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Butchers try can’t prevent Scarlets loss

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Alisha Butchers: Powers away for the last score of the game (Pic. Riley Sports)

Alisha Butchers:
Powers away for the last score of the game (Pic. Riley Sports)

THE GAME of the third round of the Women Regional Championship saw the Scarlets Ladies take on their local rivals, the Ospreys, at the BT Sports Cardiff Arms Park last Sunday, December 20th. Both teams went into the game with unbeaten records so something had to give. The two teams went on to produce an outstanding display of rugby, which was yet another great advert for Women’s Regional Rugby in Wales.

The girls in red were on the back foot from the start. The Scarlets failed to deal with the initial kick off reception adequately allowing the Ospreys a strong attacking foothold deep inside the Scarlets half. When the Scarlets infringed at the breakdown, outstanding Ospreys outside half, Robyn Wilkins was on hand to settle any Ospreys nerves with a welltaken penalty with barely 2 minutes on the clock. The Ospreys continued to dominate early possession but the resolute defence of the Scarlets held firm. The Scarlets finally gained some possession and it was their turn to show their attacking qualities and from a free flowing move the Ospreys were caught off side.

Centre, Jodie Evans stepped forward to slot an excellent penalty from near the 10m line to tie the scores. From the restart, the Scarlets once again went on the attack. A scything break by Scarlets no 10, Hannah Jones saw her cut through the Ospreys defensive line. Jones was brought down with the line at her mercy by a fantastic try saving tack by Ospreys winger Ffion Bowen. Fortunately, Jodie Evans was on hand to gather Jones’s off load to score near the posts. Uncharacteristically Evans pushed her attempt at the extras wide of the upright. The game was now ebbing and flowing, with both teams creating opportunities and neutralizing those opportunities with ferocious defensive play. For the Ospreys, Scrum Half Keira Bevan was a constant threat with her elusive running whilst Scarlets captain Sioned Harries led by example in both attack and defence.

As the half drew to a close, the Scarlets’ discipline began to let them down. A series of unforced penalties gave the Ospreys momentum and finally from yet another soft infringement at the breakdown, Wilkins was able to slot her second penalty of the day and draw the first half to a conclusion with the Scarlets holding a slender 8-6 lead. The Ospreys started the second half by far the better. Barely 3 minutes into the half the Ospreys were camped on the Scarlets line. The Ospreys scrum had been gradually gaining dominance over the Scarlets 8 and that dominance came to the fore as they powered over the line for No 8 Shona Powell-Hughes to score. Wilkins adding the extras.

The game was taken away from The Scarlets over the next 10 minutes thanks to a further three excellently taken Wilkins penalties. The Scarlets poor discipline at the breakdown was once again costing them dearly allowing the Ospreys dominance of both territory and possession, allowing Wilkins the opportunities to demonstrate her unerring accuracy with the boot. The final Ospreys score came barely 3 minutes later. A flowing move by the Ospreys outside backs resulted in centre Adi Taviner breaking through the Scarlets defensive line. Taviner fed the ever-impressive Powell-Hughes who powered over for her and the Ospreys second try of the game.

Wilkins again converting to give the Ospreys a 29-8 lead. To their credit, the Scarlets came back into the game and were rewarded by scoring their second try of the game. After a period of sustained pressure by the reds, a break by centre Elen Evans saw her release back rower Alisha Butchers to score under the posts. Jodie Evans added the extra 2 points to draw the game to its conclusion.

Speaking after the game, Scarlets Captain Sioned Harries was in positive mood despite the loss; “I’m extremely proud of all the girls’ efforts and commitment throughout the campaign so far, entering the championship as the current title holders will always bring great pressure, but I thought the girls were excellent today and showed great endeavour. Unfortunately, we didn’t start the second half as we ended the first and the Ospreys punished us.  We know what we need to work on for the next round of games and I am confident we will come back stronger for this experience. Our main focus is giving each player the best opportunity to showcase their talent on a regional and national scale whilst developing our ability as a squad.”

Scarlets Team: 15 Dyddgu Hywel 14 Angharad de Smet 13 Elen Evans 12 Jodie Evans 11 Jess Kavanagh 10 Hannah Jones 9 Ffion Lewis; 1 Emma Edwards 2 Delyth Davies 3 Danielle Jenkins 4 Ffion Jones 5 Elin Hywel 6 Alisha Butchers 7 Sioned Harries 8 Natalie Walsh Replacements: Morfudd Ifans, Rachel Norris, Gwenllian Prys, Awen Prysor, Jennie Collins, Steph Harries, Beth Jones, Brittony Price.

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Penybont secure Championship conference place

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PENYBONT secured their place in the Championship Conference for the second phase of the JD Cymru Premier after they beat Haverfordwest County on Friday (Apr 2).

Manager Rhys Griffiths will have been delighted with his side, who, prior to Friday’s game, had already gained 11 more points this season than they had in the entirety of the 2019/20 season.

Ahead of the game, Haverfordwest knew they needed to win to stand a chance of moving into the top six.

A County win, coupled with a defeat for Caernarfon Town, could have seen them sneak into sixth place but it wasn’t to be for Wayne Jones’ men.

The Bont applied the pressure early on but were unable to test County keeper Matthew Turner.

There was concern for Turner shortly before the half hour mark as he claimed the ball but fell awkwardly under the challenge of Kane Owen.

After receiving treatment he was taken off to be replaced by Wojciech Gajda.

With 45 minutes on the clock the Bont had a corner which Owen floated in and it was Sam Snaith who got his head to it to score despite the best efforts of Gajda.

It was a big blow to the Bluebirds who would have hoped to have been level at the break.

Three minutes into the second half, Ben Fawcett forced his way through but his effort was blocked by the Bont defender.

On 53 minutes, the ball was played into the box from a free kick and sent back across goal to Snaith. He took one touch to flick the ball up in the air and acrobatically shoot towards goal but Gajda made an excellent save to keep his side in the game.

Five minutes later, the Bont doubled their lead as the ball was played to Mael Davies who sent a low driven shot into the bottom left corner of the net.

Sub Marcus Griffiths had an effort for the visitors but his shot towards the bottom left corner was tame and keeper Morris made a comfortable save.

With just over fifteen minutes to go, the ball was played forward for Fawcett but he couldn’t get enough power on his shot and saw his effort saved by the Bont keeper.

The Bluebirds won a series of corners with seven minutes remaining but they were unable to get an effort in as the Bont defended well.

As the clock ticked towards the 90, the Bluebirds’ task of scoring three goals to win the game became increasingly unlikely.

The Bont saw the game out to seal the win and they can now look forward to the second phase of the season in the Championship conference.

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Pitch bookings for organised under 18s outdoor activity resume

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL is now able to accept outdoor pitch bookings for organised children’s outdoor activity.

It follows the Welsh Government allowing U18 organised sporting activity to resume.

All Council outdoor pitches are now taking bookings and the council is inviting all junior clubs to get in touch and to book their space.

Whatever your team sport, as long as you are delivering organised sports sessions for children, activities are fully risk assessed and you follow the safety guidelines specified by your sport’s governing body, the council is open and ready to welcome you back.

For more information, to make your booking and to get started please email leisureadmin@pembrokeshire.gov.uk with your club name, the sport you will be training for, the number of players who will be attending along with the days and times you would like to book for.

Please also add your name and contact details along with the space you will be booking and, importantly, the leisure centre you wish to book for.

Further news on facility re-opening will be released as it happens. Check www.pembrokeshireleisure.co.uk and follow Pembrokeshire Leisure on Facebook for updates, news and ways to keep yourself healthy.

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Sport

A 48-7 victory over Italy leaves Wales a win from the Grand Slam

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IT was always going to be a tough game for the Italian side, but now it is official, Wales are one win away from the Grand Slam!

Wales scored seven tries through Josh Adams, Taulupe Faletau, Ken Owens (2), George North, Callum Sheedy and Louis Rees-Zammit as they secured a comfortable Six Nations win in Rome.

The unbeaten tournament leaders reeled off a third successive bonus-point victory to increase pressure on their rivals for silverware. Italy meanwhile are staring down the barrel at another Wooden Spoon – they haven’t won a Six Nations match since 2015.

STILL A BIT OF WORK TO DO

The Welsh captain, Alun Wyn Jones, who is just one win away from winning his fourth Six Nations Grand Slam told S4C: “We were pretty clinical, particularly in the first half.

“We’re a tad frustrated with the second half but it’s a case of job done and plenty to work on.

“The excitement I feel every time I pull on this red jersey is insurmountable, so I’m looking forward to getting back to it on Monday and preparing for next weekend.”

Jones added: “It’s job done, but there’s still a bit to work on.”

Another heavy defeat will again raise the inevitable questions about Italy’s position in the Six Nations and whether there should be relegation.

The facts speak for themselves.

Today marked a 31st successive defeat for the Azzurri in the competition, with their last victory coming against Scotland in 2015.

Italy have not managed a home Six Nations win for eight years, with 20 successive losses.

Italy have conceded 187 points and 26 tries in four games this year.

 

Line-ups
Italy: Trulla, Bellini, Brex, Canna, Ioane, Garbisi, Varney; Fischetti, Bigi (capt), Zilocchi, Cannone, Sisi, Negri, Meyer, Lamaro.

Replacements: Fabiani for Ioane (7-18), Lovotti for Fischetti (65) Riccioni for Zilocchi (33), Lazzaroni for Cannone (52), Mbanda for Meyer (26-36), Violi for Varney (63), Mori for Garbisi (54) Padovani for Trulla (44).

Wales: L Williams; Rees-Zammit, North, J Davies, Adams; Biggar, G Davies; W Jones, Owens, Tomas Francis, Hill, AW Jones (capt), Navidi, Tipuric, Faletau.

Replacements: Dee for Owens (54), Carre for W Jones (57), Brown for Francis (45), Ball for AW Jones (54), Wainwright for Faletau (51), L Williams for G Davies (52), Sheedy for Biggar (52), Halaholo for North (46)

Match officials
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)

Touch judges: Pascal Gauzere (France) & Christophe Ridley (England)

TMO: Tom Foley (England)

MATCH ANALYSIS

Surely it was discipline that was the main problem for Italy.

Mistakes and an incredible ability to give away stupid penalties, as a series of needless errors allowed the visitors to build an insurmountable lead early on.

It all started with Paolo Garbisi sending the ball dead from the kick-off before Luca Bigi infringed at the breakdown. The captain then cynically stopped a Gareth Davies quick tap and was duly yellow carded. Against 14 men, Wales built up an advantage they would not relinquish as the visitors won the game before it had really started. It was not a good example from the skipper and is symptomatic of where the Italians are currently at.

Arguably since before the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour, the back has struggled for form, leading many to question whether that was it for the Welsh centurion. Although he is only 28, it must be remembered that North has been around at the top level for a long time and there is only so much the body can take in modern day rugby. However, the move into the midfield seems to have given him a new lease of life.

To the surprise of many, Callum Sheedy did not start against Italy after his superb performance versus England. Instead, it was the much criticised Dan Biggar who continued at fly-half and produced a significantly improved display before giving way to the Bristol playmaker in the second period. Sheedy was also excellent when he came on and it leaves Wayne Pivac with a decision to make going forward. No doubt, Biggar will start next week against France – albeit the head coach is not afraid of making a big call – but the 25-year-old is certainly not far off the first XV.

Much has been said and written about the Azzurri’s continued presence in the Six Nations and based on the evidence in this fixture, they really shouldn’t be playing in a competition of this stature. Franco Smith’s charges were never at the races with Wales racing into a 22-0 lead midway through the half without really breaking a sweat. Italy hardly threatened on attack – especially during the first half – and it looked like it was a case of men against boys for large periods of this Test. The result means they have now lost 31 matches on the trot, which is the longest losing streak in the history of the Championship, and they last tasted victory in a Round Three clash against Scotland in 2015. The time is now ripe for tournament organisers to reconsider their participation.

Although Italy were never in this encounter, Wales deserve plenty of credit as they impressed for the entire game and made full use of the opportunities which were presented to them.

Pivac will be delighted with the clinical fashion with which his players went about their business and they had their bonus point in the bag by the half-hour mark after Josh Adams, Taulupe Faletau and Ken Owens (2) crossed for tries. Despite leading 27-0 at the interval, Wales did not take their foot of the pedal with North also crossing the whitewash soon after the restart and although Monty Ioane scored a try for the hosts, that was a mere blip as Wales continued to dominate and sealed their win with five-pointers from Sheedy and Louis Rees-Zammit.

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