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Whitland remain unbeaten

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By Jonathan Twigg

“A HAPPY camp is a winning camp” according to Coach Gareth Bennett and the GD Harries sponsored ‘Green Machine’ of Whitland were in buoyant mood on Saturday (Nov 4) after they kept their unbeaten start to the season in tact after against previously unbeaten visitors Pontarddulais.

The Borders are committed to play a style of rugby where they are willing to play the situation which falls before them, where a precarious 9-7 lead at half time in the face of a swirling wind could have led to them wilting in the face of a side intent on leaving Parc Llwyn Ty Gwyn with something to show for their efforts.

They scored the only try of the game two minutes before the break when winger Gethin Williams crossed wide out for fellow winger Paul Geary to add a majestic conversion to put the ‘Ambers’ 7-6 ahead, but had to settle for a losing bonus point as the home sides outside half Nico Setaro kicked them to victory with five penalties.

Setaro took a while to settle into the flow of the game as he was guilty of some poor tactical kicking as his side were second best in the early exchanges in all aspects.

The scrum found itself disrupted from the start, as skipper Marc Thomas lost one against the head and throughout the first half they continually failed to secure line out ball which would have allowed them a platform from which to play on the front foot.

Setaro missed an effort from just beyond the 22m line after six minutes before ‘The Bont’ lost influential Loose Head prop Andrew Williams two minutes later as he found himself exposed to some rough treatment on the floor and the ebb of the game swung in Whitland’s favour.

Hooker Thomas was tenacious in his tackling and driving play supported by the ‘boiler house’ veterans Raff Williams and 47 year old Dai Ebsworth.

Ebsworth experience of playing for three decades, including at Narberth was evident both on and off the ball as he became a go to man in the line out which led to a second penalty failed penalty attempt for Setaro after winger Liam Price had run over 25m with the ball in hand.

Fellow winger Sean Coles also combined in a sweeping 50m run with Price and the home pressure finally paid dividends midway through the half when Setaro’s penalty was successful after Pontyates referee Justin Thomas marched forward for ten metres after some dissent.

The visitors were penalised eight times in the first half, mainly for not releasing the player in the tackle as they slowed the game down with many on field injury assessments.

The tactics galvanised Thomas, Ebsworth, Number 8 Jack Mason and flanker Benji Kirk to put in the hard yards for their side and a second Setaro penalty after 32 minutes extended the lead.  Williams try came about thanks to second row Jordan Daniels and flanker Dean Courtney setting a platform for the winger to cross.

In time added on at the end of the first half a counter attack from their own half saw Setaro’s angled kick fielded by full back Aled Stone, a product of the Clubs junior and youth set up.  Instead of putting the ball out of play to end the half he tried to run from within touching distance of his own posts to be caught by the marauding home back row and the resultant penalty from wide out for not releasing allowed Setaro to lead his side from the field with a 9-7 cushion.

Centre Josh Thomas entered the fray after half time for Whitland as ball player Johnnie Thomas moved to the wing to replace Sean Coles, victim of a dead leg.

The second half game management from the home side saw them stifle any effort by Pontardullais to get ahead with some excellent handling and miss moves shipped the ball wide to winger Thomas and Price ensuring the game was played deep in the visitors territory.

Setaro and full back Scott Newton are composite ball handlers and kickers from hand, alongside Thomas and Price as they dictated both the tempo and tactical play which saw them combine and travel at times over sixty metres with ball in hand.

Coach Dan Mason was complimentary of this play as ‘the players are encouraged to express their ability at all times’.

He added: “There may have been a hangover from our last game at Tumble alongside nerves due to the ‘magnitude of the game’ at the start of the afternoon but we are all confident in our own and our team mates skills.  Bennett, added ‘there is no better feeling for a front five forward to get up from the battle on the floor to see the ball 40m downfield and it keeps a spring in our step and a smile on our faces.”

Replacement Thomas also added a new dimension to the play after the break by taking and carrying the ball to the first defender with fellow centre Alun Davies enjoying the freedom created to ensure Setaro and the back three could perform.

Flanker Ryan Michael was instrumental in leading a high defence line alongside scrum half Adam Davies who edged out his more experienced counterpart Adrian Killa or the visitors as the game wore on, which restricted the ability for Stone et al to run back from deep, resulting into the kicks into the hands of Newton, Setaro and Thomas.

Setaro landed two more penalties as the graft of his forwards put their side 15-7 ahead with ten minutes remaining although it could have been different had Geary not slipped when attempting a straight forward penalty attempt a minute later; he made amends with five minutes left after work from Daniels drew Michael offside as his side felt the loss just when his side most needed him most of Number 8 Jacob Miles, an attacking dynamo alongside his scrum half Killa all afternoon.

A vociferous visiting contingent in the stands became frustrated as the play couldn’t transfer to give their idols an opportunity to win the game where a Club spokesman at the end of the game praised ‘Whitland’s second half performance, which ended our unbeaten league start, although the losing bonus point may prove crucial as the season draws to its climax.”

The final word on an absorbing Whitland Ladies sponsored top of table encounter was left to Bennett. “As coaches it’s a case of osmosis as these players just want to take everything we are giving them onto the pitch.  We have no expectations beyond our next game and we are able to use players out of position when the need arises; our philosophy of trying to play rugby beyond our outside centre will remain.”

Next week Pontarddulais entertain St Clears whilst the unbeaten Green Machine travel to Mumbles to take on a side which were unable to field a team last weekend.

Sport

Penybont secure Championship conference place

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PENYBONT secured their place in the Championship Conference for the second phase of the JD Cymru Premier after they beat Haverfordwest County on Friday (Apr 2).

Manager Rhys Griffiths will have been delighted with his side, who, prior to Friday’s game, had already gained 11 more points this season than they had in the entirety of the 2019/20 season.

Ahead of the game, Haverfordwest knew they needed to win to stand a chance of moving into the top six.

A County win, coupled with a defeat for Caernarfon Town, could have seen them sneak into sixth place but it wasn’t to be for Wayne Jones’ men.

The Bont applied the pressure early on but were unable to test County keeper Matthew Turner.

There was concern for Turner shortly before the half hour mark as he claimed the ball but fell awkwardly under the challenge of Kane Owen.

After receiving treatment he was taken off to be replaced by Wojciech Gajda.

With 45 minutes on the clock the Bont had a corner which Owen floated in and it was Sam Snaith who got his head to it to score despite the best efforts of Gajda.

It was a big blow to the Bluebirds who would have hoped to have been level at the break.

Three minutes into the second half, Ben Fawcett forced his way through but his effort was blocked by the Bont defender.

On 53 minutes, the ball was played into the box from a free kick and sent back across goal to Snaith. He took one touch to flick the ball up in the air and acrobatically shoot towards goal but Gajda made an excellent save to keep his side in the game.

Five minutes later, the Bont doubled their lead as the ball was played to Mael Davies who sent a low driven shot into the bottom left corner of the net.

Sub Marcus Griffiths had an effort for the visitors but his shot towards the bottom left corner was tame and keeper Morris made a comfortable save.

With just over fifteen minutes to go, the ball was played forward for Fawcett but he couldn’t get enough power on his shot and saw his effort saved by the Bont keeper.

The Bluebirds won a series of corners with seven minutes remaining but they were unable to get an effort in as the Bont defended well.

As the clock ticked towards the 90, the Bluebirds’ task of scoring three goals to win the game became increasingly unlikely.

The Bont saw the game out to seal the win and they can now look forward to the second phase of the season in the Championship conference.

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Pitch bookings for organised under 18s outdoor activity resume

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL is now able to accept outdoor pitch bookings for organised children’s outdoor activity.

It follows the Welsh Government allowing U18 organised sporting activity to resume.

All Council outdoor pitches are now taking bookings and the council is inviting all junior clubs to get in touch and to book their space.

Whatever your team sport, as long as you are delivering organised sports sessions for children, activities are fully risk assessed and you follow the safety guidelines specified by your sport’s governing body, the council is open and ready to welcome you back.

For more information, to make your booking and to get started please email leisureadmin@pembrokeshire.gov.uk with your club name, the sport you will be training for, the number of players who will be attending along with the days and times you would like to book for.

Please also add your name and contact details along with the space you will be booking and, importantly, the leisure centre you wish to book for.

Further news on facility re-opening will be released as it happens. Check www.pembrokeshireleisure.co.uk and follow Pembrokeshire Leisure on Facebook for updates, news and ways to keep yourself healthy.

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Sport

A 48-7 victory over Italy leaves Wales a win from the Grand Slam

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IT was always going to be a tough game for the Italian side, but now it is official, Wales are one win away from the Grand Slam!

Wales scored seven tries through Josh Adams, Taulupe Faletau, Ken Owens (2), George North, Callum Sheedy and Louis Rees-Zammit as they secured a comfortable Six Nations win in Rome.

The unbeaten tournament leaders reeled off a third successive bonus-point victory to increase pressure on their rivals for silverware. Italy meanwhile are staring down the barrel at another Wooden Spoon – they haven’t won a Six Nations match since 2015.

STILL A BIT OF WORK TO DO

The Welsh captain, Alun Wyn Jones, who is just one win away from winning his fourth Six Nations Grand Slam told S4C: “We were pretty clinical, particularly in the first half.

“We’re a tad frustrated with the second half but it’s a case of job done and plenty to work on.

“The excitement I feel every time I pull on this red jersey is insurmountable, so I’m looking forward to getting back to it on Monday and preparing for next weekend.”

Jones added: “It’s job done, but there’s still a bit to work on.”

Another heavy defeat will again raise the inevitable questions about Italy’s position in the Six Nations and whether there should be relegation.

The facts speak for themselves.

Today marked a 31st successive defeat for the Azzurri in the competition, with their last victory coming against Scotland in 2015.

Italy have not managed a home Six Nations win for eight years, with 20 successive losses.

Italy have conceded 187 points and 26 tries in four games this year.

 

Line-ups
Italy: Trulla, Bellini, Brex, Canna, Ioane, Garbisi, Varney; Fischetti, Bigi (capt), Zilocchi, Cannone, Sisi, Negri, Meyer, Lamaro.

Replacements: Fabiani for Ioane (7-18), Lovotti for Fischetti (65) Riccioni for Zilocchi (33), Lazzaroni for Cannone (52), Mbanda for Meyer (26-36), Violi for Varney (63), Mori for Garbisi (54) Padovani for Trulla (44).

Wales: L Williams; Rees-Zammit, North, J Davies, Adams; Biggar, G Davies; W Jones, Owens, Tomas Francis, Hill, AW Jones (capt), Navidi, Tipuric, Faletau.

Replacements: Dee for Owens (54), Carre for W Jones (57), Brown for Francis (45), Ball for AW Jones (54), Wainwright for Faletau (51), L Williams for G Davies (52), Sheedy for Biggar (52), Halaholo for North (46)

Match officials
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)

Touch judges: Pascal Gauzere (France) & Christophe Ridley (England)

TMO: Tom Foley (England)

MATCH ANALYSIS

Surely it was discipline that was the main problem for Italy.

Mistakes and an incredible ability to give away stupid penalties, as a series of needless errors allowed the visitors to build an insurmountable lead early on.

It all started with Paolo Garbisi sending the ball dead from the kick-off before Luca Bigi infringed at the breakdown. The captain then cynically stopped a Gareth Davies quick tap and was duly yellow carded. Against 14 men, Wales built up an advantage they would not relinquish as the visitors won the game before it had really started. It was not a good example from the skipper and is symptomatic of where the Italians are currently at.

Arguably since before the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour, the back has struggled for form, leading many to question whether that was it for the Welsh centurion. Although he is only 28, it must be remembered that North has been around at the top level for a long time and there is only so much the body can take in modern day rugby. However, the move into the midfield seems to have given him a new lease of life.

To the surprise of many, Callum Sheedy did not start against Italy after his superb performance versus England. Instead, it was the much criticised Dan Biggar who continued at fly-half and produced a significantly improved display before giving way to the Bristol playmaker in the second period. Sheedy was also excellent when he came on and it leaves Wayne Pivac with a decision to make going forward. No doubt, Biggar will start next week against France – albeit the head coach is not afraid of making a big call – but the 25-year-old is certainly not far off the first XV.

Much has been said and written about the Azzurri’s continued presence in the Six Nations and based on the evidence in this fixture, they really shouldn’t be playing in a competition of this stature. Franco Smith’s charges were never at the races with Wales racing into a 22-0 lead midway through the half without really breaking a sweat. Italy hardly threatened on attack – especially during the first half – and it looked like it was a case of men against boys for large periods of this Test. The result means they have now lost 31 matches on the trot, which is the longest losing streak in the history of the Championship, and they last tasted victory in a Round Three clash against Scotland in 2015. The time is now ripe for tournament organisers to reconsider their participation.

Although Italy were never in this encounter, Wales deserve plenty of credit as they impressed for the entire game and made full use of the opportunities which were presented to them.

Pivac will be delighted with the clinical fashion with which his players went about their business and they had their bonus point in the bag by the half-hour mark after Josh Adams, Taulupe Faletau and Ken Owens (2) crossed for tries. Despite leading 27-0 at the interval, Wales did not take their foot of the pedal with North also crossing the whitewash soon after the restart and although Monty Ioane scored a try for the hosts, that was a mere blip as Wales continued to dominate and sealed their win with five-pointers from Sheedy and Louis Rees-Zammit.

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