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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.

Sport

Bluebirds bag last-gasp draw

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JD Cymru Premier League • Haverfordwest County 1 – Caernarfon Town 1

A LAST minute Danny Williams equaliser secured a deserved point for the Bluebirds after a dominant performance at the Bridge Meadow.

The tone for the game was set in the first minute, as only a last-ditch tackle denied Cameron Keetch a shot at goal after he latched on to a lofted pass. The opening 15 minutes were relatively quiet, Tibbets comfortably saved a Sean Pemberton header and Matt Turner stopped Mike Hayes in his track as he had the ball in the box.

The Bluebirds enjoyed a lot of possession in these opening minutes, playing some good football on the pristine surface. The first real chance came as an Elliot Scotcher corner ricocheted around the box before it was cleared off the line. Just 5 minutes later, Scotcher himself hit the post from an excellently struck free-kick from just outside the penalty area. The next chance fell to Marcus Griffiths who couldn’t quite get on the end of a low cross across the face of goal.

Some bad news for the Bluebirds, Cameron Keetch departed the pitch on the 29th minute after suffering an injury, he was replaced by super-sub Jack Wilson. He was straight into the action as he was played through by Ben Fawcett, but he curled his effort just wide of the post. Matt Turner then saved a well-struck free-kick from the edge of the Bluebirds penalty area. Jack Wilson had the final chance of the half as his curling effort from the right skimmed over the bar. A stalemate at halftime, but the Bluebirds on top.

The second half began as the first ended, this time is was Gruffydd John with a last-ditch tackle to deny Danny Williams. After Sean Pemberton headed wide, Danny Williams played a lofted ball through to Jack Wilson, who headed over Tibbets but Joe Williams cleared the ball off the line. Then, 4 minutes later, Wilson repaid the favour as he sent a lofted ball for Williams to chase, but Tibbets saved his lob attempt.

The Bluebirds continued to create chance after chance. Jack Wilson had a strike cleared off the line, again and Marcus Griffiths saw his header saved by Tibbets.

Against the run of play, Caernarfon took the lead on 74 minutes. Mendes picked up a cross at the back post and squared for Mike Hayes who couldn’t miss.

The setback didn’t deter the Bluebirds who continued to press.

In the space of a minute, Jack Wilson, Dan Summerfield and Jack Wilson all had shots blocked in the penalty area. Jack Wilson then turned provider as his long throw met the head of Sean Pemberton but his effort was over the bar.

With 94 minutes on the clock, Jack Wilson went racing down the right, squared for Danny Williams, and he did the rest from a few yards out with the final kick of the game.

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Sport

Wales gear up for Paris

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Wales face Les Bleus in Paris in what will be their first match since March.

It is one kicking and skills coach Jenkins is looking forward to.

“It is nice to be back. It has been tough since March, but to be involved now and have the boys back is great,” said the former fly-half.

“It’s doing things a little bit differently to what we are normally used to, but the boys have had a head start and been very good helping us.

“We understand what is going on, both at home and in France, and we respect that 100 per cent.

“We are there to do a job, we are there to represent our country, and I would like to think we are going to do that as best as we possibly can both on and off the pitch.

“We will adhere to everything that is required of us, hopefully play a very good game on Saturday, and do our utmost to win the Test match and try and pick the nation up.

“It’s brutal for everyone whether you are a sportsperson or a non-sportsperson. It is not an easy situation at this moment in time. I hope we can put some smiles on faces.

“We want to win, plain and simple. We have lost our last few games. We are here to play well and we are here to win Test matches.”

France got the better of Wales in the Six Nations at the start of the year before Covid-19 struck.

“It seems an incredibly long time ago. People might disagree, but for me it was a Test match I believe we should have won. We had opportunities,” Jenkins said.

“We gave probably 14 points away if I am brutally honest. We left a number of opportunities out there.”

Both sides will use the game to warm-up for their remaining Six Nations clashes and then their Autumn Nations Cup campaigns.

On questions regarding Josh Navidi’s involvement, Jenkins added: “He is going through his protocols and we will see how he goes this week and for the weeks coming up.”

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New Welsh rugby kit launched

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THE NEW Macron Wales kit, to be worn for the first time against France in Paris on October 24, has been unveiled simultaneously in the private changing rooms of the national team headquarters in Hensol and the Wales Women squad’s current base in Swansea University.

Jonathan Davies and Ross Moriarty were joined ‘virtually’ by Wales Women captain Siwan Lillicrap and Gwen Crabb to reveal the kit against a backdrop of jerseys from the community game in Wales which have also been produced by the WRU’s new official technical partner.

The launch of the new kit has taken on a post-Covid feel with both squads currently training in respective ‘bubbles’ and so the community aspect of the partnership – £1m of free kit to be supplied yearly to Welsh rugby clubs over six years – has been reflected by a display of existing Macron community rugby shirts.

A set of unique features sees the red dragon of the Welsh flag embossed across lower back of the shirt, an embossed pattern covering the sleeves – cleverly transforming the hexagonal shape of the WRU three-feathers logo into ‘dragon scales’ – and the Welsh word ANRHYDEDD (honour), also embossed, on the back of the collar.

The ‘away‘ version is a black jersey with a white v-neck collar, this time tipped with red trim that is also found on the sleeves and cuffs.

Both sleeves again feature an all over embossed pattern, but this time a geometric graphic brings a new age look to the garment.

The Welsh dragon is once again embossed on the lower back and another Welsh word, ANGERDD (passion) is embossed on the back of the collar.

“The new kit is striking representation of Welsh rugby tradition and we are delighted to be able to launch our new seven-year partnership with Macron in such a spectacular way,” said WRU CEO Steve Phillips.

“We are delighted with the bespoke kit, training and leisurewear Macron has provided so far, where Italian design meets Welsh passion with impressive results.

“And we are sure that the Welsh rugby watching public will be equally impressed when they get their hands on their favourite pieces in the expansive product range available.”

Wales Women will wear the kit in action for the first time against Scotland in their own postponed Six Nations clash on November 1 and, from next season, Macron’s affinity with Welsh rugby will increase even further when the first instalment of £6m worth of kit over six years, is supplied to the clubs in the community game throughout Wales.

“The Welsh Rugby Union represents one of the pillar stones of world rugby and for Macron to stand side by side with this sporting giant, means that we as a brand, have reached yet another great milestone,” said Macron‘s CEO Gianluca Pavanello.

“Our goal is for the new kits to be instantly recognisable and something that clearly express the Welsh identity and spirit. We hope that our hard work has paid off and that the new collection will be loved by players and fans alike and that the kits evoke the emotion that such a great nation deserves.”

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