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Pembroke go top with derby success

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PEMBROKE moved to the top of League 3 West A with a comfortable 40-0 win over rivals Pembroke Dock Quins on Saturday (Dec 30) in front of one of the biggest crowds seen at Crickmarren for many years.

The Quins fielded a young side that has grown in confidence and experience as the season has progressed, whilst the home side, with a full squad available, came to this match brimming with confidence having only lost one League fixture during the season and being in the middle of an excellent Cup run.

However, as all regular supporters appreciate, form in these local derbies is not always the best indicator of the potential outcome. So the large, partisan, holiday crowd assembled with huge expectations of their respective squads.

The home side started well and were camped in the Quins half for most of the first ten minutes, testing their defensive resolve. The Quins forwards battled hard in the loose and managed a number of early defensive turn overs to deny the home side opportunities to press home their territorial advantage.

Then at the end of the first quarter, Pembroke were awarded a penalty for an infringement in the loose; from the ensuing scrum the ball was moved and after a number of phases, quick ball was fed to Sam Smith on the charge and he pierced a crowded defence to score near the posts, to a crescendo of noise form the home supporters. The try was converted by Sean Dalling.

Both sides then lost a player a piece, after Dom Coleman and Quins hooker Neil Brace had a brief altercation mid field and were yellow carded by referee David Emmanuel.

Over the next ten minutes the Quins pressed into Pembroke territory, but could not pierce an equally aggressive and determined home defence.

With only five minutes to go in this half, Pembroke pushed forward through a number of well-constructed phases, which saw prop Lloyd Davies link and make good ground in mid field before passing to the backs to move it wide; from a ruck close to the Quins line, quick ball was scooped up by Sam Smith, who fed a hungry Lloyd Davies on the charge to crash over for an unconverted, team try.

With their tails up in the last seconds of the half, Pembroke then created another opportunity, after counter attacking from deep in their half, winger Simon Stanford was put into space and he nimbly, swerved and sped past a number of defenders to score a superb individual effort from 35 metres out, which was ably converted by Toby Smith; leaving the score at half time deservedly at 19-0 to the home side.

The third quarter started much the same as the first, with Pembroke pushing the Quins into rear guard action and missing a golden opportunity to increase their score only minutes in, when Pembroke’s winger Barry John dropped the ball crossing the line, after a superb counter attacking drive from their own half.

After fifteen minutes both sides made a number of changes to put on fresh legs as the heavy ground took its toll.

Then right at the end of the third quarter, after a sustained attacking period, Pembroke’s dominant pack released quick ball from a ruck in the Quins twenty two, this was scooped up by replacement flanker Rhodri Walters, who made ground and fed scrum half Tom Lewis, who burst through a flat footed defence to go in under the posts for a well taken, unconverted try.

Minutes later Quins denied the hosts another try opportunity, when after No 10 Smith had kicked a Pembroke penalty deep into Quins territory, the visitors stole Pembroke’s lineout five metres out.

Pembroke maintained the pressure and minutes later were awarded a scrum five metres from the visitors line; scrum half Tom Lewis picked up the quick ball, broke wide and flat, fed Toby Smith running an acute angle and he ran through a bewildered defence to score from this training pitch move, which he duly converted himself.

The teams then lost another player each to yellow cards, as Cyle Weatherall and Hywel Baker were dismissed for their part in a short brawl.

Then with five or so minutes to go, Pembroke’s adventure was rewarded with another excellently constructed final try; from broken play in the middle of the field, the home side gathered possession, moved it wide, then back into mid field and finally wide again to replacement full back Ryan Wilkins, who gleefully crossed wide right for a converted try to cap a dominant, bonus point home performance.

Given the heavy ground, which had taken its toll on all of the players, both sides had served up a very entertaining spectacle for the large festive crowd, who showed their appreciation for both teams at the end of the game, which saw the home side victorious.

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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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Walking rugby is a game for all ages and abilities

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WALKING RUGBY has taken off throughout Wales in the last 12 months and is benefitting participants in more ways than one.

The participants – male and female of all ages and abilities including one man who lost his sight 13 years ago – talk of clear benefits to their physical health and crucially, their mental health through being involved in the groups.

The number of Walking Rugby groups in Wales grew organically from two in December 2018 to 16 just twelve months later and new groups are starting up all the time.

A range of organisations from rugby clubs to charities, Health Boards and third sector bodies are seeing the benefit of the inclusive rugby format and engaging more than 300 participants on a weekly basis.
The Aneurin Bevan Mental Health unit has worked with the Dragons Community team to set up a team of their own, training weekly at Rodney Parade.

Kevin Hale, Community Support Worker for the Aneurin Bevan Health Board Forensic Psychiatry Service, who set up the Dragons NHS Walking Rugby team said, “From a mental health point of view it’s been priceless, the social benefits, in particular, are tremendous. Many of the players were very shy at the start and quite withdrawn but confidence levels and communication skills have grown massively and they have told us Walking Rugby has helped them in other areas of their lives.

“It started off as a means to get some of our service users active and also to have some social time afterwards to discuss any issues they’re having. It’s gone from strength to strength and we’ve opened up the opportunity so that anyone can join us at Rodney Parade on a Tuesday afternoon.

Christian Hyde now plays for the Dragons NHS team despite having lost his sight through diabetes.
“I played rugby from the age of 8 to 26. After losing my sight, I had to stop playing – and refereeing. You really miss being part of a rugby environment so being back involved in the game is huge for me and something I never thought I’d do.

“I’m already involved with the visually impaired rugby at Cardiff Blues but being a Dragons supporter, I’m thrilled to be able to train at Rodney Parade and to be involved in matches again like the recent festival. To have ten teams turn up shows the enjoyment we’re all having.”

Anne Jackson plays for Pontyclun Walking Rugby. She said “I’m the only woman at the club at the moment and we could do with more. It really is for everyone. It’s wonderful. It keeps you active – I’ve got fitter since playing Walking Rugby. We train twice a week on a Monday evening and Wednesday morning. We laugh most of the time, we all get on very well.”

Former Wales full-back and Cross Keys coach Morgan Stoddart coaches the Cambrian Walking Rugby group in the Rhondda. He said, “We regularly get 15 or 16 players at our twice-weekly training sessions, we had 12 teams at recent Walking Rugby festivals in Treorchy and Cambrian so it’s gaining popularity all the time.

“Quite a few of the players played rugby in their youth and others haven’t played much sport at all throughout their lives. One lady, Frances Jones, is a regular player and still going strong at 84!

“They enjoy the exercise and also the friendship and camaraderie they gain from it. I enjoy it too, it’s a real change from competitive league rugby as it’s so open to male and female players of all ages and abilities.”
While the format is fully inclusive to all ages, genders and abilities, its main appeal is to Wales’ older and socially isolated population. With more than 877 000 people over 60 in Wales (just under 30% of the population), and that figure set to rise to over one million by 2030*, social isolation and mental health issues are a real issue.

The Welsh Government Strategy for Older People in Wales (2013-2023): Living Longer, Ageing Well, states that loneliness is a real health risk – ‘the same as smoking and twice that of obesity.. that staying physically active protects mental and physical health and that older people say that if they are able to participate in social and leisure activities, they are more likely to say they feel well.’

Based on this evidence, it is no surprise that some GPs are now referring patients to Walking Rugby for the physical and social benefits it brings.

Greg Woods, WRU Enterprise Manager said: “Anyone can play Walking Rugby, whether you’re a lapsed rugby player or new to the game. It’s a social, enjoyable activity with obvious physical and mental health benefits. There is clearly a growing demand for more Walking Rugby opportunities around Wales and we are working with the current groups and a wide range of other partners to not only cater for that demand but provide support to the volunteers running the clubs and work with others to set up new outlets.”

WRU Community Director Geraint John added: “It’s exciting to see the growth of Walking Rugby and to think of its future benefits to the health and well-being of the people of Wales – both the current or recent rugby-playing population and those who could join the rugby family through the Walking Rugby format”.

If you want to start a walking rugby club, get in touch for advice and support participation@wru.wales

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