ALL GOLDS 16 – 70 VALLEY COUGARS
Christopher Wilson at SGS WISE Campus, Bristol
The All Golds crashed to a club record 70-16 loss to Valley Cougars who ran in 13 tries against a side deprived of a host of first team players by injury and unavailability and who ran out of substitutes in the final quarter of the game, finishing with just ten fit players.
Coming after the Golden Ferns were beaten 88-6 by a team containing half of the Welsh international side, it was a chastening afternoon for the All Golds against Welsh opposition.
The Cougars started at full throttle and didn’t let up for the entire match. They were faster, stronger and better organised throughout. They controlled the rucks, reducing the home side’s momentum to a crawl and allowing their physically strong defence the chance to regroup and snuff out any danger.
The carnage started early. After the All Golds had lost possession in consecutive sets, Shane Lee’s looping pass out wide gave Adam Watton a simple score with just four minutes played.
Then the Cougars found a weakness down the All Golds’ right edge and exploited it mercilessly.
Brilliant handling allowed Sam Pridgeon to coast over and then, in their next set, missed tackles allowed Liam Watton the first of his four first half touchdowns.
Despite their attacking prowess, the Cougars were vulnerable close to their line and Brandon Lamb pulled a score back for the All Golds, weaving over from dummy half. Ash Lewis added the goal.
However, a smart dummy half play from Lee who stole the ball at the ruck, set up the Cougars to exploit weak tackling and send Dafydd Hellard over, again down the All Golds’ right.
Craig Lewis broke free from the restart and in the blink of an eye, Liam Watton crossed again for his second score.
The match was being played at a tremendous pace and the All Golds were next on the board. Lee dropped the restart and Tom Gaffney ducked under one tackle, dodged another and touched down for a try converted by Jay Woodley.
Ten minutes from half time, the Cougars went back to the wing that had brought so much joy and Liam Watton completed his hat-trick before setting up Pridgeon for his second.
In the last minute of the half, Liam Watton scored his fourth try but the All Golds had crossed themselves five minutes previously through Luke Panting who was put through a gap by Greg Hamilton and trotted over under the posts.
Trailing 40-16 at the interval, the result was a foregone conclusion, but the home side still had pride to play for.
However, there were other circumstances at play. Already with a side weakened by injury, the All Golds’ numbers steadily dwindled through the second half as the score mounted. The Cougars didn’t need a second invitation to exploit the extra space that increasingly began to appear.
Gethin King powered over after the All Golds sent the kick-off for the second half out on the full before Adam Watton went over following a ball steal that looked to have been knocked on. Between those scores Liam Watton dropped a tryscoring pass and a chance for a fifth try.
The All Golds briefly threatened following Lamb’s interception and 50-metre run but Panting’s touchdown was chalked off for a forward pass.
King scored again after another attempt by Lamb to intercept a pass this time went to ground and then David Smith was denied a try for a forward pass after handling twice in a bewildering counterattack featuring four players supporting at pace.
Following a ball steal, Dean Higgs finished another razor-sharp attack instigated by Lee before Hamilton was carried off in great pain with a leg injury, leaving just ten men to face the rampant Cougars.
The final nail in a coffin long since put underground came after the All Golds’ kick at the end of a set went more backwards than forwards and Pridgeon grabbed the gift to complete his hat-trick.
Just as the referee blew for full time, the heavens opened, but the All Golds barely noticed as they had already been drenched by a storm.
ALL GOLDS: Tom Gaffney; Mason Robbins, Luke Kell, Mason Ball, Charlie Anstis; Greg Hamilton, Joe Uren; Luke Panting, James Royle, Finlay Nuttall; Jordan Smith, Ash Lewis; Brandon Lamb (Capt); INTERCHANGE: Connor O’Gara, Jay Woodley.
Tries: Lamb (19), Gaffney (27), Panting (35)
Goals: Lewis 1 from 1, Woodley 1 from 2.
COUGARS: Shaun Webber; Adam Watton, Ross Coughlan, Liam Watton, Sam Pridgeon; Ben Jones, Shane Lee; Ross Price, Dean Higgs, Gethin King; Craig Lewis, Mike Hurley; Rhodri Evans; INTERCHANGE: Jamie March, Kieran Lewis, Dafydd Hellard, David Smith.
Tries: A. Watton (4, 48), Pridgeon (10, 33, 65), L. Watton (12, 24, 30, 39), Hellard (21), King (42, 55), Higgs (62)
Goals: Hurley 7 from 11, Jones 2 from 2
All Golds Man of the Match: A captain’s effort from Brandon Lamb
Scoring sequence: 0-4, 0-10, 0-14, 6-14, 6-20, 6-26, 12-26, 12-30, 12-36, 16-36, 16-40, (HT), 16-46, 16-52, 16-58, 16-64, 16-70, (FT)
Penalty Count: 2-2
Referee: Alex MacDonald
Image: All Golds’ Brandon Lamb about to score his side’s first try against the Valley Cougars (Image courtesy of Lewis Mitchell Photography)