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Emphatic win for Otters

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AFTER this emphatic, seven-try win over visiting Rhydyfelin on Saturday (Feb 9), Narberth climbed to third place in the WRU Championship and are still targeting second.

With just six games to go, Narberth have now won 13 of their 16 matches this season and are on course for yet another excellent campaign.

It was a double celebration for the Club on the day that local hero Jonathan Davies, who played all his junior rugby with the Otters, captained Wales for the first time in the victory over Italy in Rome.

The pitch was in remarkably good condition despite the battering it took in the rain of two weeks ago but the high winds that had dogged the Tata fixture were again evident. Narberth won the toss and again elected to play into the wind in the first half.

Narberth came into the game after a short break because of the calling off of their game at Maesteg Quins the previous Saturday. The postponement might well have been a blessing in disguise as it allowed the team to recover after the bruising encounters with Pontypool and Tata Steel.

Certainly, the Otters flew out of the blocks from the Rhydyfelin kick-off which was gathered by Richie Rees inside the Narberth 25 and moved slickly to the left. Fluent passing between forwards and backs and a strong run by wing Yannic Parker took the home side into the opposition 22. A neat chip by centre Jake Jenkins was gathered by flanker Tom Powell who scored unopposed in only the first minute. Against a gale force wind, Ianto Griffiths’ conversion attempt was just wide.

Rhydyfelin were stung into action and came back strongly and for the following 15 minutes, it was like Ground-hog Day with a stream of penalties – mostly in the visitors’ favour each leading to a five metre lineout. From the first of them, Rhydyfelin captain and outside half Ross Lucas kicked immaculately into the corner and the Otters were penalised for collapsing the ensuing rolling maul.

Again, the visitors went to the corner but knocked on in trying to force the maul over the line and Narberth cleared the danger.

The driving maul seemed to be Rhydyfelin’s only attacking ploy as, in the 10th minute, they were awarded a penalty on the 22 metre line directly in front of the posts and to everyone’s surprise, they again kicked to the corner.

This time, in a smart move, prop Chris Phillips crashed over in the corner but the try was disallowed as the referee Steffan Edwards had spotted that Phillips’ path had been cleared of Narberth defenders by Rhydyfelin players and penalised them for obstruction.

In the 15th minute, the Otters were rather harshly penalised for a high tackle and yet again the visitors opted to go to the corner. When Rhydyfelin openside flanker Luke Studley knocked on, Narberth had weathered the storm of four successive five-metre lineouts and Rhydyfelin never again threatened.

The Otters’ lineout has not been at its best in recent weeks and again lost some of its clockwork accuracy on Saturday but, even against the strong wind, they gradually took complete control of the game and in the 29th minute, flanker Powell crashed over near the posts for his second try after a spell of sustained pressure and some excellent approach work by Richie Rees and Jake Jenkins.  Griffiths converted.

Five minutes later, Jenkins was again involved in a smart handling move and made a powerful run before being taken down just short of the line. The Otters regained the ball and Jenkins popped up to dive over and touch down just inside the corner flag.

The missed conversion meant Narberth went into half-time with a well-deserved 17-nil lead.

The whole game was peppered with penalty awards and in total, the home side were awarded 16 penalties against 10 for the visitors. Most of them were for niggly technical infringements and either side of half time referee Edwards issued yellow cards to second row Josh Hawkins for persistent offside offences and left wing Gavin Close for a deliberate knock-on.

For a couple of minutes early in the second half, Rhydyfelin were reduced to 13 men after replacement prop Callum Jones who had only been on the field six minutes was sin-binned when he was at the centre of a touchline fracas. There were a number of heated moments in the game as Rhydyfelin’s frustration boiled over but further trouble was avoided by the firm and decisive action by the young referee.

It took just six minutes of the second half for the home side to gain their bonus point try, this time from young scrum half Lewys Gibby. Receiving the ball from a lineout outside the Rhydyfelin 22, Gibby wrong-footed the back row with a cheeky dummy and sprinted in, completely unopposed. Again Griffiths converted.

The tide was now running fast against the visiting side and the two yellow card dismissals meant they were in some disarray, but they still tackled determinedly.

Their grit was not enough to prevent a 58th minute try when Jack Price, playing on the wing at the time, proved Rhydyfelin were suckers for the dummy as he showed fullback Chris Tottle the ball before stepping inside him to score at the posts. Ianto Griffiths duly completed his third conversion.

Two minutes later, it was two-try hero Tom Powell’s turn to see Narberth’s only yellow card of the game, this time for what the referee adjudicated was a deliberate knock on.

Two tries in the last five minutes rounded off the game for Narberth. The first, from a five metre scrum was made by a pickup by number eight Richie Rees who broke to the blind side and passed to Gibby.

The scrum half’s diagonal run brought him his second try of the game and then right on time, an elegant chip by full back Ianto Griffiths over the top of the approaching defence was kicked ahead by replacement wing Nick Gale just inside the left touchline and he neatly gathered to score in the corner.

The Otters completed the double over mid-table Rhydyfelin and in their two encounters this season, have amassed 77 points against the side from Pontypridd.

It was also a game in which the replacements also made a real impact, with props Dan Jacobs and young Ryan Rees making major contributions in both the tight and loose when they came on. Second row Roy Osborne made a robust and very promising debut for the Otters.

After the game, main sponsors Hywel Griffiths Plant Hire nominated Lewys Gibby as Man of the Match.

The Otters are home again on Saturday (Feb 16) with the visit of Trebanos, the Swansea Valley side who boast Justin Tipuric, the Welsh flanker as one of their coaching advisers. Trebanos always play an open style of rugby so it promises to be an attractive game to watch.

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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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Sport

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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