JUDGEMENT DAY at Principality Stadium has broken the Guinness PRO12 attendance record again, this time with nearly three weeks still to go until kick-off – on Saturday (Apr 30) .
Last year’s Welsh regional double-header was attended by 52,762 fans, comfortably surpassing the previous championship record, held by an Irish derby clash at the Aviva Stadium between Leinster and Munster in 2014.
The annual event, now in its fourth incarnation, more than doubles nearly every other attendance figure in Guinness PRO12 fixture list so far this season and has been tipped to become a must-see capacity occasion in the Cardiff capital by Welsh Rugby Union chairman Gareth Davies.
With the 52,763rd ticket sold by the Principality Stadium ticket office this morning, the only comparable fixture to Judgement Day this year, to date, is again the Munster versus Leinster derby which attracted 43,108 to the Aviva at the start of this month.
The celebration derby day in Wales, dubbed JDIV, will see Cardiff Blues face the Ospreys at 2.30pm and then European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-finalists Newport Gwent Dragons host the Scarlets at 5pm in back-to-back clashes under the Principality Stadium’s famous roof – in the penultimate round (21) of the Guinness PRO12.
The Blues and Ospreys are both still vying for a play-off spot this season, currently lying 10 and 14 points, respectively, behind the fourth placed Scarlets – with 15 points from three bonus point wins still theoretically available.
The all-important top six spots in the table – which would at present reading bring qualification for the 2016/2017 European Champions Cup – are also within touching distance for each side, as they are currently lying in eighth and ninth places.
Both of these teams will desperately want to beat their close rivals as the business end of the season reaches its climax, after first facing Benetton Treviso (Ospreys) and the Dragons (Blues) at home matches in round 20 this coming weekend.
For the JDIV game one victors it could then be ‘all on’ for round 22, the final weekend of the season, prior to play-offs, when the Blues travel to Edinburgh and the Ospreys host Ulster.
The Scarlets are currently the highest placed Welsh team in the Guinness PRO12 table, but they also have a tough run-in hosting Glasgow and travelling to Munster either side of their JDIV, match two, meeting with the Dragons.
The Newport Gwent region are mathematically out of play-off contention and can’t finish in the top seven, but a strong run in Europe is keeping their season alive in style – they face Montpellier in the European Challenge Cup semi-finals the week preceding JDIV.
The Dragons could qualify for the European Champions Cup outright if they win its sister tournament and so would be forgiven for keeping one eye on that campaign, but derby bragging rights remain at stake as always on Judgement Day to ensure them no respite.
“Last year’s Judgement Day fixtures saw us process thousands of tickets on the day of the event and we fully expect a large walk-up crowd at Principality Stadium for another guaranteed record breaking day this year,” said a WRU spokesperson.
“It will be a proud moment when during the second match of the day we announce our final crowd figure and set another new record for attendance at a Guinness PRO12 match-day.
“But, whilst it is great news for us at the turn-styles that we get so many last minute purchasers for this celebration of regional rugby, we would like to remind people that buying tickets in advance is the best way to ensure they get the seats they want and don’t miss out on any of the action.
“We will continue to monitor sales and keep the public up to date as we near capacity, but the best way to ensure that you don’t miss out on a magnificent day of regional rugby at Principality Stadium is to buy now and join the 53,000 others who have already joined Judgement Day celebrations.”
Commenting on the record-breaking crowd, Martin Anayi, managing director, PRO12 Rugby said:
“Judgement Day has become one of the Guinness PRO12’s ‘must-go-to’ events and it is terrific news that with three weeks to go until the event the previous attendance record has been broken.
“With over 28,000 recently attending the Guinness PRO12 derbies in Wales; over 43,000 flocking to Dublin’s Aviva Stadium for Leinster against Munster; and the climax to the season, the Guinness PRO12 Final at BT Murrayfield on 28 May, already on course to be one of the biggest finals ever; it shows there is a huge appetite and opportunity for fans to be part of some great Guinness PRO12 occasions over the last two months of the season.”
Mark Davies, Chief Executive of Pro Rugby Wales said: “It’s very positive for Welsh Rugby and Guinness PRO12 that this major club rugby event in our season is building so successfully and that we’ll exceed last year’s record crowd at the Principality Stadium.
“The Judgement Day double-header will be a fantastic conclusion to a successful series of Welsh derbies over the past month that have captured the spirit and passion of Welsh rugby – with supporters looking forward to another big derby this Sunday at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park as the Cardiff Blues face the Newport Gwent Dragons.
“It’s one of most exciting and significant periods we’ve ever had in a block for professional rugby in Wales with potentially 100,000 supporters enjoying Welsh derbies over a six week period at such a critical stage in the Guinness PRO12 battle for our teams.
“There’s so much riding on these games and with it the chance to see our best players in Wales both current internationals and future stars playing on the same pitch on the same day.”
Tickets for Judgement Day IV have been frozen at 2015 prices and can be purchased now at £10 per person (booking fees apply) from www.wru.wales/tickets (print at home available), by calling 0844 847 1881, in person from the WRU Ticket Office on Westgate Street, from each of the four regions or from Tesco stores throughout Wales.
Season tickets purchased from either of the home teams – Blues and Dragons – include access to Judgement Day IV, with fans asked to liaise with the respective box offices.
Both matches will be shown live on television with BBC Wales showing the first match and S4C the second.
Aber settle for a point in entertaining draw
IN the driving wind and rain at the eye of Storm Callum well over 200 hardy souls turned out for another exciting evening of JD Welsh Premier League football at Park Avenue on Friday night (Oct 12), and they were rewarded with an engrossing game.
With defences on top neither side did quite enough to make the breakthrough, though the hosts did end up numerically on top following Noah Edwards’ late red card.
Declan Walker, who had moved to right wing for this game, made the most of the extra space and fired an early howitzer wide.
With Aber’s Ryan Wollacott and Allan Goodall excelling at the back against the burly Jamie Breese, the visitors were creating chances and Matthew Jones cleared one goalbound effort off the line.
Danny Brookwell’s right footed shot was easy for Terry McCormick in Aber’s goal, then at the other end the superb Paolo Mendes curled in a fantastic ball to Ash Ruane, who fell in the box before pulling the trigger. Aber’s penalty cries however were in vain.
Breese and Brookwell had further half chances saved, then Rio Ahmadi for hit the side netting at the other end. Walker flashed a shot past the post and Ruane had a low effort parried in Aber’s late rally but both defences were on top in a high quality first half and the teams went in at 0-0.
Into the second half and the chances kept coming. Ryan Edwards, who was dancing down the wing all night had Town’s first effort, and then Goodall made the tackle of the night, a real goal saver to deny Breese who was through and seemed certain to score.
A nice move from Aber saw Mendes burst through the middle but his shot skewed wide, before McCormick was again called into action to superbly tip over Brookwell’s shot from the left side.
Walker saw another attempt off target, and then Ruane, who had been terrorising Ryan Williams all night, finally got goal side, but saw his goalbound effort go narrowly wide.
Walker tested Alex Ramsey in Caernarfon’s goal with a free kick before Gareth Evans hot the post with a curling effort from inside the area.
In the driving rain the chances kept coming with Ryan Edwards and Mendes the next to shoot in vain, and then with nine minutes to go Caernarfon’s Noah Edwards was show a straight red card for an ugly lunge at Declan Walker.
The hosts dominated the last ten minutes with sub Joe Phillips twice denied by Ramsey, but in truth the draw was a fair result and both sets of players should feel proud having put on a good evening’s entertainment in awful conditions.
The point takes Aber back up into eighth place and Nev Powell’s side now have two away games to try and kick on if they are to make a challenge for the top six, at Llandudno on Saturday (Oct 20, ko 2.30pm), and Llanelli on Friday, October 26 (ko 7.45pm).
Dominant Aber beat Pembroke in Plate
ABERYSTWYTH went through to the second round of the WRU Bowl on Saturday (Sept 29) as they beat Pembroke 50-5.
Last season’s Bowl runners-up Pembroke were unable to field a full strength side however with a number of first team players injured or unavailable.
Although the score suggests a very one-sided match, Pembroke deserve credit for challenging and testing the visitors from the start to the final whistle and their effort deserved more than the five points they scored.
With a few enforced changes it took a while for Aber to settle down, but after an evenly contested opening ten minutes Sam Hesden drove downfield and offloaded to Dorian Jones. He was stopped and from the resulting ruck the ball was passed out along the backs. Llyr Thomas came into the line from full-back to create an overlap for winger Jack Rees to race over for a try that was very well converted by Steff Rees.
Pembroke hit back immediately and from a lineout near the Aber line they caught and drove over to open their account with Dom Colman credited with the try. The conversion was missed but at 5-7 ahead Aber had to work hard as the hosts won and retained possession very well and ran fiercely at the Aber defence. When Aber won the ball they used their backs intelligently and only a dropped pass prevented winger Matthew Wright from racing away to score.
The visitors worked their way upfield and after impressive carrying, supporting and offloading – a welcome feature of their game throughout the afternoon – skipper Arwel Lloyd burst on to a pass to cross for a try to put Aber 5-12 ahead.
Aber’s next try was a beauty. Scrum-half Griff Jones, making a welcome return to Aber colours, dummied and broke from a ruck near the half-way line, he raced upfield and passed to Matthew Hughes in support. He then ran with Hughes for the return pass to score a lovely try which Steff Rees converted to close the first half at 5-19.
The opening ten minutes of the second half was very evenly fought, but Aber’s tackling throughout the match was impressive. They put in a high kick downfield but the catcher’s pass was dropped. Jack Rees pounced to scoop up the ball and race over for his second try of the afternoon. Steff Rees put in a fine conversion and the visitors moved up to 5-26.
A good break by Matthew Wright then took Aber deep into the Pembroke half. When he was stopped, Griff Jones fed the rampaging Arwel Lloyd who ran through a number of tackles before offloading for James Plumbridge to feed try scorer Matthew Hughes.
At 5-31 Aber were comfortable and substitutions were made with no detriment at all to the team’s performance.
The visitors’ next try came from a Pembroke scrum 30 metres from their own line. The hosts won the ball but a dropped pass enabled Matthew Hughes to collect and feed Matthew Wright. He made ground before passing inside to the ever-supporting Arwel Lloyd who scored his second try of the day. Steff Rees converted and Aber moved on to 5-38.
The skipper claimed his hat-trick of tries from a lineout catch by Dan Binks. The drive forward collapsed but Lloyd was again on hand to barge over crowning an excellent performance which not even a bloodied head could spoil. Steff Rees converted to put Aber up to 5-45.
The visitors closed their scoring after an excellent long penalty kick by Llyr Thomas found touch near the home side’s 5 metre line. They won the lineout and fed the ball out for Owain Bonsall to pass to brother Steffan to score the final try. The conversion rebounded from the post but Aber were comfortably into Round 2 having won 5-50.
The second round draw was made earlier in the week and Aber’s win means has seen them earn a home tie against Bonymaen, with that fixture taking place on Saturday (Oct 27).
Borth comeback sends Street packing
BORTH United made it through to the first round proper of the JD Welsh Cup on Saturday (Sept 29) as two late goals earned them a 2-1 win.
This much anticipated local derby began in glorious sunshine at Cae Piod and in a tense opening to the match the hosts took the lead within two minutes as Tom Williams’s glancing header from a corner kick beat Ben Willis.
Almost immediately after Williams was unlucky to see his low shot miss the post by inches.
Worryingly for the Borth management team, their side didn’t threaten Alex Pennock’s goal to such an extent the host’s defence were comfortable in dealing with the visitor’s forwards attacks.
Bow Street also had chances to double their lead but missed the target as they held a slender 1-0 lead at half time.
Bow Street held the upper hand as the second half got underway and Steffan Richards’ cross from the byline grazed the crossbar.
Borth, to their credit, also created some chances as Ryan Davies’s rasping low shot was turned for a corner by keeper Pennock.
As the end to end attacks continued Owen Roberts-Young’s superb shot was turned for a corner kick by keeper Willis.
The match reached the last ten minutes with the game still very much in the balance.
Borth’s Dion Ellis-Clark weaved his way from his own half past the Street defence and laid on a through ball for Ryan Davies to make no mistake with a low shot past Pennock for the equalizer.
The visitors sensed an unlikely winner and a long kick from Ben Willis wasn’t dealt with properly by the home defence and Justin Quinn seized on the loose ball and rounded the keeper for what proved to be the winning goal and send the superb Borth supporters euphoric on the sidelines.
It was an excellent cup tie and Borth’s reward for their victory is a game away to Llangefni Town in the first round proper.
The two teams will do battle once again on Saturday (Oct 6) as they meet at the home of Borth United for a Mid Wales League Cup first round tie, kick off 2:30pm.
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