This relatively local derby before Christmas attracted a large number of sponsors and guests before the game.
Before kick-off, a presentation of £4,580 was made to Prostrate Cancer by the club chairman, Dorian Phillips, on behalf of the club, to Mr. Yeung Ng, consultant urologist. This was 50 per cent of the proceeds of a Slave Auction at the club earlier in the year.
Newcastle Emlyn had brought a large number of supporters which added to the derby atmosphere. In the earlier game, Narberth had won 23-13.
Before kick-off, a significant number of changes were announced to the visitors’ team which had supporters of both sides scrabbling for their pens. The Otters fielded young Lewys Gibby at scrum-half, Rhys Lane having suffered a hamstring injury in mid-week.
Ianto Griffiths kicked-off down the field for the Otters, which was quickly returned. In the initial responses, the Otters seemed to be sluggish, perhaps still feeling the effects of the previous week’s brutal encounter. Newcastle Emlyn were much sharper and clearly determined to cause an upset, having won in the same fixture a year ago.
On three minutes, the Otters were adjudged to have infringed at the ruck and winger Daniel Davies slotted the penalty between the posts to give the visitors a three-point lead.
This was followed up with Newcastle Emlyn playing with some aggression and at this stage getting the better of the exchanges.
Fielding a high placed kick, Narberth’s Ianto Griffiths was illegally tackled, but Nick Gale failed to find the target with the penalty kick.
Newcastle Emlyn kicked out and this time fullback James Stephenson was illegally tackled fielding the high ball, with Nick Gale this time making no mistake with the penalty to bring the scores level at 3-3 afer 12 minutes.
For the next 10 minutes, the Newcastle Emlyn attacks were thwarted by the strong Otters’ defence, who continued to use the high kicks to gain ground. Again the Otters were adjudged to have infringed on the ground when a ruck formed and Daniel Davies landed another penalty to put the visitors back in front at 6-3.
Typical of a derby, neither team could gain ascendancy, despite both packs contesting aggressively. Then the visitors entered the Otters’ half and made ground, seemingly being forced into touch on the five-metre line on the clubhouse side. The referee then awarded a scrum, which the visitors heeled, the ball was worked back to midfield from where fly-half Richard Hope failed with an attempted drop goal.
Ianto Griffiths kicked out from the 22 line and the ball quickly came back to fullback James Stephenson, who this time sped forward and kicked the ball into midfield; the Otters gave chase, causing the visitors to give away a penalty, and Nick Gale made no mistake with his 30-metre kick, bringing the scores level at six points each on 27 minutes.
Further exchanges took place and then centre Jack Price broke the deadlock. On 33 minutes, the visitors, having repelled an Otters attack, kicked to midfield, where the ball was fielded by Lewys Gibby. He quickly fed Jack Price, the strong running centre, who, in typical style, forced his way forward, evading attempted tackles to burst through the remaining defence and cross the line with two Newcastle Emlyn players hanging on to him. Nick Gale failed with his conversion attempt.
During the attack, the Newcastle Emlyn captain and hooker Alex Williams was injured and had to be stretchered off, to be replaced by Neil Elworthy.
Minutes later the referee blew for half-time.
In the first half, Newcastle Emlyn had set the pace, but were unable to break through the well-structured Otters’ defence. Towards the end of the half, the Otters seemed to be gaining more possession.
During half-time, a collection was made for the Wales Air Ambulance.
Immediately after the restart, the Otters were penalised, but Dan Davies was unable to score from the penalty. Five minutes later, from a ruck, Lewys Gibby kicked high over the heads of his forwards, only for the ball to be returned. James Stephenson fielded it and broke forward, but his pass was knocked on.
On 50 minutes, the Otters replaced Jake Simm with Steffan Phillips and Ianto Griffiths with Jonathan Rogers. To accommodate the forward change, Calumn Tree moved forward into the second row, enabling Steffan to take his place in the back row.
At the first scrum following the changes, the Otters set up a scoring position, only for the pass from Lewys Gibby to his partner to go to ground.
On 54 minutes, Nick Gale had an opportunity to increase the lead, but unfortunately his penalty kick lacked sufficient distance.
At this point, Lyndon Cooper replaced Bradley Davies on the loose-head and, when the visitors took off their replacement hooker, they lacked a further hooker on the bench, resulting in uncontested scrums. Several local supporters were outraged at what seemed like gamesmanship.
Newcastle Emlyn also replaced fly-half Richard Hope with Dafydd Evans.
On 58 minute, James Stephenson fielded a high kick, before suffering a somewhat dubious tackle as he sped forward when a certain try seemed likely. The referee decided the incident was worthy of a yellow card.
From the penalty, Nick Gale kicked to the corner. A minute later at the Otters’ lineout, Alex Jenkins took clean ball and fed Lewys Gibby, who in turn fed Nick Gale. Moving forward, he set Jack Price on his way and he once again forced his way over the line to score the try, which Nick Gale converted.
This gave the Otters a more comfortable lead at 18-6.
On 69 minutes, Jack Price suffered a blood injury, to be temporarily replace by Joel Hutchings.
Three minutes later, Newcastle Emlyn attempted to cross the Otters’ line via centre Llyr Jones, but strong defence once again saw the ball knocked from his grasp.
This was followed with veteran hooker Dan Smith leaving the field with what seemed like a hamstring injury, to be replaced by Bradley Davies.
Time was running out when the visitors gained a lineout, having been awarded a penalty kick which saw the ball landing within 10 metres of the Otters’ line. However, with great resolve, the Otters stole the lineout and the potential threat was lost as the ball was kicked clear.
The game ended with Jonathon Rogers making sure with his kick into touch.
The Otters deserved their home win. In the second half they took control, with Newcastle Emlyn running out of puff, though they were worthy opponents in this relatively tight derby game.
The Otters’ defence was once again significant in thwarting the visitors and there were some fine performances by the squad.
In a crowded clubhouse, centre Jack Price was announced as man-of-the-match by main sponsors G. D. Harries and Sons Ltd.
Later, captain Alex Jenkins commented: “It was a tough game, they were strong up front and they kept coming at us. Our defence was outstanding at times, though we let ourselves down at other times. We were scrappy in the middle of the rucks, but we dug in deep when they threatened our line. The two tries were outstanding and it was nice to finish the end of the year with a win and remain joint second in the league.”
Narberth fielded: James Stephenson, Nick Gale, Jack Price (Joel Hutchings), Ollie Reyland, Liam Hutchings, Ianto Griffiths (Jonathan Rogers), Lewys Gibby, Bradley Davies (Lyndon Cooper), Dan Smith (Bradley Davies), Tom Slater, Jake Simm (Steffan Phillips), Alex Jenkins (Capt.), Richard Rees, Calumn Tree, Sean Jenkins.
There are no home games over the Christmas period, but Narberth Athletic will play their Boxing Day Gareth Edwards Memorial game at Crymych, kick-off 2.30 pm.