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Whitland beat Saints in derby

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Whitland              31

St Clears               10

League 2 West

By Jonathan Twigg

THE Bois Pwll Trap sponsored Whitland side gained the bragging rights in the first league encounter against St Clears on Saturday (Sept 9) when they gained a bonus point victory at Parc Llwyn Ty Gwyn by running in four tries.

For the opening 20 minutes of the game the visiting ‘Boars’ found it difficult to establish a pattern which would give a platform from which scrum half Llyr Ebsworth and half back partner Shane Morgan could gain momentum.

Home skipper Marc Jones chose to keep the look for five points through dominant line outs play, turning down kickable penalty attempts. Second rows, veterans Dai Ebsworth and Raff Williams were the targets for hooker Jones in these early exchanges with the opening score arriving after six minutes when prop Aaron Mayne crashed over from close range following a pass by scrum half Adam Davies following second phase ball from the set piece.

This was a just reward for the opening period of pressure with outside half Nico Setaro pushing his conversion attempt across the goal and striking the left hand upright.

Centre Johnnie Thomas made space from the restart and with runners on his shoulder either side as he sped over the halfway line timed a pass to winger Sean Coles who was caught and bundled into touch 20m short of the whitewash by visiting skipper Matthew Lewis.

Whitland debutant Josh Thomas: Direct running at the St Clears defence

Geraint Jones did have an attempt at goal into a driving wind blowing towards the ‘Town’ end as number 8 Tomas Rees, Ebsworth and prop Alun Davies created the goal attempt when the home side were penalised by referee Jason Summers for offside.

Setaro scored to make it 8-0 after sixteen minutes when he struck a penalty from the 10m line which sailed through the posts as punishment for St Clears being offside at the ruck and both sets of forwards were happy to exchange pleasantries with each other as they wrestled for dominance.

After 25 minutes Morgan and Mike Georgiou were able to create an opening for outside centre Wayne Rice to break through into the Whitland 25, with the supporting Dafydd Waters pulled by home full back Scott Newton, resulting in another flurry of fists with Newton and second row Walters receiving yellow cards, but Jones couldn’t punish with three points.

Ebsworth, alongside flankers Dafydd Page and Courtney Bowman gained belief in their ability to keep the ball in hand and gaps emerged which allowed the visitors to create an attacking platform for the first time in the game, supported when skipper Lewis opted for Jones to kick for the corner as opposed to another difficult attempt at goal in the squally weather conditions.

Without influential veteran second row Carwyn Davies, being treated for an on field injury the ‘Boars’ won the ball through Rees and it was being recycled by his fellow forwards before they relinquished possession through stamping at the ruck, allowing Setaro to clear for Whitland from the danger area.

As half time approached Setaro stretched the lead with another penalty on 32 minutes after Jones, alongside the back row had moved the game into the St Clears 25 with some smooth handling, securing a penalty for offside.

From the restart, the ‘Engine Room’ of Williams and Ebsworth secured crucial yardage allowing Setaro space to run at the defence line, chip over, collect and from the ensuing ruck on 30m, slot over a penalty as St Clears were once again penalised for offside.

With both sides now back to full numbers and the scoreboard showing 17-3 in Whitland’s favour the next score was going to be decisive with five minutes of the half remaining, which came in a fortuitous way for Whitland when Ryan Michael gathered and ran in unopposed from 10m for Setaro to convert, making it 24-3 at half time.

That Michael was unopposed came about as Setaro set himself for a drop goal attempt, which was touched in flight by St Clears hands and it looped over the retreating Whitland forwards into his hands, with no St Clears cover around to prevent the score.

Credit to St Clears who emerged from the half time break with energy to use the elements in their favour, with heavy drizzle mixing with the wind allowing Davies and hooker Alan Proctor to make gains into home territory.

Walters, a sniping Ebsworth and Andrew Howells carried this momentum forward to pull Michael offside, from which Jones thumped the right hand upright from nearly 40m.

Further penalties followed for St Clears, with Morgan taking the initiative to keep the ball alive and play move back and forth across the pitch as St Clears drove forward but didn’t have the crucial points needed to influence the outcome of the game.

A line out on 20m was again secured by Davies, returning to the Club he served so well a decade ago and when the ball was released from the driving maul Morgan was held up two meters from the line.

A penalty for offside in front of the post was turned down by Lewis in favour of an attacking scrum, which wheeled around for number 8 Rees to pick up, put Ebsworth into a half gap and from the ensuing ruck Page was guided over the line by his fellow forwards, for Jones to add the extras.

With both sides making substitutions the game as a spectacle became disjointed and the weather didn’t help the tired minds as there were ball handling errors which prevented either side establishing any sustained impetus.

Whitland do possess a back division which has thoughtful and skilful three quarters, who play off each other to create chances for their outside runners; typified when Newton entered the line from a slick pass from Setaro on 70 minutes, popping the ball to Josh Thomas who crashed through the defence line.

The ball was recycled quickly allowing Setaro and Newton to create space for Johnnie Thomas to glide through and from 35m out once again time a pass to the Coles who raced clear, avoiding the despairing effort of last man Lewis to touchdown under the posts for the bonus point try. Setaro ended the games scoring on 31-10.

Whitland coaches Gareth Bennet and Dan Mason were happy to secure a bonus point victory when they spoke after the match. “It was a niggly game which we expected” said Mason “but credit to our lads for holding their composure and backing their own ability when the game demanded.”  Bennett was also praise worthy of his sides “efforts to keep the ball in hand, which produced four tries and a maximum point haul from the game.  The fourth try built around our midfield ball handlers resulted in seven points and was just reward for the boy’s efforts.”

Visiting coach Mike Jones acknowledged his side found it difficult to get into the game in the first quarter as the step up in standard meant they “took time to adjust to their new surroundings.”   He went further to “praise all my players for their efforts as we did get opportunities in difficult positions and on another day the three missed penalties pop over and the game is different at 17-12.  We made too many errors and Whitland have an experienced side which disrupted our ability to use front foot ball.”

When the game was completed both teams received resounding applause from a large and appreciative crowd of more than 800, buoyed from the half time singing of match sponsor Cor Meibion Hendy-Gwyn.

Whitland travel to Trinity Fields tomorrow to take on Carmarthen Athletic, the only other unbeaten side in the division alongside themselves, after they beat Fishguard 28-21 at the Moor last Saturday.  Experienced level three official Andrew Miles from Hook, will oversee this top of the table fixture.

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Nigel Owens hosts virtual rugby quiz for Pembroke Panthers

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PEMBROKE Panthers RFC enjoyed a rugby return during lockdown after winning a competition which saw international referee Nigel Owens host their own virtual clubhouse quiz, thanks to Principality Building Society.

The women’s squad at the Pembroke club beat more than 1000 entries to win Principality’s Clubhouse Quiz competition. With many clubs affected by widespread flooding at the start of this year and now closed indefinitely due to coronavirus, the building society is continually looking for ways to support grassroots rugby clubs in Wales.

Pembroke Panther Lucy Neale, 30, entered her team with the hope of bringing the players together online. She said: “We’d usually see each other up to five times a week between training sessions, matches and socials, so it’s been a really strange time. I thought I’d enter the club thinking it would be a nice pick-me-up for us all, but never actually expected to win so it was an amazing surprise.”

The team were tested on their rugby knowledge by world cup referee Nigel Owens over video conferencing platform Zoom, where players won tickets to Welsh internationals at Principality Stadium, signed rugby shirts and balls, and tickets for a tour around Principality Stadium. The quiz included a guest appearance from former Welsh international Tom Shanklin.

Lucy continued: “It was such a memorable and special evening for us all. We’re usually quite a lively bunch but we behaved well for Nigel. We’re so thankful to Principality for putting on the quiz and allowing us to enjoy this once in a lifetime experience as a team.”

As sponsors of Principality Stadium and the National Youth Leagues for grassroots clubs in Wales, Principality has a strong relationship with the Welsh Rugby Union and knows how much rugby means to communities across the country. With matches on hold currently, the building society wanted to be able to bring the buzz of the clubhouse to the home.

Clubhouse Quiz host, Nigel Owens, said: “Principality’s Clubhouse Quiz was a fantastic way to bring one team closer together and Pembroke Panthers really showed off their rugby knowledge. Rugby plays such an important role in Welsh communities and I know they’ll be missing the action on the field right now, so it was lovely to have been part of this experience to bring this team together. Thankfully, I didn’t have to sin bin any of them either.”

Julie-Ann Haines, Chief Customer Officer at Principality Building Society, said: “Many rugby clubs across Wales have had a really difficult year, with flood damage to pitches and clubhouses now followed by coronavirus. This was our chance to recreate the camaraderie of the clubhouse for one team and we hope that it brought plenty of laughs and memorable moments for Pembroke Panthers at this challenging time.”

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Wales v Scotland postponed

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WALES’ Six Nations match at home to Scotland on Saturday has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The two other Six Nation fixtures had already been postponed and no date has been confirmed to complete the 2020 Championship.

The Welsh Rugby Union had insisted earlier on Friday the game would “go ahead as planned”.

A WRU statement read: “The Welsh Rugby Union has maintained an open dialogue with, and continued to seek advice and direction from, the National Assembly for Wales and other stakeholders, including the Six Nations, on this fast-moving issue.

“Whilst medical advice remains consistent, we have decided that it is in the best interests of supporters, players and staff to fall in line with recent measures taken across the UK and global sports industries.

“The WRU would like to thank all parties for their counsel on the subject and will make further announcements with respect to rescheduling the fixture in the coming days.

“Every effort has been made to stage this game and we appreciate that individuals will have been inconvenienced. Given the fluid and unprecedented nature of this issue a postponement became the only viable option.”

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Domestic football at all levels in Wales suspended

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THE FOOTBALL Association of Wales has today (13 March) taken the decision to suspend domestic football at all levels in Wales with immediate effect until April 4 due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The intention at this time will be to resume the football schedule depending on the medical advice and conditions from the relevant authorities at that time.

The FAW is fully aware of the impact this will have on the domestic game but the health and safety of all fans, players, volunteers and stakeholders are of paramount importance.

The FAW will continue to monitor this situation on a day-by-day basis and will continue to provide updates when appropriate.

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