A STEP BACK IN TIME
(By kind permission of the Carmarthen Journal)
“HEROIC QUINS SHOCK NEATH”
Saturday 20th November 1982
Carmarthen 6 pts: Neath 20 pts.
By Roger Phillips
Lionhearted Quins made Neath pay a high price for glory in this Welsh Cup epic.
At the end of 80 memorable minutes in front of a 2,000 plus crowd, Neath’s reputation as a first-class side had been tarnished and their pride dented by a magnificent Quins pack which matched them pound for pound in gruelling exchanges.
Neath were only allowed to show fleeting glimpses of powerful threequarter running and for the majority of the tie, Wales wing Elgan Rees, expected to be the major attacking force, was no more than an interested spectator. But what must have hurt coach and former Wales lock Brian Thomas above all else, was the indignity suffered by the Neath pack in the scrums, rucks and mauls.
Three times Neath were unceremoniously driven back at scrums where the Quins front five, Kevin Bowen, Howard Iles, Dai Woodhead, Peter Elsom and Hugh Jones provided a solid platform.
The same commitment and resolve demanded by coach Barrie Jackson before the game was shown by the tremendous back row of number eight Richard Ratti, Jeff Stephens and Richard Thomas. They tackled like tigers and covered acres of ground in the search for second phase ball.
Only in the linesout did Neath enjoy some measure of superiority through the towering Robert Hughes and Peter Cross. But even then the Neath backs were so ragged that there was never real hope of crisp handling moves and fly half Steve Powell was constantly forced to kick under pressure.
The biggest disappointment for the Quins was the performance of ace kicker and fly half Dylan Richards, who in three short months of the season has notched up 156 points with the boot. He could only manage two successes in five penalty attempts, but it must be said that from the 27th minute on he was nursing a leg injury which left him hobbling at the end.
Full back Roger Evans, one of the smallest men on the Park at 5’ 5,” and just over 11 stone, was a giant in defence. He gave a faultless display of handling and line kicking under pressure. Centres Peter and James, one of two sets of brothers in the Quins back division, tackled well but never had the quality possession vital for penetration. The same was true of the winging brothers Nigel and Michael Langdon.
Scrum half Adrian Wray was rarely allowed breathing space to fire out the passes that would have given the threequarters the vital extra yard on a hard tackling defence. Yet, even when Neath had use of the wind in the first period there was little between the sides. Full back Neale Harries put the All Blacks ahead with a 2nd minute penalty and Quins were forced to defend in depth to hold out against an open flurry of attacks.
Richards pumped a 35-yard kick wide and then the other end Elgan Rees fumbled ten metres from the line on one of the rare occasions Neath spun the ball out to the wing. The forward exchanges were punishing but never once did Quins yield. And in the 21st minute they drove up field to put Neath under pressure. Full back Harries was penalised for failing to release the ball after a tackle and Richards slotted over the kick to level the scores.
Harries made it 6-3 with his second penalty and then in the 34th minute Neath got the try they so desperately needed. Number eight Baden Evans charged for the line and slipped a scoring pass to fiery little flanker Dai Randall to extend the interval lead to seven points.
Richards fluffed two penalty attempts in the opening minutes of the second session but Quins were still in with a chance of clawing back the deficit despite some breakaway attacks by Neath. In one, Elgan Rees was dumped inches short of the line and although Neath forced three scrums in quick succession, Quins held firm and eventually broke out with a raking touch finder.
Hopes of a comeback mounted when Richards made it 6-10 with his second penalty, but there were already signs that Neath were building for one final effort to clinch victory. Ironically, the man who was to hammer the nails in the coffin was centre David Jacob, who learned his skills with Quins before going on to Neath via Aberavon. After being held up on the line in the 67th minute, he took the ball on the burst from a scrum and crashed over. Nine minutes later he repeated the dose and this time Harries was on target with the conversion.
Although Quins staged one desperate last effort to close the gap, their attacks were smothered by the “black blanket.” At the final whistle they were still plugging away, camped firmly in the Neath “22.” So it was victory for Neath, but honour in defeat for Quins. And when the stories of this struggle are recounted, as they surely will be, it will be the names of the eight magnificent Quins forwards that will be remembered.
They, more than any others in a courageous side, epitomised the new spirit and confidence that will take Quins to West Wales League glory this season and in time bring first class status to Carmarthen.
The Quins XV were: –
Kevin Bowen; Howard Iles (C); David Woodhead; Peter Elsom; Huw Jones; Richard Thomas; Jeff Stephens; Richard Ratti; Adrian Wray; Dylan Richards; Michael Langdon; James Ward; Peter Ward; Nigel Langdon; Roger Evans.