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Wales end Autumn Internationals with win

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By Jonathan Twigg

THE final game of Wales Under Armour Autumn International series saw Wales beat South Africa 24-22 at the Principality Stadium on Saturday (Dec 2).

That was thanks to, in no small part, a man of the match performance from debutant Scarlets centre Hadeligh Parkes, three years to the day since the New Zealander signed for the Scarlets and become eligible for his adoptive county.

The hosts ended the series on a high with victory over the 2007 World Cup winners, their third consecutive such victory despite fielding a side which had seven changes from the opening game defeat 29-21 to Australia.

A forward-orientated outfit, the South African set piece couldn’t dominate a Welsh pack well led by skipper Alun Wyn Jones, where the embattlement of the mauls was an area of contention for French referee Jerome Garces.

Wales have tried this Autumn to play an open and expansive style favoured now by coach Warren Gatland although the jury is still out on whether it will see its rewards at the 2019 world cup.

The opportunity to expose both new and inexperienced players to international rugby was a bold one from Gatland where his plans were also hampered by injuries although he was aware that his army of English based players, Talupe Faletau apart couldn’t play in.

The pack chosen by Gatland, skipper Jones and Faletau apart mustered 66 caps between and epitomises how the Welsh management team viewed the games as ensuring Wales have strength in depth moving forward.

Saturday’s starting XV included seven Scarlets which kicked off the game, with another two appearing from the substitute’s bench. Centre Scott Williams, departing next season for the Ospreys, scored the opening try for the second successive week and erased any concern over his future selection in Welsh squads after he was omitted in the initial draft selection by Gatland.

Another to benefit from a run in an international jersey was winger Steff Evans who is mercurial with the ball in hand as spectators anticipate what he can produce but he is still at a schoolboy level when it comes to defensive work and tactical understanding.

That will develop as he builds a working relationship as part of a back three which must include former Scarlet Liam Williams and Leigh Halpenny who on Saturday had a welcome return to form as his prodigious accuracy with the boot had come under scrutiny.

Evans may find himself out of the side come the six nations as Hallam Amos would be ahead of him and George North would be in contention.

Parkes’ first game for his adopted country will be one to remember as he partnered club colleague Scott Williams and five Scarlets in the back line, a tribute to the work current Scarlets coaches, headed by Wayne Pivac are doing in West Wales.

The thirty year old makes key decisions with calm acuity and scored two first half tries after Williams had crossed the whitewash in the fifth minute.

Wales’ new style has struggled to score tries, having crossed the whitewash just five times prior to this game and the opening try came from Williams after a cross kick by Dan Biggar was caught by Amos who flew from out wide gaining 30m finding Williams on his shoulder to glide in from 20m and Halfpenny added the extras for 7-0.

Three minutes later following the Men of Harlech turning over possession outside the Springbok 22m box, Biggar cleverly varied his play putting in a deft grubber kick and Parkes collected from 10m capitalising on the visiting defence being at sixes and sevens, to score a debut try under the posts for 14-0.

The Springboks have struggled on their tour of the northern hemisphere, losing 38-3 to Ireland on their opening game and skipper Eben Etzabeth needed his side to get their A game in motion, where they were 5kg a man heavier upfront.

After 18 minutes but a prolonged review by the TMO saw Springboks hooker Malcolm Marx effort ruled out as he was deemed to have been held up over the line and their efforts were wasted when from the ensuing attacking Scrum 5 Williams intercepted to put Steff Evans off and running over 50m as play swung from one 22m box to the other.

Wales were in control and the dynamic Biggar rifled a bullet kick over 65m which forced full back Andries Coetzee to fall over the touchline and allow Wales the line out throw for another attacking position where Parks was strong and direct in looking to break the gain line.

South Africa lacked a leader behind the pack, where Marx scooped a low ball and combined well with back row man Siya Kolisi to gain 25m to establish a foothold in the game when a high tackle resulted in outside half Handre Pollard reducing the deficit to 14-3 after half an hour.

Two minutes later, Coetzee was far too relaxed in clearing the ball as Biggar charged down his kick, which resulted in a second try by Parkes when Faletau collected the bouncing ball and pop it inside for the Kiwi to score under the posts and a 21-3 lead.

Like the week before Wales had the majority of possession and territory but this week had turned this into points although worryingly for defence coach Shaun Edwards they allowed the visitors back into the game before half time when a break out of defence by winger Dillyn Leyds took play 50m up field where the kick ahead bounced kindly for fellow winger Warrick Gelant touchdown and Pollard convert for a half time score of 21-10.

Skipper Etzebeth didn’t appear after the half time oranges, replaced by Oupa Mohoje and he galvanised the side alongside Marx and immediately reduced the deficit when Pollard scored an unconverted try 21-15.

Scarlets prop Rob Evans, an undoubted cornerstone of the Welsh side for years to come with an unbuckling presence at the set piece and a mantra as a silky, mobile ball handler, was replaced by team mate Wyn Jones and outside half Rhys Patchell appeared for an injured Biggar.

From his first touch Patchell was ‘Biggaresqe’ finding Amos with a cross field kick whilst being is all hands with tricks in the mix where he called the shots for a back line which now included six Scarlets in the back division.

Upfront another to establish a high profile in the Autumn Series, flanker Aaron Shingler was a tower of strength alongside his skipper Jones in securing line out ball, although he would have an honest reflection over the tackle area which became a key battle ground as the aerial game worked well to keep the red tide moving forward.

As the second half wore on the South African side came more into the ascendency to deservedly take the lead when centre Jesse Kriel, his sides current leading try scorer crossed wide out, before Pollard landed a superlative conversion for a 22-21 lead.

Wales for the second half had been off the pace and the momentum they derived in the first half to score three tries had dried up as they were starved of possession.

Tried and tested in previous games Wales sought out Faletau as a wide receiver as they tried to break up the games pattern, with Shingler leading a line out drive for a Halfpenny penalty to regain the lead 24-22 with 15 minutes left to the satisfaction of the majority of the 65317 crowd.

Kolisi was a strong presence for the green shirted Springboks whilst immense work from Wyn Jones in the loose was a welcome sight for his team mates as Patchell sent play back over half way line.

Winger Leyds, normally full back had an aura about him when running with ball in hand and there was an international debut at scrum half for Louis Schreuder where Jones was again to the fore with some thumping tackles in a sturdy Welsh defence.

For the final five minutes Wales required composure and guile, which came through a solid scrum and Patchell putting the ball deep into the opposition half to secure victory.

Thoughts move now to the Six nations championship, which will open on Saturday (Feb 3) when Gregor Townsend inspired Scotland are welcomed to Cardiff as Wales will look to develop from their fifth place in the table last season.

Scotland cannot be underestimated after their dismantling of Australia a fortnight ago whilst also running the All Blacks close the week before. If Wales come through that on the front foot they travel to Twickenham the week after for an evening kick off where Gatland will be picking his side on a ‘horses for courses’ format and the squad will be reflective of this.

Another stern test awaits the Welsh Dragons at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin when Ireland will be the opponents before a Cardiff return on Sunday March 11 against Italy for an afternoon kick off and the final game the following Saturday when ‘Les Blues’ are hosted for a 5pm kick off.

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Bluebirds return to winning ways as Veale’s free kick sinks Archers

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HAVERFORDWEST County got back to winning ways on Tuesday night (Sept 27) as they beat Cardiff Met 1-0 at the Ogi Bridge Meadow.

Jamie Veale’s second half free kick proved enough for Tony Pennock’s side who now sit seventh in the JD Cymru Premier table.

In the third minute, Dylan Rees sent a ball forward to Jack Wilson but his cross was pushed away by Met keeper Alex Lang.

A miss-timed header then sent Jordan Davies in but his effort was blocked.

The Bluebirds continued to search for the opener and on 27 minutes, a pass from Elliot Scotcher sent Wilson in but he saw his shot saved. The rebound fell to Jordan Davies but his shot was blocked.

Towards the end of the half, Met pushed forward and Matt Chubb went on a good run down the right but he saw his shot go wide.

Harry Owen also tried his luck but saw his shot saved by County keeper Zac Jones and the sides went in at the break with the score locked at 0-0.

There was an even start to the second half as both sides looked to dominate. A cross into the Met box was headed clear by Emlyn Lewis while Craig Davies sent a cross in at the other end but no one could get on the end of it.

On 72 minutes Jordan Davies reacted quickly to head the ball goalwards but he saw his effort go over the bar.

Four minutes later though the Bluebirds were awarded a free kick wide on the left. Veale took it and the ball floated all the way in to give the home side the lead.

Wilson then saw a shot go wide as the Bluebirds looked to make the points safe.

The Met pushed late on as Eliot Evans saw a shot deflected wide while Sam Jones shot over the bar in time added on.

The Bluebirds held on for a welcome win, with Rhys Abbruzzese being named player of the match.

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Whitland earn win at Pembroke

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WHITLAND earned their first win of the season on Saturday (Sept 24) as they beat Pembroke 20-33.

Pembroke landed an early penalty through Harry Fletcher but the visitors hit back with two converted tries.

There was another penalty for Fletcher to make it 14-6.

Whitland thought they had another try when Callum Evans touched down but it was harshly ruled out as the referee had spotted some crossing moments before.

The visitors then scored another try which was also converted as they took a 6-21 lead in at the break.

Pembroke hit back in the second half with tries from Lloyd Davies and Sam Smith who finished off after a barnstorming run. Fletcher added both conversions.

Whitland pulled away though with further tries to seal the win.

Liam Price scored a hat trick of tries for Whitland and others came from Ianto Davies and Geraint Jones. Jones added the rest of the points from the boot.

On Saturday, October 1, Pembroke travel to Llanelli Wanderers while Whitland host Llangennech.

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Kilgetty edge Clarby in seven-goal thriller

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KILGETTY made it two wins from two on Saturday (Sept 24) as they beat Clarbeston Road 4-3.

Ben John put Clarby ahead after eight minutes but their lead only lasted for two minutes.

Adam Johns levelled for Kilgetty and ten minutes later Josh Bevan put his side ahead.

Richard Cope then made it 3-1 to the visitors shortly after the half-hour mark.

Clarby were not out of the game though and on the stroke of half time John scored his and Clarby’s second to make it 2-3.

It remained that way until the 89th minute when Rheinallt George put the goal in his own net to all but seal the points for Kilgetty.

There was still time for more goals as Richard Bevan scored in the 92nd minute to make it 4-3.

They were unable to find a late equaliser though as Kilgetty held on for the win.

On Saturday, October 1, Kilgetty face Angle in the first round of the Senior Cup. Clarbeston Road are also in action in the Senior Cup as they host Carew, both matches kicking off at 1:45pm.

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