PWLLHELI maintained their title defence in Division One North as they took the spoils in a high quality, tense 48-34 win against rivals Caernarfon, which demonstrated community rugby at its best.
Of the four fixtures between these two clubs this season this was the most fiercely contested, and the crowd of over 250 fully appreciated the efforts of the players.
It was only when Pwllheli fundamentally changed tactics and kept the ball tight that they were able to secure the spoils.
Pwllheli opened the scoring after four minutes with a penalty from wing Osian Parry Jones, but this was matched within a minute by Aled Jones for Caernarfon.
The visitors varied their game, with both the pack and backs inter-passing well, but when they dropped the ball 30 metres from the Pwllheli line, wing Robin Hughes Jones latched on to it and ran the length of the pitch to score under the posts.
Parry Jones slotted the straightforward conversion to give his side a 10-3 lead.
Five minutes later the situation was reversed as the home side, having created a clear overlap 20 metres from the Caernarfon line, failed to move the ball swiftly enough and were caught in the tackle.
The visitors turned over possession and recycled the ball quickly, with centre Mark Jones making good yardage, before flanker Gruff Ifor made the touch down.
Aled Jones’ conversion brought he game level once again at 10 points apiece.
The frantic pace did not diminish and it was Pwllheli who scored next when they powered towards the Caernarfon line.
Initial thrusts were effectively halted, but Pwllheli switched the ball quickly to the right and Osian Parry Jones, with plenty still to do, used his size and power to crash through two would-be tacklers and score an unconverted try wide out.
Although Caernafon had more territory, Pwllheli were countering at pace and when they were awarded a penalty captain Nick Butterworth tapped and went.
He found centre John Pugh on his shoulder, who made ground before offloading to fellow centre Gareth Lloyd Williams, who crashed over under the posts. Parry Jones’ conversion opened up a 22-10 lead.
Caernarfon responded with gusto, and after probing the Pwllheli defence via their heavy pack, they switched the ball left and centre Dafydd Lloyd beat the cover to score a try wide out, making it 22-15.
Just four minutes into the second half, two slick offloads put centre Dafydd Lloyd within five metres of the try line, and his strength took him over the whitewash to score a try under the posts. Aled Jones’ conversion tied the scores at 22-22.
Two minutes later a speculative kick ahead on the left seemed to be covered by Pwllheli, but the bounce beat the cover and Caernarfon wing Dylan Gwyn Owen scorched through to score unopposed.The conversion gave them a seven point lead.
Pwllheli brought on the experienced Elgan Davies and young flanker Harry Roberts, who replaced Ifan Roberts, who had to leave the filed due to an eye injury.
The home side became much tighter and much more forward orientated, and they were now more structured in the loose.
From a driving maul outside the Caernarfon twenty two, the cohesive drive paid dividends as prop Rhys Williams crashed over to score the bonus point try.
Osian Parry Jones’ conversion then brought the scores level at 29 points each.
Pwllheli’s discipline showed as they kept Caernarfon on the back foot, and Osian Parry Jones scored his team’s fifth try as the beneficiary of his close support of the marauding back row. His touchline conversion was the best of the game.
Nick Butterworth then scored a typical close quarter try to give his team a 41-29 lead, and not to be outdone fellow half back Kallim Kelemete danced through the cover for a try under the posts. Parry Jones’ conversion was a formality.
Caernarfon had the final say in the 46th minute of the half when centre Dafydd Lloyd achieved his hat-trick with a well taken score. The whistle went immediately after the missed conversion attempt.
On Saturday Pwllheli host Abergele in their North Wales Cup semi-final tie, which will also be a league double header.
They then face Bala away on 29 April and Mold away on 6 May, and Pwllheli need to win all three games, with at least one try bonus point, to reclaim the title.