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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

All Blacks storm Tregaron

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NEYLAND moved back to the top of League 3 West A on Saturday (Dec 15) as they stormed through Tregaron to beat them 71-3.

Storm Deirdre did its best to disrupt the game but the Athletic Ground pitch held up well with rain and strong winds battering the pitch for much of the eighty minutes and it was the All Blacks storm that prevailed.

The away side turned up late for the game and only had 14 players meaning they would have to opt for uncontested scrums but they deserve credit for their efforts.

Despite being a man light Tregaron took the lead. Having missed a penalty moments before, Huw Bonner made amends for that miss with a penalty.

However, that was as good as it got for the visitors as Neyland hit back almost immediately. A good move involving Patrick Bellerby and Alex Codd was halted but play was brought back for an earlier foul. From the resulting play Sam Cataki touched the ball down and George Evans added the extra two points for a 7-3 lead.

Delme Bateman then went on an excellent run and he found Ben Williams inside who ran on to touch down under the posts. Evans again converted.

The All Blacks were not done there as Patrick Bellerby broke clear to scored Neyland’s third try. This time Evans was unsuccessful with the conversion.

They then had their fourth try and a bonus point, all inside the opening ten minutes as Alex Codd touched the ball down after it was kicked into the try area. Evans sent the conversion wide and Neyland held a 24-3 lead.

Neyland continued to look for more tries and after one move came to an end for a knock on, Scott Buirds, playing on permit from Whitland, supplied the try-scoring pass for Iestyn Evans. Namesake George then added the extras once more.

From a Tregaron scrum Neyland scored their sixth try. The ball was knocked on but Codd kept the play alive kicking the ball forward before touching down. Evans converted again.

Codd again came close to scoring as he ran into the 22 but Tregaron were able to keep the All Blacks out and clear the danger.

One player from each side was then sent to the sin bin as they squared up to each other but it did little to affect the flow of play.

On the stroke of half time Neyland scored their seventh try as they broke free again and George Williams crossed the whitewash. Evans added the extras and Neyland held a commanding 45-3 lead at the break.

At the start of the second half Neyland seemed determined to pile on the misery and scored another try in the corner through Tom Hughes. Evans sent the conversion wide.

Owain Evans was next to get his name on the score sheet and George Evans added the extras.

Tregaron then won a series of penalties which saw them enter the Neyland 22 but they were unable to find a way through as the All Blacks cleared the ball away.

The ball was then kicked on and Bellerby ran on to it, kicking it forward again before touching down. Evans then added the conversion for a 64-3 lead.

Bellerby then completed his hat trick late on with Neyland’s eleventh try and Evans added the extras.

It was an excellent win for Neyland which sends them back to the top of the table, having now played more games than the teams around them.

They are next in action on Saturday (Dec 29), when they travel to Pembroke Dock Quins. Tregaron will look to bounce back in their next game, at home against Llanybydder.

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Sport

Otters continue winning run

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AFTER a week of wet and stormy days, and a wet start last Saturday (Dec 8), it was surprising that the game at Newbridge was still on and was one of only two games played in the Championship due to the state of the grounds.

Newbridge kicked off with the strong wind blowing diagonally across the pitch, for the first five minutes both teams persisted with a kicking dual before the Otters set up a promising movement passing the ball wide only to end with a forward pass.

After six minutes the Otters won a penalty, Nick Gale came forward to attempt a 40 metre kick which was just off target.

Initially, the Otters appeared to be penalised frequently at the breakdowns giving Newbridge opportunities to attack. From their line out Bridge moved the ball smartly with centre Mathew McGovern making a diagonal break only to be stopped in his tracks by the strong Otters defence.

At the breakdown Bridge offended enabling Jonathan Rogers to gain touch on the halfway line. From the lineout the ball moved across the threes to Ianto Griffiths who kicked for the corner only for the wind to hold it up and for Newbridge to call a mark. Their kick was gathered and returned, Newbridge again kicked and the Otters receiving the ball attacked but were stopped and at the breakdown the referee awarded the Otters a penalty just outside the 22 line.

Again Nick Gale came forward and at the last moment the wind moved the ball to the right of the posts. Newbridge kicked out, Ryan Bean gathered and made ground with Jack Price alongside, the ball was moved away from the stand side only for the slippery ball to be knocked on.

It became clear that the Otters pack had control of the tight with Newbridge being penalised and Jonathan Rogers attempting to find touch, Newbridge returned the kick, Ianto Griffiths gathered and raced forward, at the breakdown, the Otters retrieved the ball and moving right towards the stand passed to Nick Gale who raced forward and when tackled passed to Ryan Bean, he moved left and unfortunately the ball was adjudged to have been passed forward.

At the scrum Newbridge heeled and kicked the ball into touch. At this point Tom Kaijack had to leave the field, Bradley Davies came off the bench which resulted in Dan Jacobs moving over to tight head prop.

The game continued to see both teams attempting to gain ground, with both defences strong and when the movements made ground the slippery ball made handling more difficult and errors occurred. Penalties were occurring against both teams as the rucks became more intense.

Then on the half hour, Newbridge were again penalised enabling Jonathan Rogers to place the ball into touch on the stand side. At the lineout, Andrew Cooke caught the ball at the end of the lineout, feeding Rhys Lane who passed out only for Newbridge to halt the move and get penalised at the breakdown.

Again Nick Gale failed to find the target with his penalty kick. Conditions worsened as a very heavy shower descended on the proceedings. The Otters continued to attempt to make progress before the referee blew for half time with the game tied at 0 – 0.

Fly half Jonathan Rogers restarted the second half and immediately the Otters gained possession and advanced close to the line before Newbridge offend at the ruck. This time with a penalty kick in front of the posts Nick Gale easily kicked the ball through for a 0-3 lead.

Newbridge kicked off, again the Otters attacked but at the breakdowns the game was becoming a muddy scramble. This led to a further kicking dual which failed to create an opportunity for either side. Newbridge began to see a little more of the ball but were being repelled by the Otters.

On 60 minutes the Otters withdrew Andrew Cooke from the back row to be replaced by Steffan Phillps. At the lineout Alex Jenkins again proved his worth gaining good possession and occasionally winning the ball on the Newbridge throw.

The first scrum after the change in the back row saw the Otters push Newbridge back some 10 metres with the referee awarding them a penalty. From this kick, Jonathan Rogers put the Otters to within 5 metres of the try line. For an offence at the lineout Christian Francis the Newbridge number 8 received a yellow card and sent to the sin bin. The resultant penalty saw Jonathan Rogers place the ball into touch on the 5 metre line.

Alex Jenkins made a clean jump and take and immediately formed a maul which despite Newbridge efforts enabled the pack to cross the try line for Rhodri Owen to touch down. Nick Gale safely converted to give the Otters a 10-0 lead.

Sam Withers restarted the game and quickly gained possession. As they attacked the Otters were penalised for standing offside in defence. Withers kicked the penalty into touch on the far side near the 5 metre line.

From the lineout they set up a rolling maul, as the Otters attempted to hold the move, Newbridge threw in a few threequarters and crossed the line for centre Mathew McGovern to score, Sam Withers converted to bring the score to 7-10.

From the restart the Otters attacked in midfield only for Newbridge to wrench the ball as the players were going to ground and passed to McGovern who made an effective break only for the ball to end in touch. Newbridge showed determination to get ahead and the contact between players became quite intense with play just outside the Otters 22.

Newbridge’s yellow card returned,  but at a scrum, the Otters  heeled and on receiving the ball Jonathan Rogers made ground with his kick out of hand downfield. Newbridge offended and a scrum reset before the referee awarded the Otters a penalty as they over powered the Newbridge eight.

This time Nick Gale was successful with his penalty kick bringing the score to 7-13 on 75 minutes. Following this, Newbridge changed their front row and as a result the scrums became uncontested.

However the Otters controlled most of the remaining minutes of the game, playing safe and using Alex Jenkin superiority at the lineout. There was relief all round when the referee blew for full time.

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Sport

Veterans earn semi-final spot

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HAKIN United Over 40s finished 2018 by progressing to the semi-final of the Welsh Veterans Cup following a dramatic penalty shootout victory over Ferndale & District at the Observatory last Sunday (Dec 9).

The game itself was a very hard fought and competitive game with tempers boiling over on several occasions.

The Vikings were awarded a penalty inside the last ten minutes for a handball offence. Paul Jones scored from the spot to give Hakin the lead.

However, with virtually the last kick of the game, the ever dependable Jason Morgan in the Hakin goal made a rare mistake that gifted Ferndale & District a draw and a chance to win the tie on penalties.

However, it wasn’t to be for the visitors as Hakin emphatically scored all five of their spot kicks with Nigel Delaney, Nigel Armstrong, Michael McCarthy, Paul Jones and Matthew Price finding the back of the net to win 5-3 on penalties and earn a place in the semi-final.

Hakin United: Jason Morgan, Nigel Armstrong. Richard Bland, Nigel Delaney, Adam Collins, Shaun Mills, Stuart MacDonald, Richard Nash, Paul Jones, Michael McCarthy, Leigh Walters. Subs: Jamie Phillips, Gary Dawes, Matthew Price, Gerard Gray.

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