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Scarlets in Seventh Heaven

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By Jonathan Twigg

THE Scarlets won their fifth consecutive Guinness Pro 14 derby match of the season on Friday (Jan 5) at Parc y Scarlets against a young and inexperienced Dragons, 47-13.

The Gwent side, who have been defeated 24 times in the last 29 fixtures, started with 17 year old scum half Dan Babos and debutant flanker 18 year old Ben Roache but conceded seven tries as a rampant home side dominated the game.

The Scarlets remain on top of the Conference A table after this third derby victory in a ten day period, thanks to a 14-11 win on the 4G pitch at Cardiff Arms Park against the Blues and a last gasp try from flanker Josh MacLeod on the last Saturday of 2017 saw them triumph 12-9 over the Ospreys, despite playing for a long period with 14 men after the dismissal of Welsh winger Steff Evans for a tip tackle.

Coach Wayne Pivac, set his stall out at the start of the season for his charges to return with six victories over their Welsh rivals and they now head to Judgement Day VI on Saturday (April 28) to take on the Dragons in the final Derby match at the Principality Stadium.

No. 8 John Barclay had the honour of leading the team out on his one hundredth appearance and his was in the thick of the action from the off as outside half Dan Jones drew Pontyberem born winger Ioan Nicholas quickly into the game.

An early scoring opportunity came when Jones pinged a cross field kick into the space occupied by winger Tom Prydie who spurned the chance when pressurised in catching the ball by full back Carl Meyer.

Haverfordwest born Rob Evans worked some magic in the lose to start his back division at a quick pace through the hands where play moved seventy metres down field and skipper Ken Owens led the charge as his pack of forwards disrupted the visiting scrum.

It was the Dragons outside half Arwel Robson who opened the scoring with an offside penalty after 15 minutes before the home side responded through another Evans inspired move ram adrift when full back Rhys Patchell failed to find Kiwi born Welsh international Hadleigh Parkes as the play crabbed cross field.

Owens picked second row Steve Cummins out from a five metre line out allowing the forwards got some momentum and former Whitland flanker James Davies crossed wide out for Jones to land the extra two points with a magnificent conversion

Ten minutes later the home eight dominated the scrum set piece and drew another penalty which Jones kicked long down the touchline; the pattern of play for the evening was firmly set as the Scarlets were happy to track with their tried and tested dominance up front.

Owens found Barclay at the base of the line out from which Parkes broke the gain line allowing Jones to switch play, for centre the Steffan Hughes to put in a grubber kick and winger Pyrdie won the foot race to score, which Jones failed to convert.

Coach Bernard Jackman astutely changed both props for the visitors before his side suffered the ignominy of a yellow card having identified the need for an improvement before the game was lost completely but pressure on winger Pat Howard drew a yet another mistake after half an hour.

Owens found his target in the line out again and the ball went through several phases before Davies made 20 meters towards the posts and the pulled the cover defender into the mix for Jones to cross unopposed under the posts and convert his try for 19-3.

The Scarlets support play and handling made an effective and timeless display of attacking rugby appreciated by the knowledgeable crowd; this is a Region whose players hearts are firmly ensconced in the local environment capturing the life and blood of the community clubs across West Wales.  None more so than Hendy born flanker, Aaron Shingler a divide and conquer king on the floor to secure the ball.

Three tries to the good and the Black Dragons were unable to get out of their own half as the home side searched for the bonus point try before half time led by scrum half Aled Davies, who became a tad vigorous in his tackling as the game edged towards half time.  Full back josh Meyer stepped up and reduced the deficit from the half way line to 19-6 after outside half Robson had been replaced by Robson Blake.

The sides returned for the second half and a low key opening fizzed into life after seven minutes as replacement second row Rynard Landman’s first touch was a weighty size 12 right boot to carry play deep into Scarlets territory. The defence held firm with Shingler and Davies foraging well allowing Parkes to make good ground from first phase possession.

The Dragons were more involved in the play, primarily through Landman and his boiler house partner Joe Davies although there was little respite as Cummins barged through for the Scarlets, neatly popping an inside pass to Patchell who timed the final pass for Aled Davies to scamper in from 20 metres under the posts for a converted try and 26-6.

With the bonus point in the bag after eleven second half minutes another Haverfordian Simon Gardiner replaced Samson Lee in the front row for the scrum to be anchored by former Sir Thomas Picton School props; fitting in the year which sees their school becoming defunct and the new Haverfordwest High being born from the embers of their amalgamation with Tasker Milward.

Skills taught in school were evident with the fifth try as play swayed back and forth before Shingler straightened the line to score another converted try, after Patchell, Nicholas and Hughes had been instrumental.

Pivac gave a run out to the replacements bench as the game developed into a rout where the words of former Scarlets captain Simon Easterby rang around the West Wales cauldron “In essence, I wanted to lead by example.” Such words are a suitable epitaph for current skipper, Ken Owens.

The livewire Wales Hooker was everywhere in his time on the turf, running through 60 minutes before giving way to the younger legs of Ryan Elais. 

Scarlets were playing simple yet effective rugby, driven on by the commanding voice of Pivac, whose expectations of high standards are the basis for the successes. The Dragons were on the back foot and conceding penalties to stop the forward dominance to little effect as replacement flanker Wil Boyd was the recipient of his sides efforts after another Cummins catch in the line out; a sixth try converted by Patchell for 40-6 with twenty minutes to play.

Patchell had moved into the first receiver position and was calling the shots with fast hands and quick feet, putting Jonathan Evans away and Rhys Jones slid in for a converted try to leave them three points shy of the half century.

The home side had runners appearing at will, with or more importantly without the ball as an obviously fatigued and demoralised Dragons side succumbed.  Patchel again put on the burners sweeping the ball across the pitch as Italian referee Marius Mitrea whistle penalised the Gwent side for offside.

Morgan Williams was guilty of an indiscretion for the home side in a brief foray into their territory with centre Jack Dixon raising spirits briefly on the cold night which quietened the 9347 crowd.

Turning down a straight forward penalty kick Angus O’Brien tried to get a nudge on as the Dragons plundered through numerous phases of tight play rewarded when Lloyd Fairbrother scrambled over for Blake to convert; 47-13 with seven minutes to play.

Patchell was nominated as man of the match as the dying embers of the game saw the Dragons enjoy the possession and territory, a little to late to affect the game result but enough for them to take some heart and soul from their visit to West Wales.

Sport

All Blacks earn third straight win

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NEYLAND sealed their third League win in a row on Saturday (Sept 22) as they beat Llanybydder 22-16 at the Athletic Ground.

It was a closely fought match and the blustery rain and strong wind made conditions difficult for both teams in their attempts to play open rugby.

The home side started well and were rewarded when lively right wing Patrick Bellerby made a strong midfield run to cross for the opening try, converted by fly-half Mark Riley.

Llanybydder then settled, and a good run by centre Arwel Thomas took play deep into the home 22.

Further pressure by the visitors led to two penalties for centre Steff Richards to give a score of 7-6 at the interval.

Neyland controlled possession and territory for most of the second period, with forwards and backs combining well.

Llyr James reaches over to score the last try of the game. Pic. Herald

They were rewarded with two tries for Number 8 Ben Williams and another for replacement hooker Richard Jones as they claimed a bonus point.

However, the visitors, missing a few regulars, responded with a late try for scrum half Llyr James, with an excellent conversion by Richards securing the losing bonus point.

On Saturday (Sept 29), Neyland will look to keep their winning run going when they travel to Cardigan. Llanybydder return to South Pembrokeshire to visit Pembroke Dock Harlequins.

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Super Solva sink Neyland

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SOLVA pulled off one of the shocks of the Senior Cup first round as they beat Division 1 Neyland 4-2 at the Athletic Ground on Saturday (Sept 22).

The game got underway despite persistent rain and it was the hosts who took the lead.

Solva equalised before Neyland took the lead once more, Ben Fairburn and Mike Chandler scoring for the home side.

Shortly before half time Solva equalised to make it 2-2 and it was all to play for in the second half.

Leon Dinmore scored twice while Gonzalez Rocha and Josh Bland also scored as Solva went ahead in the second half.

Neyland looked to hit back but were unable to find a way past the Solva keeper as a couple of long range efforts flew over in the closing stages.

Solva hung on for a deserved win and will now look forward to their second round game away to Pendine.

Neyland return to Division 1 action on Saturday (Sept 29) as they take on Narberth. Solva will look to build on their Cup win as they host Camrose in Division 2.

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Senior Cup first round preview

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THE first round of the Senior Cup gets underway on Saturday (Sept 22) as the road to the Bridge Meadow begins.

The standout tie of the round sees Cup holders Hakin United taking on Clarbeston Road in a repeat of last season’s final.

Hakin won the final 7-1 and they will be keen to get their defence of the Cup up and running. Clarby have reached the final for the last two seasons and they will also be looking to get through to the next round.

There is a local derby on offer in Fishguard as they welcome former Senior Cup winners Goodwick United.

Both teams have made excellent starts to their respective seasons and something will have to give for one of these teams to go through.

Keegan Summers and Steve Lewis have both scored seven times for Fishguard and Goodwick will have to keep these two quiet. Jordan Griffiths has also started the season in fine form with eight goals and he will provide the main threat to their rivals.

Division 5 newcomers Newport Tigers will have their first taste of Senior Cup football on Saturday as they travel to Division 1 side Narberth.

Narberth have not won in their opening five games and will be looking to kick start their season with a cup win.

Newport have played three times so far winning just once but they will be keen to cause an upset.

Another side that has had a tough start in Division 1 is Lamphey and they host Division 2 side Letterston who have also made a slow start with just one win from their first five games.

Action from the Senior Cup game between Merlins Bridge and Solva last season

Merlins Bridge have made an unbeaten start to the season with three wins and a draw in their first four games and they will be looking to avoid an upset against Division 4 leaders Cosheston.

Cosheston are also unbeaten and have scored over three goals in each of their three games so far and the Wizards will need to be wary of the threat posed by their opponents.

Division 2 leaders Johnston are at home as they welcome Carew in what should be an excellent game.

Johnston’s Scott Crawford and Ryan Doyle, with nine and seven goals respectively, have started the season in excellent form and they will be hoping they can cause an upset.

Carew had been unbeaten until their loss to St Clears last Saturday and they will be keen to bounce back from that result with a win in the cup.

Neyland earned their first win of the season on Saturday as they beat Milford and they will be looking to back that up as they take on Division 2 Solva.

Solva have made a steady start to their season with two wins and a draw from their opening five games but they also won in their last game on Saturday as they beat Lawrenny 3-2.

Milford v Saundersfoot from last season

Milford United are away to fellow Division 1 side Saundersfoot Sports in a repeat of last season’s first round game which the Sports won at Marble Hall.

Hundleton beat Monkton Swifts in the first round last year and they have a home game against Milford Athletic.

Both sides have made a slow start to the season and will be eager to get their season up and running with a cup win.

Camrose are at home as they take on Pembroke Boro who are yet to lose in Division 3 so far this season.

Llangwm/H’west CC take on Herbrandston while Pendine are at home to Prendergast Villa.

St Clears host Kilgetty and St Ishmaels are at home as they take on Monkton Swifts. James Russell and Dylan Davies have started the season on fire scoring 19 goals between them and Tish will do well to stop them.

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