This was always going to be a tough encounter as third placed Quins visited second placed Seven Sisters, who had yet to taste defeat at Maes Dafydd this season. The final score suggests a severe defeat, but it doesn’t highlight the monumental Quins effort. Absurdly, it does not exhibit how the Quins were in ascendancy or at least achieving parity for much of the game.
Initially the hosts tried to get away with some intimidation. However, referee Neil Perkins, who had a fine game, was quick to stamp his authority.
At the first line-out Seven Sisters pulled down a Quins jumper while still in mid-air. A quick tap-and-go then saw Andrew Healy felled by a head high tackle. The resulting penalty was goaled by Gareth Lewis, giving the Quins a 3-nil lead in as many minutes.
For the Quins lots of players were weighing in with efforts to carry the ball forward and doing well. The Quins were running with purpose and the passing by everyone was of the highest order. This left the hosts with little option than to encroach offside to attempt to stem the fast flowing tide.
From the first offside Gareth Lewis doubled the Quins lead with another penalty.
Seven Sisters went on the attack, but when the movement broke down in midfield, the ball was hacked forward until the Quins found themselves well inside their hosts half. The home winger bravely tried to retrieve the situation but was caught in possession and penalised. The kick at goal went wide.
A whole series of midfield off-sides against the hosts built up pressure and eventually the referee had enough, as he issued a yellow card to blindside Jamie Elkins. The catch at the ensuing Quins line-out saw a good controlled driving maul walk over the line, but the referee didn’t see Dan Tabor drop over the line.
The five metre scrum that followed saw the retreating home pack dip, drop, lift and become totally mis-shaped. When it eventually disintegrated the referee awarded a penalty try. Lewis converted for a 13-nil lead.
Failing to manage the kick-off, Seven Sisters were awarded a scrum on the ten yard line.
The home scrum wheeled and went back, only for home No. 8 Garin Jones to defy every odd. Earlier he had made a couple of telling drives with some powerful pick-ups and surges. It’s all well and good when on the front foot, but on this occasion he was under extreme pressure when he picked up at the back of a retreating and wheeling scrum. With an electrifying turn of pace, he burst past the Quins back row who were correctly heads down and driving. Jones’ pace was such he eluded every other would be Quins defender and scored a remarkable try with just one hand being laid on him. Mike Smith converted.
The Quins now hit a purple patch. Adam Hillier-Rees, who was making a welcome return to action, was making good ground and defended expertly. Andrew Healy was also running with purpose, while Rhys Roberts danced his way through several improbable gaps. Geraint Evans was commanding the defensive efforts, his return kicks were accurate and he ran with intent when space was available.
The Quins line-out was also operating very effectively. Carl Roberts and Daniel Hughes were excellent and stole a fair percentage of possession from the opposition. Sean Cleary threw in excellently, as he seamlessly slotted back in to his old position.
Stealing the ball at a maul, Healy followed up his own grubber kick ahead with a rapid race towards the home full-back. Catching the lone defender, the home custodian was driven into touch.
The ball appeared from the driving maul and was whisked wide. Ryan George took possession and sent out an excellent, pinpoint pass to unopposed right wing Andrew Leighton. We know it’s Easter, but Leighton needn’t have given the crowd his Easter bunny impression. What should have been a simple run-in ended with the veteran Quins wing hopping the fifteen metres over the line as he pulled his hamstring while in the act of accelerating.
Soon after the half-time whistle sounded and the Quins had a healthy 18 – 7 lead at the break.
The wind and Maes Dafydd slope played a big part in proceedings, but the Quins were coping with both and playing well for the first ten minutes of the second half.
So what went wrong?
On fifty minutes the Quins were pressing forward up the slope in opposition territory. The ball was stripped from their possession and from sixty metres Seven Sisters launched and attack which exploited every gap in the defensive line that didn’t have enough time to make the transition from attack to defence, allowing centre Daniel Norton to take a final inside pass to score.
The try was converted and this was soon followed by an inaccurate Quins up-and-under that caused a whole host of problems for the visitors. Seven Sisters kicked a simple penalty to come within a point of the Quins.
It wasn’t long before the hosts overtook the Quins and it was going to be a long final half-hour for the Maesteg men as their once mean defence found it difficult to cope with some powerful advances. From being miserly, the Quins defenders suddenly found themselves resembling Coleridge’s the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, as they ‘stoppeth one in three.’
They say you must make hay while the sun shines. With the sun evident despite the hoary blast and ice sheets formed on the rock face high above on the mountains, at this juncture Seven Sisters were reaping with a clinical efficiency that simply blew the Quins apart.
Quins had an opportunity to add a few more points to the board and regain the lead, but their single penalty attempt in the second half dropped short against a stiff breeze. It was all Seven Sisters and star performer Garin Jones weighed in with another two tries to record a well deserved hat-trick.
As gaps appeared, Seven Sisters exploited them. The score-line could have been far bigger, but in the final ten minutes the Quins pleasingly rediscovered their fighting resolve. In a determined and dogged effort they fought back. Some minor excursions into opposition territory gave hope of another score, while their defence held out even in some testing circumstances.
Despite the hosts dominance for a near half-hour period, the Quins are not far short of producing the all impressive performances of which they are capable, especially as they now have a run of matches.
Hopefully it will start next week, with the visit of Maesteg for the first ever visit by the Old Parish to South Parade for a league encounter. Having defeated Maesteg at Llynfi Road in November and in the SWALEC Plate last season, the Old Parish will be keen to avoid an unique Quins treble.
On the other hand, the Quins will want to maintain their current good run in the oldest rugby, indeed any sporting fixture in the upper Llynfi valley. A fixture dating back 112 years. If the match is anything as exciting as November’s encounter, fans from both clubs will be in for a treat.
15. Geraint Evans 14. Andrew Leighton (T) 13. Ryan George
12. Rhys Roberts 11. Nathan Morgan 10. Gareth Lewis (c) (C 2PG)
1. Dan Tabor 2. Sean Cleary 3. Rhodri Roberts 4. Carl Roberts
5. Daniel Hughes 6. Lewis Tutt 8. Adam Hillier-Rees 7. Andrew Healy
16. Richard Teesdale for R. Roberts 17. Geraint Williams for A. Hillier-Rees 18. Chris Jones for A. Leighton 19. Christian Cody for L. Tutt