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Emphatic win for Otters

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AFTER this emphatic, seven-try win over visiting Rhydyfelin on Saturday (Feb 9), Narberth climbed to third place in the WRU Championship and are still targeting second.

With just six games to go, Narberth have now won 13 of their 16 matches this season and are on course for yet another excellent campaign.

It was a double celebration for the Club on the day that local hero Jonathan Davies, who played all his junior rugby with the Otters, captained Wales for the first time in the victory over Italy in Rome.

The pitch was in remarkably good condition despite the battering it took in the rain of two weeks ago but the high winds that had dogged the Tata fixture were again evident. Narberth won the toss and again elected to play into the wind in the first half.

Narberth came into the game after a short break because of the calling off of their game at Maesteg Quins the previous Saturday. The postponement might well have been a blessing in disguise as it allowed the team to recover after the bruising encounters with Pontypool and Tata Steel.

Certainly, the Otters flew out of the blocks from the Rhydyfelin kick-off which was gathered by Richie Rees inside the Narberth 25 and moved slickly to the left. Fluent passing between forwards and backs and a strong run by wing Yannic Parker took the home side into the opposition 22. A neat chip by centre Jake Jenkins was gathered by flanker Tom Powell who scored unopposed in only the first minute. Against a gale force wind, Ianto Griffiths’ conversion attempt was just wide.

Rhydyfelin were stung into action and came back strongly and for the following 15 minutes, it was like Ground-hog Day with a stream of penalties – mostly in the visitors’ favour each leading to a five metre lineout. From the first of them, Rhydyfelin captain and outside half Ross Lucas kicked immaculately into the corner and the Otters were penalised for collapsing the ensuing rolling maul.

Again, the visitors went to the corner but knocked on in trying to force the maul over the line and Narberth cleared the danger.

The driving maul seemed to be Rhydyfelin’s only attacking ploy as, in the 10th minute, they were awarded a penalty on the 22 metre line directly in front of the posts and to everyone’s surprise, they again kicked to the corner.

This time, in a smart move, prop Chris Phillips crashed over in the corner but the try was disallowed as the referee Steffan Edwards had spotted that Phillips’ path had been cleared of Narberth defenders by Rhydyfelin players and penalised them for obstruction.

In the 15th minute, the Otters were rather harshly penalised for a high tackle and yet again the visitors opted to go to the corner. When Rhydyfelin openside flanker Luke Studley knocked on, Narberth had weathered the storm of four successive five-metre lineouts and Rhydyfelin never again threatened.

The Otters’ lineout has not been at its best in recent weeks and again lost some of its clockwork accuracy on Saturday but, even against the strong wind, they gradually took complete control of the game and in the 29th minute, flanker Powell crashed over near the posts for his second try after a spell of sustained pressure and some excellent approach work by Richie Rees and Jake Jenkins.  Griffiths converted.

Five minutes later, Jenkins was again involved in a smart handling move and made a powerful run before being taken down just short of the line. The Otters regained the ball and Jenkins popped up to dive over and touch down just inside the corner flag.

The missed conversion meant Narberth went into half-time with a well-deserved 17-nil lead.

The whole game was peppered with penalty awards and in total, the home side were awarded 16 penalties against 10 for the visitors. Most of them were for niggly technical infringements and either side of half time referee Edwards issued yellow cards to second row Josh Hawkins for persistent offside offences and left wing Gavin Close for a deliberate knock-on.

For a couple of minutes early in the second half, Rhydyfelin were reduced to 13 men after replacement prop Callum Jones who had only been on the field six minutes was sin-binned when he was at the centre of a touchline fracas. There were a number of heated moments in the game as Rhydyfelin’s frustration boiled over but further trouble was avoided by the firm and decisive action by the young referee.

It took just six minutes of the second half for the home side to gain their bonus point try, this time from young scrum half Lewys Gibby. Receiving the ball from a lineout outside the Rhydyfelin 22, Gibby wrong-footed the back row with a cheeky dummy and sprinted in, completely unopposed. Again Griffiths converted.

The tide was now running fast against the visiting side and the two yellow card dismissals meant they were in some disarray, but they still tackled determinedly.

Their grit was not enough to prevent a 58th minute try when Jack Price, playing on the wing at the time, proved Rhydyfelin were suckers for the dummy as he showed fullback Chris Tottle the ball before stepping inside him to score at the posts. Ianto Griffiths duly completed his third conversion.

Two minutes later, it was two-try hero Tom Powell’s turn to see Narberth’s only yellow card of the game, this time for what the referee adjudicated was a deliberate knock on.

Two tries in the last five minutes rounded off the game for Narberth. The first, from a five metre scrum was made by a pickup by number eight Richie Rees who broke to the blind side and passed to Gibby.

The scrum half’s diagonal run brought him his second try of the game and then right on time, an elegant chip by full back Ianto Griffiths over the top of the approaching defence was kicked ahead by replacement wing Nick Gale just inside the left touchline and he neatly gathered to score in the corner.

The Otters completed the double over mid-table Rhydyfelin and in their two encounters this season, have amassed 77 points against the side from Pontypridd.

It was also a game in which the replacements also made a real impact, with props Dan Jacobs and young Ryan Rees making major contributions in both the tight and loose when they came on. Second row Roy Osborne made a robust and very promising debut for the Otters.

After the game, main sponsors Hywel Griffiths Plant Hire nominated Lewys Gibby as Man of the Match.

The Otters are home again on Saturday (Feb 16) with the visit of Trebanos, the Swansea Valley side who boast Justin Tipuric, the Welsh flanker as one of their coaching advisers. Trebanos always play an open style of rugby so it promises to be an attractive game to watch.

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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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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