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Joyce stars as Wales beaten by Italy

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WALES’ Women were beaten by Italy on Sunday (Mar 11), in front of a crowd of just over 11,000 fans at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.

It was the visitors who opened the scoring as Isabella Locatelli ran over for the try which Beatrice Rigoni converted.

St Davids’ own Jaz Joyce was back in the fold having been with the Wales 7s team out in Australia but she showed no signs of jetlag as she made a bursting run to put the home side in a good position.

Hannah Jones also went on a good run and after she was brought down, Italy were guilty of an infringement and Robyn Wilkins sent the resulting penalty through the posts to reduce the gap.

Another good move involving Alisha Butchers, Elinor Snowsill, Wilkins and Kerin Lake came to an end as Italy defended well.

Butchers then passed to Lake who juggled the ball, doing well to keep hold of it, before passing to Jones who was held up just before the line. They kept at it and it was Butchers who made her way over to put the home side into the lead. Wilkins then sent the conversion wide but Wales led 8-7.

Joyce then picked the ball up inside the Wales 22 and beat two players and was only halted by the third just past the half way line.

Italy won the ball back and Manuela Furlan found Maria Magatti who made her way over for their second try to put them back in front. Rigoni’s kick looked to be going over but it fell just short of the posts and that was the end of the first half.

Ten minutes into the second half the Italians increased their lead as Rigoni went over for a try in the corner but she couldn’t add the conversion and the visitors held an 8-17 lead.

Just past the hour mark Butchers was given a yellow card for a tip tackle but much to their credit, they did not concede any points during that period.

Joyce again showed what she could do with another powerful run but she was brought down. Alecs Donovan also made a good burst through before winning a penalty for her side.

Wales were forced to bring Joyce off for a head injury assessment and fellow Pembrokeshire woman Lisa Neumann was brought on in her place.

With seven minutes to go Wales finally made the breakthrough as Sioned Harries picked up the ball and touched down in the right corner and Wilkins added the extras to bring Wales to within two points of Italy.

Italy hit back and put the pressure on as they kicked to into the 22 before the ball bounced out. Wales looked to play out of their own 22 but dropped the ball only to win it back again moments later.

However, Harries was then given a yellow card meaning her match was over and Wales would finish with 14 women on the field.

Thankfully for Wales, Joyce was ok and she was brought back onto the field for the remaining minutes.

With three minutes to go Italy worked the ball out wide and Michela Sillari made her way over for the try despite the best efforts of Joyce to stop her. Sillari then sent the conversion wide and Italy led 22-15 with little time left to play.

Wales were unable to find a way back despite their best efforts but they did earn a losing bonus point for being within one score.

Defeat for Wales is their third of the season while Italy celebrated their first win in nine Six Nations matches.

Wales may be fifth in the table but they could still have a say in who wins the title in the final round of fixtures.

On Friday (Mar 16), Wales take on leaders France knowing that a win could open the door for England to win the title, should they beat Ireland on the same day.

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Cullen scores twice as Swans sink Forest in FA Cup

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SWANSEA City’s Liam Cullen scored twice on Saturday as he helped his side to a 5-1 thrashing over Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup.

It also set up a fifth round tie with Premier League giants Manchester City after they overcame their opponents Cheltenham Town.

Cullen, born in Tenby, netted the opener in the first half and added his second after half time.

He was denied the chance to go for an FA Cup hat-trick however as he limped off late on with an ankle injury.

Forest, perhaps with one eye on maintaining their Championship status, made ten changes for the game and featured two players that had recently returned from injury.

Swansea gave a debut to new signing Conor Hourihane

The game was only seven minutes old when Wayne Routledge crossed from the right and Cullen volleyed the ball back across goal and into the bottom corner, wrong-footing Forest’s stand-in keeper Jordan Smith.

Routledge was then forced off with an injury but his replacement was the in-from Jamal Lowe.

He almost made an instant impact as he was sent through on goal but his touch let him down and Smith was able to claim the ball.

Forest threatened briefly when Joe Lolley crossed into the box but the Swans were able to clear before Anthony Knockaert could get on the end of it.

The Swans were almost two ahead when Forest defender Joe Worrall headed the ball towards his own goal but from the resulting corner they doubled their lead in stunning fashion.

The corner was cleared but the home side played the ball to Matt Grimes, captain for the game, who unleashed an unstoppable shot that flew past Smith and into the top right corner.

Connor Roberts then came close with a header and he also had the ball in the net a minute later but the goal was ruled out for offside.

Forest made two subs at the start of the second half and came out the better side. Joe Lolley went close but his shot was saved by Swans keeper Woodman.

Then, shortly before the hour mark, the Reds were back in it. Lolley gathered the ball in the box but when he was brought down the ball fell to Knockaert who fired in to make it 2-1.

However, any hopes Forest had of mounting a comeback were soon dashed as two minutes later the Swans were awarded a penalty.

Joe Worrall was adjudged to have fouled Ryan Manning although replays suggested Manning stuck his foot towards Worrall’s leg to win the foul.

Grimes sent the keeper the wrong way to score his second of the afternoon and put the Swans 3-1 ahead.

Manning also came close to scoring but Smith was able to palm away his effort.

He then turned provider as he crossed into the box for Cullen who shot low into the bottom left corner to make it 4-1.

The Swans had already made their five substitutions before Cullen went off injured but that didn’t stop them.

With five minutes to go Jamal Lowe saw his shot blocked but the ball fell to sub Ollie Cooper whose shot squirmed in despite Smith’s best efforts.

It was an excellent display from the Swans who will now look forward to their fifth round tie with Manchester City.

Before that though they face two crucial Championship games, at home to Brentford on Wednesday before a trip to Rotherham on Saturday.

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Wales quartet bolster Scarlets side for Cardiff Blues rematch

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Scarlets take on Cardiff Blues on Friday night

SCARLETS welcome back Wales internationals Johnny McNicholl, Wyn Jones, Ryan Elias and Jake Ball to their starting XV for Friday’s rearranged Guinness PRO14 rematch against Cardiff Blues at Parc y Scarlets (20:00; S4C, Premier Sports).

There are six changes in all to the run-on side, while club skipper Ken Owens is poised to make his first appearance since October. The Wales and British & Irish Lions hooker is named among the replacements after being cleared for action following a shoulder injury.

Behind the scrum, McNicholl comes in for the suspended Liam Williams in the only change to the back division that took the field against the Blues at the Cardiff City Stadium two weeks ago.

The front row changes en bloc with Jones packing down alongside Elias and tight-head prop Javan Sebastian, who replaces the injured Pieter Scholtz.

Ball has made a swift recovery from the knee injury he suffered against the Dragons on New Year’s Day and resumes his second-row partnership with Sam Lousi.

Josh Macleod, this week named as the only uncapped player in Wales’s Six Nations squad, misses out with an ankle niggle so Ed Kennedy slots into the openside spot and links up with Blade Thomson and Sione Kalamafoni the back row.

On the bench, Owens has recovered from the shoulder damage he sustained in round two up in Glasgow. Phil Price, Werner Kruger, Tevita Ratuva and Uzair Cassiem provide the rest of the forwards cover. Kieran Hardy, Angus O’Brien and Steff Hughes make up the remainder of the replacements.

Scarlets v Cardiff Blues (Friday, January 22 (20:00, S4C, Premier Sports)

15 Leigh Halfpenny; 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Jonathan Davies (capt), 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Steff Evans; 10 Dan Jones, 9 Gareth Davies; 1 Wyn Jones, 2 Ryan Elias, 3 Javan Sebastian, 4 Jake Ball, 5 Sam Lousi, 6 Blade Thomson, 7 Ed Kennedy, 8 Sione Kalamafoni.

Reps: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Phil Price, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Tevita Ratuva, 20 Uzair Cassiem, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Angus O’Brien, 23 Steff Hughes.

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Clubs react as Pembrokeshire football league season cancelled

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THERE will be no football in Pembrokeshire until at least August after the 2020/21 season was cancelled on Wednesday night (Jan 20).

The Pembrokeshire Football League said it had taken into account the current Covid-19 situation and replies from clubs in making their decision.

Clubs had played a small number of friendlies towards the end of 2020 with the hope of getting back into the league action.

However, as the coronavirus situation worsened, the majority of clubs took it upon themselves to suspend football activity.

A spokesperson for the Pembrokeshire Football League said: “It was resolved that there will be no competitive football this season in Pembrokeshire at Senior or Junior level. There will also be no organised mini football fixtures for this season.

“Should clubs wish, when the restrictions are lifted and subject to Covid regulations want to play friendlies then they are free to do so subject to the authorisation of the League (as previously).”

Neyland’s Sean Hannon said: “The announcement doesn’t come as a surprise. The most important thing is everyone’s safety and wellbeing. We haven’t had a chance to discuss any possible return to friendlies if restrictions allow but I’m sure we will leave it until at least August by which time we will have a further update from the FAW.

“It goes without saying the FAW will need to update all area associations and clubs on what will happen to player comet registration fees which they asked all clubs to pay for at the start of September 2020.”

A spokesperson for Saundersfoot AFC said: “We all knew it was coming inevitably and you’d be hard pressed to argue against it. As a club the safety of our players/ coaches and their families is paramount it’s just not worth the risk.

“You saw before Christmas the clubs took it between themselves to stop playing before any order from above came through so that shows how serious the clubs are taking it.”

Owen Duggan, Chairman of Fishguard Sport AFC said: “The decision was inevitable and we would commend the Pembrokeshire league for an early conclusion to this, every football club will be working hard behind the scenes to try and retain enough finance to continue.

“We all hope that in the coming months things will improve and we will hopefully commence season in August. We hope all our members and other clubs stay safe and fit and well which is the priority.”

Hakin United, who were crowned champions of the curtailed 2019/20 season, said they fully supported the decision to cancel the league season and recommended that football shouldn’t start back until it’s safe to do so.

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