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Wales ready for Six Nations

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By Jonathan Twigg

THE 2018 Six Nations Rugby Championship kicks off on Saturday (Feb 3) when Wales, captained by Alun Wyn Jones, welcome Scotland to the Principality Stadium in a match to be refereed by Frenchman, Romain Poite.

Coach Warren Gatland’s squad has been hampered with many high profile injuries, the latest being former Scarlets full back Liam Williams alongside scrum half Rhys Webb and his half back partner Dan Biggar.

The Welsh nation’s attention will be focused over the next seven weeks on the rugby and local interest has been heightened due to the Scarlets progressing to the European Cup quarter finals where they play La Rochelle on Friday (Mar 31).

The opening game against a Scottish side who have revelled in attacking flair under coach Gregor Townsend in the Autumn Series will offer a test which Gatland’s charges will have to meet front on to secure a victory. Winning will set down a marker by which the side will be judged.

They travel to Twickenham a week later to take on England before crossing the Irish Sea to take on the Emerald Isle in Dublin at the end of the month.

Both England and Ireland are at the top of their game at present, where any positive result will see euphoria amongst rugby followers. Gatland has changed his blueprint of direct rugby through hard running centre partnerships now opting for a more creative player at 12 which follows the way the Scarlets have developed this season.

Rhys Patchell could well have the nod to partner Gareth Davies at half back and the back division would feature fellow Scarlets, winger Steff Evans and Leigh Halfpenny, although neither have played a lot of ruby in recent weeks.

The centre partnership may be pivotal, with Osprey bound Scott Williams linking with adopted Kiwi Hadleigh Parkes after both impressed in the Autumn Series.

Prop Rob Evans should pack down on the coal face alongside Scarlets captain Ken Owens and fellow prop Samson le has returned to full fitness and may become the third player in the front row.

Back row dynamos Aaron Shingler and newbie James ‘Cubby’ Davies, brother of injured centre Jonathan, are also probable starters for Gatland meaning the Pivac influence of ‘expect the unexpected’, albeit abstractly, could well influence how well Wales perform.

Following the two testing trips on the road, Wales return to the Principality Stadium to take on Italy on Sunday (Mar 11) when the fixture follows the Women’s international between the two countries, before the finale of the season when France take on the ‘Men of Harlech’ a week later.

Predicating any result in sport is precarious at the best of times and the Six Nations championship often depends on which country has the key fixtures at home. Wales would be looking to secure three home victories, where the toughest encounter will be the opener against our Gaelic cousins.

Travelling to Twickenham and Dublin are daunting for any side where realistically a positive result will be an outside chance at best.

England, with colourful Aussie hooker Eddie Jones in charge are hardworking and Wales may have to live off limited possession, although the Scarlets faced such a scenario when they travelled to the ‘Rec’ and comprehensively dismissed Bath in front of Jones watching eyes.

Where there is a will there is a way as veteran second row Alun Wyn Jones leads the side knowing it could present a title showdown against Ireland, possibly the toughest of opponents in their own back yard.

With some optimism the prediction is for four victories, the three home fixtures and an exhilarating performance to light up the return journey down the M4 for those die hard supporters making the trip to HQ.

England will also return with four victories, beating Scotland in the Calcutta Cup at Murrayfield and France in Paris as recompense for their humbling at Wales hands.

Ireland, with a win over Wales may find the final game at Twickenham one step too far as the ‘Rose’ will find it unbearable to lose two home games meaning they also end on four victories.

Italy will pick up the wooden spoon without securing a win, ahead of France with Scotland in fourth position.

Representing Wales on the referee’s circuit will by Nigel Owens, who has a long association with Pontyberem RFC in the Gwendraeth Valley, taking centre stage when Ireland take on France.

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Bhatia and Stent send Commoners top

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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.

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Aber too good for Pembroke in KO Cup final

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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.

Carwyn Evans scores Aber’s first try

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.

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Ceredigion miss out in Wynne Lloyd Cup Final

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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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