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Dragonhearts edged out by Serbia

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SERBIA recorded a hard-fought 22-20 victory over Wales Dragonhearts in Belgrade on Wednesday afternoon (Oct 3).

It was the first of two tests between the two evenly matched sides. The try count was four-all with both sides each converting twice, and it was only Dzavid Jasari’s 60thminute penalty that gave the home side the win.

Wales selected all of their side from the country’s thriving community game following a successful three-side Origin series, whilst 13 of Serbia’s 17 play their rugby league in Belgrade, eight of them from the country’s champions Red Star, who will be entering the RFL Challenge Cup next season. Serbia also fielded three Australian-based players, two of whom scored tries, who were flown in readiness for Serbia’s full international against France on Sunday.

The home side took the lead on four minutes after Vladimir Milutinovic forced his way over with Milos Zogovic unable to convert.

Then Wales had a 6-4 advantage on 16 minutes after a Connah Harding try that Mike Hurley easily converted.

Serbia regained the lead from kick-off when Brandon Janjic scored near to the corner with Jasari missing the goal on this occasion.

Wales went back into the lead in the 24th minute after Brett Thomas scored in the corner. Hurley’s conversion attempt hit the crossbar and came out.

Serbia had the advantage again five minutes later when Stevan Stevanovic broke through and Jasari converted well.

Wales levelled just after the half-hour when Sam Pridgeon scored a well-worked try in the corner, making it another difficult kick for Hurley who swung the ball wide.

The score remained at 14-all at the break but Serbia regained the lead within a minute of the second half when Jonathan Kresst scored in the corner and Jasari did well to convert.

Wales were soon level. Following a penalty, Shane Lee went on a mazy run to set up Mark Jones to ground just right of the sticks with Hurley converting.

The game stopped for over five minutes after a collision left Wales’ Dafydd Jones having treatment and eventually needing to go off and have stiches – one of many stoppages for injuries and penalties in a half that lasted nearly 55 minutes. When play resumed on this occasion, Jasari kicked a penalty to edge Serbia into a 22-20 lead.

Wales pressed for a winner but the Serbian defence held out well under pressure in the final ten minutes, and when the Dragonhearts gave away a penalty whilst on the attack in the final minute of the game, that was that and the Serbs had secured their win.

Dragonhearts captain Mike Hurley said: “I thought we were the better side, especially in the first half, where it was just errors from us that let Serbia in. Our defence, up against a very big and physical side was outstanding. We stuck to our game plan and it worked, scoring three outstanding tries.

“The second half was a different story and after some positional changes due to injuries, we lost our shape and direction. However, our defence was again tireless and the boys really worked hard.

“The score reflected how close the game was and with Serbia kicking a penalty, it showed how fearful they were of us.

“I think we chased the win too early and with a bit more composure, discipline and structure we should have won the game. We all feel that was a game that got away.

“We will regroup get a couple of training session in and concentrate on the next game on Saturday.”

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Wales v Scotland postponed

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WALES’ Six Nations match at home to Scotland on Saturday has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The two other Six Nation fixtures had already been postponed and no date has been confirmed to complete the 2020 Championship.

The Welsh Rugby Union had insisted earlier on Friday the game would “go ahead as planned”.

A WRU statement read: “The Welsh Rugby Union has maintained an open dialogue with, and continued to seek advice and direction from, the National Assembly for Wales and other stakeholders, including the Six Nations, on this fast-moving issue.

“Whilst medical advice remains consistent, we have decided that it is in the best interests of supporters, players and staff to fall in line with recent measures taken across the UK and global sports industries.

“The WRU would like to thank all parties for their counsel on the subject and will make further announcements with respect to rescheduling the fixture in the coming days.

“Every effort has been made to stage this game and we appreciate that individuals will have been inconvenienced. Given the fluid and unprecedented nature of this issue a postponement became the only viable option.”

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Domestic football at all levels in Wales suspended

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THE FOOTBALL Association of Wales has today (13 March) taken the decision to suspend domestic football at all levels in Wales with immediate effect until April 4 due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The intention at this time will be to resume the football schedule depending on the medical advice and conditions from the relevant authorities at that time.

The FAW is fully aware of the impact this will have on the domestic game but the health and safety of all fans, players, volunteers and stakeholders are of paramount importance.

The FAW will continue to monitor this situation on a day-by-day basis and will continue to provide updates when appropriate.

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Walking rugby is a game for all ages and abilities

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WALKING RUGBY has taken off throughout Wales in the last 12 months and is benefitting participants in more ways than one.

The participants – male and female of all ages and abilities including one man who lost his sight 13 years ago – talk of clear benefits to their physical health and crucially, their mental health through being involved in the groups.

The number of Walking Rugby groups in Wales grew organically from two in December 2018 to 16 just twelve months later and new groups are starting up all the time.

A range of organisations from rugby clubs to charities, Health Boards and third sector bodies are seeing the benefit of the inclusive rugby format and engaging more than 300 participants on a weekly basis.
The Aneurin Bevan Mental Health unit has worked with the Dragons Community team to set up a team of their own, training weekly at Rodney Parade.

Kevin Hale, Community Support Worker for the Aneurin Bevan Health Board Forensic Psychiatry Service, who set up the Dragons NHS Walking Rugby team said, “From a mental health point of view it’s been priceless, the social benefits, in particular, are tremendous. Many of the players were very shy at the start and quite withdrawn but confidence levels and communication skills have grown massively and they have told us Walking Rugby has helped them in other areas of their lives.

“It started off as a means to get some of our service users active and also to have some social time afterwards to discuss any issues they’re having. It’s gone from strength to strength and we’ve opened up the opportunity so that anyone can join us at Rodney Parade on a Tuesday afternoon.

Christian Hyde now plays for the Dragons NHS team despite having lost his sight through diabetes.
“I played rugby from the age of 8 to 26. After losing my sight, I had to stop playing – and refereeing. You really miss being part of a rugby environment so being back involved in the game is huge for me and something I never thought I’d do.

“I’m already involved with the visually impaired rugby at Cardiff Blues but being a Dragons supporter, I’m thrilled to be able to train at Rodney Parade and to be involved in matches again like the recent festival. To have ten teams turn up shows the enjoyment we’re all having.”

Anne Jackson plays for Pontyclun Walking Rugby. She said “I’m the only woman at the club at the moment and we could do with more. It really is for everyone. It’s wonderful. It keeps you active – I’ve got fitter since playing Walking Rugby. We train twice a week on a Monday evening and Wednesday morning. We laugh most of the time, we all get on very well.”

Former Wales full-back and Cross Keys coach Morgan Stoddart coaches the Cambrian Walking Rugby group in the Rhondda. He said, “We regularly get 15 or 16 players at our twice-weekly training sessions, we had 12 teams at recent Walking Rugby festivals in Treorchy and Cambrian so it’s gaining popularity all the time.

“Quite a few of the players played rugby in their youth and others haven’t played much sport at all throughout their lives. One lady, Frances Jones, is a regular player and still going strong at 84!

“They enjoy the exercise and also the friendship and camaraderie they gain from it. I enjoy it too, it’s a real change from competitive league rugby as it’s so open to male and female players of all ages and abilities.”
While the format is fully inclusive to all ages, genders and abilities, its main appeal is to Wales’ older and socially isolated population. With more than 877 000 people over 60 in Wales (just under 30% of the population), and that figure set to rise to over one million by 2030*, social isolation and mental health issues are a real issue.

The Welsh Government Strategy for Older People in Wales (2013-2023): Living Longer, Ageing Well, states that loneliness is a real health risk – ‘the same as smoking and twice that of obesity.. that staying physically active protects mental and physical health and that older people say that if they are able to participate in social and leisure activities, they are more likely to say they feel well.’

Based on this evidence, it is no surprise that some GPs are now referring patients to Walking Rugby for the physical and social benefits it brings.

Greg Woods, WRU Enterprise Manager said: “Anyone can play Walking Rugby, whether you’re a lapsed rugby player or new to the game. It’s a social, enjoyable activity with obvious physical and mental health benefits. There is clearly a growing demand for more Walking Rugby opportunities around Wales and we are working with the current groups and a wide range of other partners to not only cater for that demand but provide support to the volunteers running the clubs and work with others to set up new outlets.”

WRU Community Director Geraint John added: “It’s exciting to see the growth of Walking Rugby and to think of its future benefits to the health and well-being of the people of Wales – both the current or recent rugby-playing population and those who could join the rugby family through the Walking Rugby format”.

If you want to start a walking rugby club, get in touch for advice and support participation@wru.wales

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