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No Christmas cheer for Crymych

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By Jonathan Twigg

THE final Crymych game before the Christmas break, sponsored by Haverfordwest Coin Machines, in Division 1 West on Saturday (Dec 16) saw leaders Dunvant maintain their position with a 38-7 victory at Parc Lloyd Thomas as the home side remain anchored to the foot of the table with six points from seven fixtures.

Dunvant came down from the Championship last season and have been a side who have enjoyed dining at the top table of Welsh rugby in years gone by, when their Broadacre home on the outskirts of Swansea became a fortress and they are in prime position for a swift return to that level if they continue their form in 2018.

Dunvant arrived at the foot of the Preseli Hills driven to ensure they didn’t return East with anything other than maximum points from this fixture and on winning the toss they chose to play with the elements at their back on the newly laid pitch, absorbing the ball in the wintry conditions and looking to punch holes through the home defence line.

The opening score came in a fortuitous way when home scrum half Dafydd Phillips pinged a flat pass back to his half back partner Jake Jenkins only to see it deflect off the head of visiting prop Connor Bucket for his team mate, flanker Ben Davies, on permit from Premiership side Swansea to slide over from 5m.

Winger Sam Evans duly converted from the left of the posts and it was Evans alongside centre Mitchell Ford who were eager to make inroads via the left channels as the yellow and greens dominated the possession.

Skipper Ford was vocal in his encouragement of the forwards who had dominance at the set piece scrum where the young Crymych pack couldn’t hold their opponents heavier and co-ordinated impact.

Home number 8 Osian Davies was required to pick up from the base of a pressurised scrum for most of the match and in the opening half the Dunvant back three were constantly able to isolate him and recycle the ball.

Further first half scores arrived through scrum half Ben Lay after Evans received the ball from elegant full back Sam Hawkes, before feeding second row Gethin John on the outside who popped a pass to Lay who ran around to touchdown under the posts for Evans to convert for 14-0.

Scrum half Phillips was an energy catalyst for the home side where his side were guilty of not ensuring their clearance kicks reached the safety of the touchline which allowed Hawkes, Evans and fellow winger Mark Robbins the opportunity to run the ball back.

In contrast visiting outside half Alan Williams Parry, a seventh generation player to wear the Dunvant colours constantly kept the pressure on the home side with deft kicks to ensure his forwards were hunting downfield for long periods in Crymych territory, which in the conditions was motivation enough for them.

Crymych did have a penalty attempt when number 8 Davies was held after being tackled only for Jenkins to push the opportunity wide after 25 minutes which only acted as a spur for the visitors to renew their focus and play in the Crymych 22m area.  Prop Callum Llewellyn on permit from Birchgrove was more than the cornerstone of the scrum set piece, where they gleaned penalties as he was in the thick of the offensive play which required Davies and his back row colleagues Sion Collella and Llyr Davies to tackle like demons for the Bulls.

The final score of the first half came with five minutes remaining on Ammanford based referee Jason Griffiths watch and was scored wide out by second row Gethin John to ensure his side started the second half 19-0 ahead, despite Evans missing the conversion and a last minute penalty attempt, which in the conditions meant it was probably more than enough to sustain victory.

The outcome of the game was certainly known just before a quarter of an hour of the second half when Hawkes entered the line after Llewellyn had set Williams Parry away on a thundering run down the channel.

He drew the gain line, dummied across Ford for co centre Danny Davies to break the first defence line and Hawkes rounded off the move for 24-0 and a visiting side bonus point. Crymych needed a foothold in the game which they found difficult as Williams Parry was definitive in his defensive kicking, playing rugby out of their danger area, a lesson Crymych may heed after their efforts in the first half.

The pendulum did sway towards the Bulls when after a period of forward pressure opposition flanker Davies was yellow carded for offside.

Phillips chose to take a tap penalty from which space opened enough for the young Davies to find a head of steam and break through from 10m and score under the posts for Jenkins to convert and reduce the score to 24-7.

A second Dunvant yellow card followed three minutes later to Ford for a high tackle which even under the new stricter code of officiating seemed harsh and replacement front row forward, veteran Andrew Fletcher enjoyed a run in the conditions which allowed him to roll back the years to his Cardigan heydays.

This impact from the bench served to ensure the visitors dug deeper and hooker Ceri Davies and prop Bucket did the hard graft to minimise any Crymych drives, with Williams Parry key in orchestrating his sides play.

He was responsible for initiating a 70m break away try, with some deft hands and support play to set his half back partner into space on the touchline and centre Danny Davies duly crossed for Evans to convert at 31-7.

Evans looked an accomplished player with ball hand, shrewd in reading the game situation and with an enduring accuracy when kicking goal; he also showed some astuteness with two minutes of play remaining, running onto a clearance 40m from the Crymych try line and showing football skills akin to Gareth Bale with a chip half- volley over the Cymych back line to then win the sprint for a touchdown.

He dragged himself out of the surrounding ditch after spraying into it such was his momentum to convert the try for a personal haul of 13 points and a maximum point victory for his side.

Coach Jay Parry was ‘full of praise for both sides for the match in the conditions, where the majority on show were local lads.”  He acknowledged they had left Crymych too much to do after opening up a 24-0 lead in the second half.

Home coach Neil Machin was frustrated by what he described as “Individual skills which let us down, where they punished us and at this level it’s a harsh lesson to learn.”

He added: “We never gave up and have a young team which is developing and with experience we will capitalise on sides going down in numbers.  We had Elaijah Torau and Rhys Davies packing down in the second row from our second string alongside a youth based back row and hooker Lee Grififths, all of whom are developing confidence.”

The mountain men will travel now up the coast road for a fixture against Aberystwyth on Saturday (Dec 30), hoping for a return to the side for the injured centre Ifan Phillips and a direction where game management may reap its rewards against a home side in mid table after a 22-7 defeat in Penclawdd on Saturday.

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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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