Crumlin V Denbigh (away) 29th October 2016.
There was a buzz around the sleepy North Wales town of Denbigh on Saturday and it seemed like the whole town came out to greet us as the driver kindly took us on 3 laps of the market square just to make sure everyone got a look.
The buzz was heightened even further at the ground when the retired figure of David Alexander donned some team shorts and socks along with his six studded slippers and ran out on the field to “warm up”. Some old guys in the club were reported to say “…………….remember that 40 yard try he scored against us 22 years ago?……….. he’s put a bit of weight on since then though, quite a bit of weight…..”
It was indeed 22 years ago when the teams last met due to some inspired thinking by the WRU. (Inspired in as much as the South Wales teams got to travel up a few times a season for a mini “tour” of the exotic delights that North Wales had to offer).
There were a number of Crumlin legends included in the team that day, Larry Cox, Peter Morgan and the skipper, Martin Valcic. The team also included the outstanding Dean Stevens playing hooker whose nephew, Rhys Davies, (the stand in Crumlin captain so far this season), is fast establishing himself as a player of some aplomb.
With a few of the team unable to make the journey, the Crumlin team faced the disappointing decision to start the game with uncontested scrums. The 15 who started (including both coaches, David “Bloggsy” James and the ever spritely younger of the Alexander brothers, Robert) had to go the whole distance given the “no substitutions” rule. A bitter pill to swallow for the unfortunate spare players left on the side line who had made the effort to travel.
The game kicked off with the Crumlin team playing down the sizeable slope against a well balanced Denbigh side, but it was the black and ambers who were quickest out of the blocks.
With the scrum ball nullified it was difficult to engage the back row in any real power plays so both teams elected to send it straight up the middle with the hard running centres. The experienced Moses moved from 12 to 10 bringing a bit of extra control and getting the back line moving and it wasn’t long before James and Booton were on top. With the Crum’s centre pairing easily winning the defensive battle the Denbigh backs quickly tried to get the ball wider to their young nippy wingers but sloppy handling kept letting them down. The conditions could not be blamed for simple dropped passes.
The Crumlin backs were not suffering any such issues though. Time after time the ball was spun along the line with breaks being made in midfield. One such break led to the first of the games points following a few well timed passes. Moses shuffled to James who sped onto it with pace and easily broke the first line of defence. The covering Denbigh back row just hung on but not before he passed on to Booton who then found Jason Sheppard out wide in space. Backing himself, he made a beeline for the posts and put in a delicate chip only to be thwarted by a slightly late tackle. Help was on hand in the form of James who raced onto the loose ball behind the line to score. Sheppard narrowly missed the conversion.
Minutes later the Crumlin backs were at it again with Moses and James combining once more. James showed all of his pace and power and broke from 65 yards turning the Denbigh players inside out. Alas, it was one side step too far but before the stumble came, he popped the ball up to the supporting players who were impeded by the scrabbling Denbigh defence and the move was halted illegally. The referee awarded a penalty to the visitors in front of the posts when realistically a penalty try and a yellow card would have been just desserts to the Denbigh second row. (The ref later admitted he had missed the incident……..). 8-0 to Crumlin.
Given the inroads being made by the Crumlin back line and their confidence quite rightly sky high, the inevitable interception try came. The Denbigh 10 flashed onto the slightly delayed pass and raced through to dab down. It was the Denbigh scoreboard master whose confidence was also sky high as he chalked up the extra 2 points for the straight forward conversion only to see the kick almost hit the corner flag. This brought great delight to the away supporters as he solemnly wound it back to 5-8.
Ashley Giles, the Crumlin scrum half, was having a busy game and continued to hound his forwards onto any loose ball with great effect. Seeing a gap he accelerated away only to tweak his already fragile hamstring. A penalty was given following the breakdown which got slotted over by Sheppard. The home team worked another try of their own, but the visitors went into the break 11-10 up.
With the advantage of the slope second half, the home team pushed on, intelligent kicking by the 10 pinned the Crumlin side deep in the bottom corner as they struggled to clear their lines.
10 minutes into the second half the referee interjected. A defensive scrum to the visitors ended up with the Denbigh scrum half drop to the floor clutching his face wincing whilst his team mates started wagging a stern finger at Lloyd Bryant saying “you are in trouble now….the ref saw it”. I couldn’t help but raise a slightly wry smile thinking that Bill Irwin would probably have said the same if the opposition had done that to his scrum half….. not. Crumlin down to 14.
Minutes later it was time for ‘ol yella to get brandished again to Rhys Davies this time who was judged to have stamped with intent towards a players hand. Rhys must be going for some kind of record given that this is his third this year. Crumlin down to 13 with walking wounded fighting on.
During this time, the advantage counted and the Denbigh team went on to rack up a few more tries, but the last laugh went to Crumlin who scored a well worked rumbling try before the ref blew for time.
Final score, Denbigh 28-18 Crumlin.
The welcome from the Denbigh committee was second to none and the facilities had greatly improved over the years with the playing surface, changing rooms and club house all in fantastic condition. We wish them well in the next round.
On reflection this was a game which we could have won even though I’m not sure I totally agree it was a game we deserved to win given our need to start uncontested.
I know the coaches will take the positives from this and I’m sure it will bode well for the upcoming games. Top of the league next time out………
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