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Otters seal bonus point victory

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By Jonathan Twigg

A GD Harries sponsored Narberth maintained their second place in the Championship at the Lewis Lloyd Ground on Saturday (October 28) with a bonus point 27-3 victory over bottom side Glynneath.

Head coach Sean Gale was delighted with the result saying his players ‘delivered all I asked of them’.

He added: “We were expecting a gritty performance from Glynneath but we knew we had a strong set piece which would allow us to maintain enough possession to press for victory. We are a developing side with many new faces gelling together and we are in the same position as last year. We could have been more clinical with our execution as we tried to keep the ball in hand but it’s important to remember we took maximum points.”

Defending into a strong breeze the dominant set piece came to the fore from the start as the Otters forwards disrupted their opponents scrum with captain Alex Jenkins and his fellow second row Ryan Banner winning the early line out battle.

Glynneath were robust in their tackling, rowing very close to a line which referee Chris Oliver monitored carefully. Full back Ianto Griffiths pinged over his first penalty attempt for an indiscretion after ten minutes when visiting hooker Craig Tennant was deemed to have committed a high a tackle.

Flanker Pat Roberts alongside props Bradley Davies and Tom Slater made inroads into the visitors’ territory and the pressure of swift hands and a visionary performance from outside half Jack Rogers eventually saw the game’s opening try just beyond the quarter of an hour mark.

Jenkins again won clean line out ball before picking up a pass after his fellow forwards went through several phases of gaining yards close to the halfway line. He made 20 metres before finding wing Liam Hutchings on the outside who drew the final man after a 25 metre blast, putting number 8 Richie Rees clear into the 22 and a 10-0 lead thanks to the trusty left boot of Griffiths extended.

Glynneath got themselves on the scoreboard five minutes later when centre Jack O’Reilly kicked a penalty in front of the posts after the home pack were guilty of putting hands in a ruck after Tennant and flanker James Perry drove the red and blacks back into the game.

Narberth’s game management suited the conditions as they defended a strong breeze, working around scrum half Nick Gales lead with close passing to their surrounding ‘pods’.

This frustrated the visitors with further indiscretions conceded as their passion affected their play and hooker Tennant saw yellow for holding the ball after a tackle ten metres short of his own line, from which Rogers set up an attacking line out.

The ball was moved around the field as the Otters burrowed for a try, which came with a minute of the half remaining.

Glynneath were punished after their scrum disintegrated without Tennant and Gale took a quick penalty to thrust towards the line, Roberts on his shoulder to set up time for Rogers to put a cross field kick into the hands of winger Hutchings to cross wide out, for a 15-3 half time lead.

An expectant home crowd anticipated the blue and blacks to cruise towards victory in the second period although this didn’t materialise as rugged defence accompanying a plethora of stoppages for injuries sustained by Glynneath prevented any continuity.

They failed to take the ball further than the home 22 yard line not allowing much action for the ‘Balcony sponsors’, The Glenn Hotel to watch over as their ‘mine host’ Slater plied his trade below.

For the final fifteen minutes the side who have popular entertainer Max Boyce as their President opted for uncontested scrums which diminished a threat from the back row of Roberts, Rees and flanker Tom Powell playing off the front foot.

Griffiths at full back was playing with a skills set which would fit at a higher level and the introduction of a dynamic replacement scrum half Lewys Gibby asked questions of a tiring side, with Hutchings and centre pairing Paul Davies and Joe Hutchings finding space to run into.

Replacement Ryan Davies finished off a move after man of the match Roberts again did the hard yards for a 20-3 lead and the finale was completed to cement the bonus point victory as the game edged towards its end as the flanker claimed a try of his own. He intercepted the ball as Glynneath ran the ball from deep and coasted in under the posts for Griffiths to convert.

Narberth make the trip to Port Talbot on Saturday (Nov 4) to take on Tata Steel, two places and two points below them.

Sport

Cullen scores twice as Swans sink Forest in FA Cup

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SWANSEA City’s Liam Cullen scored twice on Saturday as he helped his side to a 5-1 thrashing over Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup.

It also set up a fifth round tie with Premier League giants Manchester City after they overcame their opponents Cheltenham Town.

Cullen, born in Tenby, netted the opener in the first half and added his second after half time.

He was denied the chance to go for an FA Cup hat-trick however as he limped off late on with an ankle injury.

Forest, perhaps with one eye on maintaining their Championship status, made ten changes for the game and featured two players that had recently returned from injury.

Swansea gave a debut to new signing Conor Hourihane

The game was only seven minutes old when Wayne Routledge crossed from the right and Cullen volleyed the ball back across goal and into the bottom corner, wrong-footing Forest’s stand-in keeper Jordan Smith.

Routledge was then forced off with an injury but his replacement was the in-from Jamal Lowe.

He almost made an instant impact as he was sent through on goal but his touch let him down and Smith was able to claim the ball.

Forest threatened briefly when Joe Lolley crossed into the box but the Swans were able to clear before Anthony Knockaert could get on the end of it.

The Swans were almost two ahead when Forest defender Joe Worrall headed the ball towards his own goal but from the resulting corner they doubled their lead in stunning fashion.

The corner was cleared but the home side played the ball to Matt Grimes, captain for the game, who unleashed an unstoppable shot that flew past Smith and into the top right corner.

Connor Roberts then came close with a header and he also had the ball in the net a minute later but the goal was ruled out for offside.

Forest made two subs at the start of the second half and came out the better side. Joe Lolley went close but his shot was saved by Swans keeper Woodman.

Then, shortly before the hour mark, the Reds were back in it. Lolley gathered the ball in the box but when he was brought down the ball fell to Knockaert who fired in to make it 2-1.

However, any hopes Forest had of mounting a comeback were soon dashed as two minutes later the Swans were awarded a penalty.

Joe Worrall was adjudged to have fouled Ryan Manning although replays suggested Manning stuck his foot towards Worrall’s leg to win the foul.

Grimes sent the keeper the wrong way to score his second of the afternoon and put the Swans 3-1 ahead.

Manning also came close to scoring but Smith was able to palm away his effort.

He then turned provider as he crossed into the box for Cullen who shot low into the bottom left corner to make it 4-1.

The Swans had already made their five substitutions before Cullen went off injured but that didn’t stop them.

With five minutes to go Jamal Lowe saw his shot blocked but the ball fell to sub Ollie Cooper whose shot squirmed in despite Smith’s best efforts.

It was an excellent display from the Swans who will now look forward to their fifth round tie with Manchester City.

Before that though they face two crucial Championship games, at home to Brentford on Wednesday before a trip to Rotherham on Saturday.

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Wales quartet bolster Scarlets side for Cardiff Blues rematch

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Scarlets take on Cardiff Blues on Friday night

SCARLETS welcome back Wales internationals Johnny McNicholl, Wyn Jones, Ryan Elias and Jake Ball to their starting XV for Friday’s rearranged Guinness PRO14 rematch against Cardiff Blues at Parc y Scarlets (20:00; S4C, Premier Sports).

There are six changes in all to the run-on side, while club skipper Ken Owens is poised to make his first appearance since October. The Wales and British & Irish Lions hooker is named among the replacements after being cleared for action following a shoulder injury.

Behind the scrum, McNicholl comes in for the suspended Liam Williams in the only change to the back division that took the field against the Blues at the Cardiff City Stadium two weeks ago.

The front row changes en bloc with Jones packing down alongside Elias and tight-head prop Javan Sebastian, who replaces the injured Pieter Scholtz.

Ball has made a swift recovery from the knee injury he suffered against the Dragons on New Year’s Day and resumes his second-row partnership with Sam Lousi.

Josh Macleod, this week named as the only uncapped player in Wales’s Six Nations squad, misses out with an ankle niggle so Ed Kennedy slots into the openside spot and links up with Blade Thomson and Sione Kalamafoni the back row.

On the bench, Owens has recovered from the shoulder damage he sustained in round two up in Glasgow. Phil Price, Werner Kruger, Tevita Ratuva and Uzair Cassiem provide the rest of the forwards cover. Kieran Hardy, Angus O’Brien and Steff Hughes make up the remainder of the replacements.

Scarlets v Cardiff Blues (Friday, January 22 (20:00, S4C, Premier Sports)

15 Leigh Halfpenny; 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Jonathan Davies (capt), 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Steff Evans; 10 Dan Jones, 9 Gareth Davies; 1 Wyn Jones, 2 Ryan Elias, 3 Javan Sebastian, 4 Jake Ball, 5 Sam Lousi, 6 Blade Thomson, 7 Ed Kennedy, 8 Sione Kalamafoni.

Reps: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Phil Price, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Tevita Ratuva, 20 Uzair Cassiem, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Angus O’Brien, 23 Steff Hughes.

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Sport

Clubs react as Pembrokeshire football league season cancelled

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THERE will be no football in Pembrokeshire until at least August after the 2020/21 season was cancelled on Wednesday night (Jan 20).

The Pembrokeshire Football League said it had taken into account the current Covid-19 situation and replies from clubs in making their decision.

Clubs had played a small number of friendlies towards the end of 2020 with the hope of getting back into the league action.

However, as the coronavirus situation worsened, the majority of clubs took it upon themselves to suspend football activity.

A spokesperson for the Pembrokeshire Football League said: “It was resolved that there will be no competitive football this season in Pembrokeshire at Senior or Junior level. There will also be no organised mini football fixtures for this season.

“Should clubs wish, when the restrictions are lifted and subject to Covid regulations want to play friendlies then they are free to do so subject to the authorisation of the League (as previously).”

Neyland’s Sean Hannon said: “The announcement doesn’t come as a surprise. The most important thing is everyone’s safety and wellbeing. We haven’t had a chance to discuss any possible return to friendlies if restrictions allow but I’m sure we will leave it until at least August by which time we will have a further update from the FAW.

“It goes without saying the FAW will need to update all area associations and clubs on what will happen to player comet registration fees which they asked all clubs to pay for at the start of September 2020.”

A spokesperson for Saundersfoot AFC said: “We all knew it was coming inevitably and you’d be hard pressed to argue against it. As a club the safety of our players/ coaches and their families is paramount it’s just not worth the risk.

“You saw before Christmas the clubs took it between themselves to stop playing before any order from above came through so that shows how serious the clubs are taking it.”

Owen Duggan, Chairman of Fishguard Sport AFC said: “The decision was inevitable and we would commend the Pembrokeshire league for an early conclusion to this, every football club will be working hard behind the scenes to try and retain enough finance to continue.

“We all hope that in the coming months things will improve and we will hopefully commence season in August. We hope all our members and other clubs stay safe and fit and well which is the priority.”

Hakin United, who were crowned champions of the curtailed 2019/20 season, said they fully supported the decision to cancel the league season and recommended that football shouldn’t start back until it’s safe to do so.

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