With a couple of positional and bench changes from their comfortable win in their last game on March 25 against luckless neighbours Haverfordwest, who remain rooted to the foot of the league table and bound for relegation, Tenby Tourers sponsored Tenby United travelled to mid-table Tumble RFC (known as the Magpies), on Saturday, determined to maintain their push for promotion, despite losing ground on the three teams in contention for the two promotion slots, due to the late postponement of trhe previous week’s game against Pontyberem, while all the other teams involved played and won.
Tumble were not to be underestimated, taking into account the fixture against them at Heywood Lane back in December which was a 56-35 thriller, with 14 tries being scored, and Tenby United getting the upper hand with nine of them while, to their credit, Tumble ran in five.
So trotting out onto Parc y Mynydd Mawr, Tenby were well aware this could be a tough encounter, despite Tumble surprisingly being turned over by Haverfordwest 29-27 last week.
Since season 2000-2001, the clubs have met on 17 occasions and the record stands at eight wins apiece, and one drawn, so the winner of this match sneaks ahead and Tenby comfortably achieved their aim, as well as keeping pace with the current league leaders.
With previous leaders Pontarddulais having their blank week, and both Hendy and Tycroes winning, the table now has Hendy leading, having played 18 with 66 points, followed by Tycroes 18/65, Pontarddulais now third on 18/64 and Tenby maintaining fourth spot having played 16 and on 59 points…. so the title is still there for Tenby United to win or lose.
Kicking off with the gentle breeze in their favour, Tenby went straight on the attack with a very simple game plan - forwards win the ball and speedy backs run the opposition ragged - which was being carried out to perfection by half-backs Matthew Morgan and Toby Smith, along with the remainder of the backs, until the ball was dropped and hoofed through by a Tumble defender, who had spotted that with Ashley Sutton also up in the line, there was no defender hovering deep and it took an incredible turn of speed by hooker Joe Poole to rescue the situation and prevent the Magpies from opening the scoring.
During the ruck that followed, prop Geoff Martin was injured and, although he seemed to recover, he didn’t last long and was replaced after about 10 minutes by Rob Clark.
With scrums coming thick and fast, and all with the home side putting the ball into the set-piece, the Tenby eight were under pressure and this added to a spate of overthrown balls in the lineout which created a huge hole in the game plan - forwards were not winning the ball.
In fairness to the backs, what ball they got was used effectively, but the home defence held firm, albeit severely stretched at times.
Following a clever piece of play involving Toby Smith, Moritz Neumann and Ashley Sutton, the home defence was at sixes and sevens and, spotting a gap, Mathew Morgan zig-zagged his way through what remained of the defence to offload to his half-back partner Toby Smith, who trotted over unopposed under the sticks. His conversion made it a 7-0 game and the game plan was back on course with 20 minutes gone.
Maintaining the pressure, and keeping it simple, it was Mark Heywood next into action and his well-timed pass to fellow winger Moritz Neumann put him free, but a last-gasp tackle just prevented the burley winger from crossing the whitewash.
From the lineout that followed, excellent ball off the top by Luke Dedman allowed scrum-half Morgan to quickly get the ball to Toby Smith, who cut an excellent line to slice through the stretched home defence, only to be held up inches short.
Smith was again in action minutes later, but this time, unusually for him, blotted his copybook big time by fluffing a simple pass out to unmarked Moritz Neumann, who could have walked in a try.
Not letting this missed opportunity affect their approach, the threes were back in action straightaway and slick handling and sheer speed opened up a gap in the defence that saw fullback Ashley Sutton stroll through wide out for an unconverted try and a 12-0 lead.
With virtually a replica of the move, this time it was Barry Parsons delivering quickly off the top of the lineout, but Ashley Sutton was brought down inches short of the line.
Try as they might, the home side, despite the prodding and probing initiated by number 10 Steven Hewitt, could not breakdown the Tenby defence although an over-eager United player did overstep the line in defence and the penalty awarded was sent between the sticks by centre Leighton McKenna to close the score to 12-3.
With the half coming to a close and referee Jones playing added time for the unbelievable number of stoppages there had been, 99 per cent involving home players, number eight Barry Parsons made a superb break and slipped the ball to fellow back row man Andrew Cooke, who crossed wide out for an unconverted try, extending the lead to 17-3.
With the wind still around, the home side restarted the game and, following what they had obviously been told by the coaching group at the break, Tenby ran the kick-off at the onrushing home players and a combination of wing Moritz Neumann and fullback Ashley Sutton set the scene for the second half, although it was Tumble who had the first chance to add to their efforts, but an ambitious penalty attempt by Leighton McKenna sailed wide of the uprights.
Sticking to the game plan, wing Moritz Neumann went thundering down the touchline, skilfully beating any defensive efforts of the home side, only for his pass inside to the supporting Mark Heywood to go slightly too high to be taken cleanly, and another scoring chance bit the dust.
Maintaining the momentum, centre Jonny Morgan sliced through what was left of the defence to release Moritz Neumann, who cantered over for the all-important fourth and bonus point try, which was converted by Toby Smith extending the lead to 24-3.
With all players now remembering the simple game plan, and putting it into action, it was a straight and simple move that ended with skipper Luke Hansford going over for try number five, again converted by Toby Smith, which not only took the scores out to 31-3, but also took Toby out to over 500 points scored for Tenby at first team level… a magnificent achievement.
Not overawed by letting in two quick tries, the Magpies, spurred on by number 10 Steven Hewitt, who was the key to anything threatening the home side had managed, ended with veteran centre Leighton McKenna going over in the corner for a well-worked try, which he made even better by him slotting the conversion from the touchline, closing the scores to 31-10.
Despite this, the Tenby coaching group started to ring the changes, with bench players Dan Allen and Alex Thomas replacing hard-working forwards Joe Poole and Luke Dedman.
As the game entered the final quarter, Tenby clicked into action again and slick ball handling, accurate passing, pace with excellent backing-up with Jonny Morgan, Scott James, Moritz Neumann and Toby Smith all prominent, ended with fullback Ashley Sutton going over for his second try of the afternoon and a comfortable 36-10 lead.
With Conner Ennis and Harry Bolton now joining the fray, to replace Scott James and skipper Luke Hansford, Tenby were not quite finished and the impressive Barry Parsons crossed for Tenby’s final and seventh try, which was converted by Toby Smith to take the scores out to 43-10.
With the game well and truly won, Tenby relaxed too early and a lack of concentration near their line enabled replacement Kieran Spain to cross for a try, converted by Leighton McKenna, and an end of game score of 43-17.
In their defence, the try was scored with a quick throw-in from about two inches from the corner flag, when the laws state that the throw-in must be on or beyond the five-metre line, but this was not spotted by replacement referee Jones and the score was allowed to stand.
Target of a win and a bonus point achieved and now with a run of three home games, starting with Carmarthen Athletic tomorrow (Saturday), to be followed with games against Llanybydder and Hendy, promotion related targets could still be achievable and available in the final game of the season, away to Pontyberem on Saturday, May 6… but classically each game must be approached as if it is a cup final, with a win essential and a four-try bonus a close second.
Playing simple rugby with the talent they have is the obvious way to go forward, but unlike the game against the Magpies, it must be achieved more consistently, particularly the lineout, which went through a couple of very iffy patches, while the numerous missed or not taken try opportunities could come back, if repeated, to haunt Tenby in the forthcoming run-in of matches. The business end of the season is going to be a nail-biting affair.
Tenby fielded: Ashley Sutton, Mark Heywood, Jonny Morgan, Scott James, Moritz Neumann, Toby Smith, Matthew Morgan, Geoff Martin, Joe Poole, Ethan Morgan, Luke Dedman, Charlie Patching, Andrew Cooke, Barry Parsons, Luke Hansford. Reps - Rob Clark, Harry Bolton, Connor Ennis, Dan Allen, Alex Thomas