Sunday, 25 March 2012

Mold limp towards end of season

The journey for Mold to the end of the season and to Pwllheli seemed even longer this week with only 16 fully fit and available players managing to travel.
“It's been a disastrous week”, said Mold Head coach Les Byrne. “What started out a very promising week ended up a nightmare, even on the Saturday morning with just 16 players left. But that’s the hand we were dealt so all credit to those players that made the journey and came away with just a 26-13 defeat”.
In the post match player debrief, Byrne congratulated his players for “putting their bodies on the line and giving total commitment for the whole hard grafted 80 minutes. The club couldn’t have asked for more”.
In reality, Mold played the more aggressive rugby and had both possession and territory for 65% of the game, even after going down to 14 men with still 35 minutes to go. The difference in the score line was Mold’s old foe, inches and precision.
They were inches from causing an upset with 2 minutes to go at 13-19 and the precision of the pass that gifted Pwllheli their final converted try; the unfortunate story of Mold’s season. 
The game hadn’t started well when, at the opposite end of the pitch, they allowed Pwllheli to run through half of their players for Robert Williams to score on the 2 minute mark. Mold were lucky to prevent the same thing from happening again a few minutes later but finally shock off the long journey and began to play some nice rugby.
Reduced to playing uncontested scrums, Mold more then held their own in the other parts of the contest and some enterprising runs by scrum half Jamie Winning gave Mold the spur they needed. For much of the first half, Mold remained in Pwllheli's half  through hard work from the forwards at the breakdown, as well as some solid defence by returning Ollie Jenner and Cai Edwards. 
The pressure from Mold finally paid off when Dave James squeezed in close to the posts for a deserved try for Mold, with Luke Jones duly converting. Mold continued to push and came close to extending their scoring with two penalties in kickable range, both efforts drifting wide however.
Mark Jones and Gareth Millington paired to spoil opposition possession and take the ball up the middle of the park, with Alex Green powering through the opposition's defence, falling just short of the Pwllheli line.
Mold were then reduced to 14 men with a sin binning but instead of dropping their intensity, Mold dug deep and saw a rise in tempo just before the half time whistle. Ollie Jenner linked well with brother Tom to set up a resurgent platform at the breakdown before the touchline won out, just before half time with honours even at 7-7.
Pwllheli came out quicker off the blocks after the break with Alex Green producing the tackle of the match to initially deny Pwllheli their next score, before Pwllheli's extra man advantage saw Richard Highes go over for an unconverted try, before Robin Highes-Jones extended their lead with a touchdown shortly after.
Mold were then permanently reduced to 14 men when Dan Bowden went off injured, though Luke Jones did narrow Pwllheli's lead by slotting a penalty. Mold pushed on through Sam Wilding, Tom Williams and Sean Mackie, but overall, rushed decision making with two free kicks, took away the opportunity for them to exploit the uncontested scrums close to the opposition 22.
With Mold camping close to the opposition 22 for much of the last 15 minutes, Ollie Jenner then put Mold in range with a drop goal to move the board onto 19-13. Mold continued to surge against some determined Pwllheli defence, with Luke Jones being stopped only inches form the line.
The last few minutes were frantic for both teams with the try line in sight for Mold, only for the final pass to fall into a Pwllheli player John Hughes’ hands and charge to the other end of the pitch to score a dramatic intercept try as the final act of the game.
Stand-in captain for the day, Aaron Jones, also echoed Byrne's post match comments, “We couldn’t have asked for more effort or commitment from the players. It's important for us to keep improving and that's exactly what we did today."

Byrne was particularly praising of his young captain for taking on the role and leading from the front, “Aaron slogged and slogged today showing a very high work rate and clarity of thought – the team just needed to listen to him more and not knee jerk at crucial times."

Ending on a more upbeat note, Byrne added, "We played pretty well for long periods of the game today. There is still a bit to work on but the intensity was there and there are a lot of good signs that what we worked on during the last few weeks came through, which is commendable considering only 3 of the forwards have been regulars and with everyone dead on their feet at the end having given their all".
"We probably played about six out of ten in our last match but today it was nearer eight so, it's getting better and if we can get another improvement next week that will be very satisfying" added Byrne. “Next week will be crunch at home to Llandudno in our rearranged fixture”.

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