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Otters give Pooler a fright

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NARBERTH gave everything they had on Saturday (Jan 19), but it wasn’t enough to earn victory against Pontypool at the Lewis Lloyd Ground.

Pontypool, unbeaten in 49 games, arrived with an army of loyal supporters to add to a large crowd eager to witness the clash. They were not disappointed for the Otters had no intention of giving way to the league leaders.

The Otters kicked off and for the next few minutes attacked Pooler in their half and on the halfway line. A scrum was called and the ball was served and in seconds the ball came out on the tight head. Pooler winger Lloyd Lewis gathered the ball and seeing his way to the line clear, raced up the far touchline for him to score an unconverted try.

The Otters restarted and it seemed a kicking duel was likely until Pontypool put the ball in touch. From the Otters lineout the ball was moved  from left to right with hooker Rhodri Owens breaking forward, Pooler brought him down but the Otters rucked well, Ryan Lane fed the ball to Jonathan Rogers who repeated the previous weeks drop goal with ease, bringing the score to 3-5.

There was then another kicking duel with Pooler chasing every kick while the Otters played for safety and kicked into touch. Pooler then set up a rolling maul before releasing fly half Mathew Lewis to place the ball into touch on the Otters 22.

Pooler continued to put the pressure on but the Otters stood up to it well. The visitors forced the Otters back into their 22, gaining a penalty at the breakdown and Mathew Lewis put the ball into touch on the 5 metre line by the clubhouse.

From the lineout they set up a rolling maul but the Otters pack were equal to the technique and thwarted Pooler and managed to get the ball to Jack Price who kicked down field before full back Geraint Walsh moved the ball to the opposite side of the field before the Otters closed him down.

Pooler were penalised for offside enabling Jonathan Rogers to kick into the Pooler 22. The Otters gaining the ball moved across from the stand side but the move broke down when the passed ball was dropped.

The Otters regained possession and Jack Price made a powerful break and although tackled he managed to forced his way through before slipping to the ground. At the ruck the Otters were again penalised.

Then on 27 minutes with Pooler in attack in the Otters half the ball broke loose and reacting quickly Nick Gale kicked the ball down field, the Pontypool winger was unable to control the ball enabling Nick to kick forward again and easily win the sprint to the touch down. He followed this with an excellent conversion to make it 10-5 to the Otters.

Pooler responded aggressively to finding themselves behind but the Otters defended with good organisation and equal aggression stopping every attempt to break through even at the scrum 10 metres from the Otters line, when Rhys Lane was able to put in a relieving kick into touch on his 22.

The Otters pack put pressure on Pooler enabling wing Will Lewis to kick ahead and break forward. He gathered the ball making many metres before being tackled.

Pooler were making much use of their heavier pack but a stout defence held them back. Close to half time Mathew Lewis kicked Pooler to the Otters corner. At the lineout a maul was formed but held back only for the Otters to be penalised and for Richard Rees to be sent to the sin bin.

The referee eventually blew for half time after playing six minutes injury time with the Otters 10-5 ahead.

The second half started with both full backs attempting a kicking duel before Ianto Griffiths put the ball into touch on halfway.

The difference between the two scrum halves beside age is that Lewys has a longer pass enabling Jonathan Rogers to position himself further back away from the Pooler back row. However, five minutes into the second half, Pooler levelled the score with an unconverted try by flanker Mikey Herbert who broke through the Otters defence to cross the line and touch down.

For the next 10 minutes Pooler stepped up their pressure in an aggressive manner with both defences putting in some brutal tackles. The Otters were awarded a penalty for Nick Gale to step up and successfully kick the Otters into a 3 point lead at 13-10.

A few minutes later, the Otters were defending another forceful Pooler attack when on their 22, there was an unfortunate injury affecting flanker Steffan Phillips. His cries of agony were heard around the ground and play stopped for 10 minutes while he received attention. A huge round of applause occurred when Steffan rose and was able, with assistance, to walk off the field with his right arm supported.

A scrum restarted the game, Pooler were awarded a penalty with which Mathew Lewis levelled the score at 13-13.

This was followed a few minutes later with the Otters regaining the lead with another Nick Gale penalty.

The Otters continued their attempts to break through the Pooler defence and a diagonal break by Keiron Jones saw him tackled 5 metres from the try line. A successful ruck saw Jonathan Rogers throw a long pass which reached Nick Gale who raced towards the line before being pulled down, via the ruck the ball was moved quickly towards the clubhouse when Pooler were penalised for lying offside.

The Otters kicked to the corner at the lineout forming a maul but the possession was lost enabling Pooler to force their way downfield. On 76 minutes they were awarded a penalty, Mathew Lewis kicked to touch into the Otters 22.

At the lineout they formed a maul before quickly releasing the ball with Mathew Lewis managing to break the defensive wall and score an unconverted try. The score was now 16-18.

Unfortunately the Otters kick out on the half way line went directly into touch. Thus enabling Pooler to scrummage and retain the ball.

Otters defence coach Jon Dodd commented: “It was a very hard game, very physical. We probably gave Pontypool the hardest game of the season, we are disappointed we lost. Everything went to the game plan. There was more kicking and chasing than we normally do but that was because of the quality of Pontypool.

“Defensively we were very good but we spent long periods of time without the ball and it took its toll. We took our breakaway try very well but there were other chances we might have taken. We played excellently and for the spectator it was a good game to watch. The team from 1 to 15 put in a very good performance today. Nick Gale with his place kicking was excellent and kept us going. So with those thoughts in mind we can go forward in the remaining games and win them all.”

Sport

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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News

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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