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Otters topple the leaders

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NARBERTH superbly toppled Championship leaders Cardiff Met on Saturday (Oct 27) as they came away with a 16-13 victory.

The game started with Cardiff Met kicking off with the advantage of a strong, cold wind behind them playing towards the clubhouse end. Initially they pinned the Otters in their own half but were slowly being driven back with the Otters forwards in groups of three forcing their way forward and successfully retaining possession.

Jonathan Rogers playing his first game after a foot injury produced one of his cannonball kicks well into the Met half near their 22. The ball was fielded but the Otters were able to force the Met defender into touch. From the lineout, the Otters moved the ball through the threes, from the stand side into midfield before the referee awarded them a penalty. Nick Gale came forward and struck the ball perfectly to send the ball soaring between the posts giving the Otters an early lead.

The Met kicked off, which was fielded via Dan Smith, he  passed to Jonathan Rogers, the fly half produced one of his long passes out to centre Jack Price who was able to take the ball forward into Met’s 22 in inimitable forceful way before being brought to ground. From the breakdown the Otters pack drove forward before the ball landed in touch on the Redstone side of the ground on the 5 metre line.

The referee awarded a scrum from the lineout but the Otters were penalised for supposedly pushing before the ball was put in.  This enabled the Met to kick the ball just into the Otters half with the oters being penalised. Their fly half kicked the ball into the Otters 22. The fast backs followed up but the Otters forced the ball into touch.

From the lineout, the Met set up a rolling maul which the Otters pack expertly managed to halt with the referee awarding the Otters a scrum enabling scrum half Lewys Gibby to kick over the Met players heads.

Forced to retreat, the Met then regained the ball and scored a good try near the clubhouse corner having moved the ball quickly from the far side and managing to create a gap in the Otters sturdy defence, for their inside centre Jack Wright to break clear via a sudden gap appearing and touch down. Fly half Henry Johnson converted to take Cardiff Met into the lead, 3-7 on twenty minutes.

The Otters kicked off and in the ensuing play were awarded a scrum. The pack showed their control pushing the Met backwards forcing the Met to concede a penalty. Jonathon Rogers then kicked and gained the lineout.

From the lineout the Otters threes took the ball into the Met 22 and from the moved the ball from left to right, then switching back towards the far side. The referee awarded the Otters pack a scrum and who again showed their superiority in the tight causing the Met to concede another penalty.

Again Nick Gale came forward and with much concentration struck the ball between the posts bringing the score to 6-7 on 27 minutes.

From the restart Richard Rees fielded and drove forward followed by a series of drives, by the Otters pack with Cardiff Met defending strongly. However, the series of ruck and drive forced the Met back to the halfway line before offending, the referee awarding the Met a scrum. This had to be reset with the Otters forcing the Met eight back as the eight Otters scrummed strongly. The sloppy heel by the Met resulted in outside centre Jack Price putting in a grubber kick along the ground.

The continued pressure forced the Met player into touch. At the lineout, Met managed to spoil the throw in, gained possession 10 metres inside the Otters half before a series of quick passing movements.

They moved the ball back and fore across the pitch before a gap appeared and the burly centre  Oliver Morris showed surprising speed as he raced towards the line before Andrew Cook made a try saving tackle just one metre from the try line. The referee awarded the Otters a penalty at the breakdown which Jonathan Rogers safely found touch to relieve the pressure.

Play continued with both teams attempting to break through. The Met were awarded a scrum, heeling they kicked the ball into touch with the referee whistling half time with the score at 6-7.

In the second half the Otters were given a penalty after the Met were penalised for illegal crossing and they kicked to touch. At the lineout a Cardiff Met misdemeanour gave the Otters a scrum, then heeling the ball, it was moved swiftly only for the left wing to fail to take the pass with a strong possibility of a try being possible.

Play continued back and fore with both teams attempting to advance but being thwarted by both defences. Cardiff Met were penalised on 53 minutes just inside the Otters half. Jonathan Rogers kicked towards the clubhouse corner finding touch some fifteen metres from the line.

The Otters safely caught the throw in and set up a rolling maul moving to within five metres of the line number 8 Richard Rees broke clear and crossed over for a try towards the clubhouse corner. Nick Gale converted from a difficult position putting the Otters ahead 13-7.

Play continued and on 60 minutes Cardiff Met were awarded a penalty some 40 metres from the posts towards the far touchline. Using a torpedo style placement of the ball Henry Johnson added 3 points for the Met. The score was now 13-10.

Young Lewys Gibby who had performed well at scrum half was replaced by the experienced Rhys Lane and Bradley Davies replaced Dan Jacobs in the front row. Play continued with both teams attempting to make progress but both defences remained firm.

The scrummaging became a contest with the referee having to reset the scrum on occasions. The Otters were penalised and Henry Johnson kicked to half way, Jonathan Rogers gathered and this time the ball was carried by the wind over the dead ball line, a scrum was called near halfway with a Met put in, they heeled but at a subsequent ruck they were penalised.

At 71 minutes Nick Gale added three further points bring the Otters to a 16-10 lead. From the kick off the Met responded strongly managing to get to within 30 metres of the Otters try line via penalty kick. At the lineout they attempted to move towards the line but again the Otters defended strongly before managing to clear however, following a knock on, they were penalised.

Cardiff Met decided to run and force their way forward but at the breakdown the Otters gained the ball, Rhys Lane passed to Johnathan Rogers kicked long to the Cardiff Met 5 metre line. The Otters gained the ball at the lineout and forced their way forward for Rhys Lane to break out but was pulled down 2 metres from the line. Jack Price receiving the ball from the ruck attempted to force his way over but there was an infringement at the breakdown.

Then the pack were required to scrummage, the referee needed to reset the scrum. Cardiff Met had the put in heeled and forced their back down field to the halfway line. Further play took them to with 40 metres. The Otters were penalised and the last score of the game came when Johnson using his torpedo kick placed the ball between the posts on 79 minutes and right on 80 minutes the referee blew full time with the score 16-13.

Attack coach Deiniol Evans commented: “It was a very tight game against a very tough unbeaten Cardiff side, so it was nice for us to win. It was a tough game which could have gone either way. Our performance was excellent, I thought we played really well with some very good performances, the front five of the pack were superb again, the set piece was excellent.

“The boys carried hard Andrew Cooke played well, Richard Rees was excellent and Jack Price in the centre was very good. I think it was a really good result because they were unbeaten. We played well to our game plan. We should have scored a couple of tries, we could not do it first half and defended really well and fully deserved the win.”

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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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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