By Rob Cole
— BBC ScrumV (@BBCScrumV) May 10, 2019
Magnificent Merthyr made it seven trophies in six incredible seasons as they became only the third side in the 29-year history of the WRU Premiership to complete a hat-trick of titles, thanks to a 28-24 win at home to RGC 1404 on Friday night.
Only Neath (2005-08) and Pontypridd (2012-15) with four successive titles have dominated the top tier of the semi-pro game in such a fashion as the Ironmen since they arrived at the top table in 2016.
They came into their penultimate Principality Premiership game of the season with a seven point lead over Cardiff and knowing that a victory over RGC 1404 would enable them to hold onto their crown with a game to spare.
It was their 23rd win in 29 outings this season and they still have a game to go at Sardis Road on Friday night against arch-rivals Pontypridd.
RGC 1404 ensured the champions were made to fight every inch of the way, though, as they rocked the league leaders with two tries in the opening seven minutes to open up a 14 point lead.
Mark Jones and Phil John must have been delighted at the way their side started and they were the more likely looking team to score in the first half.
The first try was textbook stuff. Centre Harri Evans got a turnover penalty on half-way, Billy McBryde kicked deep into the home 22 and the driving line-out veered in-field. Scrum-half Efan Jones fed centre Rhys Williams and he powered through two tacklers from five metres out to score.
McBryde added the extras and then converted an Evan Yardley try when the hooker popped out of a maul 15 metres out to run unopposed to the posts. Merthyr were on the ropes, but they came back fighting.
Their renowned driving line-out earned a try for prop Louis Jones and Matt Jarvis converted. They used their big pack to try to punch hole after hole in the RGC defence, but the Gogs stood firm.
They also went into the break with a third try in the bag after great approach play by their pack allowed McBryde to send wing Sam Jones flying over for another converted score that made it 21-7 to the visitors at the break.
— BBC ScrumV (@BBCScrumV) May 10, 2019
Merthyr upped the tempo in the second half and threw the kitchen sink at the north Walians to try to get back on terms. Gareth Davies popped a pass to Arran Pinches to score 10 mintues after the re-start and then the powerful centre made the running to set up Jones for his second try.
Jarvis converted them both and the scores were level on 55 minutes. Merthyr had the momentum, but then had what would have been a bonus-point try ruled out for offside by the TMO after Paddy McBride had crossed.
This magnificent match continued to ebb and flow right to the death and McBryde edged RGC ahead on 70 minutes with a penalty 25 metres out after a scrum offence.
Moments later Merthyr had the chance to level from the 10-metre line, but instead Jarvis kicked to the corner to give his forwards the chance to drive for victory.
The line-out was secured, they reached the try line, won a penalty and they knocked-on as they went for the try. A huge shove at the scrum in the shadow of the RGC posts earned the home side the put in and their continual pressure forced RGC to concede two more penalties.
Referee Dan Jones sent replacement prop Jordan Scott to the sin-bin, but another knock-on earned RGC another reprieve.
Merthyr got one final shot at glory when the referee spotted hands in a ruck 30 metres out and they once again kicked to the corner.
Every player joined the driving line-out, but it still couldn’t push the 14 man RGC side over the line. They did get another penalty, though, and into the corner it went for the last play of the game.
This time there was to be no denying the Ironmen as they inched their way towards and then over the line, every player once again involved.
They couldn’t name the try scorer, but it simply didn’t matter – the title was Merthyr’s once again.