Wales Deaf secured a sixth consecutive victory against England Deaf with a hard fought 18 – 25 win at Broadstreet RFC, Coventry.
Anticipating a considerable challenge from the English forwards, Wales dominated the early exchanges and applied pressure inside the England 22. After 6 minutes, Wales lead 6 – 0 with Glamorgan Wanderers full-back Celyn Ashton kicking two penalties.
The visitors were unfortunate not to extend their lead further after 14 minutes when Dunvant outside half Richard Lewis scythed through the English defence to release winger Nigel Francis. Fortunately for the hosts, Francis’s kick and chase bounced into touch with the try line looming.
Wales’ dominance stimulated a positive response from England with their forwards imposing their power in the tight phases.
On 23 minutes, England centre Craig Orrick reduced the deficit to 3 – 6 with a penalty after Wales had strayed off-side at a ruck. However, Wales’s full back Celyn Ashton further increased Wales’ lead 3 minutes later with a well taken 25 metre penalty into a strong wind.
From the re-start, Wales failed to gather the kick off and England surged forward into their opponents 22. From a ruck, the ball was swiftly released along the England back line and with Wales’s running out of defenders, full back Guy Lavery dived over in the corner for a well taken try. Craig Orrick kicked the conversion to make it 10 – 9 to the hosts.
With half time approaching, Wales benefitted from a rare visit into the England 22 when the hosts were penalised for not staying on their feet at ruck. Full back Celyn Ashton stepped forward to put Wales 10 – 12 ahead at the break.
Wales started the second half strongly and probed the England defensive line but couldn’t capitalise. England pounced on a loose ball and broke free down field only to be hauled down within the Wales 22. With Wales’ scrum under increasing pressure, England were awarded a penalty for collapsing the scrum. Centre Craig Orrick kicked the penalty to put England ahead 13 – 12 after 50 minutes.
Despite enjoying the majority of possession and territory, England couldn’t shake off Wales’ spirited determination to spread the ball among their speedy backs. With the game entering the final quarter, Wales’ forwards secured possession and progressed steadily up field. England were penalised for straying off side at a ruck and Celyn Ashton once again stroked over the penalty to restore Wales’ lead to 13 – 15.
The game’s turning point came with 13 minutes left as Narberth number 8 Jamie Bahota took a bone crunching tackle from two England defenders. However, he managed to re-cycle the ball from the ruck and with two England players out, the ball was quickly released to Dunvant outside half Richard Lewis who fed winger Nigel Francis on the England 10m line. Francis shrugged off one tackle and offloaded to Tonmawr centre Gareth John who scorched in for an excellent try underneath the posts. The conversion moved Wales ahead 13 – 25.
With only 5 minutes left, any thoughts Wales had of the game being over were quickly dispelled as England stormed back and threw everything at the visitor’s try-line. With the England forwards on the rampage, Wales’ courageous tackling held out until lively hooker Peter Altham eventually crashed over in the corner. Fortunately for Wales the conversion went wide of the posts and they held on for a famous 18 – 25 victory.
Team manager Claire Lewis, said; “We are thrilled to come away with the win. England dominated large parts of the game and their forwards kept possession extremely well. Their rolling maul and scrum were particularly effective. However, with limited ball at times, we played some good rugby and scored an excellent try. We are very proud of the team’s determination and spirit to overcome a strong England side.”