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Skudder’s try hat trick in Blues victory

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Written by Jonathan Twigg

HAVERFORDWEST travelled to Pill Parks, Llangwm on Saturday (Sept 23) and returned with a convincing 54-5 victory to keep their 100% Division 3A West league record intact thanks to a hat trick of tries from winger Ben Skudder.

Skudder was part of a back division which dominated the game for the ‘Blues’ as outside half Matthew Davies pulled the strings for centre pairing of Gareth John and Dane Pindair to cause problems all afternoon for the hosts.

In fairness to the Wasps they battled hard to the end and ensured their more ‘millionaire’ opponents didn’t get it all their own way as the scoreline suggests, especially in the game’s opening quarter when outside half Louis Murphy had three kickable penalty attempts to chalk his side on the scoreboard.

Llangwm, whilst disjointed in their phased build up play drew the Haverfordwest defence line into conceding numerous penalties.

Time after time the visitors were guilty of being penalised for over running the offside line or holding in the tackle, with referee Davies warning skipper Alun Harries of his concern.

An outline of the Blue inability to master the referees requirement resulted in occasions where they were marched back 10m for verbally berating his decisions, where fifteen penalties were conceded in the first 25 minutes. From one such offence of not releasing the player in the tackle centre John was sin binned with his side leading 7-0, after he had converted a fine try by full back Ollie Hughes.

Davies had pushed a 25m drop out deep into the Llangwm half which saw home full back Steve Picton caught by hooker Ryan Palmer as he ran the ball back on 12 minutes. Second row Adam Williams picked up and drove on from the ruck, before a half break from scrum half Richard James saw Pindair break through two tackles on the crash ball. The Blues forwards quickly recycled the ball for Davies to put Hughes in space and he rounded the covering tackles wide out to score.

An impatient Haverfordwest prevented them delivering a much larger winning margin as they endeavoured to push boundaries in the aim of scoring from early phase possession. Coaches Bruce Evans and Simon Le Petit would have been frustrated with this lack of composure which saw promising attacking movements halted by handling errors.

With John out of the game following his tackle to stop home centre Josh Hicks strong run over 30m through the midfield, it did have the desired effect to settle their play into a composed rhythm.

This resulted in the second score of the half, an opening effort for Skudder who responded to James’ tap and go from a penalty following a scrum offence for pushing early by the home pack.

Ben Skudder: A hat trick of tries for the Blues

Davies accepted the ball from James feeding dynamic flanker Morgan Layton, who rumbled 15m upfield before Pindair’s quick hands put full back Hughes in space.  He drew last man Picton with a beautiful timed pass to Skudder who raced over from 35m before Hughes slotted over the conversion in John’s absence.

Haverfordwest, buoyed by this second score when reduced to 14 men kept the same game plan causing Llangwm to miss tackles through Jack Griffiths, Hicks, Murphy and Picton which allowed Haverfordwest to dominate the territory as half time approached.

Back to full strength prop Ritchie Little was instrumental in setting a platform for Davies to dance over with five minutes of the half remaining, although John missed the simplest of his kicks to leave the half time score 19-0 in the Blues favour.

The second half started as the first had finished with the visitors on the front foot, although the game didn’t gain momentum with both packs at fault for ‘early engagement’ penalties which riled the partisan supporters of both camps.

Encounters between the two sides over the years have been feisty and the traditional ‘Bishop Cup’ fixtures on Boxing Day attracting four figures crowds revelling in their time out of the house during the Yule tide period.  Banter at these games is second to none and both sides buy into the occasion and raise their game.

‘Harfat’ landed their bonus point try as the hour mark approached after Hicks was isolated in possession and the ball swiftly moved out to the hands of Davies and John for Pindair to put winger Rhys Baker over towards the play park corner for John to superbly convert, where he didn’t miss another kick all afternoon.

The versatile Hicks, playing at Centre having started the season as a second row was taking the game to the visitors, where the rest of the home side, second Row Ashley James and skipper James Lewis apart failed to respond. Hicks surprisingly lacked some football skills when leading the foot race with James as he was quickest to respond to his skipper and hooker Aled Morgans work on the ground.

The strong running centre did get his sides score on 65 minutes when a poor kick from Pindair was collected by number 8 Ian Griffiths who with his fellow back row of James Lewis, skipper and namesake, playing on permit from Whitland allowed Hicks some momentum in midfield.  He left John and Skudder in his wake as he thundered over from 25m, with Picton missing the conversion.

The smarting Blues quickly regrouped after allowing their defences to be breached and two minutes later from a scrum, Davies and John combined to put Pindair into space and he broke a tackle from Gavin Jenkins to stroll in from 15m and the lead was 33-5.

With ten minutes remaining Skudder scored his second try after good work again by hooker Palmer on the floor ensured space was created wide out for Skudder to finish under the posts.

Home second row James again came to the fore, in his first game of the season to allow his side to gain territory from their limited possession, with the game drifting towards a mundane finish as fitness impacted on the skill level alongside the continual run of replacements.

The final score of the afternoon came with a minute of play remaining, after a mazy Baker run over 35m resulted in a Llangwm scrum as Josh Atherton was penalised for holding the ball.

The Blues pack managed to get ‘one against the head’ allowing skipper Harries to pick up from the base of the scrum, feeding the ball back inside to James to get a pass away to the ‘loitering’ Skudder who pinned back his ears over 20m for his hattrick and push the scoreboard over the 50 point mark.

Coaching gurus Evans and Le Petit were delighted with the win post-match, identifying the work rate of flanker Layton in the same breath as Skudder for his finishing and ball players Davies and Hughes for their awareness in getting the ball wide to players in space. “We didn’t want to get embroiled in a dog fight, which many of these local derbies can become” said Evans. “Our game plan was disrupted, maybe by the occasion as we weren’t willing to build the phases required to create the scoring opportunities.”

Sport

County go through in MG Cup after thumping Barry

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HAVERFORDWEST County began life under manager Tony Pennock in fine fashion with a 4-2 victory over Barry Town United in the Nathaniel MG Cup second round on Friday night (Aug 5).

A brace from Jack Wilson, along with goals from debutants Lee Jenkins and Rhys Abbruzzese helped see the Bluebirds safely through to the third round.

Josh Graham and Mo Djalo found the net for the Dragons, who reached the semi-final of the competition last season, but it wasn’t enough as County’s extra firepower made the difference.

In front of a crowd of 337 at the Ogi Bridge Meadow, the Bluebirds nearly took an early lead when Wilson got a volley away from inside the area which was pushed away by Cameron Clarke.

The majority of the chances fell the hosts’ way in the first-half, with Jordan Davies trying his luck from distance after Clarke had come off his line and given possession away, before Ryan George’s solo run to the edge of the area ended with the wing-back shooting over the bar.

Jenkins then went close when he rose highest to meet Wilson’s long throw into the area, with his header going narrowly wide of the right post.

It was very nearly 1-0 on the half hour mark when George’s cross into the area picked out Jordan Davies, who directed his header goalwards but saw the ball cleared off the line.

However, just three minutes later, it was 1-0 when the ball was worked out to George on the right side, and his cross picked out the towering Jenkins who powered his header into the left corner to mark his first competitive County appearance with a goal.

Almost immediately after the restart though, the Dragons found an equaliser as a through ball played Graham in, and the forward slid the ball past Lewis Brass for an instant response.

Wilson shot over the bar as Haverfordwest County looked to restore their lead before the break, and while he was off target on this occasion, seven minutes after the restart his header from debutant Jamie Veale’s corner flew into the net to make it 2-1.

And less than five minutes later, the youngster almost doubled the Bluebirds’ advantage when a long ball upfield from Dylan Rees played him in, and an excellent first touch gave the forward a chance to get a chipped effort away which rolled just wide to deny what would have been a spectacular goal.

With the hour mark approaching, George sliced an effort wide of the right post, but just a minute later Abbruzzese was on hand to tap in from point-blank range from Jordan Davies’ pass to join Jenkins in netting on his debut with a goal against his former club.

Pennock’s men were full of confidence at this stage, and they were able to make it tell when Abbruzzese turned provider to set Wilson up to score his second goal of the night with a neat finish from close range to extend the advantage to 4-1.

Gavin Chesterfield’s side pulled a goal back with just over 10 minutes remaining when they were awarded a penalty after Brass was adjudged to have fouled substitute Djalo inside the area, and the forward converted from the spot to make it 4-2.

With the Bluebirds in a comfortable position in the closing stages, Pennock was able to introduce academy product Toby Davies and exciting young prospect Dan James, allowing the pair to play out the final few minutes.

With their passage through to the next round safely secured, the Bluebirds now turn their attention to the start of the new JD Cymru Premier season, which gets under way with a game against Caernarfon Town at the Ogi Bridge Meadow next Saturday, August 13 (Kick-off 14:30).

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Sport

Hook seal win in Under 11s final

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Hook (246-6) beat Cresselly (217-10) by 29 runs

THIS year’s final was between the top two sides from both zones with Cresselly beating Haverfordwest in the one semi final and Hook beating Narberth in the other.

The Under11s game is played in a pairs format and Hook Captain Charlie Holder won the toss against his counter part Phoenix Phillips and decided to bowl first.

Some tight bowling from Hook saw St Cresselly lose wickets on a regular basis. The batting pairs of Phoenix and Ollie Toy put on 13, Arthur Jenkins and Elin Edwards 7, Caden Jones and Jack Mears 7 and Cody Jones and Finley Rowlands 7.

For Hook the pick of the bowlers were Olly Nutty 1-11, Rhys Tennick 2-10, Charlie Holder 2-10, Mason Hughes 2-12 and George Wonnacott 3-11. Cresselly finished on 217-10.

After Mondays rained off game where the Cresselly bowlers dominated the Hook batters came in with a bit more determination and Cresselly found wickets a little harder to take despite their best efforts.

Ollie Nutty and Mason Hughes put on 13 for the opening stand followed by Rhys Tennick and George Wonnacott 19, Jack llewellyn and Joe Warrender 14 and Charlie Holder and Oliver Stamp 18.

For Cresselly Jack Mears 1-12 , Phoenix Phillips 1-9 and an excellent direct hit run out, Cadyn Jones 3-8 and no doubt the fieder of the match with two suburb catches was Finley Rowlands.

Hook finished on 246-6.

This final was the inaugural year of the Evan Martin Trophy, a stalwart of Hook CC for many years, and after deliberations with the Umpires the trophy was awarded to a jubilant George Wonnacott of Hook

Again it was great to see a large crowd of knowledgable spectators who certainly saw some entertaining Cricket . It was great to see the two teams enjoying the aftermath game celebrations with Hook playing all sort of games on the field.

In the presentation after the match Martin Jones (Junior Organiser) congratulated both sides on reaching the Final with some excellent play by both and Hook for their victory. Both sides should be proud of their Junior sections.

He thanked Hook for hosting the final including Andrew Thomas & Keith James the grounds staff. Afterwards the Club l refreshments for the players, which was well received.

He thanked Umpires Allan Hansen and Robert Ridge, Scorers Natalie Jones & Jon Willington who all contributed to the evenings entertainment.

Last and by no means least he thanked Sponsors Colin John of Llewelyn Davies & Co Chartered Accountants for his continued and valuable support of Junior Cricket in the County togerther with Richard Merriman County Chairman.

Cresselly Squad: Rhys White, Bobby Shapcott, Mari Cole, Lilly & George

Hook Squad: Dylan Keen, Nico Quinn, Morgan Jones, Rowan Nickerson

Sponsor: Colin John – Llewelyn Davies & Co Chartered Accountants

Umpires: Allan Hansen & Robert Ridge

Scorers: Natalie Jones & Jon Willington

Coaches: Simon Cole/ Christian Phillips and Matthew Holder

Venue: Hook CC

Cresselly Under 11s
Evan Martin Trophy winner George Wonnacott
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Sport

Wales senior men’s assistant coach Gareth Williams departs

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GARETH Williams, Wales senior men’s assistant coach with responsibility for the contact area, has left his role to join the Scarlets as defence coach.

Williams departed following the three-Test Series in South Africa where Wales’ senior men’s side secured its first ever win over the Springboks in South Africa in the second Test.

The 40-year old started working as part of head coach Wayne Pivac’s coaching team during the 2020 Autumn Nations Cup and 2021 title-winning Guinness Six Nations campaigns, combining the role with his previous position with the Welsh Rugby Union as head of transitional players and head coach of Wales men’s U20, before being appointed on a full-time basis in June 2021.

Prior to this Williams spent a decade coaching Wales Sevens on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, during which time he helped his country win Rugby World Cup Sevens, as well as assisting Team GB in claiming silver at the Rio Olympics.

Pivac said: “I’d like to thank Gareth for his work over the last two years. It’s a shame to lose one of the coaching team just over a year out to Rugby World Cup, but I understand Gareth’s decision and am pleased for him.

“He’s not going far and it will be great having a good young coach moving from the national team into the regional system to further their development. This is also an important element in increasing alignment between international and domestic rugby in Wales.”

Williams said: “I’m incredibly proud to have been able to work with the men’s national team over the past two years. This is a such a great group of talented and hard-working players and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

“It is not an easy decision to leave and I’d like to thank Wayne, the other coaches and staff for all their support during my time with the squad.”

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