down the left wing, having the good sense to cut back in from the touchline to score a try on one occasion and making some very good offloads throughout the game.
Josh King was his usual dynamic self at the breakdown, stealing opposition ball at will as well as making sure that he protected his teammates from turnover in attack. After several warnings (from coaches rather than the ref) to keep tackles down he made some excellent stops, most notably when a Whitchurch breakout on the right wing threatened to result in a try, a fantastic cover tackle stopped the attack in its tracks and also resulted in another turnover. Joining in at the breakdown was Dylan Rose who made at least a dozen turnovers which kicked off some excellent team tries. Great work so far this season, keep it up.
Evan Friis had a good all round performance with good handling in attack and great technique when tackling. He was also responsible for some great ball retention under sustained Whitchurch counter rucking. Also key at the breakdown was Luke Summerfield who has added a jackal skill to last year's excellent tackle ability. Luke was also instrumental in several attacks and offered great support running on several occasions on the right wing should one more pass have been needed.
Sully Primary boys Jac Johns and Joe Francis-Oaten make up for what they may lack in subtlety with strong, direct running that at times smashed a hole in the opposition defence. Their straight, no-nonsense approach created gainline advantage for the team resulting in tries for their teammates and at least one try between them as I can still hear Joe's Mum shouting support!
Jericho Perkins, fresh from scoring his first try for Vale Schools the previous day carried well with good balance and the ball in two hands and used his support runners as an option when needed as well as scoring a brace of tries himself. He was also very effective at the breakdown, clearing out well. Zach Gilbert supported the whole team with some strong tackling as well as offering another direct runner to move the ball forwards, just keep that gum shield in your mouth rather than on your cheek! Schoolmate and debutant Alec Davies made the most of his carries and will become more involved as the weeks progress.
A lot of the organising of the team fell on the shoulders of Harry Edwards and Jacob Edmunds. Both players were very vocal in organising Penarthians defence but also led by example making their tackles and being active at the breakdown. Pleasingly Harry is often first to offer himself at scrum time, something others can learn from given the scrum is the place where real rugby players are made. Jacob topped off some great clearout work with a lovely try to beat his Dad's record in an Old Pens jersey.
The Old Pens Gold team was led by Kyle Haynes who has refined his tackle technique from that of a crazy gibbon to a human octopus with opposition runners rarely able to free themselves of his grip. Kyle also shared the scrum half duties with Caleb Isherwood who was at the centre of the Penarthians defence for much of the game with his low chop tackles complimented by some good hands in attack.
Jared Penn was explosive in attack with his unique running style filling defenders with a mix of confusion and fear! Jared always carries hard and links well with support runners and this was evident in several attacks during the game. Another Vale Schools representative taking part was Ethan Galsworthy who continually surprises attacking players and supporters alike with his ability to bring down the ball carrier. Ethan made some excellent carries through the middle as well as on the wings and more and more uses his teammates to carry on an attack.
Jimmy Lloyd, playing his first ever game of rugby acquitted himself well with tackles in defence and runs in attack. What he lacks in experience he more than makes up for in his steely determination and I'm sure he will be a strong addition to the Old Penarthians team, especially after receiving a round of applause from his teammates for his debut efforts.
Dafydd Hewlett made a good impression at the breakdown, stealing the opposition ball on several occasions and despite one tackle that would have been high on Luke Charteris he defended very well. Morgan Pendleton-Jones also made a return to action. Despite complaining of a sore knee, Morgan was involved throughout the game and contributed to the team effort.
Three players carried the ball well in the middle of the park: Dan Gaughan-James, Connor Kennedy and James Bennett. All three providing a strong platform from which the team could build. Connor carried the ball directly often drawing in two, three or even four defenders to halt his progress which created valuable space for his wingers to exploit. Dan was unlucky not to score a try after a particularly barn-storming run to the try line resulted in the referee ruling the ball had been held up. James had a good all round game, getting close to players for his tackles and with one memorable run through the middle of the Whitchurch defence for an exceptional try which he added to later on despite Mum missing it as she was chatting.
Leading the way in tackles once again was Macsen Callaghan and it was also good to see him more involved in the middle of the pitch looking to carry the ball. Pushing Macsen for top tackler was Dylan Davies who has improved his tackling and all round play significantly from last season. Dylan has been very focused on his tackling, not only during training but also in his own time and it shows his hard work is paying off.
All the coaches were very pleased with the performance which showed a good improvement in the areas that have been worked on in training but more importantly seeing the teamwork and fun the players were having.
The Under 10s have a home fixture this Sunday. Meet time is 9.30am for a 10am kick off v Clwb Rygbi Cymru Caerdydd on the 1st Team pitch. A 2 minute silence is planned for 11am for Remembrance Sunday.
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