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Wales hold on to beat Ireland

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Wales 21 – Ireland 16

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.”

Sport

Harrison Allen: Herbie see off Llanrhian to go through

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HERBRANDSTON continued their good early season form as they booked their place in the quarter finals of the Harrison Allen Bowl on Tuesday night (May 24).

They beat Llanrhian by four wickets having bowled them out for just 92.

Charlie Malloy made the breakthrough for Herbie before Dean John bowled Jack Jones on a score of 10.

Nigel Delaney was then bowled by Malloy and Llanrhian were reduced to 34-3.

Jon Strawbridge and Iwan James then shared 35 runs for the fourth wicket as they looked to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

However, James was bowled by Kristian Bennett on a score of 18 and soon after Strawbridge was caught by Ben Aldred off the bowling of Harry Nicholas on a score of 16.

More wickets followed for Bennett who finished with excellent figures of 5-13.

Herbie lost a wicket early in reply but a second wicket stand of 49 between Jack and Harry Nicholas got their side moving.

Jack scored 36 but he was then trapped leg before by Gwynant Watson and soon after he also Harry caught on a score of 16.

Dean John was bowled by Tom Clarke before Kristian Bennett’s score of 15 took Herbie to within touching distance of their target.

Jonathan Bennett fell for a first ball duck to Clarke but Charlie Malloy finished unbeaten on 9 to see Herbie over the line.

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Carew book place in Harrison Allen quarter finals

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CAREW booked their place in the quarter finals of the Harrison Allen Bowl on Tuesday night (May 24) as they beat Saundersfoot by 22 runs.

Two of Division 1’s form teams met and they didn’t disappoint with over 350 runs scored on the night.

Carew won the toss and batted first and they were able to reach 187-8 off their 22 overs.

Tim Hicks and Nick Davies got their side off to a fine start with a first wicket stand of 98 runs.

Hicks his six fours and two sixes in his score of 53 but he was then caught by Scott Helmich off the bowling of Neil Powling.

Davies hit three fours and four sixes as he scored 54 but he saw himself caught by Yannic Parker off the bowling of Nav Kawale.

Luke Hicks did not last long in the middle as he was bowled by Powling as Carew were reduced to 122-3.

Rhys Davies and Ian Sefton then shared 49 runs for the fourth wicket as they took Carew’s score towards 200.

Saundersfoot began to hit back though as they had Davies out for a score of 23 before Sefton was caught by Tom Mansbridge off the bowling of John Mansbridge on a score of 22.

Mansbridge also bowled Simon Wood and Jack Franklin bowled James Hinchliffe.

That meant that Saundersfoot would need 188 to win the game and having chased down 198 against Cresselly at the weekend they would have been confident of doing so.

Tom Mansbridge and Scott Helmich opened up for the visitors and they shared 67 runs for the first wicket.

Shaun Whitfield made the breakthrough as he trapped Mansbridge leg before on a score of 42.

Soon after, Simon Wood bowled Helmich on a score of 24 and he then did the same to Sam Franklin.

Whitfield also claimed the wickets of John Mansbridge (19) and Jack Franklin (7) as Saundersfoot slipped to 108-5.

Wood then also bowled Dom Green to make it 115-6 but Yannic Parker and Danny Brace began to offer some resistance.

Parker was out to Wood on a score of 13 before Nav Kawale, who had hit a quick fire 17 was caught and bowled by James Hinchliffe.

Sam Harts bowled Tudor Hurle and Brace was run out on a score of 21 as Carew sealed victory.

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Kilgetty through to Harrison Allen quarter finals

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KILGETTY booked their place in the quarter finals of the Harrison Allen Bowl on Tuesday (May 24) as they beat Pembroke Dock by five wickets.

Kilgetty won the toss and chose to field and they were able to bowl the Dock out for 129 with three balls of their innings to spare.

The home side lost Scott Griffiths and Tom Grimwood early on, both on scores of 5 and both bowled by Richard Cope.

Jake Davies made a score of 19 but he was bowled by Anthony Bevan as the Dock slipped to 40-3.

Billy Wood and Archie Hillier-Wood then shared 45 runs for the fourth wicket.

Wood hit two fours and a six in his score of 26 but he was then bowled by Levi Hughes.

The wickets continued to fall as Hughes then had Jamie White caught by Ollie Gamble before Geoff Marsh stumped Rhys Daley to give Jack Tucker his first wicket of the night.

That left the Dock on 113-6 and it soon became 118-7 as Hillier-Wood, who had hit two fours in his score of 36, was bowled by Hughes.

Hughes and Josh Bevan then ran out Euan McDonald and Nick Daley respectively before Hughes claimed his fourth wicket of the night to finish with figures of 4-22.

Kilgetty celebrate another of their wickets

Toby Poole started well for the visitors as he hit five fours in a score of 23 from 13 balls.

He had seen fellow opener Tom Lewis depart after being caught off the bowling of Billy Wood before being bowled by Wood.

Jack Parkinson and Richard Cope took over and they shared 59 runs for the third wicket.

Cope hit three fours and a six in his score of 31 but he was then caught by Connor Carroll off the bowling of Nick Daley.

Jack Tucker was bowled by Euan McDonald for a duck and the same bowler then had Parkinson, who had hit four fours in a score of 38, caught by Scott Griffiths.

That left Kilgetty on 103-5 and they still needed to get 27 runs in the final three overs.

Josh Bevan and Ollie Gamble held their nerve as they three fours and two sixes between them to help their side into the last eight of the competition.

Bevan finished unbeaten on 16 from 12 balls (1 four, 1 six) while Gamble was not out on 14 from 6 balls (two fours, 1 six).

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