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Slow start costs Otters in thriller

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A SLOW start cost Narberth on Saturday (Mar 30) but they still put up a big fight before succumbing to a 42-34 defeat at the hands of Tata Steel.

The Otters fielded a few replacements due to injury but the subs bench was strong with experienced, hardened players likely to make an impact.

Tata attacked from the off with some early pressure with the Otters defence holding firm. Both sides attempted to move the ball through the hands but the strong tackling created a number of knock ons’.

Play remained in midfield until the Steelmen set up a kick and chase scenario which the Otters safely minored as it went over the try line.

The first try came ten minutes into the game with Tata Steel advancing into the Otters 22 they stretched the Otters defence enabling their wing Morgan Williams to sprint through the gap created to score with fly half Dan Gurenani converting.

Within two minutes, the Steelmen scored a second try. The Otters restarted the game after the first try and quickly set up an attack only to lose possession in the close forward exchange. Tata Steel moved the ball quickly with flanker Dan Griggs breaking through to score with Dan Gurenani converting. Suddenly Tata Steel had a fourteen point to nil lead and looked very threatening with such a start.

Photos by Myrddin Dennis

The Otters responded and Keiron Jones made an effective break to reach the Tata Steel five metre line before he was tackled. A lineout followed with the Otters winning the jump setting up a maul which quickly collapsed with the ref awarding Tata Steel a scrum.

The Otters continued their efforts and were awarded a penalty thirty metres from the line which Jonathan Rogers slotted over for three points. Tata Steel restarted using a grubber kick and when the Otters attempted to collect and move forward they knocked the ball forward in the tackle. The ref blew his whistle and awarded a scrum which had to be reset and once the scrum was set the ref awarded the Steelmen a penalty which was about forty metres from the posts, Dan Gurenani kicked adding a further three points making the score 17-3.

Five minutes later on the half hour the referee awarded Tata Steel a controversial penalty try. They were attacking close to the Otters line and from what appeared to be a simple knock on awarded the penalty try.

This was followed with the Otters setting up attacks but knocking on in the tackle. Scrum half Lewys Gibby from the heel passed to the right before there was another knock on.

However, after a series of plays Jack Price regained the ball and in typical barn storming style forced his way over the line for an unconverted try to make it 24-8 at half time.

Whilst the Steelmen looked the stronger side, Otter supporters were remembering a past game where they were losing quite heavily but turned the game around and ended winning.

Tata Steel restarted the second half and begun to look the stronger scrummaging team.

Jonathan Rogers gathered the restart and responded with one of his long kicks which Tata Steel gathered and attacked strongly up field only to knock on at the breakdown. Rogers replied kicking into touch well into the opposition half. Tata Steel failed to throw the ball straight at the lineout and the ref awarded the Otters a scrum. The Otters made a further change with Dan Jacobs replacing Dewi Williams with Tom Kaijak moving into the second row. This change restored the Otters scrummage with the Otters heeling, Tom Powell broke away from the scrum and fed Lewys Gibby who passed to Jonathan Rogers. He then threw a long pass out to Jack Price who moved strongly forward before handing the ball to wing Yannnick Parker who crossed the line for an unconverted try.

Within five minutes Tata Steel responded with a try by replacement Steff Davies again converted by Dan Gurenani to make it 31-13.

From the restart, the Tata Steel number eight gathered the ball broke out of their half and in the movement that followed the Otters defence were adjudged offside. This enabled Dan Gurenani to kick a further three points to their score on fifty minutes.

The Otters rallied, Jonathan Rogers kicked into touch on the opposition 22. Tata infringed and the Otters kicked towards the corner. At the lineout Alex Jenkins jumped and taking clean ball set up a rolling maul, the ball was released and moved right with Tata Steel defending defiantly before Jack Price forced his over for his second try. Ianto Griffiths came forward and converted the try. The score was now 34-20.

The Otters followed this with a further attack before conceding a penalty which Dan Gurenani added a further three points. From the restart the Otters set up several attempts to proceed downfield with Jack Price prominent as he forced his way over the gain line.

On 64 minutes he took a quick penalty in the opposition 22 and crossed the line to touch down. Again Ianto Griffiths converted bringing the score to 37-27.

On 70 minutes Tata suffered a yellow card for taking out Alex Jenkins. Before this the Otters moved to near the line, the referee awarded a penalty and chose a scrum. This had to be reset and after a further infringement awarded the Otters a penalty try. This had the Otter supporters on edge with the score now 37-34, a possible win seemed on the cards.

However on 78 minutes hooker Jake Lewis scored an unconverted try. This was followed by a breakout by Tom Powell who raced downfield only to be caught near the 5 metre line but unfortunately was not supported.

Tata recovered and a few minutes later the game ended with the final score 42-34 with the Otters gaining a single bonus point.

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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