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Battling Wales’ wait for All Blacks win goes on

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By Jonathan Twigg

A PACKED Principality Stadium in Cardiff witnessed a sporting occasion on Saturday (Nov 25) when the New Zealand All Blacks, under the stewardship of former Wales Head Coach Steve Hansen emerged with a 33-18 victory over Warren Gatland’s Welsh side, to extend their winning run to 30 and with it extend the longest winning sequence in international rugby.

Not since Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953, a year when Sir Edmund Hillary climbed Mount Everest have Wales lowered the All Blacks colours, conceding over 1000 points in the process; the All Black side on Saturday showed ten changes to the one which drew the final test of the summers battle with the British & Irish lions, showing true character to win the game scoring four tries in the process.

Wales included eight Scarlets players in their staring XV in a ‘phoenix’ moment they were led out by centre Scott Williams who was winning his fiftieth cap, even though he failed to make the original squad selection for the Autumn series.

The crowd had been whipped into a frenzy on the cold winter evening thanks to the RAF band of the Regiment of the Royal Welsh who will be celebrating their centenary next year. A former fighter pilot from Cardiff, Roald Dahl utilised a period of ‘grounding’ to hone his writing skill but not even he could have scripted the drama which unfolded before the 74,500 capacity crowd, starting wih the anthems to the ever impressive Maori ‘Haka’.

The kick off saw the ball plunged into the hands of Jake Ball with the Scarlets lock forward setting the platform for Dan Bigger to hoist a ‘Gary Owen’. Beauden Barrett and Sonny Bill Williams looked shaky as play was moved back a forth across the pitch by Wales.

From a scrum 5m out the Welsh pack got a nudge on and Scarlets full back Leigh Halfpenny opened the scoring with a ninth minute penalty. Scarlets scrum half Gareth Davies appeared in the amphitheatre as a concussed Rhys Webb was withdrawn and despite Scarlets hooker Ken Owens and his line out jumpers being unable to win that set piece battle the scrum was gaining momentum.

Wales were enjoying both territory and possession but as in any groundhog scenario, the Webb Ellis cup holders first foray into the Welsh half by winger Rieko Ioane set in motion a flowing All Black move.  Scrum half Aaron Smith took up the mantle and moved back outside to find winger Waisake Naholo who ran over Scarlets winger Steff Evans to stun the crowd into silence, and Barrett rubbed salt into the wounds with a brilliant touchline conversion for a 7-3 lead.

The difference between the world champions and any pretenders to their crown is the clinical way they ensure they score when opportunities are presented to them. Wales have a fluency in their running and passing through the channels but let themselves down with a lack of vision and composure at the crucial time.

Winger Hallam Amos had one such opportunity as did Taulupe Faletau who spilled the ball with the white line beneath him as ferocious battle lines were drawn deeply in the turf. A shoulder dislocation to Ball brought forth asthma sufferer Cory Hill proving such a lifelong debilitating illness does not prevent participation at the highest level.

Big game players develop as their experience builds, where young winger Evans will take solace as he was found wanting at key times, with missed tackles and grubber kicks to make him turn.

New Zealand developed a game plan to play on this but could not prevent the influence of Scarlets prop Rob Evans on the game; now the nominated first receiver as he put Biggar into space to create the opening for Evans to flutter those magic daps, the reason why the youngster has been selected by Gatland.

On his tail was six foot six Scarlets flanker Aaron Shingler who linked well with back row colleagues Faletau and Josh Navidi to offer Halfpenny a 45m penalty which he failed to accept. The back row trio were using front foot ball and the All Blacks made 86 tackles, 70 more than their hosts as they kept the saucepan simmering and not boiling despite Halfpenny taking the score back to 7-6.

Scrum half Davies volleyed the ball though for the Welsh forwards to hit the gain line at pace, although the World champions themselves refused to settle for an easy three points when offered.  They were happy to go live with a quick tap and drive from three penalties which was rewarded with second try for Naholo in the corner for a 12-6 lead.

Wales did want to play and a length of the field counter attack in the final minute of the half set Amos away on a 40m burst. Biggar freed Williams who strode for the corner as the half time whistle saw them just a point adrift and had Tom and Glyn Richards from the Castle Inn, Newport purring with disbelief.

“The atmosphere is electric and Wales have fed off the passion within this cauldron. Credit the All Blacks who have smothered the Welsh fire and hold a lead when they have been under the cosh for the majority of the game” screamed Glyn.

Wales were dangerous and had stopped the Kiwis playing, pushing them back through the gate and making them defend with vigour, but it was in the final third where the difference stood out.  Faletau was set at outside centre for the offensive line but perhaps tiredness, familiarity or compliancy prevented the importing scores appearing. The All Blacks possess brilliance, which Wales have but perhaps don’t exploit for the final piece of magic to finish the jigsaw.

The second half began with a more even share of the ball and Naholo straightened his running line to put Ioane through the defence line; when he was stopped Naholo was on hand to score under posts for 19-11 from which Doctor Jamie Roberts replaced Williams to hopefully inject a change in fortunes as prop and Evans departed with fifteen minutes remaining.

The Welsh ambition died when Biggar’s popped pass lacked peripheral vision as his support players were off the pace; Ioane read the play to collect and scoot over for a converted try at 26-11. Amos and Navidi continued to set a belligerent platform; Faletau came close to scoring and the scrum reached a dominant stratosphere, with Kiwi skipper also Sam Whitelock yellow carded.

With a man advantage a solid scrum ensued from which Davies emerged from the blindside to squeeze over from 10m and Halfpenny superbly converted for 26-18 but two scores still required for victory.

The seven man All Black pack absorbed their man deficit and from quick ball off their own scrum Smith looped around replacement Lima Sopoaga for man of the match Ioane to arrive off his wing and blitz over for a classic try, converted by Barrett to end the games scoring 33-18 with five minutes left.

Wales have one game left in their Autumn Series against South Africa, before their attention will switch to the opening game of the Six Nations.

A Gregor Townsend inspired Scotland arrive at the Principality Stadium on Saturday (Feb 3) for the afternoon kick off which will bring a stern test which Wales will have to meet front on.

News

Haverfordwest County AFC launch 2024-25 away kit

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Haverfordwest County AFC have said this week that they are delighted to launch our away kit for the 2024-25 season.

Inspired by the history and heritage of Pembrokeshire, the shirt features the colours of the flag of St David, which is universally recognised and proudly flown at the Ogi Bridge Meadow. The flag itself is featured across the back of the collar.

The unique design will ensure that we represent the county on our travels around Wales throughout the season, while also enabling us to stand out on the field.

The shorts will be all-black, while the socks will be all-black with two yellow stripes at the top and a yellow Bluebird in the middle.

As is the case with the home shirt, the Haverfordwest County AFC and Tor Sports logos are printed in the top left and top right of the shirt respectively, while our ‘Playing For Pembrokeshire’ logo is featured in the bottom left corner.

You can purchase the new away shirt by visiting their club shop on Tor Sports by clicking here.

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Sport

MCE Team Wales prepares for International Nations Classique in France

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THE MCE Team Wales Classic MX, comprising 27 seasoned motocross riders, is gearing up to compete in the prestigious International Nations Classique race in Ahun, France. The event, scheduled for 16-18 August, will see Team Wales pitted against 13 other international teams, including strong contenders from the USA, Cuba, France, and Switzerland.

The team recently held a successful practice session at the meticulously prepared Meidrim track, thanks to the efforts of Stephen Holmes, Glen Mottram, and their dedicated team. Riders showcased their skills on classic bikes dating from 1956 to 1999, setting the stage for what promises to be an exciting competition.

Adding to the day’s enjoyment, attendees were treated to a superb buffet lunch prepared and served by The Wonderful Bar Hire Company. The 15-piece band ‘Sound Authority’ provided a lively musical backdrop, enhancing the festive atmosphere.

A highlight of the day was the presentation of the team kit by lead sponsor Mark Davies of Mitsui Components Europe. The contributions of all 21 sponsors were duly acknowledged, reflecting the community’s robust support for the team. A special thanks was extended to Peter Anderson, an honorary team member, whose generous donation allowed all riders to enjoy a complimentary drink from the bar.

Team Wales Manager Sean Smith expressed heartfelt gratitude for the hard work and support of key individuals, including Sharon Lewis, David Redfern, Delyth Smith, Brogan, Kolby, Star, Stephen Holmes, Gary Jones, Jane Hill, and photographer Lesley Clarke. The event’s success was also attributed to the tireless support from riders’ families and an army of volunteers.

Smith reflected on the day’s success, stating, “It was just the happiest day with the nicest people,” underscoring the strong sense of community and enthusiasm that propels Team Wales forward as they prepare for the international stage.

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Pembroke County Cricket Club Junior Leagues: Semi-finals confirmed

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THE EXCITEMENT in the Pembroke County Cricket Club Junior Leagues is palpable as the semi-finals for the Under 11’s category have been confirmed after a whirlwind of last-minute matches. The semi-finals will take place on 22nd July, with the eagerly anticipated final set for 7th August at Hook.

In a thrilling draw, the fixtures are as follows: Cresselly Under 11’s (Doves) will face off against Cresselly Under 10’s (Maroons), while St Ishmaels will go head-to-head with Lawrenny. The first-named teams will enjoy home advantage in these crucial matches.

Under 11’s Division:

The recent matches have been a showcase of young talent and competitive spirit. Laugharne faced Lawrenny in a gripping encounter, with Laugharne posting 224 runs before being all out. Lawrenny responded with a strong performance, reaching 227 for 4, thanks to standout contributions from Koby Lewis and Abby Stanley. Lewis scored 13 runs and took 1 wicket for 4 runs, while Stanley added 7 runs and claimed 2 wickets for 10 runs.

Another high-scoring game saw Whitland take on Lamphey. Despite Whitland’s 223 runs, Lamphey emerged victorious with a total of 283 for 7. Lamphey’s A Bendall shone brightly, scoring 25 runs and taking 5 wickets for just 2 runs, supported by strong performances from G Morris and L Midgley.

Hook continued their impressive form with a win over Cresselly Development, scoring 277 for 4 against their opponents’ 256 for 8. Dougie Goronwy and Tom Evans each scored 8 runs, while Oliver Brock contributed significantly with 2 wickets for 5 runs.

In a match against St Ishmaels, Hook fell short despite a valiant effort, scoring 232 for 12 in response to St Ishmaels’ 265 for 7. Maddox Bradshaw’s 12 runs and 4 wickets for 1 run were crucial for St Ishmaels, alongside solid performances from George Devonald and Seb Vickers.

The final Under 11’s match saw a dominant Cresselly side amass 424 runs for 3 wickets against Pembroke’s 151 for 15, cementing their position as a formidable force in the league.

Under 13’s Division:

Llechryd proved too strong for Whitland, with a decisive victory. Llechryd posted 183 for 5 and then bowled out Whitland for a mere 55. A James and F Cartwright were the stars for Llechryd, both contributing significantly with bat and ball.

In another clash, Llanrhian took on Haverfordwest, but despite a solid effort from Llanrhian, they were unable to surpass Haverfordwest’s total of 130 for 6. B Baker’s 25 runs were pivotal for Haverfordwest, while J Phillips gave a commendable all-round performance for Llanrhian.

St Ishmaels triumphed over Neyland in a closely contested match. Luca Orton’s 28 runs and Seb Vickers’ 2 wickets for 20 runs led St Ishmaels to a victory, narrowly defending their total of 100 for 5 against Neyland’s 94 for 4.

Under 15’s Division:

Kilgetty Under 14’s showcased their skills with a comprehensive win over Haverfordwest Under 14’s. Jack Cole’s 35 runs and Taylor Lewis’s 3 wickets for 10 runs were instrumental in Kilgetty’s total of 122 for 6, which proved too much for Haverfordwest, who managed only 60 for 9 in response.

However, in a match against Kilgetty, St Ishmaels’ game was abandoned in the 18th over with the result yet to be confirmed. Prior to the abandonment, M Britton and C Welch had led St Ishmaels to 124 for 3, while L Hall and E Gottwaltz made notable contributions for Kilgetty.

The cut-off dates for the Under 13’s and Under 15’s leagues are 26th July and 31st July, respectively. For more details and league standings, enthusiasts can visit the Pembroke County Cricket Club’s play-cricket website.

As the junior cricket season progresses, anticipation builds for the upcoming matches and the final showdown at Hook. Stay tuned for more updates and results.

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