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Wales 21 – 29 Australia

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AUSTRALIA defeated Wales on Saturday (Nov 11) at the Principality Stadium in the first game of the Under Armour Autumn International series to stretch their run to thirteen consecutive victories over their hosts dating back nearly a decade. Wales now haven’t won their opening match of an Autumn series since 2009 [40-3 v Romania] and this result also extends the Wallabies current unbeaten run to seven, their longest since reaching the 2015 World Cup Final at Twickenham.

Such is their current pedigree they took the scalp of arch rivals New Zealand 23-18 last month and this green and gold side are content to mobilise the ball in direct lines whenever possible, whilst expertly managing the game away from their own try line under pressure.  Their first half dominance laid the foundations for the success as they had 67% possession making the home side make 80 tackles to defend their line, whilst having to make just 30 themselves.

Statistics won’t lie to Head Coach Warren Gatland, who selected a side which included eight Scarlets players and scrum half Aled Davies carded as a substitute. Gatland had changed the game plan which served him so well over the decade he has overseen the national side, looking to develop a line up capable of challenging at the very top come the 2019 World Cup.

He gave a debut to Gloucester playmaker Owen Williams at inside centre and with injuries in the backrow of skipper Sam Warbarton, Ross Moriarty and Justin Tipuric his hand was forced to play exuberance, vigour and players in form alongside Taulupe Faletau.   Stepping up to the plate in the heat of the battle were Josh Navidi and ‘son of Hendy’, flanker Aaron Shingler, both of whom were tenacious in their defence duties.

A nervous Welsh start settled after six minutes when outside half Dan Biggar put a searching kick into the Aussie 22 and winger Liam Williams followed up to charge down the clearance from full back Kurtley Beale.  A scrambled defensive clearance subsequently saw hooker Ken Owens find second row Jake Ball at the front of the line out before third phase ball found winger Steff Evans coming in on the opposite wing to draw a penalty for offside on the 10m line. Leigh Halfpenny, in his first international game under a Scarlets ‘flag’ duly slotted it over for a 3-0 lead, which lasted less than four minutes as the green and gold responded through hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau. He was driven over by his fellow forwards following their first real incision into Welsh territory allowing outside half Ben Foley to convert for 7-3 lead.

Spurred into action prop Rob Evans, returning after a prolonged absence for a head injury suffered against Connaught in September combined with centre Jonathan Davies for the red machine to move the ball 45m, only to see former Scarlets winger Liam Williams held up with a last ditch tackle.

Wales were now confident and scrum half Gareth Davies made an incisive 30m break.  Quick second phase ball set centre Jonathan Davies clear once again to put Williams away on a 3 v 1 overlap; demonstrating quick hands through Halfpenny it allowed winger Steff Evans to crash over in the corner on his home debut and Halfpenny added the extras for a lead of 10-7.

The game sea sawed again after 23 absorbing minutes when second row Adam Coleman waltzed over unopposed with Rob Evans guilty of ball watching, for a converted try to see Australia lead 14-10.  The experienced Foley and half back partner Will Gena were vibrant and positive with the ball in hand putting Wales firmly on the back foot.

Composure was needed under pressure and the go to man in the line out was back row star Shingler, who was winning ball at the front or back of the line.  One such success resulted in a penalty permitting Biggar to kick to the edge of the visitors 22 but to no avail.  In such an open and fast game, where the collisions between players was high on intensity, the difference emerged between the two nations as Australia converted their opportunities into points.

Wales conceded a penalty after Tom Francis in the front row was penalised for not scrummaging square and the Wallabies accepted another penalty decision from New Zealand referee Glenn Jackson allowing winger Reece Hodge to thump over a monster penalty and a 17-10 lead with five minutes of the half remaining.

Halfpenny responded with a 35m penalty from in front of the posts after Ken Owens had won the ball back for his team, but Australia completed the first half scoring when some sustained drives and slick hands drew the defence allowing flanker Michael Hooper to slew over the line for a superb try, converted by Foley on the cusp of half time for his side to lead 24-13.

Optimism for the second half was held where the Dragon could roar dependent on them making key decisions to clear their lines and play in the opposition territory.  That optimism amongst the crowd was raised when Halfpenny and Faletau put Liam Williams in space and his kick took play midway into the opposition half only to see the ball lost in a tackle on Jonathan Davies. Faletau and Williams again combined on the opposite wing as Foley was putting the ball into the rooftop testing Halfpenny and Evans who fielded the bombardment with aplomb.

Biggar set up a line out from 15m after a penalty was awarded for holding the ball and after several phases of driving play Halfpenny nailed a straight forward penalty from 20m out, leaving Wales eight adrift at 24-16 with half an hour to play.

Turnover ball on halfway saw some enterprise around the hands of Rob Evans as he again sounded the battle cry for his team mates to grow in stature and play the situation which panned out before them.  A scrum free kick moved skipper Alun Wyn Jones to call for a second set piece where Faletau and Williams combined on the blindside making 30m as pressure was imposed on the visitors 22 line.  Wales were now like a pack of hounds who had found a scent and were firmly hunting for the jugular of a Wallaby side who were pinned inside their own half.

Evans grubber kick was collected by Jonathan Davies as the red tide built momentum to a chorus of hymns ‘n arias.  A penalty conceded for not rolling away saw discussion between Jones, Biggar and Halfpenny before the full back pushed his kick wide of the right hand post from just inside his own half.

Bancyfelin born Davies was on fire, bringing his ‘Lions’ form from the summer to the banquet and he collected the restart as play returned deep into Australian terrain.

An expansive Welsh back line moved the ball at will as the halfway point of the half passed, with winger Evans, his namesake Rob and Shingler to the fore in rugby more akin to a Barbarian’s style.  On small margins games at the highest level are won and lost; full back Beale performed a sublime tackle to not only stop a flying Evans in his prime but emerge with the ball and race from his own half to score under the posts before anyone in the 70,275 could draw breath.  Foley converted for a 29-16 lead as the crowds astonishment at what they had witnessed in a match changing split second slowly dawned and their appreciation followed.

The high tempo of the game saw substitutes enter the amphitheatre and Hodge land short with a penalty from inside his own half as the time wound down to the final 15 minutes. Back came the Men of Harlech and Hooper was yellow carded with Jackson’s patience was eliminated with the build up of infringements.  From the dominant scrum Wales applied pressure through Biggar’s touch finder with eight minutes to play.  His forwards secured good line out ball to draw another penalty in front of the posts as scrum after scrum ensued in the anticipation of tasting the ‘Bread of Heaven’ from the top table.  Scrum half Davies emerged into space to make good ground only for his skipper Jones to spill the ball with the line agonisingly close.

Aled Davies came on at scrum half and fellow replacement Hallem Amos was held up just short of the line as Wales went through a plethora of moves to test the wilting golden wattle to the brink.  Biggars hopes of a quick play were called back by Jackson and from the resultant penalty ball was again secured at the line out which allowed for some enterprising handling before Amos harvested his first international since the 2015 World Cup.  Halfpenny missed the touchline conversion which would have put Wales within a score of victory and the game ended 29-21 and parity in terms of possession and territory, a startling turn around on the first half statistics.

Gatland will be pleased, if he can be in defeat where the set piece was dominant, the defence successfully making 98% of their 264 tackles but most importantly seeing his attacking options bear fruit.  In an offensive display his runners beat their man on 20 occasions and off loaded 18 times as they had a 100% success from mauls and 95% success rate at rucks, conceding just three penalties, ten less than their opponents.

The error count ultimately proved the difference for Wales between success and failure as Australia outscored them four tries to two.  To a man those Scarlets players who drew on their countries colours did themselves, their Region and nation proud, where the tourists clinical execution of turn over possession to points was key. Youngster Evans will reflect on a positive try scoring attacking display with some concern over his defensive decision making.  He will do well to remember Rome wasn’t built in a day and the Scarlets style of play is certainly a blueprint Gatland and his staff are embracing for the future.

Injuries to Evans plus more concerningly Lions star centre Davies may cause some player rotation before Wales take on Georgia tomorrow [2:30pm] with an eye on New Zealand the week after, coached by former Wales head honcho Steve Hanson who bring an unbeaten record stretching back 64 years.

One Scarlets player who will not be playing in these games will be New Zealand born centre Hadleigh Parkes, who is earmarked for a debut in December against South Africa.  Parks was reunited with Scarlets Head Coach Wayne Pivac when he came to Parc Y Scarlets in 2014 and he will be a beneficiary of the three year residency rule, allowing him to make his debut three years to the day from his signing for the Scarlets.

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Sports awards judges announce the finalists

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Pictured are the finalists in last year’s Junior Disability Sport Award; Lily Rice, Libi Phillips, and Michael Jenkins (winner) with Jess West from Disability Sport Wales

THE FINALISTS for the 2020 Sport Pembrokeshire awards have been announced.

The judging panel considered the 120 nominations and has named the 26 finalists following a selection meeting.

Ben Field, manager of Sport Pembrokeshire, said: “Once again, the quality of the nominees was enormously high and it was a challenge to narrow it down to three finalists in each category.

“We are very pleased that people took the time to nominate so many deserving winners.”

As there will no ceremony at Folly Farm this year, following a social media campaign profiling the finalists, the winners will be announced on the Sport Pembrokeshire Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages on Friday, November 27 at 7:00 p.m.

The announcement will also reveal the winners of three further categories – the Lifetime Achievement Award, the Chairman’s Special Achievement Award and the School Award.

Winners will be contacted in due course, to arrange delivery of trophies and a socially distanced photograph.

The awards are organised by Sport Pembrokeshire, Pembrokeshire County Council’s sport development section. 

They are sponsored by Sport Pembrokeshire, Valero, The Western Telegraph, Folly Farm and Radio Pembrokeshire.

The awards aim to recognise those people who have excelled in sport over the last 12 months, or who have given their time to coaching and organising grassroots sport.  

Sport Pembrokeshire Awards 2020 – Finalists

(In alphabetical order)

Junior (U16) Sporting Achievement of the Year

Kelci Francis (Dance)

Rhys Llewellyn (Cross Country / Athletics)

Lucy Wintle (Athletics)

Club of the Year

Fishguard & Goodwick Jemima Rowing Club

Fishguard Sports AFC

South Pembs Golf Club

Junior Disability Sport Award

Bleddyn Gibbs (Weightlifting)

Saskia Webb (Swimming)

Young Volunteer of the Year

Lucy Harding

Melody Street

Casey Stuchbury

Team of the Year

Haverfordwest High U13’s Football Team

Milford Haven School U13’s football team

Pembrokeshire Short Mat Bowls Team

Adult Sporting Achievement of the Year

Luke Harries (Golf) 

Josh Macleod (Rugby)

Stephen Varney (Rugby)

Disability Sport Award

Fishguard Thunderbolts

Gaynor Martin (Rowing)

Jake Richards

Unsung Hero

Nick Daley (Pembroke Dock Cricket Club)

Brian Millard (Fishguard Thunderbolts)

Steve Williams (Hundleton Cricket Club)

Coach of the Year

Derek Hart (Badminton)

Justin Head (Weightlifting)

Alison Marsh (Milford Tigers Swimming Club)

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Commissioner welcomes ‘Premier League Kicks’ to Dock

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ON FRIDAY (Nov 13), Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn visited Pembroke Dock, to attend the launch of the new Premier League Kicks initiative in the area.
Over 90 young people from the Pembroke Dock area took part in the first session on Friday evening and will continue to participate on a weekly basis.  During the sessions, the young people take part in various practical activities, such as football coaching sessions, as well as informal sessions that address crime issues.
The Premier League Kicks is free of charge for all involved, and is funded through the Police and Crime Commissioner and run in partnership with Swansea City Football Club Community Trust.
Whilst attending the first session on Friday evening at Ysgol Harri Tudor, Pembroke Dock, PCC Dafydd Llywelyn said “I am privileged to be here on the opening night, to see for myself the positive influence an initiative such as the Premier League Kicks is having on the youth here, and the wider community.
“As a sports enthusiast, and having played football at many levels in my youth, I am fully aware of the influence that sport and exercise have on the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities in general.
“This initiative will have a positive impact on the town and especially the children involved and wish them all the best of luck.”
Superintendent Ross Evans who has been leading and co-ordinating the setting up of the initiative locally in Pembroke Dock on behalf of Dyfed-Powys Police said “We are delighted to be working in partnership with Premier League Kicks and to welcome them to Pembrokeshire for the first time.
“The launch of this scheme is a huge boost for young people in Pembroke Dock and also for the local area itself.
“I would like to wish everyone taking part good luck, we all hope that they make the most of this great opportunity of free coaching by a world famous brand”.
The initiative is run through the English Premier League’s ‘Kicks’ national program, and is delivered locally by Swansea City Football Club Community Trust. The program aims to use football and sport in general to inspire youth living in deprived areas.
Craig Richards from the Swansea City FC Community Trust, said “Premier League Kicks provides free weekly football sessions and educational workshops to young people, giving them opportunities, support and pathways to reach their full potential and divert them away from crime or criminals. It was a pleasure to welcome the Police and Crime Commissioner, Dafydd Llywelyn to Seaside Kicks session to see so many young people having great fun in a safe environment”.
PCC Dafydd Llywelyn is also funding the same initiative in the Llanelli area in partnership with Swansea City FC Community Trust.  PCC Llywelyn said: “Seaside Kicks was launched in Llanelli in January this year, to engage the youth of the Glanymor and Tyisha area in positive activities. More than 150 young people in the area participate on a weekly basis with the Seaside Kicks, and I’m proud to see the impact the scheme is having on young people in the area, and expect to see the same here in the Pembroke Dock area”.

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Bluebirds bag last-gasp draw

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JD Cymru Premier League • Haverfordwest County 1 – Caernarfon Town 1

A LAST minute Danny Williams equaliser secured a deserved point for the Bluebirds after a dominant performance at the Bridge Meadow.

The tone for the game was set in the first minute, as only a last-ditch tackle denied Cameron Keetch a shot at goal after he latched on to a lofted pass. The opening 15 minutes were relatively quiet, Tibbets comfortably saved a Sean Pemberton header and Matt Turner stopped Mike Hayes in his track as he had the ball in the box.

The Bluebirds enjoyed a lot of possession in these opening minutes, playing some good football on the pristine surface. The first real chance came as an Elliot Scotcher corner ricocheted around the box before it was cleared off the line. Just 5 minutes later, Scotcher himself hit the post from an excellently struck free-kick from just outside the penalty area. The next chance fell to Marcus Griffiths who couldn’t quite get on the end of a low cross across the face of goal.

Some bad news for the Bluebirds, Cameron Keetch departed the pitch on the 29th minute after suffering an injury, he was replaced by super-sub Jack Wilson. He was straight into the action as he was played through by Ben Fawcett, but he curled his effort just wide of the post. Matt Turner then saved a well-struck free-kick from the edge of the Bluebirds penalty area. Jack Wilson had the final chance of the half as his curling effort from the right skimmed over the bar. A stalemate at halftime, but the Bluebirds on top.

The second half began as the first ended, this time is was Gruffydd John with a last-ditch tackle to deny Danny Williams. After Sean Pemberton headed wide, Danny Williams played a lofted ball through to Jack Wilson, who headed over Tibbets but Joe Williams cleared the ball off the line. Then, 4 minutes later, Wilson repaid the favour as he sent a lofted ball for Williams to chase, but Tibbets saved his lob attempt.

The Bluebirds continued to create chance after chance. Jack Wilson had a strike cleared off the line, again and Marcus Griffiths saw his header saved by Tibbets.

Against the run of play, Caernarfon took the lead on 74 minutes. Mendes picked up a cross at the back post and squared for Mike Hayes who couldn’t miss.

The setback didn’t deter the Bluebirds who continued to press.

In the space of a minute, Jack Wilson, Dan Summerfield and Jack Wilson all had shots blocked in the penalty area. Jack Wilson then turned provider as his long throw met the head of Sean Pemberton but his effort was over the bar.

With 94 minutes on the clock, Jack Wilson went racing down the right, squared for Danny Williams, and he did the rest from a few yards out with the final kick of the game.

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