SCARLETS head coach Wayne Pivac, as an ex-policeman, orchestrated a crime of immense proportions at the Recreation Ground in Bath on Friday (Jan 12), when his Scarlet side won their must win European encounter 35-17.
Greeted onto the pitch by Greenhill School’s year 10 students as flag bearers, the game got off to an electric opening when Wales international centre Scott Williams caught the kick off and immediately referee Jerome Garcos awarded a penalty.
Outside half Dan Jones line kicks missed touch in the initial stages and his nervousness in such a titanic game was obvious.
Second row, Irish international Tadgh Beirne, rescued the situation by taking the line out ball against the throw, with the tackling strong from the visitors who were unable to recycle the ball as the game settled.
A blooded nose for skipper Ken Owen as ‘Bread of Heaven’ rang loudly from the Thatcher’s terrace, alongside sympathy for former outside half Rhys Priestland, whose birthday celebration were ruined when he limped off with a pulled hamstring to be replaced by Freddie Burns.
The Scarlets, now set and stable and got a nudge on at the scrum to establish the mantra for the evening with scrum half Gareth Davies darting clear on the blindside; England international full back Anthony Watson showed a clean pair of heels himself in response when running 40 metres from deep in his danger zone with flanker Sam Underhill in support.
A score was inevitable with such a frantic opening and it was the Scarlets who got the scoreboard rolling in a scintillating manner after nine minutes, starting from Beirne’s clawed line out ball.
Williams made the initial break, finding the support of second row David Bullring; centre Hadleigh Parkes took up the mantle finding Australian winger Paul Asquith, to flanker Aaron Shingler as they moved the ball with silky hands hitting gaps before it fell once again to the marauding Beirne.
From 15 metres out, he produced a Phil Bennett sidestep to screech in for a try converted by outside half Dan Jones.
Hymns and Arias was resounding into the cold air but the try was sweet, Neil Diamond’s appreciation of Caroline perhaps a better analogy for possibly the try of the season from the Land of my Fathers.
Freddie Burns pinged the Bath opening score after No. 8 John Barclay stopped their forward impetus and left the field for ten minutes on the French referee’s direction.
It was the Scarlets however who then dug deep, making ground and managing the game time superbly.
Shingler, running straight and with purpose made the gain line.
Full back Rhys Patchell and Parkes endeavour had the 13,822 crowd on the edge of their seats, which put Asquith in corner for a score despite being down to 14 men.
There was no stopping the red tide as five minutes later scrum half Davies rumbled 25 metres and found Welsh international Parkes on his shoulder and the centre crossed for his ninth try in 71 appearances, under duress, for a converted score and a 19-3 lead.
Williams was on fire, making another break to set up a scrum when the Scarlets were living in the moment; if he timed the pass his side were clear again for a score and perhaps on reflection needed just to consolidate their exuberance and make half time with their tail feathers unruffled may have suited.
A war of attrition with short passes and yardage in the tight areas wore down the clock and with it the Bath players and supporter’s hearts. The dominant scrum was verbalised loudly from prop Rob Evans and Jones slipped over the penalty for a half time lead of 22-3.
Bath as a city welcomes an array of nationalities but the atmosphere that trounced around the English fortress in January was full of ‘Heart and Soul’.
The Welsh contingent were delirious with their melody for a team of ‘Samson Lees’ eloquently reverberating around a city’s proclaimed architecture. Having been missing from the front row for many weeks before Christmas the prop was quite superb alongside fellow international Evans and his skipper, Ken Owens anchored between them.
Pivac has been coaching for 22 years since his first footstep on the rung in Northland, New Zealand but the victory in the back yard of the Aviva Premiership rugby giants was surely up with his best moments. Pro 12 champions last season having beaten Munster in Dublin to return a week later and rumble Leinster in the same venue included.
The ‘Rec’ was a cultural phenomenon, when Scarlets rugby once more came of age as they sat on the brink of a place in the European quarter final for the first time in 11 years. Bath rugby had lifted this trophy 20 years ago under the leadership of Scottish scrum half Andy Nicol’s but through their parade at half time, would have been in awe of the first half performance.
Music and Wales go hand in hand. Greenhill School, on tour at Backwell with the year ten students playing football, rugby and netball had the experience of a lifetime arranged through PE teacher Phil ‘Taffy’ Williams.
A school whose equally renowned musical talent under Samantha Hughes would have taken the Irish love ballad ‘Fields of Athenry’ to new heights given the opportunity.
Innate to the Irish famine of 1845 this anthem of the ‘underdog’ often resonating at Landsdowne Road or even Anfield a mercurial throw back to the task that sat before the visitors.
Top of Conference B the Scarlets took control early in the second half as they went in search of their bonus point try. The home eight were not match at the scrum set piece as Owens didn’t hesitate in choosing a rumble instead of taking a pot at goal.
Three times they drained the time and the Bath spirit, perilously close to crossing the try line through forward drives. Six minutes into the second half Patchell received the ball to deftly put a grubber kick through, allowing Williams to dab down wide out and Jones add the extras for 29-3.
The red tide were feeding the baying supporters cries for evangelical bread, where the ‘manna’ and intensity was unyielding. The team of Samson Lee lost their talisman on 55 minutes as his replacement Werner Kruger was rock sold as the choristers ‘Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’ resonated loudly and proudly.
Bath coaching guru Todd Blackadder needed his side to develop a pattern of play as they refused a kick at goal in search of a try, which came when winger Matt Banahan caught Burns kick in the corner allowing the outside half to convert with an hour played.
‘Long John’ Welsh second row Luke Charteris, a man with a biochemist degree and a fluent French speaker to boot took the hand-me-down inspirational singing to his hear. Not one for ‘losing my religion’ the boiler house man’s efforts allowed him a well earned rest at the same time as opposite number Bullring.
Over 150 years of rugby history in North Somerset has placed foundations from which the home side ran with their head of steam. Pivac manipulated his cast list with the game and full points in the bag, with Aled Davies arriving at inside half. Tried and trusted combinations saw Owens and Beirne orchastrting the line forcing Watson to desperately run from deep as the ‘big shift’ put in from down West was recognised.
Owens, Hong Kong born Barclay, and Evans were done but still the tide wouldn’t subside, drawn to their supporters in the Dyson stand as Pivac’s decision to play a six to two forward split off the bench drew a scrum penalty.
Jones added the points for a 32-10 and a fourscore lead with 12 minutes to play. The defensive patterns were as impressive as any offensive effort, Patchell making a last ditch cover tackle on Zach Mercer with five minutes to play typifying the ‘hywl’.
Top of the ball line out and replacement Josh Macloed madeground and play was outside the danger zone with Jones clearance. Back came Bath and No. 8 Zach Mercer couldn’t be denied in the opposite corner for a converted try after a cutting run from winger Aled Brew, skipper Matt Garvey and second row Paul Grant.
Williams and Prydie responded to gain a penalty for offside with ‘Sospan Fach’ finishing proceedings fittingly, with Jones boot, edging the score to 35-17.
The Bath faithful, forlorn and remorseful took an early bath wondering what had happened.
LTC Mobility sponsored Furnace rugby club members summed it up amidst their exuberant acclaims.
Centre and club vice captain Scott Davies hoarsely crooned: “It’s the best away trip I’ve experienced. Our 1800 strong choir left nothing in the changing room and it was certainly a factor in lifting the squad.”
On Saturday (Jan 20) another blockbuster awaits, when Toulon visit Parc Y Scarlets and the home side need a minimum of a bonus point to progress into the knockout stages.
Davies smiling face finished the evening with: “Let this be the springboard to the next level. This could be the year we lift the Heineken trophy and the whole of Europe will stand up for the champions.”
Bhatia and Stent send Commoners top
ABERYSTWYTH University Commoners sit top of the West Wales Conference after they earned a six wicket victory over Aberystwyth Seconds on Sunday (May 20).
The Commoners won the toss and elected to field first and that proved to be a good decision as they bowled Aber’s Seconds out for just 110.
Anthony Evans fell early when he was caught by Neil Stent off the bowling of Ian Lawton for a duck.
Tom Constantine fell for a score of 2 as he was caught by Chris Ward to the bowling of Lawton before Ceri John and Alwyn Davies offered some resistance.
Davies made 16 but he was then caught by Bill Somerfield off the bowling of Ward.
None of the Seconds’ other batsmen made it into double figures with M Hughes the next highest scorer on 8. He was caught and bowled by Somerfield while Ward also trapped Mel Jones leg before.
Steffan Davies, Dylan Jenkins and Titus Mathew all fell cheaply to the bowling of Josh Wills while Emlyn Mainwearing was run out by Umar Aslam.
Ceri John was the mainstay of the Seconds’ innings as he made his way to a score of 63 and their total could have been a lot lower had it not been for him. John was eventually caught by Rakesh Bhatia off the bowling of Aiden Reveley.
The Commoners got off to an excellent start with Neil Stent and Bhatia putting on an excellent opening stand.
Bhatia hit eight fours and two sixes as he scored 56 before being caught by Alwyn Davies off the bowling of Tom Constantine.
The Seconds looked to take more wickets and they had Will Copeland caught by Mel Jones off the bowling of Ioan Morris for a score of 7.
Constantine also bowled David Wilcockson and had Josh Wills caught and bowled but they were unable to remove Neil Stent who played a patient knock of 39 with five fours to guide his side home.
The Commoners replaced Aberaeron at the top of the table who beat Aberystwyth’s first team on Saturday (May 19).
ABERAERON batted first and made an excellent total of 242-9 from their 40 overs.
J Fice and David Grinszpan made an excellent start as they shared 149 runs for the first wicket.
Fice hit eleven fours in a knock of 73 before he was stumped by Robert Rudge off the bowling of Mark Evans and Grinszpan fell soon after when he was bowled by Titus Mathew having hit nine fours in a knock of 64.
Hywel Rees was then caught by Mark Evans off the bowling of Mathew for a duck and Dave Floyd only scored 1 before he was caught by Joel Dixon off the bowling of Ted Trewella.
Chris Strange hit three fours and two sixes in a knock of 31 before he edged to Rudge off the bowling of Trewella.
Neil Snowdon also fell cheaply when he was caught by Zaid Khan off the bowling of Mark Evans and Khan then bowled Jacob Jenkinson who hit three fours in a knock of 21.
Simon Mitchell was also out for a duck as he trapped leg before by Evans before Hughes and S Jenkinson finished not out on 10 and 7 respectively to end the innings on 242-9.
Aber knew they faced a tough test in their reply but none of their batsmen could match the early scoring of Fice and Grinszpan.
Mark Evans only made 13 before he was bowled by Neil Snowdon and Joel Dixon was stumped by Dave Floyd for a duck, also off the bowling of Snowdon.
J Cordy and Zaid Khan offered some resistance before Cordy was bowled by Paul Hughes for a score of 24.
Ted Trewella was caught by Snowdon off the bowling of Hywel Rees for a score of 6 before Khan had to retire hurt on 36 (seven fours) in what was a blow to Aber.
Ben Dimmock, Steffan Davies and Ioan Morris all fell for a combined score of 9 to the bowling of Paul Hughes and Titus Mathew was bowled by Simon Mitchell for a score of 4.
Robert Rudge finished not out on 20 (three fours) but it wasn’t enough for Aber as they were bowled out for 122.
In Sunday’s other match, Talybont were victorious by 14 runs over Tywyn and District.
Talybont batted first and were all out for 191 from 40 overs before they restricted their opponents to 177-9.
Ben Barrett top scored for Talybont with 52 before he was out to the bowling of Ted Hughes.
Joshy made 21 before he was caught by Callum Taylor off the bowling of Richard Rees and Anish Kuriakose made 14 before he was out to the same bowler.
Grayson made 22 and Phil Abraham added 24 as Talybont kept the scoreboard ticking over. Tibin made 20 before he was trapped leg before by Dave Jenkins.
Jenkins was the pick of the bowlers for Tywyn as he took five wickets for the loss of 22 runs.
Tywyn lost Niki Williams early in their reply for a score of 9 when he was bowled by Robim Woodford and Alex York was trapped leg before by the same bowler for a score of 10.
Callum Taylor scored 24 before he was out to the bowling of Tibin while Dylan Wlliams scored 21 before he was bowled by Woodford.
Dave Jenkins scored 14 as he was also out to the bowling of Woodford who later claimed figures of 5-30 with the wicket of Morgan York.
Richard Rees and James Bradbury-Willis both finished the innings not out on 22 and 33 respectively but it wasn’t enough to take Tywyn to victory as Talybont bowled well.
The teams have a week off before returning on Saturday, June 2 when Talybont face Aberaeron and UWA Commoners take on Aberystwyth
On Sunday, June 3, Aberystwyth Seconds host Tywyn & District.
Aber too good for Pembroke in KO Cup final
ABERYSTWYTH proved too strong for Pembroke in the Pembs KO Cup Final on Wednesday (May 23), as they won by 44 points to 21 in St Davids.
A good crowd gathered to watch the game between the League 1 mid-Wales side and the League 2 bound Pembroke on what was a glorious evening.
Pembroke’s Tom Harding-Jones made an early break before he was stopped and Aber were able to win the ball back.
Aber pressed but a loose pass saw the ball go into touch. Pembroke’s lineout was taken by Aber who then won a penalty and an early chance to take the lead but Steffan Rees sent the penalty wide.
It wasn’t long before Aber were in front however as with eight minutes gone, Carwyn Evans received the ball in space and he ran over to score a try under the posts. Rees then added the extra two points.
Five minutes later Aber increased their lead as Llyr Thomas faked a pass before stretching over to touch the ball down despite the best attentions of Dom Colman and Billy Wood. The conversion went wide and Aber led 12-0.
With twenty minutes gone Pembroke were back in the game as Colman found Harding-Jones who cut inside before touching down. Toby Smith then added the extras to make it 12-7.
On the half hour mark Pembroke had a lineout but they missed the ball and Aber collected. They then won a penalty in front of the posts which Rees scored to extend Aber’s lead again.
With half time looming, Aber came forward and Rees passed to Owen Bonsall who dived over in the corner. Rees then added the extras and Aber held a commanding 22-7 lead at the break.
It was Aber who started the second half the better and a scrum saw them win another penalty which they kicked to touch. The ball was worked out right to Matthew Hughes who shrugged off the tackles to score under the posts and Rees added the extras for a 29-7 lead.
Pembroke then looked to get back into the game and came close but lost the ball at a key moment.
Moments later they scored their second try following an excellent move involving James Davies who found Harding-Jones who set off on another mazy run and he then found Fraser James who offloaded to Tom Lewis to touch down. Smith then added the extras to make it 29-14.
Rees then increased Aber’s lead a minute later as he sent a penalty through the posts.
The Scarlets came again and a high tackle again allowed them to kick into touch. They worked the ball to the left for Harding-Jones who found Luke Hartland who cut back inside before reaching over to score. Smith added the extras and at 32-21 with over ten minutes to play, Pembroke could sense another comeback.
However, they were unable to score again as they gave the ball away at key times and they were made to pay for those errors.
Aber’s Evans then went over for his second try of the match with ten minutes to go and he touched down under the posts to give Rees an easy conversion.
With four minutes to go Aber set the seal on their KO Cup victory with another try as Hughes scored his second try of the game and the conversion went wide.
Pembroke never gave up and looked for a late score but Aber defended well to keep them out and the final whistle brought an end to the game.
After the game, both captains thanked each other for a great game and Aber’s Arwel Lloyd was judged the man of the match before Aber celebrated their victory by lifting the KO Cup.
Ceredigion miss out in Wynne Lloyd Cup Final
THE Wynne Lloyd Inter-District Youth Cup Final went the way of Pembrokeshire who beat Ceredigion 36-28 in a thrilling game at Parc Y Scarlets on Sunday (May 20).
It was first blood to Pembrokeshire who scored the opening try of the game through Jack Tucker but the conversion was wide.
Ceredigion then answered back as Iestyn Evans scored the try before Dylan Morgan added the extras to put Ceredigion 7-5 ahead.
The action was back and forth and Pembrokeshire soon went back ahead as Gino Setaro (Whitland) scored and Dan Evans added the extra two points.
Pembrokeshire began to pull away as Jack Broadhurst (Narberth) scored their third try of the game with the conversion going in off the post from Evans.
Geraint Powell (Narberth) then increased Pembrokeshire’s lead with Evans again sending the conversion through the posts to give his side a 26-7 half time lead.
Ceredigion fought back at the beginning of the second half as Iwan Bowden scored the try and Dylan Morgan added the extras.
Morgan then scored a try of his own and converted to bring Ceredigion back to within five points with the score at 26-21.
They then took the lead as Dylan Davies scored the try that brought them level and Dylan Evans then added the extra two points giving Ceredigion a 28-26 lead.
Whitland’s Dan Evans put the Pembrokeshire side back ahead with a penalty from 40 metres out and they led by a single point with time running out.
As Ceredigion pushed for a late try that would have seen them claim victory, it was Pembrokeshire who got the final score of the game as Prop Cole Barry (Haverfordwest), who had been on the field for eighty minutes, went over for the try and Evans put the seal on the victory with another conversion.
Nigel Owens was the man in the middle for the game and afterwards he Tweeted: “A pleasure to referee Ceredigion Yth 28 v Pembrokeshire Yth 36. Top quality game of rugby with some class players on both sides. Well done all, a credit to rugby.”
Also running the line were Pembrokeshire’s Thomas Carew and Ross Grieve.
Tom told the Herald: “It was such a surreal experience. Being a referee was something that I’ve always wanted to do, even from a young age. To be involved in the game on Sunday was a dream come true and I cherished every moment of it.
“Nigel Owens has always been like a hero to me, I can’t remember a time where he wasn’t. I’ve always looked up to him and aspired to do what he does week in week out. What he has achieved makes him a superb role model for not only referees but for everyone.
“So to have the chance to not only meet him but to also run the line for him was an experience that I never would have expected to happen to me. Sunday will be a day that I won’t forget in a long time!”
Ceredigion Coach Justin Lloyd said: “It was a great occasion to be a part of for Ceredigion as we’ve only been set up for a few years and we’ve done really well to get to the final.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game against a strong Pembrokeshire side but I am super proud of the performance.
“Any neutrals who were watching the game would have seen a game played in Scarlets style. Both teams weren’t afraid to take any risks.”
Pembrokeshire coach Kenny Davies added: “It was a hell of a game of rugby and a great advert for west Wales rugby. Playing at Parc Y Scarlets with Nigel Owens being the referee made it an excellrnt occasion for all involved.
“We started the game well and were leading 26-7 at half time but they came back into it to lead. We then had a 40metre penalty from Whitland’s Dan Evans and we finished strongly to win it.
“Thanks to everyone involved and I hope the players got a lot out of it”.
Photos provided by Darren Harries.
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