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Wales thump Ireland to seal Grand Slam

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WALES secured a historic Grand Slam on Saturday (Mar 16), as they thumped Ireland 25-7 at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.

Going into the game they knew that a win would see them crowned Six Nations Champions and that anything but would have opened the door for the Irish or England to snatch the title.

However, Wales were in no mood to let their Grand Slam hopes fade away and scored with just over a minute on the clock gone, and they never looked back.

It was the perfect start for Warren Gatland’s men as Ken Owens’ throw found its way to Gareth Anscombe who beautifully chipped over for Hadleigh Parkes to catch and touch down. Anscombe then added the extras.

It meant that Jonathan Sexton’s first act of the game was to restart it but they very nearly scored moments after, only for an excellent tackle.

Jacob Stockdale picked the ball up and looked as if he would run to the try line but Parkes made a try-saving tackle and Wales were able to win the ball back.

Wales increased their lead with a penalty on 18 minutes with a 49-metre penalty from Anscombe and they continued to push forward, not wanting to sit on their lead.

Two minutes later they had a penalty advantage but when the ball was kicked ahead, Gareth Davies’ over-eagerness saw him tackle the Irish player after the whistle had gone, much to the displeasure of the four Irishmen around him. The penalty was reversed.

Irish errors continued to be punished though and with five minutes of the first half remaining, Anscombe sent another penalty through the posts to make it 13-0.

On the stroke of half time, Ireland were guilty of collapsing the scrum and Anscombe again scored a penalty to give Wales a 16-0 lead at the break.

The first score in the second half would prove crucial, a Wales score would deflate Ireland while an Ireland score would give them hope.

After both sides traded penalties it was the home team who got the first points as Anscombe again punished Ireland with a 33-metre penalty which sailed just inside the posts to make it 19-0.

The Grand Slam was within Wales’ grasp and when Sexton’s restart went out of play, you got the sense that an Irish comeback seemed unlikely.

Another penalty from Anscombe made it 22-0 with just under half an hour to play but Ireland came back looking for a way into the game. However, try as they might they passed the ball out of play.

Connor Murray then came close to scoring but was held up and some excellent defending saw Wales turn the ball over.

With just over ten minutes to go Anscombe scored his sixth penalty to continue his perfect record and it was only a matter of time before Wales were crowned champions.

There was still time for Ireland to attack though and came close as Wales were penalised for being offside on three occasions but a knock on allowed Wales to clear the ball.

As the clock ticked over the 80 minutes, Wales knew they had done enough to secure the Grand Slam and a fourteenth win in a row but Ireland were not going down without a fight.

Stockdale was again halted but the ball was recycled to Jordan Larmour who dived over for a consolation try. Jack Carty added the extras but the celebrations for Wales had already begun.

It was a third Six Nations title for Warren Gatland in his final tournament, his second Grand Slam, proving that Wales were the one team to beat.

They will now look forward to preparing for the World Cup in Japan which starts in September.

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WALES TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT

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Wales have made one change to their starting XV to face Ireland this weekend with Nick Tompkins, who made a try scoring debut in round one, coming into the side.
Tompkins will line-up at outside centre with George North moving to the wing for the clash in Dublin.
North will line-up in an experienced back-three alongside Josh Adams and Leigh Halfpenny whilst Tompkins will partner Hadleigh Parkes in the midfield. Tomos Williams and Dan Biggar continue their partnership at half-back.
Wales have named an unchanged pack with Wyn Jones, Ken Owens and Dillon Lewis in the front-row and Jake Ball lining up alongside captain Alun Wyn Jones.
Aaron Wainwright, Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau feature in the back-row.
“We’ve made just one change after a winning start last weekend,” said Wales head coach Wayne Pivac.
“Nick comes into the side, I thought he played exceptionally well when he came on last week so he deserves the start. George, who played really well last weekend at centre, moves back out to the wing.
“On the bench we have a few players back available, Rhys Carre impressed at the RWC and he comes back in. Adam Beard comes in for Cory Hill who picked up a leg injury earlier this week, Gareth (Davies) is fully fit and Owen Williams comes onto the bench and gives us a bit more cover.
“Momentum is important in the Championship, it was nice to get a good winning start under our belts and hopefully we can build on that through the tournament.”
On the bench Rhys Carre joins Ryan Elias and Leon Brown as the front-row replacements with Adam Beard and Ross Moriarty completing the forward contingent. Gareth Davies, Owen Williams and Johnny McNicholl provide the back-line cover.

WALES TEAM TO PLAY IRELAND (Saturday February 8 KO14.15 ITV & S4C)
15. Leigh Halfpenny (86 Caps)
14. George North (92 Caps)
13. Nick Tompkins (1 Cap)
12. Hadleigh Parkes (26 Caps)
11. Josh Adams (22 Caps)
10. Dan Biggar (80 Caps)
9. Tomos Williams (17 Caps)
1. Wyn Jones (23 Caps)
2. Ken Owens (74 Caps)
3. Dillon Lewis (23 Caps)
4. Jake Ball (43 Caps)
5. Alun Wyn Jones (C) (135 Caps)
6. Aaron Wainwright (19 Caps)
7. Justin Tipuric (73 Caps)
8. Taulupe Faletau (73 Caps)

Replacements:
16. Ryan Elias (10 Caps)
17. Rhys Carre (6 Caps)
18. Leon Brown (7 Caps)
19. Adam Beard (20 Caps)
20. Ross Moriarty (42 Caps)
21. Gareth Davies (51 Caps)
22. Owen Williams (3 Caps)
23. Johnny McNicholl (1 Cap)

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St Davids flyer starts for Wales

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SCARLETS winger Jasmine Joyce from St Davids has been named alongside Scarlets teammate Hannah Jones in Wales’ starting line-up for Sunday’s Women’s Six Nations Championship opener against Italy at Cardiff Arms Park (1 pm).

The experienced pair missed the side’s five-match autumn series after taking up an opportunity to play for Adelaide University in the Australian national sevens league. Alisha Butchers, who also played for the Adelaide ‘Romas’ has been named on a bench that also includes uncapped Ospreys prop Ruth Lewis.

Coach Chris Horsman says he is pleased with the level of competition in the squad.

“There was debate and competition around every position in the selection meeting, which is exactly what we want,” said the 14-times capped former Wales prop. “We set out to develop strength in depth during the autumn and those games really gave us a chance to look at the group with the 2021 Rugby World Cup in mind.

“There was a case for every player to be involved in some way but we feel this match-day squad is the best placed to make the most of the opportunity this weekend. As in the autumn, we want to go out and perform in every game, improving all the time.”

Italy finished in second place in last season’s competition, beating France comfortably on the way.

“Italy has always been a key match for us and this Sunday will be no different,” added Horsman. “It will be a tough game with no hiding place. We have asked a lot of the players, increasing the intensity of training and they’ve met the challenge head-on. The aim of that is not only to perform under pressure during the Six Nations but also, longer-term, to close the gap on teams above us in the world rankings.

“We are concentrating on ourselves and this week, not looking beyond the challenge of Italy on Sunday.”

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Aber prevail in tough contest

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ON SATURDAY, Aber completed an unbeaten January during which they played four games winning each one. The team’s efforts propelled the club from 8th position, with 20 league points at the start of the month, to 4th position with 38 league points at its close.

In October of last year, Aber had narrowly beaten Gorseinon at the Welfare Ground and this return fixture was by no means as simple as the score suggests.

The visitors started powerfully and were very physical, and the hosts had their work cut out.
From the start Gorseinon varied their tactics, using their big forwards to make inroads into Aber’s defence and then moving the ball wide to exploit opportunities outside.

Early on they could have made more of the overlaps they created but too often cut inside and wasted valuable chances.
So intense was the visitors’ pressure that it took a full ten minutes for Aber to break out of their half own half.
When they did, Steffan Rees put them 3 – 0 ahead with a simple penalty. Gorseinon replied with a penalty of their own from Popham when Aber were penalised for not rolling away.

The score remained at 3 – 3 almost until the interval.

However, with the clock ticking down to half-time, Gorseinon upped their game. After stealing the ball from an Aber attack, they launched an attack of their own.

An attempted catch and drive led to a ruck from which the ball was swiftly moved out to unmarked left wing Thomas to score the game’s first try. Phelps’ excellent conversion gave Gorseinon a lead of 3 – 10 at the interval.

Aber started the second half full of intent and were to maintain this for the full forty minutes. An astute kicking game pinned Gorseinon in the corner of the pitch and allowed Aber to apply the screws.

From a penalty in midfield, Steffan Rees found touch five yards from the visitors’ line. After Gorseinon were penalised at the resulting lineout, Aber chose a scrum. A huge shove enabled No 8, Lewis Ellis-Jones to touch down for the hosts’ first try of the game. The conversion was missed but at 8 – 10 the home side were reaping rewards for their growing dominance.
The score galvanised the home team.

Ian Ellis at full-back was a constant threat to the visitors as he looked for openings to break through their defence or chip ahead to create opportunities for his wingers. After one such break involving Ellis and Matthew Hughes, the ball was moved to the right where Dylan Evans rounded off the move with a fine try. This was very well converted by Steffan Rees and Aber moved ahead for the first time in the game at 15 – 10.

Gorseinon hit back when a failure to gather the ball cleanly from the kick-off led to a ruck from which Aber’s clearance kick was charged down by lock Evans. He gathered the ball and raced on to score a good opportunist try to level the scores at 15 – 15.

Against a determined defence, Aber mounted more and more attacks and it was from a phase of inter-passing down the left side of the field that Matthew Hughes broke through to score near the posts. Rees converted, moving the hosts on to 22 – 15. He added a penalty to increase this lead to 25 – 15 before Adam Carvell pounced on a lax Gorseinon pass, to intercept and score Aber’s bonus try. Steffan Rees added the simple conversion to close the scoring at 32 – 15.

After a two-week break for Six-Nations matches, Aber will face Felinfoel away on February 15.

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