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Swansea 10 Merthyr 17
The Whites’ 371-day unbeaten home record came to an end at the hands of champions Merthyr in atrocious weather conditions. It was a nervous start for the visitors as fly-half Rhys Jones had a clearance kick charged down in the opening ten seconds and lock Shaun O’Rourke nipped in to steal a lineout, but an infringement at the scrum by Swansea gave Merthyr some much-needed respite. Then it was the All Whites’ turn to make a mistake in the slippery conditions as winger Gareth Rees dropped a routine catch. Scrum-half Justin James tried to wriggle through a ruck, but the home pack drove in at the side. Jones found touch on the twenty-two and the Whites pulled down an advancing rolling maul. Jones again kicked to the corner, but Swansea managed to halt the maul to gain an important turnover. Winger Ashley Norton spilled a high kick into touch to gift the home side an attacking lineout against the run of play, but number eight Tom Daley stole the lineout. The visitors’ pack continued to dominate the first half and another scrum penalty followed. Second row Craig Locke rose high to take the lineout and Swansea again collapsed a maul with prop Tom Sloane yellow carded. Merthyr took the lead when Jones chipped to the corner and Locke was driven over the line for the opening try. Jones converted. Swansea was handed an opportunity to strike back from the restart when the Merthyr defense was penalized for obstruction. Fly-half Josh Thomas kicked to the corner and the decision paid off when the forwards patiently built a maul with center Callum Carson sneaking over for a try under the posts. Josh Thomas converted. Number eight Jon Fox picked up a loose ball on the ground but a chip through was well dealt with by winger Harry Davies, who slid across to clear. The home side took a 34th-minute lead through a Josh Thomas penalty after the visitors were penalized for handling in the ruck. A mistake by Fox at the restart gave Merthyr an attacking scrum inside the twenty-two. However, a superb counter drive by the Swansea pack allowed full-back, Phil Jones, to clear 50 meters downfield. O’Rourke took a lineout as the home side attacked again, forcing a penalty. Josh Thomas chipped to the corner but Fox lost possession forward. A loose kick by Jones was pounced on by Merthyr, but a forward pass into touch by full-back Josh Martin brought a premature end to the move. A huge scrum by the visitors’ pack earned a penalty and Jones kicked to the corner. O’Rourke superbly nipped in to steal the lineout as Swansea were able to clear The Merthyr pack mounted attack after attack and battered the Swansea line with replacement hooker Rhys Williams driving up to the line before the Swansea defense was penalized for failing to roll away in the tackle. A mistake at the lineout allowed the home side to clear. O’Rourke was penalized for holding on after the tackle, giving Merthyr a kickable penalty, but Jones opted to find the corner. The visitors inched towards the line before James got the ball out wide with Martin sliding over for a try in the corner. Jones converted. A scrummaging infringement by the home pack gifted Merthyr a penalty and this time Jones chose to kick at goal and was rewarded with three points. Centre Harley Thomson sprinted through a tiring Swansea defense, but Josh Thomas did well to slide into a chip through to clear long. The Whites almost scored a late try when scrum-half Chris Morgan’s chipped through, but he spilled the ball forward near the line. The play was brought back for a penalty and Josh Thomas chipped to the corner and flanker Callum Bowden was held up over the line. It was not to be though as the Whites gave away a penalty at the scrum five as Merthyr celebrated a hard-fought victory.
MERTHYR: 15 J MARTIN,14 A NORTON,13 H THOMPSON,12 A THOMAS,11 H DAVIES,10 R JONES,9 J JAMES,1 C PHILLIPS,2 S EVANS,3 J GUIDING,4 C LOCKE(C), 5 J DOWN,6 D WELCH,7 J THOMAS,8 T DALEY, 16 R WILLIAMS,17 R THOMAS,18 N TREVETT,19 J PERKINS,20 H BARNES,21 J SOANES,22 G DAVIES,23 M JARVIS. Scorers, C Locke(1t) J Martin(1t), R Jones 2c, 1p,