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George kicks Wales to victory

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AMY Evans, Player of the match in Wales Women’s dramatic 17-15 win over Scotland, has hailed the vital importance of Wales Women’s last-gasp victory over Scotland in the Six Nations on Friday night (Mar 8).

Rowland Phillips’ side sealed their first victory of the Women’s Six Nations in Glasgow as Lleucu George showed nerves of steel to kick a match-winning conversion with the final action of the match. “It was so important to get the win this evening,” said prop Evans who produced a stand-out display.

“We knew it was going to be a tough match after our last two encounters against Scotland being so close and we’re all elated to get the win. It was a massive defensive battle in Italy and we managed to put some attacking plays together against England.

“This game was about putting those two elements together and we managed to score two tries and keep them out when we needed to. When Scotland scored at the end, our heads dropped slightly, but Elinor Snowsill gathered us behind the posts and said ‘It takes 10 seconds to score a try, we’ve got six minutes left, and we just need belief.

“We all knuckled down, believed in ourselves, and it was just down to pure hard word and graft in the end.” Scotland had led through Jade Konkel’s seventh-minute try, but a penalty, then a try, by Bethan Lewis put Wales ahead.

Sarah Bonner crossed from a line-out to level and Chloe Rollie put the Scots ahead with five minutes left.

But George successfully converted Siwan Lillicrap’s try to give Wales their first win of the campaign. Evans believes Wales can still improve further and will take confidence from their Scotland win.

“We left lots of opportunities out there that we didn’t exploit, but with the conditions we knew it was going to be a close game,” she added. “We needed to keep it tight rather than risk errors by going out wide.

“We pride ourselves on our set-piece. As a prop that’s what I judge myself on. We had a lot of penalties from the scrum which gave us a platform to play from so we are pleased there and our attacking line-outs were really good too.

“We’re looking forward to coming home for our final game against Ireland. It’s another big game and it will be great to finish the Six Nations with a home crowd behind us.

“Ireland is always a big occasion and a game we play with a lot of heart and passion. We’ll go back and work hard this week and give it our all.”

Head coach Rowland Phillips is equally buoyant on the effect the win will have on the squad. It will lift the whole group.

“We’ve spoken a lot about the character of this group in adverse situtations and to come back and score the try and for a a 19 year old on her first start in the centre to slot the conversion epitomises a real never-give-up attitude.

“To get a win is going to help the development of this group no end. Whatever I say is not going to have the same impact as a win. Getting that result creates an extra energy, step in the stride of the players.

“We’ve put a lot of effort in this campaign. We probably created some opportunities that we we didn’t take on Friday, but we knew it wasn’t gong to be easy. Scotland were physical and very direct.

“We put ourselves under pressure but to manage that last block was really pleasing.

“It’s been a tough tournament, starting with France away. Ireland have always stepped up in the Six Nations and it feels better to come home with a first win under our belt. Everyone will be excited now to get on the pitch against Ireland.

“Women’s rugby is really growing and we’ve had some fantastic coverage and profile during this tournament.

“Friday night’s match was probably one for the purist but I think many people would have seen the character of the group during that match, and the attitude and determination of the girls to represent their country. We have a few bumps and bruises which we’ll assess this week but our preparation and conditioning work pre-season has really helped our fitness and you always bounce back quicker after a win!”

Wales Women play Ireland at Cardiff Arms Park on Sunday, March 17, 1.30pm. Tickets available from Cardiff Blues ticket office

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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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Wales rugby star at centre of controversy over damaged home incident

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A WOMAN whose home was damaged by a group of men, including Wales rugby player Cory Hill, has revealed the “devastating” impact the incident had on her family. Speaking to BBC Wales, “Sara” (not her real name) expressed her shock and disgust when head coach Warren Gatland recently named Hill as Wales captain.

Sara described the harrowing experience of the incident in May 2021, when a group of men, including Hill, mistakenly damaged her home. She recounted hearing a “thunderous banging sound” at her front door, which left her daughter terrified and asking, “Mammy, are people trying to get us?” Sara feared for their lives, believing someone was trying to break in with a sledgehammer.

The incident was resolved through a “community resolution” by South Wales Police, and Hill’s representative later apologised, stating the group had gone to the wrong property. However, the trauma from that night continues to affect Sara and her family, with her eldest daughter still receiving therapy.

In May 2023, Sara met Gatland and Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) director Nigel Walker at the Senedd to share her story. She described Gatland’s reaction as one of shock and sympathy, and she left the meeting with the impression that Hill would not return to the national squad. However, Hill was later included in the Wales squad for the Australian tour and was even named captain for a match against the Queensland Reds.

The decision to appoint Hill as captain sparked outrage, leading Gatland to apologise and Hill to withdraw from the match for “personal reasons”. Gatland admitted he made a mistake, stating, “I probably didn’t appreciate there was going to be some negativity about making that call.”

Sara felt betrayed by the decision, saying it “sullied” the captaincy role and left her “beyond disappointed”. She questioned why the WRU had not contacted her before naming Hill as captain, forcing her to relive her trauma.

Member of the Senedd Heledd Fychan, who arranged the meeting between Sara, Gatland, and Walker, criticised the WRU for its lack of communication. She expressed hope that the WRU would reflect on the situation and make better decisions in the future.

Nigel Walker acknowledged the deep trauma Sara had suffered and admitted that the WRU had made a mistake in naming Hill as captain. He apologised for the added trauma caused by the decision and assured that the WRU is striving to improve its decision-making processes.

Walker also offered support to Sara, including mediation, and expressed regret if she was left with the impression that Hill would not be considered for future selection. He emphasised the WRU’s commitment to learning from this incident to avoid similar mistakes in the future.

Hill, who has since withdrawn from the team, expressed his regret over the incident, acknowledging that he made a mistake and apologising for his actions. Despite the controversy, he remains hopeful for the future and is focused on rebuilding his career.

The WRU’s handling of this incident highlights the need for greater sensitivity and awareness in addressing the personal impacts of players’ actions off the field. The organisation has vowed to learn from this experience and ensure that such mistakes are not repeated.

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Rugby Sevens experts make predictions for Paris 2024 Olympics

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THE Paris 2024 Olympics starts in just a matter of days, with the Rugby Sevens kicking off proceedings on July 24th, just before the official opening ceremony on the 26th. Sell-out crowds are already expected for the men’s and women’s events and there’s already a great deal of anticipation around which nations will end up in the medal tables.

Plenty of eyes are said to be on the likes of Australia and New Zealand in the battle for gold in both the men’s and women’s games. However, the men’s Fiji side will be looking to make it three golds in a row, following their iconic successes in Rio in 2016 and Tokyo in 2021. Additionally, the Argentinian men’s team are being touted as dark horses and some believe the French sides could also capitalise on a home advantage.

This is according to the predictions for this year’s Olympic Sevens from a number of experts involved in the sevens game – including current and former players and coaches – in an exclusive feature with rugby website, RugbyPass. Alongside this, several of those interviewed here have touted a selection of players they believe will be standout performers across the tournaments.

Gareth Baber and Mike Friday

Gareth Baber, the coach who famously guided the Fiji men’s side to their second gold medal in Tokyo 2020, and the current USA Men’s Sevens team coach, Mike Friday, have both predicted that the respective sides where they have strong allegiances are the ones who are in with a chance of gold.

Gareth said: “I know people will be worried about Fiji, given their track record. There’s work to be done there, but they certainly can medal. The country is steeped in sevens rugby and they’ve consistently produced some players who can really do something.”

Mike stated: “I think we’re [USA] going to be a bolt out of the blue – we have the capability to cause absolute havoc.”

Both went on to champion the antipodean and French sides too:

Gareth said: “New Zealand will be positioning themselves as real medal contenders too. I’d also back France to do well, but their major challenge is constructing a frame to help their players do their best stuff in front of the home crowd.”

Mike explained: “France in both the men’s and the women’s are contenders. But looking just at the women’s, it’s going to be the likes of Australia and New Zealand that are pushing for gold.”

Mike then singled out several players to watch from the men’s and women’s events: “You’ve got the Levi sisters who are fantastic, Jorja Miller is a real catalyst too for New Zealand, but they’ve also got Michaela Blyde and Portia Woodman – a core of excellent players. On the men’s side, Marcos Moneta for Argentina, Dupont – just because it’s him – Terry Kennedy from Ireland is just a proper baller and will make things happen.”

Katy Daley-McLean MBE and Rachael Burford

Former England and Team GB Women’s Sevens stars, Katy Daley-McLean and Rachael Burford gave these medal predictions for the women’s events:

Katy said: “Australia and New Zealand are big favourites, but with their style of rugby, I think Canada and France will be in the mix there as well.” Rachael commented: “France – although under a lot of pressure – are at their best when they’re at home…Australia and New Zealand are coming into the Olympics very strong and a lot of people are expecting them to battle it out for the gold, but it’ll depend on who stays fit for them.”

Amongst their player recommendations, they also advised to watch out for Ellie Kildunne and Megan Jones of Team GB::

Katy explained: “I reckon if she [Ellie] smashes it in the Olympics and the next Rugby World Cup, she has the potential to become a household name.” While Rachael believes: “Meg will be massive for GB, her presence will transform that team. She alone will increase the ability of the whole squad.”

Tom Mitchell and Luke Treharne

Tom Mitchell, former England and Team GB Sevens captain, and Luke Treharne, former Team GB Sevens player and current Hong Kong 7s skills coach, offered these views:

Tom stated: “Looking at Argentina, Marcos Moneta who has come back from injury to make the squad is an absolute gun when fully firing…it’s also hard to look beyond Australia and New Zealand.”

Luke said: “For the women, I’ve been toying between the two juggernauts of Australia and New Zealand, but I think New Zealand will get the gold. France will get the bronze. As for the men, I think it’s going to go something like Argentina for gold, Fiji silver and Ireland bronze.”

Naya Tapper and Jodie Ounsley

RugbyPass also got the views of former England and Team GB Women’s Sevens wing, Jodie Ounsley, as well as current USA Women’s Sevens captain, Naya Tapper.

Jodie understandably chose her former teammates to go all the way: “I have to back the GB women’s side, but Australia and New Zealand are so strong and are definitely teams to look out for.” Naya – who will be competing this summer – also demonstrated some national pride by backing her country for Olympics success: “For the women’s and men’s side I manifest USA taking the gold. Let’s hope we can come back to this conversation and praise how great I am at predictions.”

Jodie was another expert to express admiration for Team GB’s Ellie Kildunne: “She’s coming back to sevens and she’s going to bring so many fans with her and I know she will make a great impact and be a storm at the Olympics. She will get people talking for sure.” Naya went on to highlight plenty of names for the women’s events: “Ilona Maher, Maddi Levi, Teagan Levi, Michaela Blyde, Portia Woodman, Anne-Cécile Ciofani, Séraphine Okemba – with how much talent we have in the game across all teams I could go on and on.”The schedule for the men’s sevens runs from July 24 – 27th – with a break in the middle for the opening ceremony – and the women’s event begins on July 28th and concludes on July 30th. If these predictions are to be believed, fans and neutrals alike could be set to see a hotly contested series. For further details, you can find the full selection of predictions and ‘ones to watch’ from these experts here: https://www.rugbypass.com/sevens/olympics/mens-and-womens-expert-predictions/

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