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Coles stokes the fire for Whitland promotion push

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WHITLAND’s march towards promotion to Division 1 West continued with a convincing bonus point 46-7 victory over Loughor at Parc Llwyn Ty Gwyn on Friday (Mar 16).

The ‘Green Machine’ ran in seven tries in total alongside a penalty and five conversions from captain Nico Setaro, the outside half having another fine game alongside dynamic flanker Ryan Morgan and man of the match, winger Sean Coles.

The speedster ran in a hat trick of first half tries as he put on the after burners to cause havoc amongst the visiting back line before crossing for the bonus point try early in the second half as he collected the ball on the halfway line before ‘jetting off’ on a mesmerising run once again leaving all and sundry in his wake.

Centre Johnnie Thomas scored the final try wide out after full back Scott Newton, in his last appearance before heading to Australia for a ‘gap year’ got on the score sheet and there was a resounding cheer from a hearty crowd when veteran second row Dai Ebsworth crashed over for his sides fifth try.

Whitland play the game with energy, ingenuity and guile guided by the magician at pivot, where the platform is set by the forwards which includes another veteran in the boiler house in Raff Williams.

Flanker Morgan, responsible for setting in motion the opening score as he took a clean catch at a line out in his own half before taking the opportunity to plough through the opposition tackles over 40 metres; fellow back row colleagues, number 8 Jack Mason and Danny Evans were on hand to recycle the ball allowing Setaro the time to put in a cross field kick, where Newton took the ball in his stride to draw winger Rhys Gear and set Cole away to scoot round under the posts for a 10-0 lead after 11 minutes.

Setaro, conducting the plan set by coaches Gareth Bennet and Jon Mason to ‘win the game first and foremost’ thrived off the acclaims as he pumped line kicks to turn the Loughor forwards on their heels, one 55 metre punt setting up the scenario of a Morgan catch and drive, recycled ball from scrum half Tom Parry through the hands of Centres Josh and Johnnie Thomas to Newton.

Cole received the ball 35 meters out and put in a kick over the top and collected as winger Josh Thomas fumbled the ball on his own line and a 17-0 lead after the first quarter was completed.

Cole’s hat trick came with four minutes of the half remaining as Setaro caught an up and under to call a ‘mark’ in his own 22 metre area, taking a quick tap and go which released winger Liam Price for a 30m gallop down the stand side where he could have been ‘Native River’ at Cheltenham earlier in the day.

Josh Thomas was direct in clearing out the opposition to set up the ball for the back line to again free Cole, whose kick ahead saw him out pace Newton and visiting centre Peter Smiriglia for the score and a 24-7 half time lead.

Loughor had scored their own converted try after half an hour as scrum half Tom Davies touched down following a sustained period of pressure, to capitalise on a yellow card for home flanker Evans as Irish referee Gerard English, based now in Porthcawl drew the home crowd to hum tunes from Welsh folk legend Max Boyce.

All levels of rugby now have teams well drilled and sensitive to opposition tactics and there is a fine line between defence and infringement, but being reduced by a player gives an advantage where a score often follows, something Bennet will be wary off as during the seasons climax.

Credit the green and whites, sponsored by GD Harries and Sons, as the forwards with props Aaron Mayne and Michael Ryan and front row colleague Gethin Lewis dominated the scrum set piece despite being a man down. The Loughor pack, for so long in the match strong and secure began to wilt as the second half points rattled up and not even a second yellow card to Josh Thomas for ‘crossing’ deep in the second half could halt the progress.

Bennett was able to put second row Trystan Lewis into the cauldron for a debut as the youngster returned after a two year recuperation from a knee reconstruction, the former Scarlets academy and Carmarthen Quins player getting a run out last week with Ferryside in readiness for his debut.

“Having set ourselves up for victory, I asked the players at half time to search for that bonus point try and for 20 minutes after the break we were excellent in our execution of play. I have a group of players who are not only fit but eager to play for each other, all of whom enjoy having the ball in hand” said a delighted Bennett post-match. “Sean (Coles) came into his own tonight and showed what he is capable of on firm ground, although I could talk up all nineteen players in the squad for their efforts.”

Whitland have nine fixtures remaining, sitting 11 points adrift of table toppers Hendy with three games in hand and the midweek meeting, scheduled for early May a potential ‘winner takes all’ encounter.

Equally important in the quest for promotion is the six point gap and game in hand they have over Pontarddulais in third place.

Bennet and Mason will prepare the side for their next fixture at relegation threatened Amman United on Saturday (Mar 24) before local rivals Fishguard visit Parc Llwyn Ty Gwyn on Saturday (Apr 7).

It’s reassuring for chairman Jason Bowen to feel at home watching the games after he underwent major heart surgery in early March, the enigmatic smile and demeanour not effected by any stress as the green machine rumbles forward.

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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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Phillips: We’ve got a big match in us

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WALES Women head coach Rowland Phillips believes his side can raise their game for their final Women’s Six Nations Test, against Ireland on Sunday (Cardiff Arms Park, 1.30).

Phillips has made two changes to the starting line-up with Elinor Snowsill starting at 10 and Alisha Butchers slotting back into the back row at blindside flanker.

Phillips said, “We want to capitalise on the confidence we’ve gained from the win over Scotland.

“We’ve shown a huge amount of character throughout this tournament – to hold Italy out at the end of that game and to come back from behind to win in Scotland showed remarkable attitude – and skill for such a young side.

“Despite that, I don’t feel we have shown how good a side we are and we’d like to do that on Sunday.

“Ireland are in a similar place as us. They played well against France last weekend. They have a strong back row and players who can make a difference. We certainly won’t be under-estimating them.

“However, we want to focus on ourselves, show what we can do with the ball and produce a better all-round performance. There’s a big game in us and hopefully we can showcase that on Sunday.”

Alisha Butchers, who earns her first start in the tournament since the opening round, is looking forward to some home comforts.

“Being at home lifts us girls massively. We’ve only had one home game this year and although England were tough opposition, we lifted our performance for our home support.

“Travelling away isn’t always accessible for our families so having them there boosts us. I love having my mum and dad and my brothers and sisters there, I can’t wait. There’s very much a family feel ethos and hopefully we can produce an entertaining game.”

“Last week’s game was really exciting and a good stepping stone for us. Moving forward I think we need to stick to our game plan, carry on working on our physicality and keep building as a team.

“Our performance was good last weekend but it can an still be better. We can use the confidence and momentum created by that victory to up our game and also spread the ball a bit more.”

Alisha is now working as a Hub Officer at Y Pant and Bryn Celynnog schools in the Pontypridd area, increasing the range of opportunities for girls to engage with rugby.

“I love it. I’ve already seen a huge increase in the number of girls playing the game and that inspires me – the thought that I’m having an impact on the next generation. They are both brilliant schools and we are getting 40 or more girls training now which is fantastic.

“Traditional 15 a side full-contact rugby isn’t for everyone so we make sure there are different formats and different opportunities all girls to enjoy taking part. A lot of them enjoyed the Rookie Rugby events we held recently, some play touch rugby, others enjoy crash mat rugby which is an introduction to contact or full contact rugby for the more established players who are keen.

“Hopefully a few of the girls – and boys – from the schools will come and support us on Sunday and bring their parents along to see what our game is all about. A few of the girls have role models within the squad, some are inspired by our captain Carys Phillips so I’ve promised they can have some photos after the match.”

Tickets available to print at home from www.cardiffblues.com/tickets and from 10am Sunday at the WRU shop, Westgate Street.

Wales Women V Ireland (Sunday, March 17, 1.30pm, Cardiff Arms Park):

Lauren Smyth (Ospreys); Jasmine Joyce (Scarlets), Hannah Jones (Scarlets), Lleucu George (Scarlets), Jess Kavanagh (RGC); Elinor Snowsill (Bristol Bears), Keira Bevan (Ospreys); Caryl Thomas (Dragons), Carys Phillips (capt, Ospreys), Amy Evans (Ospreys), Gwen Crabb (Ospreys), Mel Clay (Ospreys), Alisha Butchers (Scarlets), Bethan Lewis (Dragons) Siwan Lillicrap (Ospreys)

Replacements:

Kelsey Jones (Ospreys), Cara Hope (Ospreys), Cerys Hale (Dragons), Alex Callender (Scarlets), Manon Johnes (Cardiff Blues), Ffion Lewis (Scarlets), Robyn Wilkins (Blues), Lisa Neumann (RGC)

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