By: Paul Hopkins
Merthyr eased to a 29-21 bonus point victory over Swansea at a very wet Wern, despite a promising second half for Hugh Gustafson’s men.
In the opening exchanges, fly half Joe Thomas found touch on the Merthyr 22 with a booming penalty kick and lock Matt Dodd took the lineout, but was held up in the maul, surrendering possession.
Fly half Gareth Thompson almost made a mess of gathering a pass inside his own half, but scrum half Ethan Lloyd dropped back to clear the danger with a high kick.
Flanker Lloyd Evans superbly took a high ball to give his side a spell of possession and the Merthyr defence failed to release centre Gareth O Rees in the tackle, so Joe Thomas again kicked his side up to the 22. However, for the third time in succession Merthyr stole the ball at the lineout.
Flanker Sam Evans looked to charge through the middle and a clever chip through almost sent winger Teri Gee in at the corner, but the ball bounced into touch a metre short.
A fourth lineout fail in a row by the Whites gifted Merthyr the ball a few metres from the line, with Evans charging towards the line, but he was stopped. Flanker Callum Bowden was yellow carded soon after for illegally killing a dangerous attack.
The home side opted for a scrum five and the choice paid off with former All Whites flanker Josh Perkins crashing over for a try from close range. Centre Josh Lewis converted.
Scrum half Rhodri Lewis made a break from a scrum and fed full back Brandon Wood as the Whites’ backs stretched their legs. Wood sprinted towards the line at the corner but was held up, but the ball became trapped to give Swansea an attacking scrum, although the visitors gave away a penalty.
Evans showed great strength to power forward as the Merthyr pack began to take control. Then a superb little chip ahead by Thompson was gathered and he sent Lloyd in for a try. Josh Lewis converted.
Swansea hit back immediately when Joe Thomas chipped into the corner and a lucky bounce let Wood in for a try. Joe Thomas converted.
The visitors almost grabbed a second in as many minutes when hooker Owen Thomas made a break, but the supporting Lewis lost possession and Merthyr were able to clear. At the very next play Joe Thomas threatened with a break on the wing, but he failed to pass and was crowded out into touch.
Joe Thomas dummied his way past a Merthyr tackler and sprinted forward, with Evans in support. Centre Osian Knott’s clever chip forward created panic in the Merthyr defence and they gave away a penalty, which Joe Thomas booted into the corner.
The home side drove a maul right up to the try line, but Lewis was unable to get the ball out giving Merthyr a real let off.
Evans lost the ball forward at a lineout and Joe Thomas made him pay by switching play deep into the Merthyr 22 with a clever chip.
The Merthyr pack managed to work their way from the 22 up to the line with hooker Liam Wiggins crashing over for a try. Josh Lewis converted.
Gee came close to intercepting a pass that would have resulted in a certain try, but the Whites managed to disrupt play. Number eight Jake Baker was then inches away from a try scoring interception of his own, but second row Craig Locke tidied up play and chipped into the corner.
In the final reckonings of the half, Lewis was charged down inside his 22, but the bounce favoured the All Whites and the chance came to nothing.
Half-time:- Merthyr 21-7 Swansea
Josh Lewis attempted a drop goal after a move broke down, but his effort drifted wide of the posts. But shortly after, a huge drive by the Merthyr pack earned a penalty, with Lewis kicking to the corner.
From the lineout the Merthyr pack drove towards the line and got the ball out for winger Adam Hoskins to crash over for a try. Josh Lewis missed the conversion.
Josh Lewis made a break, but was tackled before hooker Owen Thomas ripped the ball out of Locke’s hands. The All Whites broke quickly and used their backs to send replacement scrum half Gareth J Rees over for a magnificent try. Joe Thomas converted.
The Merthyr front row collapsed a scrum, giving Swansea a penalty on half way, from which Joe Thomas found touch a few metres from the line with a superb kick. Dodd took the lineout and after a maul, the ball was fed out wide but winger Matthew Jenkins was tackled. Josh Lewis was yellow carded for offside as he tried to intercept a pass.
The Whites camped on the Merthyr line and were awarded a penalty, which Joe Thomas dinked into the corner. Dodd failed to take the lineout though and Merthyr were able to clear.
The visitors stole a lineout out of the clutches of Bradbury and a well weighted kick by Wood found touch inside the Merthyr 22.
The territory gain paid off as the Whites were awarded a free kick from the lineout and Joe Thomas dummied out wide, with prop Ed Thompson driving towards the line, but a knock forward by the home side gave Swansea an attacking scrum. The home pack earned a penalty by driving their counterparts off the ball.
Locke charged forward and tried to get the ball out wide to Hoskins, but his chip ahead was shepherded dead. Play was brought back for a penalty, which Thompson kicked.
The visitors were awarded a penalty after the Merthyr backs strayed in front of the kicker and the visitors looked to attack, but Knott was penalised for crossing.
The home side were soon back on the front foot through Evans, who charged forward but lost possession, and his side was penalised moments later, although the Whites were unable to make the most of it.
With the Merthyr pack continuing to show dominance up front, they won a scrum against the head with Bradbury powering forward. At the next play, full back Ben Jones tried to chase down a chip ahead but winger Llien Morgan shepherded the ball out of play, taking a nasty bang against the hoardings for his efforts, though he appeared OK afterwards.
Joe Thomas kicked a penalty touch finder up to the 22 and Dodd took the lineout, but a poor pass was knocked forward by replacement scrum half Gareth J Rees.
The All Whites still sensed that they could get something from the game and Knott tried a chip and chase, but the ball bounced dead. Play was brought back for a penalty but after a quick tap, the home side regathered and earned a penalty.
The visitors grabbed a consolation try through Joe Thomas after good work by the forwards, which he also converted, but a bonus point was not to be as the Merthyr defence kept their opponents at bay in the dying seconds.
Next up for Merthyr is a home match against sixth place Aberavon, while Swansea travel to tenth place Pontypridd.
Full-time:- Merthyr 29-21 Swansea
Tries:- Jack Perkins (12), Ethan Lloyd (21), Liam Wiggins (38), Adam Hoskins (45)
Cons:- Josh Lewis (13, 22, 39)
Pens:- Gareth Thompson (69)
Yellow cards:- Josh Lewis (54)
Tries:- Brandon Wood (24), Gareth J Rees (49), Joe Thomas (80+7)
Cons:- Joe Thomas (25, 50, 80+8)
Yellow cards:- Callum Bowden (11)
Venue:- The Wern, Merthyr
Weather:- Rain, 12C
Referee:- Ben Whitehouse
Man of the match:- Craig Locke
15 Ben Jones
14 Adam Hoskins
13 Morgan Sieniawski
12 Josh Lewis
11 Teri Gee
10 Gareth Thompson (rep: Morgan Meaclem 70)
9 Ethan Lloyd (rep: James Soanes 73)
1 Travis Hawkins (rep: Louis Jones 73)
2 Liam Wiggins (rep: Dan Wall 57)
3 Dave Whiting (rep: Dave Whiting 57)
4 Craig Locke
5 Callum Bradbury
6 Sam Evans
7 Jack Perkins
8 Paddy McBride © (rep: Tom Davies 80+4)
16 Dan Wall
17 Louis Jones
18 Rhys Lewis
19 Tom Davies
20 Lennon Greggains
21 James Soanes
22 Rhys Davies
23 Morgan Meaclem
15 Brandon Wood
14 Matthew Jenkins
13 Gareth O Rees (rep: Sam Matthews 70)
12 Osian Knott
11 Llien Morgan
10 Joe Thomas
9 Rhodri Lewis (rep: Gareth J Rees 46)
1 Freddie Chapman (rep: Daf Davies 70)
2 Owen Thomas (rep: Finn Thomas 78)
3 Ed Thompson (rep: Tom Crockett 65)
4 Lewis Marsh (rep: Ryan Jones 60)
5 Matt Dodd
6 Callum Bowden ©
7 Lloyd Evans (rep: Joe Greaves 42)
8 Jake Baker (rep: Tristan Davies 41)
16 Finn Thomas
17 Daf Davies
18 Tom Crockett
19 Joe Greaves
20 Tristan Davies
21 Ryan Jones
22 Gareth J Rees
23 Sam Matthews