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Scotland and Wales serve up a thriller

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Scotland 24 – Wales 25

NEVER-DAY-DIE Wales fought back from 17-3 down against a quality Scotland team to gain their second win of this year’s Six Nations.

In the first round game, Wales got dragged into a knock-down-drag-out scrap against Ireland which left them with a long injury list and the need to draw extra players into the squad. With so many key players out injured, the side travelled to Murrayfield bearing the weight of fans hopes rather than expectations.

And what a game those fans got!

A Scottish side full of flair and confidence and a Welsh side with pace at the back and renewed physical presence up front served up a heart-stopping thriller in arctic conditions in Edinburgh.

Scotland were on a high after beating England at Twickenham for the first time in 38 years in the last round. Their pack took England to the cleaners in the Calcutta Cup match and the Scots skilful backline looked sharp with ball in hand.

However, a lack of ruthlessness in their opponent’s twenty-two made the English game closer than it should’ve been and the home side were similarly wasteful with their territorial and possession advantages against Wales.

Too many times the Scots got into Wales’ danger zone only to overplay or misplay the advantage.

With markedly less ball and even less territory, Wales were much more ruthless than the hosts at converting presence in the opposition’s twenty-two into points.

Seeking to win their fifth Six Nations game in a row, Darcy Graham scored Scotland’s first try. Gathering a clever chip over the top by scrum-half Ali Price, Graham shook of Leigh Halfpenny’s desperate tackle and scored under the posts.

Scotland’s second try owed something to luck – both good and bad – Stuart Hogg kicked ahead and gave chase. For all the world. Halfpenny looked to have the ball covered only for it to wriggle free on the greasy surface and he went to ground. Hogg, who is the form fullback in the northern hemisphere, gathered the ball and touched down.

At 17-3 down, Wales were under the cosh but still competitive.

A driving maul from a short lineout saw Wales plough their way up-field in a series of short drives to near the Scottish line. The ball worked across the backline before Nick Tompkins fine pass found Louis Rees-Zammitt lurking with try-scoring intent. From close range, the winger made no mistake and scored the try which sent Wales in at the half 17-8 down.

Wales coach Wayne Pivac changed his half-backs on 51 minutes and was rewarded with an immediate return. Another brilliant driving line-out carved deep into the Scottish 22. Swift ball across the three-quarters released Liam Williams, whose sparkling try was converted by Callum Sheedy to bring Wales within two points.

Shortly afterwards came the moment which left Scots feeling aggrieved. As Wyn Jones challenged for the ball at the breakdown, opposite number Zander Fagerson ploughed into the ruck. Leading with his should he made direct contact with the Welsh prop’s head.

The rules on head contact are clear. Fagerson’s illegal attempt at a clear-out was given a straight red.

As former England prop David Flatman explained after the game: “Zander Fagerson’s red card was a red card. Rugby is changing and, as much as it all seems to be about the elite end of the game, the reality is the exact opposite.
“While the elite game is the most visible, it is rightly being used as a vehicle to make safer all those games of rugby that are played on muddy, isolated fields, away from specialist medical care and high definition cameras.

“Red cards like Fagerson’s are literally designed to make children safer on Sunday mornings.”

To add insult to injury, Wales’ capitalised on their one-man advantage with Wyn Jones touching down after more good close driving work by the Welsh forwards near the Scottish line.

Back came Scotland. Spurning two easy shots at goal, they created space for the ever-dangerous Stuart Hogg to turn on the pace and score a try, which Russell’s touchline conversion made into a four-point lead.

A moment of individual skill by Louis Rees-Zammitt was the standout moment of Wales’ performance. Travelling at full pelt, the Gloucester flyer latched on to Willy Halaholo’s perfectly weighted pass. Without breaking stride, the winger chipped it over the Scottish defence, outpaced Stuart Hogg (no mean feat) and gathered his own kick in Murrayfield’s deep in goal area to touch down.

Still Scotland came again and deep into stoppage time worked the ball to Scotland’s giant winger, Duhan van der Merwe. For all the world, it looked as though the last play of the match would see Welsh hearts broken at Murrayfield. Scrambling back, Owen Watkin produced the perfect tap tackle. With the clock in the red zone, Wales made no mistake in kicking the ball dead to seal the win.

Wales’ bold replacement of both half backs made near the start of the second half, galvanised the Welsh midfield at the expense of kicking reliability. If Wales bring Josh Adams back into the side against England and move Liam Williams to full-back, it is almost certain that Dan Biggar will start at outside half. Callum Sheedy, for all his skill with ball-in-hand, remains too fallible from the tee to be Wales’ frontline kicker.

Apart from an early misfire, Wales’ lineout was vastly improved. After an initial long throw went straight to Scottish hands, hooker Ken Owens and his callers kept it simple. Wales’ forward drives from the lineouts were a significant game-changer for the Welsh pack. The tactic gave Wales’ backs room by sucking in the Scottish defence.

It’s England for the Triple Crown next for Wales and, while England have been unconvincing so far, a Welsh win would still be an upset result. England have power and pace. If they can add precision to the mix, they will take some stopping.

Head coach Wayne Pivac commented: “It’s a very pleasing start, but I think it was evident to everyone that it wasn’t the complete performance.

“At 17-3 down, it wasn’t going to script but the players regathered their thoughts, the leadership on the field was good, and we came away with that score before half time.

“That was vital for us going into the changing room. The players reacted very well after half time, the replacements made an impact, and it was very nice to get the result at the end.”

On Louis Rees-Zammit, Wayne Pivac said: “He was exciting with the ball, wasn’t he? He took his opportunities very well. He’s still got work to do on his game without the ball, and that’s the exciting thing.

“He’s going to be a very exciting player for us going forward.”
Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones added: “We’re well aware there are massive improvements to make.

“You can’t give a team two tries, but I’m pleased with the resilience, character and pride in the jersey we’re still showing. What you’re seeing as well is a product of the experimentation from the Autumn Nations Cup and the hurt we took.

“Irrelevant of the advantage, I’d like to think we were in the ascendancy before the card.

“We’re aware England had a good win and are back on track. We’ll be back in Cardiff, so we’ll regroup and improve on the parts we need to.”

Alun Wyn Jones added: “Louis has been playing well for Gloucester in the Premiership. I’d heard a lot about him and seen a lot of highlights of him. Hopefully, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

“I don’t want to heap the pressure on him, I want him to continue in a similar vein.”

Sport

Scarlets great Jonathan Davies awarded testimonial year

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IT has been confirmed that Scarlets, Wales and British & Irish Lions centre Jonathan Davies has been awarded a testimonial year.

‘Foxy’, as he is popularly known, has played 209 games in a Scarlets jersey over 16 seasons, making his debut for the club against Northampton Saints as an eighteen-year-old back in 2006.

From Bancyfelin in Carmarthenshire, Jonathan played his junior club rugby for St Clears and Whitland before coming through the ranks of the Scarlets Academy and going on to become one of the leading centres in world rugby.

He twice toured with the Lions – to Australia (2013) and New Zealand (2017), where he was named player of the series in the epic Test battle against the All Blacks. He has also played 96 Tests for Wales, featuring in two Grand Slam-winning sides, a further two championship wins, and two Rugby World Cups in New Zealand (2011) and Japan (2019). During his time playing for Wales, Jonathan also had the honour of captaining the national side on four occasions.

After a couple of years in France with Clermont Auvergne, he returned to his home club ahead of the 2016-17 campaign and was an integral member of the Scarlets side that lifted the Guinness PRO12 title in exhilarating fashion in Dublin that season.

He continues to be an influential figure and role model in the Scarlets squad at the age of 36.

“Never could I have imagined when I was a kid running out onto the field at Stradey Park after the final whistle, trying to get as many player autographs as I could, that I would be lucky enough to become a player myself and play for the Scarlets, let alone more than 200 times,” he said.

“I have made memories that I will never forget whilst wearing the famous Scarlets shirt. From beating London Irish at the Madjeski in Europe, where travelling support was immense, to my favourite moment, winning the league in 2016-17 alongside team-mates who were also friends.

“I am extremely grateful to the Scarlets for all their support over the years and for awarding me this testimonial year.”

The testimonial year runs from June 2024 to May 2025 and has events planned for Llanelli, Cardiff, London and Dubai. It will also be supporting Jonathan’s chosen charity LATCH, who provide support for children and their families who are being treated by the Oncology Unit at the Children’s Hospital of Wales.

Tim Griffiths, the chair of Jonathan’s testimonial committee, said: “I am proud and honoured to be chair of Jon’s testimonial committee. Jon has been a champion of our national game; one of the modern-day greats of Welsh rugby, who has achieved so much in the jersey of the Scarlets, Wales and the Lions.

“We are looking forward to celebrating all his achievements during an exciting testimonial calendar, while also raising money for the fantastic work of his chosen charity LATCH.”

Scarlets Executive Chairman Simon Muderack said: “We wish Jon all the best for his testimonial year. He is a player who has given much to the game, a proud West Walian who became one of the finest centres in world rugby.”

Welsh Rugby Union CEO Abi Tierney added: “Jonathan Davies has been one of Welsh rugby’s greatest servants. At the peak of his powers he was one of the best centres in the world game over a sustained period of time and he is still delighting fans at Parc y Scarlets on a regular basis.

“Certainly, during that successful Lions tour of Australia in 2013, everyone knew he was one of the first names on the team sheet for the Lions coaches and Warren Gatland has regularly, since, named him as one of the best players he has ever coached.

“Jonathan is a credit to his origins, to his family and to the schools and coaches of his youth, always paying them tribute and often back at the clubs and institutions who supported him as a youngster.

“He is a hugely impressive individual, humble about his achievements as one of the finest professional rugby players Wales has produced and he deserves all the accolades and credit that will follow him in his testimonial year with his beloved Scarlets.”

The JD13 first event, a dinner in the Quinnell Lounge at Parc y Scarlets, will also support the Phil Bennett Foundation and take place in June. Full information on that event will follow.

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Dominant Goodwick crowned Champions

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Another convincing win for Goodwick United this season, this time over Milford United saw them confirmed as first division champions.

The outstanding Goodwick have dominated the first division all season and the league has been over as a contest since around Christmas time. Having not lost a league game and only failed to win two nobody’s come close to challenging them.

We asked the question earlier in the season is this one of the best teams if not the best Pembrokeshire has seen? The West Wales Cup and the treble may have settled this debate however they were unlucky to lose in the semi finals of that competition. The senior cup is still to play for and Goodwick will be strong favourites for this.

Undoubtedly an outstanding team and congratulations to everyone involved from the management to the ground staff and everyone in between.

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Title-Chasing Goodwick Reserves Secure Victory Against Haverfordwest Cricket Club

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In a highly anticipated clash at Phoenix Park, title contenders Goodwick seconds squared off against Haverfordwest Cricket Club in a thrilling encounter.

Fresh from celebrating the triumph of their first team in Division One the previous night, Goodwick seconds, led by captain Kyle Smith, entered the match with high spirits. Despite recent poor weather, Phoenix Park looked great, setting the stage for an exhilarating showdown.

The early exchanges saw both teams displaying resilience, with Haverfordwest Cricket Club showcasing solid defensive prowess. However, Goodwick’s midfield maestro Niall Kinsella orchestrated the play adeptly, supported by the dynamic Ethan Priestley’s commendable efforts.

The deadlock was broken when a contentious challenge in the box led to referee Marty Jones awarding a penalty to Goodwick. Dan Bryce clinically dispatched the spot-kick, giving the hosts a vital lead.

Shortly after, Goodwick doubled their advantage with a clinical finish from Josh Wellan, courtesy of a pinpoint assist from Kinsella. The halftime whistle blew with Goodwick enjoying a 2-0 lead, leaving Haverfordwest Cricket Club with an uphill task.

The second half witnessed Goodwick’s dominance, as Priestley’s energetic display resulted in two more goals, further cementing the home team’s superiority.

Despite the scoreline, both teams exhibited commendable sportsmanship and respect throughout the game, earning praise from the referee for their conduct.

With another successful outing at Phoenix Park, Goodwick seconds have bolstered their aspirations for promotion. The victory serves as a testament to their quality and determination, while Haverfordwest Cricket Club showcased glimpses of promise despite the defeat.

Final Score: Goodwick Reserves 4-0 Haverfordwest Cricket Club.

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