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No respite for Swans in the storm

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By Jonathan Twigg

TOTTENHAM Hotspur arrived in South Wales to take on Swansea at a windswept Liberty Stadium on Tuesday (Jan 2) in a changed kit of navy blue and included former Swansea striker Fernando Llorente for his first start in Premier League and full back Ben Davies.

Swansea set up with five across the back, with three centre backs to nullify the quality of Spurs despite the absence through a heavy cold of new Premier League record goal scorer Harry Kane.

Carlos Carvahal’s first home game after the last gasp victory over Watford saw him willing to concede possession and territory looking to play off the break with Jordan Ayew and Nathan Dyer.

The game at Wembley in September saw the sides draw 0-0 but the writing was on the wall as early as the ninth minute as the London side settled better in the dire conditions.

Full back Martin Olsson was late on a tackle on Tripper, receiving a yellow card allowing Eriksen to ping in a free kick which was easily dealt with by Alfie Mawson. This was followed by another free kick two minutes later after a foul by Carroll, which saw Eriksen find Llorenete’s head.

The former Swan didn’t celebrate his goal, probably showing respect for his former employers or due to him knowing he was in an offside position.

Four minutes later Dyer combined with Rangel as he did with Clucas but the first home opportunity came courtesy of an off the ball foul from Spurs’ Sanchez on the edge of the box, where the resultant yellow card saw his namesake clip the kick over the bar.

The heavy conditions took some of the fizz out of the Spurs game as the surface water built up and the sticky conditions were helping the home side as Dyer nearly got a head on a Rangel cross.

This certainly wasn’t a thriller, a song which marked the year, 1982 the last time Tottenham lost to Swansea with paceman Dyer the go to outlet to manufacture a half chances for Olsson who shot wide with five minutes of the half remaining.

With over 75% possession the visitors had chances, notably a free kick put pressure on the defence and Llorente put the effort just over the cross bar. For Swansea Sanches worked himself round the back of the Spurs defence to set up a corner which drew a save from Lloris from a Mawson header two minutes from half time.

Both sides returned with fresh kits for the second half and the Swans started brightly with Dyer latching onto a ball over the top without making contact.

Swansea were crisper in the tackle, but lost captain Rangel five minutes into the half, replaced by Saturday’s goal scoring hero Narsingh as Carvalhal used the injury to tinker with the line-up and tactics. Olsson drew a free kick from Sanchez when perhaps referee Rob Madley considered a second yellow card, with the lack of consistency in decision making frustrating supporters.

Sanchez was withdrawn by Spurs supremo Pochettino after the reprieve with Wanyama returning to action after a four month absence as Ali drew free kicks much to the derision of home crowd.

Fabianski commanded his goal with guile, Lamela picked up a yellow card just after the hour mark and the resultant free kick saw Narsingh go through but Lloris saved well at his near post.

Kane made an appearance and Ali missed a golden opportunity as did Ayew at the other end when he rounded Lloris but saw the ball cleared by Neath born Davies and the corner allowed Van der Hoorn to head against the post.

McBurnie came on for Dyer as Carvalhal rolled the dice of luck in the hope to reward the endeavour shown in the second half where the attacking intent had restricted the forward play of the Spurs full backs.

Sissoko was the final replacement for Lamela, with the belief of the 20,614 present willing an equaliser, although striker Son should have made it 2-0.

Carvalhal sent on Routledge for the last twelve minutes for Carroll with Van der Hoorn snaffling a yellow card for a late tackle on Ali as Son could feel aggrieved not to earn his side a penalty

Spurs were creating openings, Son being unable to control a through ball with Swansea now running with four offensive players.

Eric Dyer had a strike at the far post as the game moved at pace and Ayew and Olsson had half chances for the side rooted to the base of the Premier League.

Narsingh got beyond Davies who recovered well as both sides had concern over the decision making from the officials, vociferously chanted from the stands where fair paying punters circumvented the need to qualify as a referee to make decisions!

Ali finished the game at 2-0 when his first shot rifled back off Fabianski allowing him to deflect it in at the second attempt after Kane picked him out with a scintillating cross field ball.

Swansea had a chance from an injury time corner but Mawson’s header was easily accounted for by Lloris and the game ended with Spurs easing into fifth place in the League, remaining unbeaten over Christmas before playing West Ham tomorrow night (Jan 4).

Swansea travel to Championship leaders Wolves on Saturday in the FA Cup before girding their loins for a trip to the North East the week after, with Liverpool and Arsenal due at the Liberty Stadium before the end of the month.

The short term is looking difficult for them but there is hope for the late winter and early spring fixtures if they can keep in touch with the sides around them.

Perhaps acquiring some transfer window signings could help bring some much needed respite to the storm raging across the community.

Sport

Joyce thrilled with first Six Nations try

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JASMINE Joyce relished her first Six Nations try as Wales Women ended the campaign on a high by playing some fine rugby in a 24-5 win over Ireland at Cardiff Arms Park.

Electrifying wing Joyce produced an individual performance as part of a fine team display from Rowland Phillips’ team in the Welsh capital.

Joyce scored the fourth of Wales’ tries by sprinting down the right touchline in sensational fashion as her team followed their win over Scotland with a second straight victory.

“It was literally a great team performance. We are going to be buzzing for a long time after that,” said Joyce.

“It’s the best we’ve played in a very long time both as a squad and in terms of individual performances. I think we can enjoy ourselves after that one – it all clicked.

“We have been getting better and better. Against Italy we managed to get a draw, but I think in this campaign they have shown they are something most teams don’t think they are. Italy are on the up, which we saw with their win over France on Sunday, and for us to get wins over Scotland and now Ireland is massive for us. It’s great to give us some momentum going into next year’s Six Nations and then the World Cup in 2020.”

Ireland dominated the opening quarter and finally made their pressure count as teenage wing Beibhinn Parsons opened the scoring. After that, they failed to score a point and Wales showed a clinical edge with their best performance of the campaign as they sealed their first Six Nations over Ireland since 2011.

Home tries came from Jess Kavanagh, captain Carys Phillips, Bethan Lewis, and Joyce.

Kavanagh’s was a fine effort too as she scored in the corner, while Phillips and Lewis provided tries from the forwards. It was left to Team GB Sevens Olympic star Joyce to round off the scoring and she did exactly that in an effort which was eerily similar to the one she had ruled out against Italy.

“We’ve got to make sure we enjoy the experience of this win and do it together,” added Joyce, who scored a try, made 208 metres, five line breaks, and four tackle breaks against Ireland.

“We had a different kind of mentality coming into this game in terms of trying to get the ball wide and I think we did that. I must have had about 10 carries and to finally get a try right at the end was amazing.”

Wales were beaten by France and England, drew with Italy, and then downed Scotland and Ireland to round off an encouraging Six Nations campaign. Phillips’ side ended the tournament in fourth place.

“To get our second win of the campaign is massive for us and we’ve ended up finishing fourth which is a massive step up from last year,” said Joyce.

“We couldn’t ask for much more than that. England and France are a step above the other nations, but we want to keep building on this moving forwards.”

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Sport

Wales thump Ireland to seal Grand Slam

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WALES secured a historic Grand Slam on Saturday (Mar 16), as they thumped Ireland 25-7 at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.

Going into the game they knew that a win would see them crowned Six Nations Champions and that anything but would have opened the door for the Irish or England to snatch the title.

However, Wales were in no mood to let their Grand Slam hopes fade away and scored with just over a minute on the clock gone, and they never looked back.

It was the perfect start for Warren Gatland’s men as Ken Owens’ throw found its way to Gareth Anscombe who beautifully chipped over for Hadleigh Parkes to catch and touch down. Anscombe then added the extras.

It meant that Jonathan Sexton’s first act of the game was to restart it but they very nearly scored moments after, only for an excellent tackle.

Jacob Stockdale picked the ball up and looked as if he would run to the try line but Parkes made a try-saving tackle and Wales were able to win the ball back.

Wales increased their lead with a penalty on 18 minutes with a 49-metre penalty from Anscombe and they continued to push forward, not wanting to sit on their lead.

Two minutes later they had a penalty advantage but when the ball was kicked ahead, Gareth Davies’ over-eagerness saw him tackle the Irish player after the whistle had gone, much to the displeasure of the four Irishmen around him. The penalty was reversed.

Irish errors continued to be punished though and with five minutes of the first half remaining, Anscombe sent another penalty through the posts to make it 13-0.

On the stroke of half time, Ireland were guilty of collapsing the scrum and Anscombe again scored a penalty to give Wales a 16-0 lead at the break.

The first score in the second half would prove crucial, a Wales score would deflate Ireland while an Ireland score would give them hope.

After both sides traded penalties it was the home team who got the first points as Anscombe again punished Ireland with a 33-metre penalty which sailed just inside the posts to make it 19-0.

The Grand Slam was within Wales’ grasp and when Sexton’s restart went out of play, you got the sense that an Irish comeback seemed unlikely.

Another penalty from Anscombe made it 22-0 with just under half an hour to play but Ireland came back looking for a way into the game. However, try as they might they passed the ball out of play.

Connor Murray then came close to scoring but was held up and some excellent defending saw Wales turn the ball over.

With just over ten minutes to go Anscombe scored his sixth penalty to continue his perfect record and it was only a matter of time before Wales were crowned champions.

There was still time for Ireland to attack though and came close as Wales were penalised for being offside on three occasions but a knock on allowed Wales to clear the ball.

As the clock ticked over the 80 minutes, Wales knew they had done enough to secure the Grand Slam and a fourteenth win in a row but Ireland were not going down without a fight.

Stockdale was again halted but the ball was recycled to Jordan Larmour who dived over for a consolation try. Jack Carty added the extras but the celebrations for Wales had already begun.

It was a third Six Nations title for Warren Gatland in his final tournament, his second Grand Slam, proving that Wales were the one team to beat.

They will now look forward to preparing for the World Cup in Japan which starts in September.

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Wales name unchanged team

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WALES have named an unchanged matchday squad for their final 2019 Guinness Six Nations encounter against Ireland in Cardiff on Saturday.

Warren Gatland will oversee his 50th Six Nations match for Wales this weekend and his side goes into the game as the only unbeaten team in the tournament with four victories to their name.

Captain Alun Wyn Jones will equal Welshman Gethin Jenkins’ total test appearance record as he moves to 134 test caps (125 Wales, 9 British & Irish Lions) and to joint fifth in the overall world test appearance list.

Jones again packs down with Adam Beard in the second-row, with Rob Evans, Ken Owens and Tomas Francis continuing together in the front-row. Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric and Ross Moriarty comprise the backrow.

Gareth Davies and Gareth Anscombe are named at half-backs with Hadleigh Parkes and Jonathan Davies in the centre.

Josh Adams, George North and Liam Williams once again comprise the back-three for Wales.

“We’ve named an unchanged squad and rewarded the players for the last couple of outings and the last couple of victories.

“These players are on a very good run, they are a hugely impressive group and they deserve to be going into the final weekend with everything to play for.

“It is a great reward for them for the hard work they have put in and we are all looking forward to what is going to be a huge game.

“For a number of us as coaches this is our last Six Nations game and the fact that it is in Cardiff is extra special. There is bound to be a bit of emotion on Saturday and that is something to embrace.”

Elliot Dee, Nicky Smith and Dillon Lewis provide the front row cover on the bench with Jake Ball and Aaron Wainwright completing the forward contingent. Aled Davies, Dan Biggar and Owen Watkin provide the backline cover.

Wales team to play Ireland (Saturday, March 16, KO 14.45 BBC & S4C)

15. Liam Williams (55 Caps)

14. George North (82 Caps)

13. Jonathan Davies (72 Caps)

12. Hadleigh Parkes (14 Caps)

11. Josh Adams (10 Caps)

10. Gareth Anscombe (25 Caps)

9. Gareth Davies (40 Caps)

1. Rob Evans (34 Caps)

2. Ken Owens (63 Caps)

3. Tomas Francis (39 aps)

4. Adam Beard (12 Caps)

5. Alun Wyn Jones (Capt) (124 Caps)

6. Josh Navidi (15 Caps)

7. Justin Tipuric (63 Caps)

8. Ross Moriarty (30 Caps)

REPLACEMENTS:

16. Elliot Dee (17 Caps)

17. Nicky Smith (27 Caps)

18. Dillon Lewis (11 Caps)

19. Jake Ball (31 Caps)

20. Aaron Wainwright (7 Caps)

21. Aled Davies (15 Caps)

22. Dan Biggar (69 Caps)

23. Owen Watkin (12 Caps)

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