All Narberth players and supporters were determined to see-off the challenge from the visitors from Ceridigion on Friday night, having managed to lose the away game in this local derby fixture earlier in the season. Unfortunately, by the end of the match, the Otters were most unhappy with another unexpected loss.
Before kick-off, a minute’s silence was observed in memory of Richard (Dicky) Parry, who in earlier times was an important supporter of the Otters, and also remembered was Barry Webb, of Tavernspite, a well-known personality and past sportsman, whose son, David, is an active member of the Narberth Junior section of the rugby club.
The game started with the Otters showing some style and they were quickly on the scoreboard, but the game turned on its head as they were again on the wrong end of a series of adjudged offences at the ruck.
Initially the visitors kicked off in this floodlit evening game, but within two minutes the Otters were on the scoreboard when wing Jordan Roberts scored a fine try, which Ianto Griffiths failed to convert. The try was almost text-book style, a clean catch at the lineout by Alex Jenkins, followed by a rolling maul, before the ball was released to scrum-half Jonathon Roberts, who fed it to fly-half Ianto Griffiths. He in turn fed outside centre Steve Martin, who sped forward and passed on to fullback Johnny Morgan, who made ground before releasing winger Roberts. He still had a bit of work to do, but was able to speed over the line to touch down near the far corner. The conversion proved difficult and failed to find the target.
The Otters quickly attacked again, but when a ruck was formed, they were penalised.
On seven minutes, Newcastle Emlyn were awarded a penalty and veteran fly-half Barry Thomas had no problem finding the target to make the score 5-3.
On 10 minutes another penalty was awarded, this time to Narberth and Ianto Griffiths made no mistake, finding the target to increase the Otters’ lead to 8-3.
For the following 27 minutes, Narberth seemed to be constantly penalised at the rucks, also losing number eight Lewis Wood to the sin bin on 27 minutes.
The penalties continued, with Newcastle Emlyn failing to convert three attempts at goal, before fullback Shawn Leonard finally managed to find the target.
Then on 32 minutes, the visitors scored their first try, following yet another adjudged Narberth infringement near the stand. The ball was quickly moved across field where centre Teifion Davies received possession and managed to evade the defence to cross for the touchdown, which Don Davies converted.
This put the visitors 13-8 in the lead, which was how the score remained at half-time.
Statistics don’t lie and they showed that the Otters had been penalised 18 times to Emlyn’s two. The Otters’ supporters were agitated at the one-sided situation, some in anger, some in bewilderment.
As a result of the infringements, the visitors were able to thwart the Otters and the experienced fly-half Barry Thomas was continuously making use of the situation, either with clever kicks or by providing continual prompting to his threes.
The second half created a further reaction in the stand when home flanker Pat Roberts was yellow-carded for an infringement at the ruck when a Narberth attack was stopped.
A minute later, the visitors scored their second try. The penalty kick was aimed at the touchline and from the resultant lineout, Newcastle Emlyn moved the ball quickly and after what seemed like two forward passes and some weak defensive play, it reached fullback Shaun Leonard, who touched down under the sticks, with Dan Davies having no problem with the conversion.
This score was greeted by much disbelief from the Otters supporters and applause and whoops of joy from the visiting supporters.
Immediately, the Narberth coaches replaced Steve Martin with James Stephenson.
The score at this point was 20-8. The try had seen Newcastle Emlyn spirits soar, but the Otters raised their game and it was now proving a real derby contest.
Narberth attacked strongly and, via a series of phases, advanced and reached the five-metre line, where a ruck offence occurred and this time a Newcastle Emlyn player was sent to the sin bin.
Narberth, with their powerful pack, chose the scrum. The ball was fed in and the scrum went backwards at a rate of knots; the ball shot out, but as Narberth attacked, the referee blew for another scrum.
Newcastle Emlyn changed their front row, bringing on Gethin Davies at prop and hooker David Jones. The srummaging intensified and a few moments later, on 59 minutes, the referee awarded Narberth a penalty try. Ianto Griffiths slotted the simple conversion, cutting the deficit to just 20-15.
The intensity of effort of both teams again increased. Narberth replaced Jamie Kaijaks with Ollie Evans at tight-head and the visitors refreshed their second row.
The Otters also replaced Jonathan Rogers with Rhys lane, who was soon in the thick of things.
They were again penalised, but the Newcastle Emlyn kick to the touchline was safely fielded by Rhys Lane, who fed his forwards. The pack moved forward, before feeding back to Lane, who kicked towards the touchline near the clubhouse. The ball was collected by Newcastle Emlyn, but they were forced into touch. This gave the Otters a lineout near the five-metre line, but unfortunately the scoring opportunity was lost when the ball was thrown long, allowing the Emlyn defence to clear their lines.
Narberth regained the ball and were awarded a penalty on the five-metre line. Electing for a scrum, they pushed forward and released the ball, but with the ball moving swiftly through the hands, the final pass went astray and ended up in touch. It was a telling moment.
Marc Jones came on to replace hooker Dan Smith after 71 minutes.
Once again the visitors advanced and fly-half Barry Thomas coolly put pressure on the Otters by kicking to the grandstand corner. At the lineout, with a Narberth throw, Alex Jenkins was challenged and somehow the visitors knocked the ball backwards and in the scramble, with Newcastle Emlyn attempting to attack, the Otters were again penalised. This time Shawn Leonard missed with his attempt at goal.
Narberth restarted and made efforts to gain ground, but with spirits raised, Newcastle Emlyn thwarted all their efforts to regain the initiative.
When the referee blew his whistle for full-time, the visiting supporters whooped with joy, with their team gaining four valuable league points, while their Otters counterparts were clearly dumbfounded at events.
Later threequarters coach Roger Davies, reflecting on the game, commented that he was very disappointed to lose, especially at home in what was a local derby game.
“To lose twice to Newcastle Emlyn in the season is disappointing, especially since we had prepared well in the week,” he said. “We did not react very well to the referee, we kept being penalised for the same offence, we should have learned the lesson early on in the first half, but we didn’t, still giving penalties away. We could not get a foothold in the game and they took their chances well, especially their backs. Unfortunately, we could not get back into the game second half.”
Narberth fielded: Johnny Morgan, Jordan Roberts, Steve Martin (James Stephenson), Ollie Reyland, Nick Gale, Jonathon Rogers (Rhys Lane), Dan Jacobs, Dan Smith (Marc Jones), Jamie Kaijak (Ollie Evans), Adam Clarke, Alex Jenkins, Gareth Bateman (capt), Lewis Wood, Pat Roberts.