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Wales open 6 Nations with emphatic victory over Scotland

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WALES defeated Scotland 34-7 on Saturday (Feb 3) at the Principality Stadium with ten Scarlets in the starting line-up, plus former Pontyberem winger Josh Adams, now the Aviva Premiership top scorer for Worcester Warriors.

With the stadium roof closed it encapsulated a cauldron of emotion as the Natwest Six Nations championship got under way, with ten year old chorister Heddwin York, of Blaenavon Male Voice Choir leading the pre match build up. Later on the same day another son of Pontyberem was setting a championship record, with Nigel Owens referring his eighteenth game, at the Stade de France when Ireland came calling.

Winning the toss Scotland’s ‘Scarlet’ John Barclay got Finn Russell to kick off towards the City End and Wales skipper Alun Wyn Jones sailed high to secure the ball, all before opposite number Jonny Gray had a barn storming 30 metre gallop and the afternoons tempo was set, with both Adams and fellow winger Steff Evans taking opportunities to run with ball in hand.

Not one person missed the tumultuous opening by perishing in the queues outside the ground, witnessing the opening try after five minutes; scrum half Gareth Davies intercepted a long pass and raced 70 meters towards the River Taf End to score wide out, full back Leigh Halfpenny converted.

Flanker Aaron Shingler set up a scintillating attack from the restart, featuring prop Rob Evans and Evans, who failed to catch a difficult pass from Skipper Jones with the try line at his mercy beneath the posts.

The Wales scrum won a free kick, opted for another scrum, outside half Rhys Patchell nearly reached the promised land before play swung back across the theatre of dreams and Halfpenny converted his own touchdown after 12 minutes.

Dream rugby or a defence coaches’ nightmare? Both sides played exhilarating rugby with ball in hand, as somewhere amongst this fantastic ‘hymn’ that the full house of 74,169 spectators enjoyed, a settling influence was needed.

Centres Hadeligh Parkes and Scott Williams brought that mantra to the ‘Dragons’ play, through their tackling which impacted on the Scarlets ‘front row’ of Evans, hooker Ken Owens and Samson Lee to turn the coal face red.

Having played just 25% of the game in the Scottish half coach Warren Gatland’s side built a more stable platform through phased play, nullifying Scottish momentum and hearts as they won turnover penalties.

Shingler was a key target in the lineout as the ‘Evans’ boys featured in beating despairing tackles. Halftime came and went with Wales driving forward through diminutive scrum half Davies, securing an early penalty which Halfpenny slotted over for three points.

Four Men Aloud had returned to the pitch for half time entertainment but the sweetest battle cry came from Shingler, the Hendy back row man secured a penalty on the halfway line, which the Gorseinon born kicker chalked up with confidence.

Max Boyce couldn’t have written bards to describe the expressive serenading from the stands to match the play, the Scottish talisman Stuart Hogg without influence as his peers made error after error. That ‘mould of solid gold, that once made Barry John’ hasn’t broken after all and the tint upon the flowing locks of Patchell shone as the outside half dictated play with speed, vision, kicks and tricks.

The game entered the final quarter with the Men of Harlech now dominating possession and territory and Patchells dart for the line saw Evans flick the ball to Halfpenny who crossed for his second converted try.

The flower of Scotland had wilted, the closed roof restricting their water of life as new breath revitalised the Dragons lungs, replacement hooker Wyn Jones plunge for the line ruled out by the TMO.

Aled Davies came on for his sixth cap, replacing his Scarlet team mate to feed the scrum and watch as it destroyed the now demoralised visiting pack with such ferocity it set the stadium alarms ringing towards heaven. Man of the match Shingler straightened the line with eight minutes left, Parkes made ground strongly and the flying Evans, back after an enforced lay off was airborne on the touch line to one handily place the ball for the bonus point converted try.

‘Feed me till I want no more’ was the cry from a baying Welsh crowd although Gatland et al were happy to take the Bread from Heaven to Twickenham next week. The ‘Prophet Max’ composed suitable vitriol decades before, to be retold with vigour by the travelling congregation heading to HQ on Saturday (Feb 10).

This game ended 34-7, replacement Pete Horne crossed for the Russell to convert after the Scott’s picked up a consolation score for their endeavours driving around the fringes, the customary handshakes occurred a minute later as Hadleigh put the ball off the Park and Wales took the spoils, bonus point included.

The players had made a statement, to those who had prophesied pre-match but more importantly to the ‘Great Redeemer’ whose well-trodden path around Jordon and intrinsic belief in them was justly rewarded.

Sport

Millers hold their nerve to send Neyland through

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HARRISON ALLEN Bowl Champions Neyland made it through to the quarter finals of the competition after they beat Haverfordwest with only two balls to spare on Thursday night (May 24).

Haverfordwest batted first but they were restricted to a total of 100-8 on an overcast evening.

Karl Rhead and Lee Summons both scored 1 before they departed early; Rhead caught by Andrew Miller off the bowling of Nathan Banner and Summons stumped by Sean Hannon off the bowling of brother Patrick.

That left Town on 9-2 but Simon Holliday and Danny Potter shared 27 runs for the third wicket partnership.

Holliday made 14 before he was superbly run out by Patrick Hannon and soon after Ben Field departed when he was caught by Gregg Miller off Patrick’s bowling.

Potter had made a score of 31 with four fours and a six but he was also run out, this time by Ashley Sutton, and Town had slipped to 56-5.

Jake Merry was then caught by Banner off the bowling of Henry Durrant for a score of 5 while Adam James smashed a six in his score of 11 before he was caught by Durrant off the bowling of Andrew Miller.

Archie Thomas did likewise in his score of 11 from eight balls but he was then bowled by Durrant.

That saw Town fall to 80-8 but Kieran O’Connor and Huw Scriven shared 20 runs to take Town to their total.

O’Connor finished unbeaten on 9 while Scriven smashed a six off the last ball to finish not out on 11 and take Town to three figures.

Neyland lost Paul Murray early in their reply when he was caught by Merry off the bowling of Adam James for a score of 6.

Nick Koomen and Ashley Sutton then shared a partnership of 20 before Sutton was bowled by James.

Koomen and Banner then shared 19 runs but that partnership came to an end when Banner was stumped by Scriven off the bowling of O’Connor for a score of 8.

Soon after Koomen, who had hit three fours and a six in a knock of 31, fell in the same manner as Banner and Neyland were left on 60-4.

Henry Durrant and Patrick Bellerby then swung the game back in Neyland’s favour with a good partnership of 25.

That came to an end when Bellerby was caught by Rhead off the bowling of Holliday for a score of 21 from 12 balls which included a four and two sixes.

Scriven then picked up his third stumping as he removed Durrant for a score of 11 to the bowling of Holliday.

That was the end of the wickets however as Gregg and Andrew Miller saw Neyland home, finishing not out on 6 and 7 respectively, with only two balls to spare.

The draw for the quarter finals will be made on Wednesday, May 30, at the next meeting of the County Cricket Club.

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Grandstand finish sees Croft take Silver

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A GRANDSTAND finish by Cardigan boxer Ioan Croft came just too late to capture the gold medal at the Three Nations tournament at Motherwell’s huge Ravenscraig Sports Centre at the weekend.

The 16-year-old from Crymych had been bidding to secure a second Three Nations crown to emulate his success of 2015.

And the fact that Croft beat Scotsman Nicholas Devlin in the semi-finals – the opponent he had defeated en route to Three Nations glory three years previously – appeared to be a good omen.

However, pitted against England’s Joe Tyres in the final, southpaw Croft appeared to pay the price for an over-cautious start.

With the English boy seemingly taking the first round, Croft started getting into his stride in the second.

The Welsh teenager appeared to gain the upper hand in the third and final session, catching Tyres with a variety of good clean shots.

Yet it was not quite enough to make up for his slow start and a crestfallen Croft dropped a 4-1 split decision.

“It was very disappointing,” the boxer’s dad, Cardigan ABC head coach Guy Croft, said afterwards. “I thought he’d just done enough to win.”

Although Croft had struggled to make the 56kg limit, his father refused to cite that as an excuse. “I’m not sure weight is all to blame,” he said.

“Ioan’s been finishing strong at the end of every round and his third round is always his best.

“He just takes a little while to get the measure of his opponent, which isn’t such a bad thing, although on this occasion it probably cost him the fight.

“Joe has had something like 75 bouts, only lost 12, and was 13 months older. Ioan’s had 62 and lost 10 so it was a good match.”

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Young Otters secure Griffiths Cup win

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NARBERTH were victorious in the Griffiths Cup on Tuesday night (May 22), as they beat Crymych 26-24 in a thrilling game that neither side deserved to lose.

The game was played at Neyland’s Athletic Ground and a good crowd was in attendance to watch rugby’s future stars.

The young Otters took the lead early on in the first half as Dylan Walsh went over for the opening try of the game and Lewis Hough’s conversion was successful.

Crymych then levelled matters as Rhodri George went over for the try before Harri Williams added the extra two points.

Kieran Allen then put Narberth back ahead with another try but the conversion was missed and the Otters held a 12-7 lead.

Shortly before half time, Crymych took the lead for the first time as Dafydd Griffiths went over for the try and Harri Williams added the extras.

It meant Crymych held a 14-12 lead at the break but the game was still there for the taking.

In the second half, Narberth re-took the lead as Kieran Allen scored his second try of the game and Llew Jones added the conversion.

Crymych came back to within two points of their opponents as Harri Williams landed a penalty to make it 19-17.

The Otters then extended their lead as they came forward and the ball was offloaded for Griff Evans who dived in under the posts for an excellent try. Llew Jones then added the conversion to make it 26-17 to the Otters.

Crymych responded well and put pressure on the Otters. That pressure eventually told as they worked the ball out to the right for Illan Phillips who burst through the tackles to touch the ball down. Harri Williams added the extras from just inside the half to make it 26-24.

It was Narberth who finished strongly but a penalty went wide and they then came close to scoring a try which would have sealed the game but a knock on 5 metres out halted their attack.

Crymych looked for a late score but Narberth kept them out well and when they turned the ball over with the eighty minutes up, they kicked the ball out to spark wild celebrations amongst the players and coaches.

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