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Wanderers walloping of Crymych marred after fracas

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By Jonathan Twigg

THE WRU National leagues have copped some criticism since its inception in 1995, although this game in the shadow of Stradey Park, previous home of the Scarlets, showed the raw side of Club rugby at its uncompromising best and unfortunately its worst on Saturday (Jan 20).

Llanelli Wanderers emerged 44-12 victors over Crymych as both sides saw it as a crunch relegation encounter, the first at the ground since the renovation work undertaken by the community club.

The game was marred when Crymych prop Jason Nicholls took a punch when exposed in the scrum in the final minute and resulted in a trip to Morriston hospital where he was diagnosed with a fractured eye socket, nose and cheekbone.

Both sides entered the fixture with players associated to their respective clubs; no permits, no dual registration which were not normally selected and both came to play the conditions set before them at the ‘Ranch’. It was Crymych who took on the challenge of playing against the wind and the slope, finding the tenacity of home flanker Steffan Tafetsauffer, No 8 Nicky Harries and scum half Josh Weeds difficult to deal with in the opening exchanges.

The visitors lost influential scrum half Jonathan Rogers at the end of the first quarter, which was pointless despite continual penalties awarded by Cwmtwrch based referee Efryn Morris-Roberts to the home side through the ten and twelve channels. Morris Roberts, originally from Bala and teaching in Ystradgynlais was frim in his opinions as the underfoot conditions played their part. He didn’t endear himself to the visiting support who question those marginal decisions vociferously and as the game wore on perhaps with tinted spectacles.

Outside half Jonathan George eventually landed a penalty after 22 minutes from in front of the posts to open the home sides account, which spurred the visiting ‘mountain men’ into action. Replacement scrum half Gareth Davies was a livewire and chose to take a quick tap penalty thirty metres from the Wanderers try line, feeding second row Rhys Davies who combined with flanker Aled Harries to send outside half Jake Jenkins the ball.

He drew in centres Carwyn and Ifan Phillips to make ground with ball in hand allowing No. 8 Guto Davies to pounce for the games opening try, converted by outside centre Ifan Phillips.

Crymych were on top at this stage, the home side reduced to 14 men after Harries was deemed to have overstepped the tolerance level of Morris Roberts, which allowed the visitors to secure a second try. Scrum half Davies once again took a quick penalty finding the try scorer Davies close at hand. Jenkins and the Phillips’s boys in midfield created space for full back Tomos Phillips who glided over unopposed for an unconverted try.

What epitomises club rugby best is the ability to expect the unexpected and on small decisions much wider consequences occur. As the half ended the Crymych forwards, minus teenage hooker Lee Griffiths who had been injured five minutes before lost possession when they should have put the ball clear of the touchline.

Photo by Darren Harries

The resultant turnover led to a penalty and the games second yellow card when flanker Sion collella trudged off for handling in the ruck.

Front ball to skipper James Bannister led to a drive down towards the new changing quarters, with replacement Ben Phillips touching down for an un converted try, as George effort clipped the upright for the second time in the half and 12-10 scoreline in favour of Crymych.

Replacement back row dynamo Zak France-Miller started the second period well carrying the ball, linking with his scrum half as their side tried to absorb the loss of Collella.

However, France -Miller saw his pass intercepted seven minutes into the half, which allowed centre Rhydian Morgan to scoot into the corner under pressure for an unconverted try. The Maroon shirted home side were on the charge as Bannisters second row colleague Ben Williams trampled 20 metres towards the line which put Morgan in for his second try of the afternoon, again unconverted by George.

The yellow card against Crymych had yielded three tries and fifteen points but perhaps most importantly the games and possibly Division 1 West survival in the Wanderers favour.

Crymych had lost their way, playing unstructured rugby at a tempo not suited to their game meaning they were losing the close quarter exchanges drawing incandescent commentary from diehard followers.

The home pack were buoyant with ball in hand and destructive in defence stopping the visitors in their tracks, ensuring they played the game deep in Crymych territory.

Last years Divisional runners up plundered in for their bonus point try from scrum half Josh Weeds after George had booted a penalty and Morris-Roberts reversed a free kick for back chat. Full back Lloyd Thomas crossed to finish a flowing handling move and George converted whilst also crossing the whitewash to make his travel from Cardiff worthwhile.

Flanker Sianco Morgan and man of the match Morgan crossed, the later completing a try hat trick which suggested the Max Boyce ballad relating to Morgan the Moon.

The Wanderers equivalent would have been atop of Pen Waun Twmpath after the game, 502 feet above sea level, bathed in white light and chewing a stick of Porthcawl rock. Toasted at the Ranch by Bethania and his colleagues with copious amounts of the local ale, Morgan’s team now stand 14 points clear of their opponents having lost just a single game since November 4, although a dark cloud may be hovering because of the Nicholls rumble.

They head across the Loughor bridge to tackle Gorseinon on Saturday (Jan 27); meanwhile Crymych must forget their WRU National Bowl quarter final at home to Ystalafera in March and reflect on their indiscipline as another crunch relegation fixture looms high when last seasons Division 1 West champions Kidwelly make an appearance at Parc Lloyd Thomas.

Sport

Thrilling finale sees Clarby through to Final

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CLARBESTON Road are the first team into the Senior Cup final after they knocked out holders Merlins Bridge on Wednesday night (Feb 21), thanks to a last minute deflected strike from Ieuan Cooke.

The Bridge, who had a man sent off with twenty minutes to go, had thought they forced the game into extra time when Chris Ormond headed in but it wasn’t to be as Cooke’s winner sent the Clarby players and fans into delirium.

The game was a repeat of last season’s Final which the Wizards won and both sides were clearly determined to reach the Final once more.

It was a quiet first half with Merlins Bridge shading the possession and having the better of the chances.

Will Haworth came close for the Wizards but his shot was pushed wide by Clarby keeper Lee Scott.

Adam Hawkins also tried his luck but his shot was tame and was easily saved by Scott.

On the half hour mark, Clarby’s Jason Griffiths tried a long shot but Bridge keeper Gary Thomas was equal to it.

A minute later, Griffiths flashed a ball across the face of goal but nobody was able to get on the end of it.

Joey George then sent an inviting cross to the back post for Hawkins but as the Clarby players appealed for offside, he could only send his effort into the side netting.

Matthew D’Ivry then played Hawkins in once more but he dragged his shot well wide of the posts.

Then on the stroke of half time Clarby got the all-important breakthrough as Tom Reubens beat the defender before sending a shot towards goal which was deflected in by the Wizards’ Richard Hughes.

There was still time for Merlins Bridge to come back and from the kick off a long ball was missed by the Clarby defence allowing Will Haworth in but his shot was saved at the near post.

The half time whistle went with Clarby leading by a goal to nil but the game was still up for grabs.

The Wizards started well in the second half and Luke Hayward saw his effort pushed wide by Scott and from the resulting corner, Hawkins saw his volleyed effort also saved.

Mike Turpin then sent a cross into the box which had to be tipped over by Bridge keeper Thomas with players lurking.

Bridge top scorer Nathan Greene was introduced to the action and he almost made an immediate impact when he turned and shot towards goal but Scott got down well to save it.

Then came a few moments of madness from Bridge defender Richard Hughes as he was booked and then brought down Clarby’s Matthew Davies and after waving play on, referee Sean O’Connor waited for play to end before producing a second yellow card for Hughes.

Despite being down to ten men the Wizards still had chances and Hawkins saw a shot saved before Greene saw an effort cannon back off the crossbar.

With three minutes to go the Wizards were awarded a free kick which D’Ivry delivered and Chris Ormond rose highest to head the ball into the net despite the best efforts of the Clarby keeper to save it.

That got their tails up and moments later Greene headed over from a corner as the Bridge pushed for a winner.

Then, deep into injury time, a ball into the box fell to Ieuan Cooke and his effort looked as if it would be saved by Thomas but a Bridge defender stuck an unfortunate leg out and the ball bounced off him and into the net.

Nathan Greene heads over from a corner

That sent the Clarby players and coaches wild and they held on to reach the final for the second year in a row.

They will now play the winners of the second semi-final between Carew and Hakin United which takes place next Wednesday (Feb 28).

Speaking after the match, Clarbeston Road coach Matthew Ellis said: “Everyone gave 110% as we knew we would have a tough night ahead of us. They started at a high pace and were on top until we changed formation slightly and this slowly got us into the game.

“The goal came at the perfect time and gave us a massive boost going into half time knowing they would have to break us down and would leave gaps at the back. Tom Reubens has been excellent this season and showed his power and pace to create the goal.

“The sending off didn’t really affect the game as we kept the same shape and allowed them to have the ball in their half as we tried to conserve energy for the final onslaught.

“It was a big blow when they scored when they did, I gave away the free kick which led to the goal so when Cookie got the goal in injury time I was ecstatic as none of us wanted extra time.

“It is a massive achievement for the team and the whole club as it is so well run behind the scenes. This is a reward for both us and them.

“Two senior cup finals in two seasons is outstanding, let’s hope this season we will be the winning side!”

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Nuemann set to make first start for Wales

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FULLBACK Lisa Neumann will make her first start for Wales at Donnybrook this Sunday (Feb 25) (15:00) in Round Three of the Women’s Six Nations.

The 23-year-old from Pembrokeshire is the only new player in the starting line-up to face Ireland. Meanwhile, loosehead prop Cara Hope could win her first international cap from the bench.

“Lisa has been pushing hard for a place in the starting team and she deserves her opportunity this Sunday,” said Phillips, who has enjoyed the benefit of having former Wales international Gareth Wyatt coaching the backs since the start of the tournament. “We have a lot of talented back-three players in the squad, so we think Lisa will slot in well alongside Hannah Bluck and Jess Kavanagh-Williams – two players who pose threats from the wing.”

Phillips recently spoke about his team not being burdened by an “emotional hangover” from the result at the Twickenham Stoop, and insists that preparations for Ireland have been geared towards one thing. “We need to show that we’re improving in the areas that we’ve been working on this year,” said Phillips. “This will be a game between two very evenly-matched teams, and coming off the back of the last match we’re very keen to give a good account of ourselves.”

The last time both teams met in competition was during the Women’s Rugby World Cup in August – a game Wales won by 10 points at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast. However, Phillips says that result won’t count for much come Sunday in Donnybrook, particularly after Ireland’s winning performance in a pre-Women’s Six Nations friendly with Wales in Ystrad Mynach earlier this year.

“Ireland were competing for a Grand Slam going into the final game of the competition last year, so we know how much of a strong team they are. The World Cup was a bit of an anomaly for them, so they’ve had a point to prove since then.

“They’ve got a lot of new personnel across the board, but the team is settled and experienced. It’s up for us to  show what we’re about as a team. We’ll certainly be prepared for a hugely competitive match in front of a boisterous Irish crowd this Sunday.”

Wales Women team to face Ireland:

15 Lisa Neumann (Scarlets)

14 Hannah Bluck (Cardiff Blues)

13 Kerin Lake (Ospreys)

12 Rebecca De Filippo (Dragons)

11 Jess Kavanagh-Williams (RGC)

10 Elinor Snowsill (Dragons)

9 Rhiannon Parker (Cardiff Blues)

1 Caryl Thomas (Scarlets)

2 Carys Phillips (c) (Ospreys)

3 Amy Evans (Ospreys)

4 Siwan Lillicrap (Ospreys)

5 Mel Clay (Ospreys)

6 Alisha Butchers (Scarlets)

7 Beth Lewis (Scarlets)

8 Sioned Harries (Scarlets)

Replacements

16 Kelsey Jones (Ospreys)

17 Cara Hope (Ospreys)*

18 Meg York (Dragons)

19 Natalia John (Ospreys)

20 Nia Elen Davies (Scarlets)

21 Jade Knight (Scarlets)

22 Robyn Wilkins (Ospreys)

23 Hannah Jones (Scarlets)

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Merlins Bridge and Clarbeston Road set for Senior Cup semi-final

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TONIGHT (Feb 21) sees the first Senior Cup semi-final taking place at the Bridge Meadow Stadium in Haverfordwest and it promises to be an excellent game.

Merlins Bridge face Clarbeston Road in a repeat of the 2017 final which the Wizards won and they won’t want to release their grip on the trophy just yet.

However, Clarbeston Road were a Division 2 side back then, and now in Division 1, they will be keen to show how far they have come in just under a year.

Clarby got to this stage after surviving a scare in the third round as they beat second division Hundleton 3-2, thanks to a last minute goal from Jason Griffiths. The Road had earlier wins against St Clears and Fishguard Sports.

The Wizards eased into the last four after thumping Angle 7-0 after previous wins against Solva and Lamphey.

Action from the 2017 Senior Cup Final between Merlins Bridge and Clarbeston Road

Neither side has been tested to the full from their earlier games, with the exception of Clarby against Hundleton, in the competition and tonight is set to be a real test for both teams.

A look at the league table indicates it will be a close game with Merlins Bridge sitting fourth and Clarbeston Road sitting two points behind in fifth, albeit having played four games more.

The teams come into the game having played just once so far this year due to the bad weather across the county.

Clarbeston Road got back into the swing of things on Saturday (Feb 17), with a 6-0 thumping of Milford United, a win which coach Matthew Ellis described as a ‘Nice game to get back into things before the semi-final’.

Jason Griffiths scored a hat trick in that game to take his tally of goals for the season to 19 and the Wizards will do well to keep him quiet tonight.

Merlins Bridge were in West Wales Cup action at the weekend for their first game since December 16 and they beat Port Tennant Colts 1-0 thanks to a Luke Hayward penalty.

The cup mentality the Bridge had on Saturday will still be with them tonight which could work in their favour.

The teams are yet to meet in the league this season so the game could go either way.

The winner will go on to the final where they will play the winner of the second semi-final, which also takes place at the Meadow next Wednesday (Feb 28), between Hakin United and Carew.

Tonight’s game kicks off at 7pm so make sure you get to the Bridge Meadow to support your team.

Good luck to both and may the best team win.

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