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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 Scarlets scrum half Gareth Davies appeared in the amphitheatre as a concussed Rhys Webb was withdrawn and despite Scarlets hooker Ken Owens and his line out jumpers being unable to win that set piece battle the scrum was gaining momentum.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.

Sport

Neyland Town council to meet cricket clubs’ Village Cup expenses

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NEYLAND TOWN COUNCIL has agreed to donate £250 to the town’s cricket club as they continue their National Village Cup campaign.

Neyland beat Cresselly in the Dyfed Area final earlier this month to progress to the last 32 of the competition.

This Sunday (Jun 20), they travel to the West Midlands to take on Milford Hall and the town’s mayor has agreed to meet their expenses.

If Neyland can continue their journey in the Village Cup a final at ‘the home of cricket’, Lords awaits in September.

Mayor Simon Hancock said: “As Mayor, in consultation with the clerk, we have agreed to make a donation of £250 to Neyland Cricket Club to help meet their expenses in travelling to Stafford in the West Midlands on Sunday.

“They are down to the final 32 teams left in the Voneus Village Cup originally drawing 350 teams from England, Scotland and Wales.

“The Neyland Cricket team have achieved astonishing success over recent years and Neyland Town Council want to assist them in reaching Lords, ‘the home of cricket’ in September. Good luck for Sunday’s fixture.”

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Crymych cricket club face folding if players don’t come forward

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CRYMYCH Cricket Club has launched an appeal for new players to join the club as it looks to fulfil its fixtures.

The club, founded 40 years ago, plays in Division 4 of the Pembroke County Cricket Club league but has seen several players unable to commit to playing due to family or other reasons.

They also play games in the Ken Morris Cup and in the Tivy Valley League during weekdays.

On their social media, the club has warned that they face folding if they are unable to find new players.

Crymych’s latest fixture on Saturday, June 12, had to be cancelled because they were unable to raise a team.

It meant that there opponents, Llechryd Seconds, were awarded the 20 points as Crymych were unable to fulfil the fixture.

This Saturday (Jun 19), Crymych are scheduled to visit Whitland seconds and the following week (Jun 26) they are scheduled to face Carew thirds on home soil.

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Cresselly see off Pembroke Dock to reach Alec Colley quarters

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CRESSELLY booked their place in the quarter finals of the Alec Colley Cup on Wednesday night (Jun 16) as they beat Pembroke Dock.

The Dock won the toss and elected to field but they saw the home side reach 183-5 in their 20 overs.

Scott Arthur and Mike Venables shared 62 runs for the opening wicket as they batted well together.

Bowyn Clark made the breakthrough for the Dock as he bowled Arthur who had hit a four and two sixes in his score of 26.

Soon after, Rhys Daley trapped Julian Arthur leg before wicket and he also bowled Venables on a score of 32 (three fours, one six) to leave the hosts on 72-3.

However, Simon Cole and Damian Arthur shared an excellent fourth wicket stand worth 101 runs.

Arthur his six fours and a six in his score of 43 from 28 balls but he was caught by Chris Owen off the bowling of John Camani.

Simon Cole hit ten fours in a score of 66 from 40 balls as Cresselly set the Dock an imposing target.

Needing 184 to win, the Dock lost Rhys Daley early on when he was bowled by Morgan Lewis.

Archie Hillier-Wood and Anton John shared 30 runs for the second wicket but it was Lewis again who made the breakthrough as he had John caught by Josh Lewis.

Hillier-Wood and Peter Kingdom shared another 30 runs for the third wicket before Josh Lewis had Kingdom caught by Julian Arthur.

Matthew Lewis then trapped Hillier-Wood leg before on a score of 30 to reduce the Dock to 73-4.

Corey Lewis bowled John Camani before Simon Cole bowled Adam Phillips on a score of 18.

The Dock’s score had been helped along by 25 extras but time began to run out for them and Corey Lewis picked up his second wicket late on to reduce the Dock on 116-7.

It meant that Cresselly picked up the win by 67 runs.

Elsewhere, Herbrandston booked their place in the quarter finals as they beat Llechryd.

Llechryd scored 100-9 in their innings before Herbie passed their target with only two wickets down.

The nights’ other match saw Saundersfoot take on Stackpole.

Stackpole reached a score of 85-7 in their innings before Saundersfoot eased to a 10-wicket win.

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