Division Three West A: Haverfordwest 3-7 Milford Haven

The margin was small, but the result was massive at for Milford Haven in Haverfordwest yesterday as The Mariners made it eight league wins from eight this season.

And it was a former Blue, Dan Birch, who provided the decisive moment as he powered over in the first half for what proved the only try of a brutally physical 80 minutes.

Matches between the pair are traditionally close and this was no exception as The Mariners deservedly led 7-0 in the first half and defended well in the second period to do the double over the Blues, having already beaten their rivals 24-18 at The Obs.

It was never going to be a classic in the greasy conditions and with so much at stake in terms of the outcome, and Milford were boosted by experience aplenty with coaches Nathan ‘Gully’ Williams and Steve Martin at prop and full back respectively, with Dewi Williams, Mike Cockburn and especially Mark Wonnacott exerting a considerable influence up front.

They certainly had the better of the opening exchanges as Dan McClelland hit the woodwork with an early penalty but converted the game’s only try after 14 minutes after a powerful surge featuring David Round, Luke Ryan and Ben Groves saw centre Birch punch a hole in a back-pedalling defence to score near the posts.

McClelland converted and Birch also went close later on after a flat Martin pass created the midfield space – and The Blues also looked capable of using their backs as Adam Clark and Terry Lovell tried hard to help their side gain parity up front

A seven-point lead just about reflected the balance of the first half but The Blues had the first chance of the second half but Dan Richards was just wide with a difficult kick before setting up a try -scoring chance with a charge down the middle which ended with a knock-on.

Referee Anthony Kavanagh did well to quell a group grappling match on the far touch-line and also issued two yellow cards per team during the course of game - Terry Lovell and Karl Busch for the home side and Birch and Round for Milford.

Haverfordwest hopes were raised midway through the half though as Liam Mainwaring landed a penalty, but despite late pressure they couldn't break the Milford defence, in which Wonnacott and Round caught the eye, and their prize was a pivotal victory.

Steve Barnett (Haverfordwest): “When two good sides like us and Milford meet there is always a fine line between victory and defeat – and that was the case today. They had very experienced players in the right places and we allowed them to gain the upper hand in the first half. But we battled back after the break and with just a little more thought at key times we might have just snatched the verdict.”

Nathan Williams: (Milford Haven): “I'm delighted with the win. It was a competitive game and scrappy at times but credit to our boys they dug deep to hang on in there. The heart these boys have is huge and I'm proud of their efforts since we started in June Now we’ll regroup in the new year and go again."

Milford's statement of intent:

There is still a long way to go in the title race, but whether they want to admit or not, Milford are now in the driving seat.

On their last two visits to Haverfordwest The Mariners have under performed. To go there and win in those conditions, in a battle of that nature, is a huge pyschological boost and it's results like this that win you a title.

Williams' side will be expected to brush past St Davids next week before back to back games with Laugharne and Aberaeron - and it's the latter who currently appear their closest challengers with the gap five points after an equal number of games.

Williams and Steve Martin are too experienced to allow complacency but should The Mariners remain unbeaten after those three games, then suddely the title will be their to lose.

Haverfordwest are only three points back but have played twice more than The Mariners, and in reality catching them from here is unlikely. What Steve Barnett's side do now face is a tricky trip to Bierspool Saturday to play a seemingly rejuvenated Pembroke Dock Quins. Yesterday would have taken a lot out of them physically and mentally - and picking themselves up won't be easy.

Haverfordwest: Craig Barnett, Rhys Baker, Gareth Owens, Dan Richards, Liam Manwaring, Jamie Barnett; Lee Summons (Tom Parry), Ashley George, Matthew Clayton, Terry Lovell, Karl Busch, Adam Clark, Jack Clancy (Gareth Phillips), Matty Phillips, Kyle Williams (Liam Brown).

Milford Haven: Steve Martin, Jamie Lewis (Capt), Dan Jenkins, Dan Birch, Lee Riley (Joseph Kiff), Efan Morgan, Dan McClelland, Mike Cockburn, Luke Ryan, Nathan Williams (Aaron Mayne), Chris Hall, David Round (Brandon Cooper), Ben Groves (Ryan Mansell), Dewi Williams, Mark Wonnacott.

Referee: Anthony Kavanagh (Llanelli)