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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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Neyland through to Welsh Cup semi-finals

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NEYLAND are through to the Semi-finals of the Welsh Cup, where they will play Ynysygerwn, after beating Penarth by nine runs on Sunday (Aug 12).

South Wales Premier League side Penarth won the toss and chose to field first in the game that was reduced to thirty overs aside following rain earlier in the day.

Neyland lost opener Nic Koomen early on when he was bowled by Nathan Piddock for a score of 2.

Andrew Miller joined Gregg Miller at the crease and the pair shared 60 runs for the second wicket as they got their side going.

Richard Skone made the breakthrough for Penarth as he bowled Gregg on a score of 35 which included four boundaries.

Ashley Sutton only scored three before he was back in the hut as he was stumped by Jack Thomas off the bowling of Skone.

Miller then shared another 29 runs with Henry Durrant before the latter was caught by Thomas off the bowling of Morgan Humphreys on a score of 14.

Miller hit three fours in his score of 42 but he was then caught by Ryan Sylvester off the bowling of Skone leaving Neyland on 119-5.

The remainder of Neyland’s batsmen could only add another 23 runs between them as Skone returned to take his fourth wicket when he caught and bowled Scott Jones on a score of 9. He later added to his four wickets with the run out of George Evans (7).

Stephen Murray scored 1 before he fell to the bowling of Humphreys while Sean Hannon scored 6 before he was bowled by Sylvester.

Alex Langrish wrapped up the innings as he had Callum Power stumped by Jack Thomas to leave Neyland all out on 142, with Mr Extras contributing 19 of those runs.

Neyland knew they would need to do well to defend their total and they made a good start as Jack Thomas and Ryan Sylvester both found themselves back in the pavilion early on.

Thomas was caught by George Evans off the bowling of Sean Hannon while Sylvester was caught by Andrew Miller off the bowling of Henry Durrant.

That left Penarth on 11-2 but Richard Skone and Nick Morgan shared 32 runs for the third wicket as they looked to hit back.

Hannon made the breakthrough as he had Morgan caught by Andrew Miller on a score of 13. He then struck again as he had Jonathan Davies caught by Nic Koomen on a score of 6.

Geraint Rees then picked up his first wicket as he had Tom Sidford caught by Hannon and Penarth were reduced to 59-5.

Skone and Jamie Hitchen shared 26 runs for the sixth wicket as they tried to swing the game in their favour but Hitchen was then caught and bowled by Andrew Miller on a score of 15.

Skone and Alex Langrish added 19 runs but Miller again made the breakthrough as he had Langrish caught by Ashley Sutton on a score of 8.

Soon after Skone, who had made his way to a score of 40 with two fours, was caught by Gregg Miller off the bowling of Nic Koomen and Penarth slipped to 105-8.

Rees then bowled Morgan Humphreys on a score of 1 and although Will Skone and Nathan Piddock finished not out on scores of 15 and 9 respectively, Neyland had done enough to win the game as Penarth finished short on 133-9.

Neyland will now play Ynysygerwn in the semi-final at the Atheltic Ground on Sunday (Aug 19), with the winner going on to play either Ammanford or Cardiff in the final.

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Goodwick open season with Jubilee Cup win

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LAST season’s West Wales Cup winners Goodwick United had too much for Senior Cup winners Hakin United on Tuesday night (Aug 14) as they won the Jubilee Cup, the annual curtain-raiser to the new league season.

The game was played at the Bridge Meadow in Haverfordwest and the good crowd in attendance did not have long to wait to see the first goal.

Top scorer for last season Jordan Griffiths provided the assist as he sent Lee Hudgell through on goal and he slipped the ball back across goal and into the net.

Goodwick almost scored again soon after before Hakin had their first chance when Shane Walsh was denied by the legs of stand-in keeper Patrick Hughes.

Griffiths then had another chance when he was set up by Johnny Horgan but his effort was wayward.

Justin Harding also came close for the Vikings as he saw a shot go inches past the post and he then shot over the bar following a scramble.

Hakin keeper James Manson had to be at his best to deny Goodwick further goals as he saved well from Griffiths shortly before half time.

Ten minutes into the second half Goodwick finally doubled their advantage as Hudgell passed to Griffiths who fired high into the net on the turn.

Griffiths again came close to a second but his free kick went just wide while at the other end Harding again saw a shot saved.

Hakin continued to look for a way back into the game but Walsh again saw his effort saved.

With five minutes to go Goodwick all but sealed the Jubilee Cup as Steven Dockerty played the ball through for Griffiths whose shot went in after Manson got a hand on the ball.

To Hakin’s credit they did not give up and with time almost up, Harding sent an excellent 25-yard free kick into the top corner to make it 3-1.

That was just a consolation for the Vikings as Goodwick captain Steffan Hayes was presented with the Jubilee Cup by Steve Briers, Chairman of the Pembrokeshire League.

Both sides will now be gearing up for their first game of the season next Tuesday as Hakin take on Milford United while Goodwick travel to Clarbeston Road.

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Town edge Whitland as Cresselly and Neyland win

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BEFORE the Harrison Allen Final, League cricket made its return after a one week break and in Division 1, Haverfordwest dealt Whitland’s title hopes a blow as they beat them by three wickets.

Whitland batted first but despite a score of 70 not out from Geraint Jones, they were bowled out for just 134.

Simon Holliday took four wickets for Town and Adam James took two in two balls to dismiss the Borderers cheaply.

Iestyn Scourfield then took five wickets for Whitland as they did their best to claim victory but a score of 43 not out from Dai Davies saw them over the line.

Cresselly are now just two points behind leaders Haverfordwest after they beat Burton by nine wickets.

Burton were all out for 158 with Luke Hayman finishing not out on 55. Cresselly’s bowlers all chipped in with wickets.

Morgan Scale claimed the wicket of Dan Sutton on a score of 78 but 69 not out from Adam Chandler saw the home side to victory.

Neyland remain in third place after they eased to an eight wicket win over Kilgetty.

Kilgetty were all out for 134 despite a score of 61 from Kyle Marsh and 28 from Kurtis Marsh.

Geraint Rees was in fine form for the All Whites as he took six wickets for the loss of only 15 runs.

Ashley Sutton then scored 54 before Nic Koomen finished not out on 56 to see Neyland to a comfortable win.

Lawrenny are now ten points behind fourth placed Whitland as they thumped relegated Johnston by seven wickets.

Chris Goodridge scored 32 for Johnston but they were all out for 67 as Jamie Lewis and Simon Cole each took three wickets.

Harry Thomas also took two wickets and then finished not out on 28 to guide Lawrenny over the line.

St Ishmaels all but secured their place in Division 1 for 2019 as they beat Llangwm by 49 runs at Pill Parks.

Tish batted first but were all out for 145 following scores of 40 from Peter Bradshaw and 32 from Daniel Richards.

Phil Llewellyn took three wickets for Llangwm while three other bowlers each took two wickets.

Noah Davies then scored 21 for Llangwm in their reply and although Ollie Davies finished not out on 35, they lost wickets at regular intervals.

Brennan Devonald was also in fine form taking five wickets for the loss of nine runs to help bowl Llangwm out for just 96.

On Saturday, August 11, Burton face a crucial game in their bid to get out of the bottom two as they host Llangwm.

Kilgetty face Johnston knowing that a win could secure their Division 1 status for next season.

Lawrenny are at home to Neyland while leaders Haverfordwest travel to St Ishmaels.

Finally, second placed Cresselly travel to Whitland in what will be a keenly contested game between two good teams.

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