By Jonathan Twigg
WALES defeated Scotland 34-7 on Saturday (Feb 3) at the Principality Stadium with ten Scarlets in the starting line-up, plus former Pontyberem winger Josh Adams, now the Aviva Premiership top scorer for Worcester Warriors.
With the stadium roof closed it encapsulated a cauldron of emotion as the Natwest Six Nations championship got under way, with ten year old chorister Heddwin York, of Blaenavon Male Voice Choir leading the pre match build up. Later on the same day another son of Pontyberem was setting a championship record, with Nigel Owens referring his eighteenth game, at the Stade de France when Ireland came calling.
Winning the toss Scotland’s ‘Scarlet’ John Barclay got Finn Russell to kick off towards the City End and Wales skipper Alun Wyn Jones sailed high to secure the ball, all before opposite number Jonny Gray had a barn storming 30 metre gallop and the afternoons tempo was set, with both Adams and fellow winger Steff Evans taking opportunities to run with ball in hand.
Not one person missed the tumultuous opening by perishing in the queues outside the ground, witnessing the opening try after five minutes; scrum half Gareth Davies intercepted a long pass and raced 70 meters towards the River Taf End to score wide out, full back Leigh Halfpenny converted.
Flanker Aaron Shingler set up a scintillating attack from the restart, featuring prop Rob Evans and Evans, who failed to catch a difficult pass from Skipper Jones with the try line at his mercy beneath the posts.
The Wales scrum won a free kick, opted for another scrum, outside half Rhys Patchell nearly reached the promised land before play swung back across the theatre of dreams and Halfpenny converted his own touchdown after 12 minutes.
Dream rugby or a defence coaches’ nightmare? Both sides played exhilarating rugby with ball in hand, as somewhere amongst this fantastic ‘hymn’ that the full house of 74,169 spectators enjoyed, a settling influence was needed.
Centres Hadeligh Parkes and Scott Williams brought that mantra to the ‘Dragons’ play, through their tackling which impacted on the Scarlets ‘front row’ of Evans, hooker Ken Owens and Samson Lee to turn the coal face red.
Having played just 25% of the game in the Scottish half coach Warren Gatland’s side built a more stable platform through phased play, nullifying Scottish momentum and hearts as they won turnover penalties.
Shingler was a key target in the lineout as the ‘Evans’ boys featured in beating despairing tackles. Halftime came and went with Wales driving forward through diminutive scrum half Davies, securing an early penalty which Halfpenny slotted over for three points.
Four Men Aloud had returned to the pitch for half time entertainment but the sweetest battle cry came from Shingler, the Hendy back row man secured a penalty on the halfway line, which the Gorseinon born kicker chalked up with confidence.
Max Boyce couldn’t have written bards to describe the expressive serenading from the stands to match the play, the Scottish talisman Stuart Hogg without influence as his peers made error after error. That ‘mould of solid gold, that once made Barry John’ hasn’t broken after all and the tint upon the flowing locks of Patchell shone as the outside half dictated play with speed, vision, kicks and tricks.
The game entered the final quarter with the Men of Harlech now dominating possession and territory and Patchells dart for the line saw Evans flick the ball to Halfpenny who crossed for his second converted try.
The flower of Scotland had wilted, the closed roof restricting their water of life as new breath revitalised the Dragons lungs, replacement hooker Wyn Jones plunge for the line ruled out by the TMO.
Aled Davies came on for his sixth cap, replacing his Scarlet team mate to feed the scrum and watch as it destroyed the now demoralised visiting pack with such ferocity it set the stadium alarms ringing towards heaven. Man of the match Shingler straightened the line with eight minutes left, Parkes made ground strongly and the flying Evans, back after an enforced lay off was airborne on the touch line to one handily place the ball for the bonus point converted try.
‘Feed me till I want no more’ was the cry from a baying Welsh crowd although Gatland et al were happy to take the Bread from Heaven to Twickenham next week. The ‘Prophet Max’ composed suitable vitriol decades before, to be retold with vigour by the travelling congregation heading to HQ on Saturday (Feb 10).
This game ended 34-7, replacement Pete Horne crossed for the Russell to convert after the Scott’s picked up a consolation score for their endeavours driving around the fringes, the customary handshakes occurred a minute later as Hadleigh put the ball off the Park and Wales took the spoils, bonus point included.
The players had made a statement, to those who had prophesised pre match but more importantly to the ‘Great Redeemer’ whose well-trodden path around Jordon and intrinsic belief in them was justly rewarded.
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.
Commoners and Aber lead the way
AFTER two rounds of the West Wales Cricket Conference, Aberystwyth and UWA Commoners lead the way with two wins from as many games.
On Sunday, May 13, Aberystwyth University Commoners took on Tywyn and District and came away with a comprehensive nine-wicket victory.
The Commoners won the toss and invited Tywyn to bat first but after a quick start, they lost opener Callum Taylor (16; four fours) when he was caught by Abhisek Somani off the bowling of Umar Aslam.
Jack Morris hit three fours in a score of 15 before he was caught by Devon Simons off the bowling of Dave Wilcockson and Sam Williams was then bowled by Aslam for a duck.
Richard Rees hit five fours in a knock of 37 but he was then caught by Wilcockson off the bowling of Bill Somerfield as he failed to go on and reach a half century.
Jacu Oosthuizn was also unlucky to miss out on a half century as he hit five fours and a six in a knock of 47 before he was caught by Somani off the bowling of Guy Baron.
Baron also had Sam Morris caught by Somani for a score of 15 and he later returned to remove Ed Hughes for a duck and bowl Ellis Melia to pick up personal figures of 4-35.
That meant that the visitors were all out for 158 and they faced a tough task of defending their total.
The Commoners got off to a flying start in their reply Neil Stent and Rakesh Bhatia put on over 100 runs for the first wicket.
Stent hit three fours in a knock of 30 before he was caught by Richard Rees off the bowling of Dave Jenkins.
Will Copeland hit three late fours in a knock of 14 not out but Bhatia was the star of the show as he hit twenty fours in his excellent unbeaten century knock of 106.
The win gives the Commoners six points which brings them level on points with Aberystwyth who beat Talybont by four wickets on Saturday (May 12).
Aber won the toss and elected to field and they took the early wickets of Matthew Novak, lbw to Zaid Khan and Vinod Matthew as he was caught by Mark Evans.
However scores of 27 from Dave Barrow and 68 from Ben Harper put Talybont back in a good position. Unfortunately for Talybont both were run out by Khan and Ceri John.
Ted Trewella removed Grayson John for a score of 6 when he was caught by Steffan Davies and Phil Abraham was soon following him back to the pavilion when he was caught by Evans off the bowling of Titus Mathew for a duck.
Tibby Joseph made a late knock of 31 before he was trapped leg before by Mark Evans who then also removed Nick Matthews and Sojan Varghese for ducks.
That meant that Aber would need to chase 176 for victory but they lost opener Nigel Salmon early in their reply when he was caught by Varghese off the bowling of Phil Abraham.
Ted Trewella and and Ceri John showed some good form in knocks of 30 and 18 respectively as they got their side going.
John was caught by Tibby Joseph off the bowling of Abraham while Trewella was bowled by Grayson John.
Talybobnt looked to pick up more wickets but they were unable to remove Mark Evans who reached a half century to put Aber in control.
He hit ten fours and three sixes in a knock of 84 before he was eventually caught by John off the bowling of Abraham.
Zaid Khan finished not out on 33 (two fours) as he guided Aber to a six-point win.
The weekend’s other game between Aberaeron and Aberystwyth Seconds was cancelled as the seconds conceded the game.
On Saturday (May 19), first plays third as Aberystwyth travel to Aberaeron.
On Sunday (May 20), Aberystwyth Seconds face UWA Commoners while Tywyn & District host Talybont.
Street through to League Cup Final
BOW STREET are through to the final of Mid Wales League Cup after they beat Llanfair United 4-0 on Tuesday night (May 15).
They will now play Welshpool in the final after they beat Aberaeron 2-1 in the other semi-final.
The game was played at the home of Llanidloes Town and a good crowd gathered to support both teams.
The Street were clearly up for it and Garmon Nutting gave them the lead with an excellent strike from 25 yards out that flew into the net.
They doubled their lead soon after when Mark Gornall’s free kick hit the inside of the post and went into the net to make it 2-0.
Gornall then sent another dangerous free kick into the box and Neil Evans was in the right place to head the ball home give the Street a 3-0 lead before half time.
Despite the score line, Bow Street were wary of a second half comeback and knew they faced one of the most important halves of their season.
The Street continued to have chances and another free kick from Gornall caused problems before it was sliced behind for a corner.
Ifan Burrell then came close to a fourth when he went through at a tight angle but his effort rattled back off the bar.
Llanfair’s hopes of getting back into the match were then dealt a blow as one of their players received a second yellow card and was sent off.
Bow Street then made sure of their place in the final as Tom Evans saw a shot saved before he tapped in the rebound to make it 4-0.
Lineup: Ll.Hughes , T.Wyn, M.Pemberthy, S.Antoniazzi, N.Evans, Ll.Jenkins, G.Nutting, M.Gornall, T.Evans, A.Gittins, I.Burrell
Manager Barry Williams said: “I am very proud of all the players and my fellow management team members at Bow Street FC on reaching the League Cup Final.
“We beat a very good Llanfair side in the semi-final, but I am aware that we will have to significantly increase our level of performance against a Welshpool side that has had an excellent season.
“We are all aware that this is the fifth League Cup Final that Bow Street FC has competed in since gaining promotion to this level eleven years ago, but that we are yet to register a victory. So, hopefully, it can be fifth time lucky.
“However we know this is going to be an extremely difficult game against excellent opponents”.
The final will be played on Saturday, May 26, and will kick off at 5pm in Carno.
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