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Skudder’s try hat trick in Blues victory

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Written by Jonathan Twigg

HAVERFORDWEST travelled to Pill Parks, Llangwm on Saturday (Sept 23) and returned with a convincing 54-5 victory to keep their 100% Division 3A West league record intact thanks to a hat trick of tries from winger Ben Skudder.

Skudder was part of a back division which dominated the game for the ‘Blues’ as outside half Matthew Davies pulled the strings for centre pairing of Gareth John and Dane Pindair to cause problems all afternoon for the hosts.

In fairness to the Wasps they battled hard to the end and ensured their more ‘millionaire’ opponents didn’t get it all their own way as the scoreline suggests, especially in the game’s opening quarter when outside half Louis Murphy had three kickable penalty attempts to chalk his side on the scoreboard.

Llangwm, whilst disjointed in their phased build up play drew the Haverfordwest defence line into conceding numerous penalties.

Time after time the visitors were guilty of being penalised for over running the offside line or holding in the tackle, with referee Davies warning skipper Alun Harries of his concern.

An outline of the Blue inability to master the referees requirement resulted in occasions where they were marched back 10m for verbally berating his decisions, where fifteen penalties were conceded in the first 25 minutes. From one such offence of not releasing the player in the tackle centre John was sin binned with his side leading 7-0, after he had converted a fine try by full back Ollie Hughes.

Davies had pushed a 25m drop out deep into the Llangwm half which saw home full back Steve Picton caught by hooker Ryan Palmer as he ran the ball back on 12 minutes. Second row Adam Williams picked up and drove on from the ruck, before a half break from scrum half Richard James saw Pindair break through two tackles on the crash ball. The Blues forwards quickly recycled the ball for Davies to put Hughes in space and he rounded the covering tackles wide out to score.

An impatient Haverfordwest prevented them delivering a much larger winning margin as they endeavoured to push boundaries in the aim of scoring from early phase possession. Coaches Bruce Evans and Simon Le Petit would have been frustrated with this lack of composure which saw promising attacking movements halted by handling errors.

With John out of the game following his tackle to stop home centre Josh Hicks strong run over 30m through the midfield, it did have the desired effect to settle their play into a composed rhythm.

This resulted in the second score of the half, an opening effort for Skudder who responded to James’ tap and go from a penalty following a scrum offence for pushing early by the home pack.

Ben Skudder: A hat trick of tries for the Blues

Davies accepted the ball from James feeding dynamic flanker Morgan Layton, who rumbled 15m upfield before Pindair’s quick hands put full back Hughes in space.  He drew last man Picton with a beautiful timed pass to Skudder who raced over from 35m before Hughes slotted over the conversion in John’s absence.

Haverfordwest, buoyed by this second score when reduced to 14 men kept the same game plan causing Llangwm to miss tackles through Jack Griffiths, Hicks, Murphy and Picton which allowed Haverfordwest to dominate the territory as half time approached.

Back to full strength prop Ritchie Little was instrumental in setting a platform for Davies to dance over with five minutes of the half remaining, although John missed the simplest of his kicks to leave the half time score 19-0 in the Blues favour.

The second half started as the first had finished with the visitors on the front foot, although the game didn’t gain momentum with both packs at fault for ‘early engagement’ penalties which riled the partisan supporters of both camps.

Encounters between the two sides over the years have been feisty and the traditional ‘Bishop Cup’ fixtures on Boxing Day attracting four figures crowds revelling in their time out of the house during the Yule tide period.  Banter at these games is second to none and both sides buy into the occasion and raise their game.

‘Harfat’ landed their bonus point try as the hour mark approached after Hicks was isolated in possession and the ball swiftly moved out to the hands of Davies and John for Pindair to put winger Rhys Baker over towards the play park corner for John to superbly convert, where he didn’t miss another kick all afternoon.

The versatile Hicks, playing at Centre having started the season as a second row was taking the game to the visitors, where the rest of the home side, second Row Ashley James and skipper James Lewis apart failed to respond. Hicks surprisingly lacked some football skills when leading the foot race with James as he was quickest to respond to his skipper and hooker Aled Morgans work on the ground.

The strong running centre did get his sides score on 65 minutes when a poor kick from Pindair was collected by number 8 Ian Griffiths who with his fellow back row of James Lewis, skipper and namesake, playing on permit from Whitland allowed Hicks some momentum in midfield.  He left John and Skudder in his wake as he thundered over from 25m, with Picton missing the conversion.

The smarting Blues quickly regrouped after allowing their defences to be breached and two minutes later from a scrum, Davies and John combined to put Pindair into space and he broke a tackle from Gavin Jenkins to stroll in from 15m and the lead was 33-5.

With ten minutes remaining Skudder scored his second try after good work again by hooker Palmer on the floor ensured space was created wide out for Skudder to finish under the posts.

Home second row James again came to the fore, in his first game of the season to allow his side to gain territory from their limited possession, with the game drifting towards a mundane finish as fitness impacted on the skill level alongside the continual run of replacements.

The final score of the afternoon came with a minute of play remaining, after a mazy Baker run over 35m resulted in a Llangwm scrum as Josh Atherton was penalised for holding the ball.

The Blues pack managed to get ‘one against the head’ allowing skipper Harries to pick up from the base of the scrum, feeding the ball back inside to James to get a pass away to the ‘loitering’ Skudder who pinned back his ears over 20m for his hattrick and push the scoreboard over the 50 point mark.

Coaching gurus Evans and Le Petit were delighted with the win post-match, identifying the work rate of flanker Layton in the same breath as Skudder for his finishing and ball players Davies and Hughes for their awareness in getting the ball wide to players in space. “We didn’t want to get embroiled in a dog fight, which many of these local derbies can become” said Evans. “Our game plan was disrupted, maybe by the occasion as we weren’t willing to build the phases required to create the scoring opportunities.”

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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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