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Wales end Autumn Internationals with win

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By Jonathan Twigg

THE final game of Wales Under Armour Autumn International series saw Wales beat South Africa 24-22 at the Principality Stadium on Saturday (Dec 2).

That was thanks to, in no small part, a man of the match performance from debutant Scarlets centre Hadeligh Parkes, three years to the day since the New Zealander signed for the Scarlets and become eligible for his adoptive county.

The hosts ended the series on a high with victory over the 2007 World Cup winners, their third consecutive such victory despite fielding a side which had seven changes from the opening game defeat 29-21 to Australia.

A forward-orientated outfit, the South African set piece couldn’t dominate a Welsh pack well led by skipper Alun Wyn Jones, where the embattlement of the mauls was an area of contention for French referee Jerome Garces.

Wales have tried this Autumn to play an open and expansive style favoured now by coach Warren Gatland although the jury is still out on whether it will see its rewards at the 2019 world cup.

The opportunity to expose both new and inexperienced players to international rugby was a bold one from Gatland where his plans were also hampered by injuries although he was aware that his army of English based players, Talupe Faletau apart couldn’t play in.

The pack chosen by Gatland, skipper Jones and Faletau apart mustered 66 caps between and epitomises how the Welsh management team viewed the games as ensuring Wales have strength in depth moving forward.

Saturday’s starting XV included seven Scarlets which kicked off the game, with another two appearing from the substitute’s bench. Centre Scott Williams, departing next season for the Ospreys, scored the opening try for the second successive week and erased any concern over his future selection in Welsh squads after he was omitted in the initial draft selection by Gatland.

Another to benefit from a run in an international jersey was winger Steff Evans who is mercurial with the ball in hand as spectators anticipate what he can produce but he is still at a schoolboy level when it comes to defensive work and tactical understanding.

That will develop as he builds a working relationship as part of a back three which must include former Scarlet Liam Williams and Leigh Halpenny who on Saturday had a welcome return to form as his prodigious accuracy with the boot had come under scrutiny.

Evans may find himself out of the side come the six nations as Hallam Amos would be ahead of him and George North would be in contention.

Parkes’ first game for his adopted country will be one to remember as he partnered club colleague Scott Williams and five Scarlets in the back line, a tribute to the work current Scarlets coaches, headed by Wayne Pivac are doing in West Wales.

The thirty year old makes key decisions with calm acuity and scored two first half tries after Williams had crossed the whitewash in the fifth minute.

Wales’ new style has struggled to score tries, having crossed the whitewash just five times prior to this game and the opening try came from Williams after a cross kick by Dan Biggar was caught by Amos who flew from out wide gaining 30m finding Williams on his shoulder to glide in from 20m and Halfpenny added the extras for 7-0.

Three minutes later following the Men of Harlech turning over possession outside the Springbok 22m box, Biggar cleverly varied his play putting in a deft grubber kick and Parkes collected from 10m capitalising on the visiting defence being at sixes and sevens, to score a debut try under the posts for 14-0.

The Springboks have struggled on their tour of the northern hemisphere, losing 38-3 to Ireland on their opening game and skipper Eben Etzabeth needed his side to get their A game in motion, where they were 5kg a man heavier upfront.

After 18 minutes but a prolonged review by the TMO saw Springboks hooker Malcolm Marx effort ruled out as he was deemed to have been held up over the line and their efforts were wasted when from the ensuing attacking Scrum 5 Williams intercepted to put Steff Evans off and running over 50m as play swung from one 22m box to the other.

Wales were in control and the dynamic Biggar rifled a bullet kick over 65m which forced full back Andries Coetzee to fall over the touchline and allow Wales the line out throw for another attacking position where Parks was strong and direct in looking to break the gain line.

South Africa lacked a leader behind the pack, where Marx scooped a low ball and combined well with back row man Siya Kolisi to gain 25m to establish a foothold in the game when a high tackle resulted in outside half Handre Pollard reducing the deficit to 14-3 after half an hour.

Two minutes later, Coetzee was far too relaxed in clearing the ball as Biggar charged down his kick, which resulted in a second try by Parkes when Faletau collected the bouncing ball and pop it inside for the Kiwi to score under the posts and a 21-3 lead.

Like the week before Wales had the majority of possession and territory but this week had turned this into points although worryingly for defence coach Shaun Edwards they allowed the visitors back into the game before half time when a break out of defence by winger Dillyn Leyds took play 50m up field where the kick ahead bounced kindly for fellow winger Warrick Gelant touchdown and Pollard convert for a half time score of 21-10.

Skipper Etzebeth didn’t appear after the half time oranges, replaced by Oupa Mohoje and he galvanised the side alongside Marx and immediately reduced the deficit when Pollard scored an unconverted try 21-15.

Scarlets prop Rob Evans, an undoubted cornerstone of the Welsh side for years to come with an unbuckling presence at the set piece and a mantra as a silky, mobile ball handler, was replaced by team mate Wyn Jones and outside half Rhys Patchell appeared for an injured Biggar.

From his first touch Patchell was ‘Biggaresqe’ finding Amos with a cross field kick whilst being is all hands with tricks in the mix where he called the shots for a back line which now included six Scarlets in the back division.

Upfront another to establish a high profile in the Autumn Series, flanker Aaron Shingler was a tower of strength alongside his skipper Jones in securing line out ball, although he would have an honest reflection over the tackle area which became a key battle ground as the aerial game worked well to keep the red tide moving forward.

As the second half wore on the South African side came more into the ascendency to deservedly take the lead when centre Jesse Kriel, his sides current leading try scorer crossed wide out, before Pollard landed a superlative conversion for a 22-21 lead.

Wales for the second half had been off the pace and the momentum they derived in the first half to score three tries had dried up as they were starved of possession.

Tried and tested in previous games Wales sought out Faletau as a wide receiver as they tried to break up the games pattern, with Shingler leading a line out drive for a Halfpenny penalty to regain the lead 24-22 with 15 minutes left to the satisfaction of the majority of the 65317 crowd.

Kolisi was a strong presence for the green shirted Springboks whilst immense work from Wyn Jones in the loose was a welcome sight for his team mates as Patchell sent play back over half way line.

Winger Leyds, normally full back had an aura about him when running with ball in hand and there was an international debut at scrum half for Louis Schreuder where Jones was again to the fore with some thumping tackles in a sturdy Welsh defence.

For the final five minutes Wales required composure and guile, which came through a solid scrum and Patchell putting the ball deep into the opposition half to secure victory.

Thoughts move now to the Six nations championship, which will open on Saturday (Feb 3) when Gregor Townsend inspired Scotland are welcomed to Cardiff as Wales will look to develop from their fifth place in the table last season.

Scotland cannot be underestimated after their dismantling of Australia a fortnight ago whilst also running the All Blacks close the week before. If Wales come through that on the front foot they travel to Twickenham the week after for an evening kick off where Gatland will be picking his side on a ‘horses for courses’ format and the squad will be reflective of this.

Another stern test awaits the Welsh Dragons at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin when Ireland will be the opponents before a Cardiff return on Sunday March 11 against Italy for an afternoon kick off and the final game the following Saturday when ‘Les Blues’ are hosted for a 5pm kick off.

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Chairman’s disappointment at Haverfordwest County AFC v Cefn Druids game postponement

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TODAY’S match (Sept 12) between Haverfordwest County AFC and Cefn Druids has been postponed.

The club’s chairman, Robert Edwards, said that he was disappointed to learn the news and stated that the club had followed every single FAW regulation and protocol to the letter.

In an official statement, Mr Edwards said: “The club are extremely disappointed to learn of the postponement of today’s match versus Cefn Druids. It has been a summer of change at the club and we were all looking forward to seeing our hard work played out on the pitch today. The ground staff, coaching team, and Club Secretary have worked tirelessly for the last few weeks, so I am bitterly disappointed for them, and cannot thank them enough for their effort and dedication.

“We would like to make it clear that our club has followed every single FAW regulation and protocol to the letter. Since the resumption of training, we ensured that all rules within the Return to Play guidelines were followed during their respective phases, all players and staff have completed Benchmark COVID-19 questionnaires, and we have spent the previous few weeks guaranteeing that The Bridge Meadow Stadium is a safe environment for football to resume, as per FAW guidelines.

“At all our pre-season games, we ensured that they were correctly sanctioned, and once again, all protocols were followed. We will continue our hard work to ensure that all rules are followed at our club and look forward to getting our campaign underway against Cardiff Met on Tuesday.
“We will not make any further public comment as a club and will be liaising directly with FAW on this matter.”

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Rooks triumph at Treleet

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Alec Colley Cup Final
Carew (95 for 8 and 103 for 8) beat
St Ishmaels (64 for 9 and 106 for 8)
by 29 runs

FAVOURITES Carew won the Alec Cup Final at Treleet on Sunday, August 30, but not without St Ishmael’s second-string showing that they were not be taken lightly.

The decisive period of the match was both sides’ first innings.

Batting first in tricky conditions, Carew struggled against accurate Tish bowling from the outset, with only opener Nick Scourfield providing resistance among the top order batters. And it wasn’t as if Tish didn’t have the chance to deny Carew even that as Danny Flynn dropped Scourfield off opening bowler Kevin Bowen in the Final’s first over.

As it was, Carew stumbled to 45-6 with only five overs of their first knock remaining. It wasn’t until Dai Rees joined Scourfield that the scoring’s tempo increased. Rees hit three sixes on his way to an invaluable 24 before Flynn’s catch off Stuart Carpenter’s bowling. Scourfield also increased his previously sedate progress to add four boundaries in what proved a vital partnership with Rees that helped Carew close on 95-8.

St Ishmaels got off to a rotten a start as Carew’s bowlers exploited conditions. Their innings limped along without a major partnership and only opener Robbie Thomas, along with Steve Williams and Flynn made double figures.

Carew skipper Barry Evans used his nous to end with four wickets, while Kerry Waters applied the squeeze by conceding only ten runs in his spell for the wicket of Ieuan Hawkins. At the end of twenty overs, Tish had struggled to a meagre 64-9, conceding a thirty one run lead to Carew.

With opener Nick Scourfield suffering from a hamstring injury, Carew pressed Morgan Grieve up the order to partner Brian Hall and the pair started off brightly but were separated by Steve Williams before Kevin Bowen claimed Hall’s wicket. St Ishmaels exerted real pressure on the Carew batsmen, with Steve Williams claiming an excellent 3-16.

Carew were indebted to another late innings rally, again featuring Rees, this time in a partnership with Simon Wood. Wood batted cleverly and mixed powerful strokes with some excellent cricket shots on his way to unbeaten 40. Carew’s innings closed on 103-8, setting the underdogs a challenging 135 to win.

After their first innings’ travails, such a chase seemed highly unlikely for Tish. However, Flynn and Rhead were steady at the start before the former’s dismissal by Simon Wood (3-27). Kevin Bowen then gave Tish some real hope with a dashing 25 runs before being caught by Haydn Shapcott off skipper Barry Evans’ slow left-armers.

A rapid-fire partnership of 28 between Ieuan Hawkins and Steve Williams could not stop the inevitable, as Carew had too many runs and just too much experience to lose the match on a tricky drying surface, left damp by recent heavy rain and overnight showers. Tish never gave up fighting and showed real grit and determination before their second innings closed on 106-8, leaving Carew winners by 29 runs.
Umpires Jonathan Willington and Allan Hansen chose Simon Wood as the Man of the Match, a new trophy sponsored by Neyland CC in memory of their late clubman Martin Rees which was presented by Neyland Cricket Club’s Chair, Martin Jones.

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Cricket: Neyland win Harrison Allen

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A BRILLIANT recovery in the field during Haverfordwest’s first innings laid the foundations for a convincing Neyland victory at Cresselly this afternoon.
Neyland, batting first, carved and scampered their way to 142 in their first innings.
Haverfordwest’s reply started in brutal fashion, as Adam James smashed the bowling to all parts, peppering the boundary with a succession of massive hits on his way to a quick fire 34. With the fourth over of the Haverfordwest innings not yet finished, the Town were on 54 and looking like they would set all sorts of scoring records.
Andrew Miller and, particularly, Ross Hardy established a measure of control and sharp fielding squeezed the Haverfordwest batsmen, cutting off boundaries and harrying the batsmen into mistakes.
Neyland reeled in the Town batsmen so successfully that, having looked on course at first for a mammoth score and then a big first-innings lead, they got a slender eight-run lead to take into their second innings.
Neyland started slowly in their second innings before Ashley Sutton and Patrick Bellerby began to step on the gas after Nick Koomen went early. They were particularly severe on veteran spinner Clive Tucker, who took heavy punishment from the pair.
Their good work was carried on by Nathan Banner, who belted a series of massive sixes off Simon Holliday and Clive Tucker, as Neyland posted a massive 214 runs, setting an imposing 222 target.
Despite a rapid start by Potter and an injured Adam James in their second innings, as soon as wickets started to fall, they kept on tumbling as Neyland were sharp in the field and Ross Hardy bowled with great control from the difficult Pavillion End.
The introduction of Andrew Miller from the School End saw him pick up the wicket of Ben Field, who mishit a gentle catch to extra cover.
With him, Haverfordwest’s faint last hope vanished and their innings stuttered to 103-9 leaving them 119 runs adrift and Neyland as Bowl champions.
For his batting in both innings and brilliant fielding, Ashley Sutton was named man of the match.

FULL REPORT IN THIS FRIDAY’S HERALD

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