Division One West: Whitland 28-12 Dunvant

For much of the afternoon the game was on a knife edge – and yet it ended up a convincing result for Whitland.

The Borderers claimed a third straight league win and climbed above Dunvant in the table this afternoon by beating the Swansea side 28-12 at Parc Llwyn Ty Gwyn, although it wasn’t until the latter stages that they had breathing space in a physical contest.

Indeed, the home side were hanging on at 13-12 with just 12 minutes to go but it was then that No 10 Nico Setaro landed a penalty, and late tries from skipper Marc Jones and Gino Setaro made for a satisfying afternoon for home coaches Gareth Bennett and Dan Mason.

And yet for much of the 80 minutes unforced errors and penalties had plagued the Borderers, who were unable to take advantage of early pressure after both No 8 Scott Buirds and Setaro had made telling breaks in midfield.

Both Jonathan and centre Josh Thomas also made inroads in attack but the final pass didn’t go to hand - before Dunvant responded and Richard Lewis’ chip kick nearly set up a score for winger Matt Richards, but opposite number Scott Lloyd was alive to the threat.

Lewis also pulled a relatively straightforward penalty wide and the visitors paid the price as moments later, Whitland took the lead.

There was element of fortune as Jonathan Thomas made ground down the left wing and his attempted pass rebounded off a Dunvant hand and into the path of full back James Stephenson, who duly went under the posts from 35 metres out. Setaro converted.

The latter added a drop goal but frustratingly for the Borderers, they lost their way in the closing moments of the half and Dunvant flanker Craig Hawkins, well known down west for his time as hooker with Narberth, forced his way over from close range.

Lewis converted and another flurry of pressure followed, but a burst by flanker Jamie Nicholas was halted as the ball went loose.

The away side didn’t have to wait long to lead in the second half though as another Nicholas charge set the platform for No 15 Sam Hawkes to cut a line off scrum half Glenn Williams and dive over.

The conversion went wide and then just when it seemed they were rocking, Whitland regained the initiative through three points from Setaro.

And then came a pivotal spell. A scrum penalty allowed Lewis to boot his side within 10 metres of the line but the Borderers held firm, the pressure ending when Williams’ chip kick fell into the grateful arms of Stephenson.

Then still leading 13-12, the home side duly killed the game off late on.

Centre Josh Thomas was high tackled in midfield and Setaro landed another penalty, and then Jack Mason, who had replaced the injured Buirds, won turn over ball which ultimately led to another penalty on half way. Setaro appeared to miss touch but the bounce of the ball was kind to set up a lineout 15 metres out.

James Thomas took clean ball, and from the concerted forward drive that followed hooker Marc Jones touched down by the corner flag.

At that point there were still seven minutes left and then it was centre Gino Setaro who put the gloss on the win, sniping from a ruck on half way and showing searing pace to beat the cover defence and make the corner – with Setaro nailing the difficult conversion.

The only yellow card came late on when Hawkins was sent for an early shower after one altercation too many, but by that time Whitland’s win was secure. And with two home games to come against Tenby United and Llanelli Wanderers, Bennett and Mason will be eyeing finishing higher than their current fourth place. And to boot, they have a Pembrokeshire KO Cup semi final to come against Neyland.

Their first season back in Division One West could yet be a pretty memorable one.

Gareth Bennett (Whitland coach):

“We’re very happy with that. We missed a bonus point but we'll take it.

“I thought we were poor at times in the first half and ill discipline let us down, I think the count was 7-3 against us. But second half we were a lot better and the boys had to really front up physically.

“The forwards were great second half and the boys off the bench made a massive difference.”

Man of the match – Nico Setaro:

It was an aggressive and feisty 80 minutes.

But when Whitland needed composure, Setaro provided it. His first half drop goal and two pressure penalties after the break proved vital and with ball in hand he got his back line moving. He was sound defensively too, one cover tackle on Dunvant winger Matt Richards in the second half saving a try.

James Stephenson also barely put a foot wrong at full back while Josh Thomas was rock solid in midfield. But Setaro shades it.

Whitland: James Stephenson, Scott Lloyd, Gino Setaro, Josh Thomas, Jonathan Thomas, Nico Setaro, Adam Davies, Tom Finucane, Marc Jones, Jimmy Buirds, Raff Williams, Courtney Bowman, Ben Kirk, Jamie Thomas, Scott Buirds. Replacements: Josh Thomas, Aaron Mayne, Ryan Morgan, Simon Meakins, Jack Mason.

Dunvant: Sam Hawkes, Tom Davies, Sam Crowley, Mark Robins, Matt Richards, Richard Lewis, Glenn Williams, Robbie Morris, Ceri Davies, Ryan Shoemark, Morgan Bevan, Nathan Vaughan, Craig Hawkins, Jamie Nicholas, Adam Gregory. Replacements: Jack Phillips, Michael Mizzi, Ollie Beck, Edward Berry, Tom Gigg.