Carmarthen Quins 12 v Pontypridd 29
In the final league game of the 2014/15 season Carmarthen Quins welcomed league and cup champions, Pontypridd. The Quins team bore little resemblance on the squad that started the Premiership campaign back in September, and with 14 players missing, one replacement short and no second row coverage on the bench, the Quins were forced to put their faith in a number of youngsters with little Premiership experience.
This was a daunting task and many felt the game would be nothing more than a damage limitation exercise against an outstanding Pontypridd side which are undeniably head and shoulders above the rest of the teams in the competition. The game however proved to be quite the opposite and was a fine advert for rugby at this level.
True the superior size and strength of the Ponty pack was to eventually prove to be the determining factor of the game but the young Quins competed admirably for 70 minutes and demonstrated that they are capable of excellent running rugby against the best the competition has to offer.
Carmarthen carried on where they left off against Aberavon the previous week and with fine handling and pace in the back line they caused Pontypridd a number of problems. It was however the champions who opened the score first with a kick to the corner and the inevitable catch and drive that gave Dan Godfrey the opening try. The conversion was missed.
Undaunted the Quins team came back at the champions, attacking at every opportunity. Their lineout was functioning well and after an extended period of phase play Hooker Rhodri Clancy went over in the corner. Craig Evans on in place of the injured Dan Jones converted to make the score 7- 5 to the home side. Then was no further score before half time and Carmarthen went back to the changing room worthy of their lead.
In the second half Pontypridd were to show why they are top of the league but they had to fight hard for their points. It took them 20 minutes before they scored their second try which again came from a driving maul and when the Quins were deemed to have collapsed the referee went under the posts and awarded a penalty try. Pontypridd regained the lead 12-7.
Far from lying down it took just three minutes for the Quins to put together another excellent example of running rugby with the tireless Ellis Lloyd crashing over in the corner. Evans missed the penalty and the game was finely balanced at 12-12.
On 70 minutes Pontypridd had possession on the Quins ten yard line when Simon Humberstone decided to throw a long miss pass from his position at outside half. Carmarthen winger Gavin Thomas went for the interception, got two hands on the ball, but unfortunately fumbled and knocked on. If he had caught the ball he had a clear run to the line and the Quins would have been 19-12 ahead with 10 minutes to play. For Quins supporters this proved to be the turning point of the game and shortly after Pontypridd changed their entire front row with Huw Dowden being prominent for the remainder of the match. By this point Tom Williams had also come on at scrum half and was proving to be a handful.
The young Carmarthen side were clearly tiring and Pontypridd, as one would expect, took full advantage. The way to the line was through their driving maul and in the last 10 minutes they scored two further push over tries through Shellard and Domachowski. At 80 minutes the score was 24-12 to the visitors.
The referee Ian Davies, who to be fair had a reasonable game, quite mysteriously played a further 7 minutes of injury time? This gave Pontypridd yet another opportunity to deploy the driving maul and on 86 minutes scored their fifth try. The final score was 29-12 and whilst Carmarthen supporters felt the gap did not necessarily reflect the closeness of the game they had to concede Pontypridd’s greater strength in depth.
The Quins finished the campaign in 6th position and despite being in the top half of the Premiership for the third consecutive season will now reflect on an indifferent 2015 which saw too many abstractions from the squad to achieve the consistency required in this demanding competition. That said the last two performances in particular, against Aberavon and Pontypridd, produced some outstanding running rugby and no small measure of skill. The club has a promising group of youngsters and with the return from injury of a number of key players they can look forward to next season with a reasonable degree of optimism.