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Wales take game to Armed Forces in special match

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WALES Women took the game to a determined UK Armed Forces side on Wednesday evening (Nov 8) at the Cardiff Arms Park, prevailing 39-22 in this special Remembrance Rugby fixture.

UKAF were evidently fired up in the opening exchanges (perhaps with memories from last year’s encounter still fresh in the mind), and attacked with gusto, with an equally zealous defense to boot.

That feistiness in the close quarters was found lacking out wide in the eighth minute, however, when North Walian speedster Jess Kavangh-Williams showed a clean pair of heels on halfway and sprinted all the way in for a try.

Alecs Donovan, the newcomer in the Welsh jersey, also looked lively in the early midfield exchanges, whilst flanker-turned-fly-half Lleucu George (pictured) was a creative as well as powerful presence with the ball in hand.

As the half-hour approached, patient work from the Welsh forwards paid dividends as they fashioned a score out wide through captain Carys Phillips for a 10-point lead.

It was then the turn of George, using all her considerable strength to fend off the UKAF defence and score from 5m out. Her successful conversion of her own try out wide was a striking effort.

UKAF weren’t to be humbled, and they struck back with aplomb through the evasiveness and sheer pace of centre Jade Mullen for a try which was converted by Wales’ very own Gemma Rowland just before the half-time break.

Two minutes into the second half, and Wales Women had got themselves into a good position deep inside UKAF territory, from where their driving maul allowed Phillips to touch down for her second try of the night.

The Welsh coaches made a raft of replacements in the 50th minute, which had the desired effect of re-energising an already high-tempo attack. Indeed, after five minutes of their introduction, they had once again breached the UKAF line – again by the indefatigable Phillips, who deservedly claimed her hat-trick.

The Armed Forces then showed that they too had try-scoring front rowers in their ranks, as loosehead Sarah Batley crashed over for her team’s second try with quarter of an hour left to play to make it 17-22.

Replacement back Rhi Nokes made a stirring impact late on as she broke away from the clutches of the UKAF defence to sprint away for a try, converted by Robyn Wilkins.

The last word was almost left to Kavanagh-Williams, who really put her stamp on the game with another scintillating try down the left wing with four minutes to go.

Then, with time already up on the clock, UKAF hit back with a mighty score from England hooker Amy Cokayne in what was a fitting end to a fiercely-fought contest between the two sides.

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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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