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Wales hold on to beat Ireland – Final score: Wales 21 – Ireland 16

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AN UNEVEN display by Wales, who spent 65 minutes of the game with an extra man, was enough to see of an Irish side which never stopped pressing for an against-the-odds win.
And the win is what counts.

In a punishing and physical encounter, Wales lost players to injury and head assessments, which might explain the up and down nature of their performance.

When Peter O’Mahony was given red on fifteen minutes for a headshot on Tomos Francis, Wales might have fancied their chances; especially with the benefit of a six-point lead, courtesy of
Leigh Halfpenny’s reliable boot. The brutal physical exchanges favoured Ireland, who spoiled Welsh possession, tackled like demons, and played a territorial kicking game to pin Wales back in their own half.

That was enough for Ireland to chisel their way to a 13-6 lead at the half.

With O’Mahony off the pitch, Ireland scored thirteen unanswered points. Six from Sexton’s boot and a try from a Welsh mistake.

Ireland’s try came when Wales made a hash of their own put in at the lineout. Scruffy ball got to Henshaw, who carved a gap through Wales’ defence. His pass found Josh van der Flier, who powered on before being hauled down. From the resulting ruck, Tadhg Beirne forced his way over the Welsh line and Sexton added the routine extras.

The lead was no more than Ireland deserved. After a promising first ten minutes, Wales faded out of the game for the last twenty minutes of a rugged first half in which the sides traded heavy tackles. Having got sucked into a physical encounter, Wales missed out on the chance to spread the ball wide to make the best use of their one-man advantage. Hallam Amos, out on the blindside wing, barely touched the ball or received a pass in an attacking position.

The third quarter of the game was Wales’ best period of sustained play as they, at last, managed to get on the front foot. Some brutal tackling blunted Wales’ efforts, with Taulupe Faletau losing the ball in contact when well-placed.

However, tries from George North – who was impressive at outside centre – and Gloucester flyer Louis Rees-Zammit, with an acrobatic effort, were a fair reward for the Welsh team’s efforts.

Those scores were enough to give Wales and 18-13 lead, which Leigh Halfpenny increased to eight points with a 65th-minute penalty.

With that lead, Wales brought on fresh legs for the final fifteen minutes.

Callum Sheedy stepped in at fly-half with Dan Biggar moving to full-back and Halfpenny switching to the left-wing in place of Hallam Amos. Will Rowlands came on in at lock, and Leon Brown and Rhodri Jones came on in the front row.

Billy Burns, on as HIA replacement for Robbie Henshaw only minutes before came on at fly-half to replace Johnny Sexton, with Sexton’s half-back partner Conor Murray leaving the field shortly afterwards.

Burns kicked a penalty to make it 21-16 with eight minutes left.

The outstanding Justin Tipuric, who played from the first whistle to last made a vital tackle in injury time at the end of the game, as Wales clung on to their five-point lead.

Ospreys number six Dan Lydiate waited two years for a call-up to Wales’ starting fifteen. His return lasted all of twelve minutes before what is thought to be a serious ligament injury. The blow means he will miss the rest of Six Nations. In his place, substitute Josh Navidi, himself working his way back from injury, had a decent game but was some way from his rampaging best.

Wales also lost centre, Johnny Williams, to a head injury assessment (HIA), while scrum-half Tomos Williams left the field with a hamstring injury at the half. Near the end of the game, Hallam Amos also left the field for an HIA. In exchange, Ireland lost lock Johnny Ryan and the talismanic Johnny Sexton, while Robbie Henshaw left the field for an HIA, returning after Sexton left the pitch.

The Welsh tight five looked a lot better in the scrum than they did throughout the autumn internationals. The return of Ken Owens certainly added heft to the front row, but the lineout problems which plagued Wales throughout 2020 persisted. Wales also lost the ball in contact too many times for comfort and that is an area they will need to tighten up against Gregor Townsend’s in-form Scotland team this Saturday.

PIVAC COUNTS THE COST OF VICTORY

After the game, Wales’ coach Wayne Pivac reflected on Wales’ performance.

“We’ve picked up a few injuries, so we’re looking at those now. We’re sort of counting the walking wounded after that one,” said Pivac.

“With a six-day turnaround before Scotland, it means any players with head knocks are gone. That means we’ll lose a couple of players straight away.

“Then we’ve got a hamstring for Tomos Williams, which we’re hoping is not serious. I wouldn’t have thought it will turn round in six days. We’ll see how the rest of the squad is tomorrow and look at what sort of side we can put together on Tuesday.”

If the injuries were the downside of the 21-16 victory, they couldn’t dent the pride Pivac and his coaching team felt at seeing their side upset one of the favourites for the title.

“It was game one, so to get off to a winning start was very important. It was a mixed performance, really. Our scrum went well, which was a big improvement on the last outing, but there are still things to tidy up on in our line-out on our ball.

“On their ball, we turned some over and put pressure on, so it was a mixed bag in that area of the game. It was our discipline which cost us last time when they kicked 18 points. That’s what got them back into this game and put pressure on us throughout.

“We really have to have a look at that area of the game and what’s causing those penalties. We must make sure we tidy that up.”
What did please the Wales boss, though, was the way Georg North and Louis Rees-Zammit took their tries in the second half to spearhead Wales’ second-half revival. It was try No 42 for Wales from North on his 99th appearance for his country.

“It was good to see them both cross and a really good finish from Louis. George just used his power and pace and took good advantage of that opportunity – you’d expect that from a player of his experience,” added Pivac.

“It was a fantastic finish from Louis. We’re just disappointed we put ourselves under so much pressure in the end. We could have won the game at the scrum put-in, looked at creating one phase, cleaning out that ruck and then kicking the ball out.

“But we put ourselves under a bit more pressure for another three to four minutes. We have discussed that in the changing room as well. In a game like that with the injuries, we did not really need that.

“The players had already called the play and knew what they needed to do to make one last ruck and get the ball out, but there was one player on the pitch who wasn’t on the same page and Ireland got the ball back. Unfortunately, it meant a lot more defending and a lot more out of the tank before a six-day turnaround.”

“We talked around our discipline and how important it was after the last time we played them, and I think after the sending off we conceded the next six penalties,” said Pivac.

“It was very difficult to get our hands on the ball and the possession and territory stats showed that right away. We talked about that at half-time and the third 20 minutes were a lot better and we managed to claw our way back into the game and get two scores ahead.

“To get a win in circumstances like today was important. Since taking over the role, it has really been about this competition. It was day one, round one and it was very important we got a win. Now we’ve got to re-focus before facing a very confident and very strong Scotland squad in their backyard after a very good win.”

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Sport

Harrison Allen: Lawrenny go through to quarter finals

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LAWRENNY booked their place in the quarter finals of the Harrison Allen Bowl on Wednesday night (May 25) as they beat Burton by nine wickets.

Lawrenny won the toss and elected to field and they were able to bowl Burton out for just 93.

Burton lost James Davies early on as he was caught by Tom Cole off the bowling of Jamie Lewis.

Ryan Morton also claimed two wickets as Burton slipped to 58-3.

That brought Luke Hayman into the middle with brother Toby and the pair took the score to 67-3 after 13 overs.

Toby reached a score of 37 before heading back to the pavilion while Luke added 12.

Steve Lewis was in fine form for Lawrenny as he took five wickets to finish with 5-13 while Ryan Morton finished with 2-26.

There were also wickets from Jamie Lewis (1-14) and Finley Lewis (1-7).

In reply, Steve Lewis scored 23 before he was sent back. Harry Thomas finished unbeaten on 23 while Troy Purslowe was not out on 45.

It sets up a quarter final against the winners of the game between Hundleton and Cresselly.

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Sport

Llangwm edge past Tish to book Harrison Allen quarter final spot

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LLANGWM secured their place in the quarter finals of the Harrison Allen Bowl on Wednesday night (May 25) as they beat St Ishmaels by 4 runs.

Tish won the toss and chose to field and they restricted Llangwm to 146-9 in their 22 overs.

Noah Davies and Joe Kiff made a good start for the hosts as they shared 67 runs for the first wicket.

Kiff was the first man to go as he was caught by Ieuan Hawkins off the bowling of Brennan Devonald on a score of 27 that had included two fours and two sixes.

Soon after, Davies, who had hit one of each boundary in his score of 27, was also following Kiff back to the pavilion after being bowled by Jonathan Pawlett.

Pawlett also claimed the wicket of Will Beresford before Steven Mills departed on a score of 16 (1 four, 1 six) when he was caught and bowled by Devonald.

That left Llangwm on 107-4 but scores of 15 from Matthew Kiff and 16 not out from David Lewis saw them to their total.

For Tish, Pawlett finished with excellent figures of 4-41 while Devonald finished with 3-25.

Peter Bradshaw hit two early fours in his score of 12 but he was run out.

Karl Rhead and Andrew Palmer shared 42 runs for the second wicket as Palmer made his way to a score of 35.

Rhead was bowled by Steven Mills who then did the same to Brennan Devonald moments later.

Palmer had reached 42 with five fours and a six but when he was brilliantly caught by Luke Brock off the bowling of Mills, Tish had slipped to 77-4.

Phil Cockburn and Jonathan Pawlett then shared 23 runs for the fifth wicket as they looked to keep Tish in the game.

Pawlett hit a six but was then caught by Oliver Davies to give Mills his fourth wicket and figures of 4-28.

Cockburn and Andew Pawlett then shared 37 runs for the sixth wicket as they took the tie down to the final over of the game.

They scored 17 runs off the 20th over and 18 runs off the 21st over meaning they would need 11 off the final over to win it.

Cockburn took a run off the first to bring Pawlett on strike. After missing the third ball he went for a run that wasn’t there and keeper Beresford ran out Cockburn.

He had hit two fours and three sixes in his score of 39 from 30 balls.

Andrew Pawlett and Andrew Williams could only take five runs from the next five balls but it wasn’t enough for victory.

Pawlett finished unbeaten on a score of 20 from 11 balls with one four and two sixes.

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Education

Crymych Panthers hold Boccia competition

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CRYMYCH Panthers Boccia Club recently held their first in-house Boccia competition, with eight members competing in two categories: BC1&2 (participants with a physical impairment) and BC8 (participants with an intellectual impairment).

Games were played in a round robin style competition. The final of the BC1&2 between Racheal Bailey and James Pugh was a very close game with James winning by 3 points to 1. The BC 8 final was between Yvonne Berry and Dewi Evans. Dewi won by 10 points to nil, back on form as a former Welsh international Special Olympic team member.

The competition was sponsored by Andrew Scott Davies of Pembroke who took part in the 2021 CARTEN 100 bike to assist the club.

Andrew Scott Davies presenting the winners and runners up with their trophies. All participants received a certificate of attendance.

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