South Wales Scorpions completed the double over London Skolars for just their second win of the season and their first in Wales for 2014.
And this game was away from their usual venue of Maesteg RFC thanks to sponsorship from Cardiff International Pool operated by Parkwood Leisure. Proving that games on the road work, this encounter at Cardiff Arms Park attracted a healthy crowd of 486, not only the Scorpions’ best of the season but the biggest in Championship 1 outside of the north of England this season.
The match was part of a triple header, the first game seeing Gwendraeth Valley Raiders beat Valley Cougars A 50-32 to qualify for the Welsh Conference play-offs, while Scorpions’ under 19s swept aside their London counterparts 54-10.
The headline attraction may have produced the lowest score but the second 40 minutes at least proved to be the most exciting of the day and it was only secured in the final minutes with a drop-goal from man of the match Paul Emanuelli.
The home side didn’t have the best of starts. Ashley Bateman was sinbinned for dissent on nine minutes and Skolars almost took advantage but Erjon Dollapi was stopped short of the line.
However it was 12-man Scorpions who took the lead after Phil Carleton did well to fight off two Skolars men and roll over the line. Emanuelli missed the kick.
Scorpions were their own worst enemies in the first half giving away a stream of penalties. The count had already reached five against the home side before former Scorpions Courtney Davies ran under the sticks and converted himself.
Ian Newbury looked to have given Scorpions the advantage back when he reached out for the line but the referee deemed his arm to be millimetres short of the whitewash.
But Jordan Sheridan made no mistake as, from a penalty, he ran over unchallenged to place the ball under the sticks. Emanuelli made no mistake on this occasion to make the score 10-6.
The penalties came rolling in, one of which came after Skolars’ Josh Sunley was sent to the bin for a high tackle, and when Scorpions were awarded their third of the first half, just before the interval, Emanuelli chose to kick at goal to give the Welsh a 12-6 scoreline in their favour at the break.
It looked like it was going to be a case of same old story for the Scorpions in the second half as they surcummed to two early second half scores.
Crusaders’ loanee Ryan McDonald muscled his way through the Scorpions back-line for the first. Davies goaled to level things up at 12 apiece.
And they went into the lead after winning a repeat set. Skipper Dave Williams used his large frame to reach through a pile of Scorpions players to score with Davies converting.
However the last 15 minutes was dominated by the Scorpions despite a string of errors on both sides.
A trademark 40-20 from Emanuelli gave Scorpions a chance to level things up, one they didn’t waste. Daniel Parry was held up over the line but later in the set, Jack Pring weaved his way through the Skolars defence like a knife through butter to score. Emanuelli converted to make the score 18-all.
And they thought they’d regained the lead with ten minutes to go but Parry was denied for a second time, again being held up over the line by some strong London defending.
The sides fought their way through the last ten minutes. Chris Leyshon intercepted a waywood London pass on his own 10 metre line and following knock-ons from both sides, Emanuelli kicked a drop goal with just four minutes remaining on the clock.
Scorpions looked to make it safe in the final minute but again the Skolars defence held out and Morgan Evans was held up over the line.
Skolars were attacking as the final hooter went but didn’t have enough in the tank to secure more than a bonus point.