EBBW Vale will be doing some real heart-searching after slipping to a disappointing defeat against the Principality Premiership defending champions with indiscipline being high on the agenda, writes Geoff Champion.

The Steelmen were leading 20-16 early in the second half and looked to be well capable of pulling off a prized victory over their arch rivals. But the wheels came off big style midway through the second half with no fewer than three of their pack, flanker Rhys Clarke, replacement hooker Matthew Williams and second row Lance Randall all ending up in the sin- bin at the same time.

Merthyr took full advantage with a 17-points burst of scoring which effectively ended the match as a contest.

Vale outside half Lewis Dennet was the star man in their ranks kicking five good penalty goals to cap a solid display while hooker Rhys Francis crossed for an unconverted try in first half injury time.

Merthyr’s points came from tries by centre Harri Millard and flanker Ed Siggery and a 67th minute penalty try while full back and prolific points scorer Matthew Jarvis kicked four penalties and two conversions.

Both clubs came into this Heads of the Valleys contest on the back of impressive wins having made indifferent starts to their Principality Premiership East campaigns. The Steelmen had shocked previously unbeaten Cardiff by pulling off a fine 30-25 victory at the Arms Park while reigning champions Merthyr saw off the challenge of visitors Newport 43-33.

Merthyr were 35-26 league winners when they last visited Eugene Cross Park in May. In fact, they chalked up a clean sweep of victories over the Vale last season. The sides met no fewer than five times – the Ironmen winning both Premiership clashes and all three National Cup and Fosters Challenge Cup fixtures.

Dennet and Jarvis exchanged penalty goals in the 10th and 14th minutes respectively as both packs tested each other out with aggressive rucking and tackling before Dennet put Vale 6-3 midway tough the first half with another penalty kick from 38 metres. Back bounced the Ironmen with a smart try by Millard after a superb chip over the home line by outside half Jones. Jarvis kicked the easy conversion.

The play and the score continued to swing back and fore with Dennet kicking two further penalties and Jarvis another. Meanwhile, both Merthyr flankers Ed Siggery (31 minutes) and Osian Davies (40+5 minutes) had both been sin-binned. Vale took immediate advantage of Davies’ departure in a rolling maul which saw hooker Francis crash over for an unconverted try to make the interval score 17-13 in the Steelmen’s favour.

Everything was looking bright for Vale until those yellow cards came in quick succession in the final quarter which effectively handed the victory to their opponents.

Scorers: Ebbw Vale – Tries: R Francis Pens: L Dennet (5)

Merthyr - Tries: H Millard, Penalty Try and E Siggery; Pens: M Jarvis (4) Cons: M Jarvis (2)

Ebbw Vale: D Haymond; S Majkic, D Franchi, D Langdon, T Fricker; L Dennett (C Hall 74), C Lewis ( D Jones 74); R Jones (J Harries 56), R Francis (M Williams 63), R Sevenoaks ( J James 71), K Parker, L Randall, R Clarke, R Kynes,capt. ( O Jones 63) and C Reagan.

Merthyr: M Jarvis (T Riley 80); K Evans, H Millard (J Flye 75), A Pinches, R Carter; B Jones, R Downes ( A Hoskins 80); J Howe (N Trevett 53), M Dwyer, L Jones, B Murphy (B Siers 74), C Locke, capt., E Siggery ( N White 72), O Davies and J Bearman.

Referee: Mr Rhys Thomas (WRU).

Ebbw Vale star man: Lewis Dennet