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Otters beaten by Vale in Cup

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Ebbw Vale 39-17 Narberth

THE Otters made 10 changes to the starting line up following their successful win the previous week.

In the pre-match warm up it was noticeable how more muscular the Premiership players were compared to the Otters squad.

Ianto Griffiths kicked off and immediately the Steelmen showed their intent to cross the gain line but were penalised at the breakdown. Ebbw Vale scored 10 points in 8 minutes, the Steelmen scored their first try when full back Dan Haymond scored near the corner having stretched the Otters defence after play moved quickly across from left to right. Haymond failed to convert his try.

Two minutes later they scored again this time via wing Paul King. It seemed as though the Otters were giving Ebbw Vale too much respect. Again Haymond failed with the conversion. From the restart we saw Otters wing Yannick Parker sprint forward. The Otters were defending bravely but offended at a breakdown infront of the posts which gave Haymond an easy penalty kick bringing the score to 13-0 after 10 minutes.

Otters debut winger Josh Davies received the ball and raced diagonally to cross the try line taking a defender with him. Nick Gale stepped up to convert which brought the score to 13-7 on 13 minutes.

This gave the Otters heart and they began to turn the pressure onto Ebbw Vale.

For 16 minutes Ebbw Vale were pinned down on several occasions with both Ianto Griffiths and Nick Gale landing some strategic kicks whenever the Steelmen attempted to apply pressure back on the Otters.

Eventually the phased play saw the Otters win a penalty which Nick Gale converted with the score now 13-10 which rewarded the Otters determination to pressure Ebbw Vale.

Then the Otters were penalised twice for breakdown infringements at the ruck. The second occasion on 33 minutes resulted in captain Alex Jenkins being yellow carded. This was a blow since he was leading the Otters well, especially in their defensive cover and urging the pack forward.

Now the Otters began to be stretched in their defensive system as Ebbw Vale turned on the pressure.

This saw some frantic defensive work but the Otters were eventually undone, when from a ruck scrum half Sam Ireland moved right and across passing on then running around to receive the final pass to score an unconverted try on 39 minutes.

Play went on into injury time and on 43 minutes flanker David Rubusniak scored when Ebbw Vale set up a rolling maul from a lineout. The conversion was kicked again by Dan Haymond. The score at half time was 25-10.

The second half restarted with Alex Jenkins still in the sin bin. Taking advantage Ebbw Vale scored again within 5 minutes. It came from a lineout on the Otters 22. The Steelmen safely controlled possession. They then set up a rolling maul, releasing the ball, they moved to the far corner where second row Lance Randall charged over the line for a try which Dan Haymond converted.

Alex Jenkins returned and no sooner was he on the field than Jake Baker was sent to the sin bin, yellow carded for a an adjudged deliberate knock on. This seemed a harsh decision since he intercepted a pass whose forceful travel caused the ball to bounce forward as it hit the second row’s hands.

Once again Ebbw Vale stepped up the pressure to take advantage of the situation. but the Otters refused to fold under the pressure.

The Otters supporters spirits were lifted when new wing Josh Davies almost broke through the Ebbw Vale defence. Ebbw Vale kicked to touch 10 metres from the line. Winning the lineout they set up another rolling maul. The maul collapsed but second row Dan Hill picked up the ball and using all his strength forced himself over the line for a try converted by Dan Haymond, at 67 minutes which took the score to 39-10.

On 75 minutes, Ebbw Vale suffered a yellow card with their inside centre having to take his place in the sin bin.

Ebbw Vale defended strongly after sustained pressure and were now scrabbling to clear the ball as the tables turned. The sustained Otters pressure told when on 78 minutes Tom Powell went over for a try which Nick Gale converted. A few minutes later the referee blew for full time with the score 39-17.

Looking back the yellow cards amounted to over 20 minutes play with 14 men who could not control the increased pressure exerted by a strong Ebbw Vale side. This had a telling effect on the result.

Later Director of Rugby Sean Gale stated: “As a game of rugby it was excellent for the neutral observer. We scored some fantastic tries but the intensity between the Premiership and the Championship League is a bit different.

“When we were on the ball, we played some really good rugby but lost a little bit of concentration. We went down 10 points in about 10 minutes. So, the way we bounced back was really very good. Then when we had the yellow cards through which we gave them 26 points. We have got to be a little bit tighter and the concentration levels and intensity just lacked a little bit but the way my boys played today, I was really proud of their attempt to play.

“When we had our defensive patterns in place, we really shook Ebbw Vale up and really frightened them. In the set piece lineout, we lost too many lineouts but our scrum was as good as theirs and that was a big plus. We had a lot of youngsters out there today, we made 10 changes from the Tata Steel game, and the way in which some of those boys put their hands up was absolutely fantastic. It bodes well for the future of Narberth Rugby Club.

“It is difficult these days with the pressure of league rugby to give these lads an opportunity but they had a go today, up against a very strong Ebbw Vale side and did themselves proud, especially Alex Codd who did a good job and I thought Josh Davies in his first competitive game for the club was excellent. Harry Phillips was on one of his first starts and he was very positive. Then in the last 20 minutes we brought senior players on. Overall, the result was not good but the performance and grit within the team was excellent.”

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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Sport

Rally Sweden joy for Evans

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Elfyn Evans leads the 2020 FIA World Rally Championship after rewriting the sporting history books with an outstanding victory on this weekend’s Rally Sweden (13-16 February).

The Welshman not only becomes the first-ever British driver to win the wintry Scandinavian classic but also is the first Briton to top the WRC points table since the heady days of Colin McRae and Richard Burns nearly 20 years ago at the start of the century.

On only his second outing for the Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team, Evans overcame the odds to lead the notorious tricky winter fixture from start to finish, winning five of the nine stages to beat Hyundai’s defending champion Ott Tänak by 12.7 seconds.

The victory elevates Evans to jointly lead the championship, tied on 42 points with last month’s Monte Carlo winner Thierry Neuville, but ahead of the Belgian on countback.

“It was a great weekend and I feel really good to have my first win with Toyota in just our second event together,” enthused a delighted Evans. “Big effort trying to settle into a new team but the guys have made the job very, very easy and given us everything we could have wanted. They’ve given me great support and a great car that is ging me great confidence. In the changeable conditions we had in Sweden, that’s really worth a lot. Hopefully, we can carry this form onto the gravel in the events to come.”

Adding to the celebrations, it was a first WRC win (on his 132nd start) for Scott Martin, Evans’ experienced co-driver who joined forces with the Welshman at the start of last season.

The pair’s dominant performance was all the more impressive as it came in ultra-challenging conditions with the unseasonal weather serving up a treacherous mix of snow, slush, ice and gravel in the usually frozen forests. Moreover, several stages had to be cancelled to protect the roads, thus turning the event into a shortened, high-speed sprint format and heaping extra pressures onto all the competing crews.

Though eclipsed by the masterful Evans, Tänak bounced back after his terrifying crash on the Monte Carlo Rally to ignite his title defence with a strong second place, while teenage sensation Kalle Rovanperrä took third in the second of the Toyota Yaris WRCs. The 19-year-old Finn outgunned team-mate, and six-time world champion, Sébastien Ogier in a final test shootout to claim his first WRC podium on just his second appearance at the top level.
From the European winter, the 13-round FIA World Rally Championship now heads for the heat and dust of Mexico. Thereafter showdowns in Argentina, Kenya, New Zealand and throughout Europe follow before the teams head to the UK in late October for this season’s penultimate encounter. Thereafter the season finale is staged in Japan.

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Sport

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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