Prior to the game, the clubhouse was full with sponsors and guests enjoying their excellent meal and fellowship. In the Players Bar, the Former Players enjoyed their reunion, with Gordon Eynon, the District H representative, as chief guest.
In remembering the loss of Roger Price who passed away a week ago, Gordon indicated he played in the Narberth Youth along with Roger, and within minutes, club chairman, Dorian Phillips, produced a photograph of the winning Youth seven which clearly showed a young Gordon in the front row.
The association president, Islwyn Howells, then presented Gordon with the Former Players distinctive tie.
At kick-off time, the teams were led onto the field to loud applause for club captain, Alex Jenkins, who was playing his 250th game for the Otters. A minute’s silence was then observed for the late Roger Price who had been a player of exceptional rugby and cricket ability from 1969 to 1986, which included a two-season spell with the Scarlets.
On the field, Newcastle Emlyn kicked off and the ball was immediately misfielded and a scrum called. Emlyn immediately attacked enthusiastically on the 10-metre area. The referee whistled for a scrum. Then a second scrum was called and heeling the ball. the Otters fed Ianto Griffiths who cleared the danger.
Within three minutes of the start, the Otters were penalised for standing offside and Shaun Leonard kicked Emlyn into a three-point lead.
The Otters then upped their game. Emlyn infringed at the breakdown. Jonathan Rogers kicked to touch in the Emlyn half. At the lineout, Alex Jenkins jumped, safely collecting the ball for the pack to develop a rolling maul, which Emlyn collapsed. This time fly-half Jonathan Rogers placed his kick to the clubhouse corner. The Otters varied the jumper and forming a rolling maul, forced their way over the line for number eight Steffan Phillips to score. Nick Gale converted the touchline kick, giving the Otters a 7-3 lead.
Some eight minutes later, the Otters should have scored again. Having moved forward quickly and with nimble passes, the ball should have reached Yannick Parker, who looked clear of the Emlyn defence; unfortunately, the strong pass flew into touch.
Then on 22 minutes, Nick Gale kicked a penalty, increasing the lead to 10-3.
Emlyn attempted to break the Otters’ hold, but in the tight, the Otters were beginning to gain the upper hand.
Then on 34 minutes, from a scrum offence, the referee awarded the Otters another penalty and again Nick Gale added three more points, bringing his side’s lead to 13-3 on 34 minutes.
Two minutes later, Emlyn second row Bleddyn Davies was sent to the sin bin along with Jack Price of the Otters for a rumpus on the ground.
The referee awarded the Otters a scrum, which had to be reset three times as the the home eight pushed towards Emlyn’s line. This then resulted in Newcastle Emlyn’s tight-head prop Ifan James being sent to the sin bin.
Emlyn were forced to rearrange their scrum, with wing Llyr Jones being withdrawn and sending a prop off the bench onto the field.
The referee set the scrum, with the Otters heeling and Steffan Phillips controlling operations at number eight before picking up the ball and releasing scrum-half Rhys Lane to score a try, and with Nick Gale again converting, it brought the score at half-time to 20-3.
The Otters had the better of the half despite attempts by the Emlyn pack to try and unsettle some of their key players.
The second half commenced and for five minutes both teams made a series of errors, at the end of which, the Otters were penalised and Shaun Leonard gained Emlyn three points, making the score 20 -6.
Soon after, the referee awarded Emlyn a penalty which Leonard placed to within five metres of the Otters’ line in the clubhouse corner. From the lineout, the movement made ground across the field. The Otters decided to refresh the front row, with Dan Jacobs replacing Bradley Davies and Tom Kaijack replacing Tom Slater.
The scrum was set and the Otters pack pushed the Emlyn pack to the Otters 40-metre line, winning a penalty. Jonathan Rogers kicked to touch and from the lineout they moved the ball quickly out to wing Yannick Parker who sprinted clear to touch down near the far touchline, increasing their lead with an unconverted try.
That was after 60 minutes and four minutes later, the Otters brought on further replacements, with Jake Jenkins replacing Keiron Jones in the centre and Lewys Gibby replacing Rhys Lane at scrum-half.
Within five minutes, a Newcastle Emlyn second row was shown a red card for attacking diminutive and young Lewys Gibby. From the subsequent penalty kick, Jonathan Rogers placed the ball to just outside the Emlyn 22, only to offend, enabling Shaun Leonard to kick towards the corner. Then from the lineout, using a series of phased moves, Emlyn made progress, before Carwyn James crossed for a try converted by Shaun Leonard. This brought the score to 25-13.
Just before the Emlyn try, the Otters replaced Jake Simm with young Harry Phillips, who has progressed through the Juniors to excel in the Youth and who missed out last season with injury.
Then on 77 minutes, lively young hooker Rhodri Owen crossed for a try, converted by Nick Gale, bringing the Otters their bonus point try, in which Yannick Parker played a large part by making good ground.
Soon afterwards, the referee blew time, with the final score of 32-13 to the Otters, which was a great finish to 2018 and a real Christmas present to all supporters.
The sponsors man of the match was Steffan Phillips, the player of the month award went to Rhys Lane and there was a special presentation by the Narberth RFC Supporters Club to Alex Jenkins on his personal achievement of achieving 250 league games.
Director of Rugby, Sean Gale, made a very personal speech highlighting Alec’s early days with the club, his fine and special personal qualities and his excellent leadership qualities as captain.
In the clubhouse, threequarters coach, Deiniol Evans, commented: “It was a good win, the boys played really well, it was nice to see the sun, which encouraged us to spread the ball wide, giving width. It was a great performance from the boys, producing really good rugby. Emlyn were fired up and came again with a big pack. Defensively, we were very good. The boys put in some big tackles, Alex Jenkins in his 250th game put in some big hits, Tom Kaijaks, coming off the bench, was excellent. Our attacking rugby was superb and Jonathan Rogers at 10 really ran the game well and we scored some lovely tries out wide.
“I think it augus well for the rest of the season, as long as we get some decent weather. We started well, as did Emlyn, with lots of fire in the first 20 minutes. We managed to stick it out and scored a try in the first half, we developed from there. The key was to keep the ball, retaining good possession in the middle and to play with a little bit of width. We played some nice rugby, gaining from development of the last few weeks and scored some nice tries.”
Narberth fielded: Ianto Griffiths, Yannick Parker, Keiron Jones (Jake Jenkins), Jack Price, Nick Gale, Jonathan Rogers, Rhys Lane (Lewys Gibby), Bradley Davies (Dan Jacobs), Rhodri Owens, Tom Slater (Tom Kaijack), Jake Simm (Harry Phillips), Alex Jenkins (Capt.), Andrew Cooke, Tom Powell, Steffan Phillips.