Pembrokeshire Youth Cup final: Crymych Youth 24-21 Narberth Youth

Flanker Joey Mathias was the Crymych hero as his late try sealed a dramatic comeback against Narberth in what proved to be a pulsating Pembrokeshire Youth Cup final in Haverfordwest last night.

Trailing 21-7 at half time, the young Preseli Men pulled things back to 21-17 when with eight minutes left, winger Ned Bennett broke down the right and popped an inside pass to Mathias to go under the posts for the decisive score.

It meant two trophies for Crymych, with the game also doubling up as a League Play Off final after the sides couldn’t be separated at the end of the season.

But perhaps more significantly, with so much local concern of late surrounding participation at both senior and junior level, this was a night of real positivity for Pembrokeshire rugby. A physical, skilful and high quality clash played in front of a big crowd, and one that showcased some of the county’s most talented young players.

Narberth’s perfect start:

Conditions were perfect for running rugby, and yet when the Young Otters took charge after only two minutes it was through a routine driving maul.

No 10 Lewis Hough kicked a penalty to the corner, hooker Tom Clarke found his man with the throw, and the whole pack executed a drive to the line that saw flanker Owain Hughes touch down. Full back Llew Jones nailed the conversion from out wide.

Momentum swings back and for:

But the Crymych response was immediate.

No 10 Jac Davies was happy to off load to his forward runners during a heavy spell of pressure which saw prop Morgan James burst to within metres of the line, and although Narberth survived it came at a cost with Hughes forced off with a head injury.

Mathias also broke loose in midfield but was hauled down just short, before centre Hedd Nicholas was forced into touch near the corner flag.

Soon the scores were level though as Mathias forced his way over from close range and Davies converted.

Now it was Narberth’s turn to respond and they re-took the lead when a powerful run by prop Stephen Pilot laid the platform for Hough to find Lewis Thomson with a long miss-pass, and the winger did brilliantly to hold off two tacklers and score in the corner.

Again Jones had no problem adding two points from out wide.

The Otters then stood up to more Crymych pressure as No 8 Kieran Allen forced a turnover near his own line, and they also began to get the upper hand in the lineout with both Williams and fellow second row Griff Evans winning balls against the head.

And just when it seemed Narberth would take a 14-7 lead into the break - they grabbed a real bonus from the final play of the first half.

The ball went loose on half way and centre Ieuan Badham duly hacked on twice, and in a messy scramble near the line it was Narberth skipper Kyle Williams who managed to ground the ball over the line and the classy Jones again added the extras.

Crymych cut the deficit:

It looked a long way back from the Preseli Men but they didn’t go into this as reigning champions for nothing, and when early in the second half Badham was penalised when trying to burst his way out of defence, Davies landed three points to make it 21-10.

Narberth then went down to 14 men after Thomson was yellow carded for dangerous play, but still they fashioned a scoring chance with real a superb move.

Winger Ifan Rees executed a lovely flick to No 9 Jordan James on the run-around, and he in turn fed centre Ryan Scourfield who sped towards the corner but was unable to ground the ball cleanly as he dived under pressure from the cover defence.

It proved crucial as moments later Crymych full back Rhodri George broke from his own line and was taken out after chipping ahead, and Davies set up a close range lineout chance from the penalty that followed.

They couldn’t capitalise initially but soon a chance came as Bennett fielded a high ball and some quick handling sent Nicholas on a charge to the line, and the centre finished powerfully under a pile of bodies.

With No 10 Davies replaced by namesake Aled, it was centre Ilan Phillips who took the kicking tee and landed the extras to cut the deficit to four points.

A fitting finish:

And then the big moment came from a scrum on half way. Scrum half Iwan Toft went blind and he and George combined to set Bennett free, and he made 30 metres before finding Mathias inside him and the No 7 did the rest.

Phillips converted to make it 24-21 but the contest wasn’t done, and Narberth opted to for a close range lineout rather than try and draw level with a penalty out wide only for the ball to be fumbled forward in the ensuing maul.

Moments later Jones, dangerous all night with ball in hand, then came so close to side stepping his way over the line only for the ball to again go forward as he was hauled to the deck.

But Crymych stayed composed to close out the final few moments well and when they were awarded a penalty at the death, it was Phillips who hoofed it over the stand and the joy and relief among players, coaches and supporters was evident in equal measures.

Togo’s tough words:

Crymych coaches Andrew ‘Togo’ Phillips and Peter Nicholas certainly had a team talk to give at half time, and Phillips said his side two choices.

“I told them it would go one of two ways. Either we would pick things up and win it or it would go the other way, they would get more scores and we would have a long and sad night.

“I was confident we could score tries second half and we have a set of backs who can attack anyone. But we needed more ball and the forwards too were outstanding.”

Narberth coaches James Merriman, Andy Jeremias and Bill Ridge meanwhile, were left to reflect on one that got away.

“I thought we were dominant up front in the first half,” said Jeremias.

“But after that we didn’t play to our strengths. And good sides like Crymych just keep coming at you.”

Sion takes the trophies, Mathias the man, and Steve ‘walks’ away:

The post-match presentations saw Pembrokeshire Youth Chairman Kenny Davies praised all involved before he and Gordon Eynon presented both the Cup and League Play Off trophy to Crymych captain Sion Wilson.

Mathias meanwhile, was awarded the man of the match award, judged by Randal Evans.

And there was also a special presentation to outgoing Pembrokeshire Youth secretary Steve Jones after 20 years of outstanding service. He was jokingly given a walking stick to reflect his hiking hobby.

It meant a pleasant end to a pulsating night - and one which both clubs involved can take great credit for.

Crymych: Rhodri George, Ned Bennett, Hedd Nicholas, Ilan Phillips, Dafydd Griffiths, Jac Davies, Iwan Toft, Morgan James, Sion Wilson (captain), Iwan Twigg, Morgan Davies, Guto Edwards, Hedd James, Joey Mathias, Rhydian Howells. Replacements: Steffan Davies, Aled Hughes, Gruffydd Williams, Rhodri Thomas, Sion Vaughan, Ifan Davies, Ioan Evans, Eilir George.

Narberth: Llew Jones, Ifan Rees, Ryan Scourfield, Ieuan Badham, Lewis Thomson, Lewis Hough, Jordan James, Declan Cole, Tom Clarke, Stephen Pilot, Kyle Williams (captain), Griff Evans, Henry Foster, Owain Hughes, Kieran Allen. Replacements: Dylan Walsh, Leon Whalley, James Thomas, Sam Davies, Nathan Foster, Kaleb Higgon, Harri Rees.

Referee: Huw Jones.

Assistants: Martin Rudd and Charlie Watts.