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.”
Walker wins it for Aber on opening night
ABERYSTWYTH Town got their 2018/19 JD Welsh Premier League season off to the perfect start as they earned a thoroughly deserved three points against Llandudno at Park Avenue on Friday evening (Aug 10).
Declan Walker’s sublime 15th minute strike was enough to see Aber to victory, in what was an impressive defensive performance from the black and greens – centred around young 16 year old debutant Lee Jenkins, which saw Aber home through ten minutes of injury time to kick off the new season in the perfect manner.
Aber started the game on the front foot, playing with great intensity and tempo, with Declan Walker the first to test Llandudno’s goalkeeper after just four minutes with a long range effort. Soon after, it was Joe Phillips’ turn as he cut inside from the right flank and fired a shot narrowly over the crossbar.
Then, on 15 minutes Aber got the breakthrough their early play deserved, as captain Declan Walker found space on the edge of the penalty area, before shifting the ball to his right and curling a magnificent effort into the top corner of the net to make it 1-0.
He quickly ran over to the famous terraced corner of Park Avenue to celebrate with Aber’s jubilant fans, and the hosts were off to the perfect start.
Rather than sit back on their lead, Town continued to pepper the visitors goal, as Walker again found the net on 20 minutes only for the referee to disallow the goal for an infringement on the goalkeeper.
On 25 minutes, winger Ryan Edwards whizzed down the left flank before cutting inside and seeing his shot go inches wide of the post, before Aber somehow failed to double their lead on 28 minutes as Rio Ahmadi and Joe Phillips saw their efforts saved by Llandudno’s Shaun Pearson, before Declan Walker’s rebound rattled the crossbar.
The hosts were utterly dominant, with Ryan Wollacott and 16-year old centre back Lee Jenkins snuffing out any danger posed by the visitors’ attacks.
As half time approached, Aber again went agonisingly close as Ahmadi raced through on goal only to see his shot brilliantly saved on to the crossbar by the fingertips of goalkeeper Pearson, and the hosts would go into the break with a slender advantage.
Aber started the second half in similar fashion to the first, looking organised and solid, with Paulo Mednes and Mathew Jones bossing the central midfield areas.
On 52 minutes came Aber’s first worrying moment of the game, as Toby Jones crossed for Mike Pearson who was denied by a superb last ditch block by Aber’s Steff Edwards.
However, Aber goalie Leigh Jenkins, who’d performed admirably up until that point, was caught between both players on their way down and suffered a nasty injury to his right leg – resulting in him leaving the field and striker Rio Ahmadi putting on the gloves to play as goalkeeper for the remaining 35 minutes.
It would have been easy for Aber to panic at that moment, but instead they did the exact opposite as they continued to dictate the tempo of the game and threaten the visitors’ goal, with substitute Nashawn Blake providing additional pace and power up front.
Llandudno began to opt for a more direct route to goal, pumping long balls towards experienced centre forwards Mark Connelly and John Owen, but Aber’s 16 year old centre back Jenkins, aided by Baynes and Wollacott either side of him, was unfazed as he dominated the physical battle.
On 70 minutes, Nashawn Blake strode forwards before unleashing a swerving effort just wide of the post, before Mathew Jones’ goal bound header was blocked by Llandudno full back Ieuan Hewitt as Aber looked to press home their advantage.
Visitors Llandudno slowly began to crank up the pressure as the clock struck 80 minutes, with Danny Hughes volleying over before former Seasider John Owen headed wide, but the men in yellow were standing firm.
There were agonising groans from Town’s vocal supporters as the fourth official indicated a minimum of 8 minutes additional time, as the visitors piled forwards in search of an equaliser.
Kai Edwards headed wide in the final minutes before Mike Pearson’s bicycle kick was well saved by striker-come-goalkeeper Ahmadi, and Aber saw the game out to earn a massive 3 points on the opening weekend.
A huge victory for the black and greens under the circumstances, in what was the perfect start to the 2018/19 season.
It was an exciting attacking performance matched by an equally impressive collective defensive display, and Aber must now build on that momentum as they face Cardiff Met at Park Avenue on Friday evening (Aug 17) in front of the Sgorio cameras.
Bhatia and Shah batter Seconds
THE UWA Commoners picked up an excellent win on Sunday (Aug 5), as two of their batsmen blasted centuries against Aberystwyth Seconds.
The Commoners won the toss and chose to bat and that proved to be a good decision as openers Bill Somerfield and Rakesh Bhatia put on 98 runs for the first wicket.
James Breese made the breakthrough for the Seconds as he trapped Somerfield leg before on a score of 23.
Rakesh Bhatia and Raghave Shah then took over sharing another good stand of 101 before Breese again made the breakthrough. Bhatia had hit thirteen fours and five sixes in his stunning innings of 113 but he was then caught by Tom Constantine.
The scoring was not over yet as Shah and Umar Aslam continued to pile on the runs. They shared another 134 runs before Aslam was stumped by Owen Keyworth off the bowling of Constantine on a score of 54 which included six fours and a six.
Shah batted on and he smashed fourteen fours and nine sixes in a blistering knock of 153. His spectacular innings was brought to an end when he was caught by Peter Evans off the bowling of Dafydd Jones.
Will Copeland then finished not out on 17 with two fours and a six as the Commoners posted a mammoth total of 385-4 in their 40 overs.
The Seconds tried eight bowlers during the innings as they struggled to stem the flow of runs.
Aber Seconds knew they would need to bat well if they were to stand a chance of matching that total but three early wickets set the tone for the rest of the innings.
Peter Evans scored 11 before he was caught by Dean Davis off the bowling of Chris Ward and Mel Jones scored just three before being caught by Davis off the bowling of Ian Lawton.
Ward then bowled Tom Constantine on a score of 1 as the Seconds were reduced to 17-3.
James Breese scored just 7 before he was bowled by Lawton reducing the Seconds to 34-4 but Zaid Khan and Owen Keyworth did their best to put some runs on the board.
They shared a stand of 49 but Keyworth, who had hit four fours and a six in his score of 25, was then caught by Lawton off the bowling of Guy Baron.
Khan hit seven fours in his knock of 38 but he was then caught and bowled by Bill Somerfield.
Baron then bowled Alwyn Davies on a score of 5 and he then caught Ioan Morris off the bowling of Umar Aslam.
Somerfield then bowled Dafydd Jones for a duck and Will Copeland brought the innings to a close when he ran out Anthony Evans.
It meant that the Seconds were all out for 107 and a comprehensive 278-run win for the Commoners.
Sunday’s other game saw Talybont pick up another win as they scored 250-5 to surpass Tywyn and District’s total of 246-9.
Leaders earn another win
On Saturday (Aug 4), West Wales Conference leaders Aberaeron earned a seven wicket win over Aberystwyth’s first team.
Aber won the toss and elected to bat but they struggled to find runs and they were eventually all out for just 136.
They lost both openers early on as Anthony Burrell was bowled by Hywel Rees without scoring and Robin Varley was bowled by Simon Mitchell on a score of 2.
Zaid Khan scored 19 but he was also bowled by Mitchell as Aber slipped to 30-3. Thomas Burrell and Ted Trewella then shared 34 runs for the fourth wicket before Burrell was caught by Louis Fice off the bowling of Hywel Rees on a score of 26.
Trewella scored 10 before he was caught by Chris Strange off the bowling of Steff Rees and he then had Elwyn caught by Strange for a duck leaving Aber on 68-6.
Rees then also had Gareth Lewis caught by Fice on a score of 8 but Aber’s tail started a mini revival.
Robert Rudge and Joel Dixon shared 31 runs for the eighth wicket before Rudge was bowled by Paul Hughes on a score of 10.
Joel Dixon scored 17 before he was bowled by Steff Rees and Ioan Morris added 16 before he was bowled by Louis Fice.
That meant Aber were all out for 136 and Aberaeron made a steady start to their reply.
Openers Fice and David Grinszpan shared 42 runs before Fice was caught by Elwyn off the bowling of Gareth Lewis on a score of 19.
Chris Strange scored just ten before he was caught by Lewis off the bowling of Titus Mathew.
Grinszpan and Steff Rees then shared another 55 runs as they edge Aberaeron closer to their target. Rees scored 24 with a four and two sixes before he was caught and bowled by Ted Trewella.
That was as good as it got for Aber as Grinszpan and Hywel Rees saw Aberaeron to victory. Rees was not out on 11 while Grinszpan carried his bat to finish not out on 64 with five fours and three sixes.
On Saturday (Aug 11), Aberaeron will look for another win as they take on Aberystwyth Seconds. On Sunday, (Aug 12), Aberystwyth face second placed Talybont and UWA Commoners are at home to Tywyn & District.
The following weekend (Aug 18), Aberaeron are at home to Talybont in an exciting top of the table clash.
Welsh Premier League season begins
THE 2018/19 JD Welsh Premier League season kicks off tonight (Aug 10), with three exciting games in prospect.
Aberystwyth Town are in action and they will be looking to get their season off to a fine start as they host Llandudno at Park Avenue.
Carmarthen Town begin their campaign away to Bala in a game that will be streamed live on S4C’s Facebook page. Friday’s other game sees Cardiff Met play Newtown.
The 27th season of the JDWPL welcomes back two names synonymous with Welsh football, as Caernarfon Town and Llanelli Town return to the top flight after a number of years out.
Both clubs are rooted into the heart of their respective communities and will be hoping for great support as they kick off their campaigns at home to Cefn Druids and Connah’s Quay Nomads respectively.
Llanelli Town begin their season on Sunday (Aug 12) with a home game against Connahs Quay Nomads (KO 14:30).
The league has been recognised a number of times through the BBC Price of Football Survey as being the most affordable top-flight league in the UK, a validation of clubs’ commitment to keeping the live football experience open to everyone within their local areas. With the most expensive ticket price once again, being no more than £10, that commitment will continue into this season and beyond.
The League launched digitally this year on all JD Welsh Premier League social media platforms, and was accompanied by music from Cardiff band Himalayas, as part of the FAW’s partnership with the BBC Cymru Wales Horizons project.
Gwyn Derfel, JD Welsh Premier League Secretary, encouraged people to give the league a go, saying: “It is important that people give the JD Welsh Premier League a chance as, when people do come, they do tend to come back, which shows that we have a good, authentic, family-friendly product which is affordable to all.”
So, whether the football experience you’re looking for is affordable, family-friendly, authentic, good quality or all of the above, you’ll find it in your local community, at a JD Welsh Premier League club.
It begins. Get involved!
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