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Seagulls’ six-try victory over Bont

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By Jonathan Twigg

FISHGUARD all but secured their Division 2 West status on Saturday (Mar 24) with a bonus point victory in their 34-20 defeat of Pontyberem.

The Seagulls ran in six tries to open up a nine point gap between themselves and the relegation trap door and now stand two points adrift of their visitors, who have played three games more both having notched six wins this season.

Led by hooker Gavin Walsh, Fishguard’s success can be attributed to a dominant forward performance where they were tenacious on the floor around the key battle ground of the rucks and mauls, controlling the scrum which put pressure on the visitors’ set piece and gained parity at the line out.

The back row of Chris Sousha, Luke Freebury and number 8 Simon James supported their more youthful back division by making the hard yards whilst being on hand to secure phase after phase of ball to keep the momentum going forward.

The opening score of this Travis Perkins sponsored game came after 13 minutes when flanker Sousha touched down, the try set up by debutant full back Robbie Jones, the Chairman’s son drafted in from the youth side and his pace, verve and confidence to run 40 meters reminiscent of a bygone era when ‘JJ’ himself flew down the wing.

James, centre Tom George and scrum half Andrew Williams supported man of the match Jones’ momentum where the mobility of home props Andrew Morillo and Ryan McVeigh saw them on the fringe of an exciting move.

Outside half Alun George, who had narrowly missed a penalty attempt four minutes earlier, landed the conversion, a feat he repeated five minutes later when centre Ben John finished off another passage of play with a mazy run over 30 metres with two hand offs, after James capitalised on a loose clearance from the Bont’s full back Rhodri Lewis, the number 8 setting flame haired winger Dylan Thomas, playing on permit from Crymych blazing down the touchline.

Pontyberem needed a foothold in the game but were reduced to 14 men when number 8 Wayne Williams was yellow carded by Cefn Cribwr based referee Huw David for a high tackle during the build up to the third try, skipper Walsh completing another forwarded orientated drive after ball had been secured in the line out by second row Gwilym Evans, who was instrumental in the driving maul alongside Morrillo and McVeigh.

The blue and black shirts sponsored by Jewsons gained some composure as the half time whistle approached, flanker Dion Robinson a go to man in the line out for hooker Ben Morris and scum half Adrian Williams pulling the strings to motivate his side as any good skipper should. Outside half Domonic Sauro slotted over a penalty as the home side strayed offside and their discipline in defence breached as they came from the side of rucks to illegally stop the visitors’ drives.

Number 8 Williams returned to the fray tidied up neatly at the base of a backwards moving scrum either side of half time, the early stages of the second half scrappy and unstructured much to the despair of passionate home coach Huw Evans, who could see the danger signs of the play suiting the Pontyberem game plan better.

The pack, with second row Matthew Lloyd and prop James Prosser marauding in midfield, put fellow prop Dan Suaro across the whitewash for Dominic to convert, alongside another penalty for 19-13.

Fishguard second row Jac Evans, a key line out man and ball carrier was lucky not to spend time in the sin bin when he tackled centre Gwion Jones in the air as the Pontyberem side had the wind both behind them in terms of play and figuratively in their sails, something Evans vociferously explained to his side as the final quarter approached.

His words were rewarded when the forwards secured a bonus point fourth try, Walsh getting his name on the score sheet for a second time burrowing through after James had set up the attacking ruck. Prosser responded for Pontyberem making yardage, supported by second row Alex Williams and back row man Pete Suaro, as the deficit was reduced to four points with a converted try for centre Dafydd Lloyd.

Experience counts: Try scoring skipper Gavin Walsh & Number 8 Simon James

Wingers Dave Evans and Rhys Armstrong had ball in hand for the ‘Bont’ with the game on a precipice, the next score crucial. It came to the home side as they took advantage of a turnover deep in their own half and young Jones backed his skill set and pace to create an overlap, centre George beautifully drawing the final defender on halfway to set winger Liam Wilkes away down the touchline to cross wide out with eight minutes remaining, to compensate for a similar move just minutes before when he was recalled for a foot in touch.

George didn’t have his kicking boots on in the second half but his maturity to influence open play, with confidence in the final throws of the game saw a sixth try a minute from the end, McVeigh the recipient as James, Freebury and Sousha came to the fore, certainly a backrow at this level to be on par with any.

The midfield axis, John either side of the George brothers and Jones from full back bodes well for the Seagulls, thankfully for coach Evans, who has very little hair left to tear out. This isn’t down to alopecia, contributing for his entertaining apoplectic demeanour, knowing his side now go on their travels for the next four fixtures, heading next to Parc Gryffyd Jones for a key encounter with St Clears on Easter Saturday.

Pontyberem returned to the Gwendraeth Valley with nothing to show for their efforts on the Moors, having consolidated well on going 19-0 down, despite struggling in the scrum set piece, to have an opportunity to win the game. The key moment when they turned the ball over for Jones to open the play in his own 22 yard metre area a point of reflection, as they head to Loghour on Easter Saturday (Mar 31), the home side failing to fulfil their fixture at Hendy due to player numbers available.

That ensuing points deduction draws Loughor back into the group with the Bont, both hanging a lingering eye on the relegation trap door.

Sport

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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Sport

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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Sport

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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