WALES gave themselves the best chance of finishing second in the Six Nations Championship as they beat Italy 38-14 at the Principality Stadium on Sunday afternoon (Mar 11).
Italy kicked off following a rousing rendition of Bread of Heaven and it wasn’t long before the Welsh Dragon roared into life.
Wales turned the ball over before winning a penalty which Gareth Anscombe kicked to touch. From the resulting line-out Wales worked the ball to the middle of the field and Hadleigh Parkes burst through the tacklers to touch down under the posts. Cardiff Blues kicker Anscombe added the extras.
From the kick off Italy won the ball back but Owen Watkin intercepted a pass and ran into the 22 before offloading to George North who went over for the try and Anscombe once again added the extras.
Any thoughts the home side had of an easy afternoon soon evaporated as Italy worked the ball over to the left hand side for Zebre’s Matteo Minozzi who reached over in the corner after breaking the tackle of Liam Williams. Tommaso Allan then added the conversion.
Wales continued to put the pressure on with kicks into the Italy 22 and on 16 minutes they nearly had a third try but a knock on prevented debutant James Davies from going any further.
From the resultant Italy scrum Wales were able to win the ball back and they thought they had their third try as Williams passed to Steff Evans on the left wing who kicked inside towards the posts and Gareth Davies ran on to touch the ball down.
However, French referee Jerome Garces went to the TMO to check if Davies was in front of the kicker which video replays proved to be correct and the try was ruled out.
With twenty minutes gone it was Italy’s turn to for a spell of pressure but a loose pass saw Williams kick the ball forward and pounce on it just past the halfway line only for Italy to win the ball back.
Captain Taulupe Faletau was doing his best to show why he had been given the armband for the game and he produced one of the biggest hits of the game as he floored Italy kicker Allan. Thankfully after a few minutes of treatment he was back on his feet.
Italy again had a good spell of pressure and won the ball twice in quick succession from turnovers before being given a penalty. Allan, perhaps still feeling the effects of that monstrous hit, sent his kick wide of the posts and the score stayed at 14-7.
Shortly before the break Wales won a penalty and Anscombe showed his fellow kicker how it was done as he increased the lead to 17-7.
On the stroke of half time the ball was kicked to the left hand side but Steff Evans couldn’t quite collect the ball and he knocked the ball on. Italy’s Minozzi ran in to collect the ball with Liam Williams also running in close behind who made another crunching tackle on the Italian.
Referee Garces again went to the TMO as replays showed Williams’ shoulder catching Minozzi on the cheek. After some delay, Garces showed Williams a yellow card, much to the anger of the Welsh fans.
The second half started with Wales a man light but that didn’t seem to affect them as they went in search of a third try.
Davies charged down a clearance kick giving Wales a scrum which saw Davies pass to Cory Hill who stretched his way over for that third try and Anscombe added the extra two points.
Moments later, Italy attacked but Davies was deemed to have knocked the ball on deliberately and he was given a yellow card, meaning Wales were two men light, albeit for another two minutes.
Williams’ penalty ended but Coach Warren Gatland decided he would bring Halfpenny on in his place, and he got one of the biggest cheers of the afternoon as he entered the field.
Dean Budd and Tommaso Benvenuti tried their best to get Italy back into the game but some good defending from Wales meant they were unable to go any further.
James Davies then passed to Faletau who in turn found Justin Tipuric but he knocked the ball on and the chance had gone.
With 65 minutes gone, Patchell offloaded quickly for George North who dropped down for his second try of the game and Wales’ fourth giving them a bonus point. Halfpenny then added the extra two points.
With ten minutes to go Patchell found Parkes who threw a lobbed pass out to the wing where Tipuric was on hand to collect and touch down in the corner for Wales’ fifth try and Halfpenny converted again.
With five minutes to go, Italy looked to restore some pride and it was sub Federico Ruzza who found Mattia Bellini who touched down before Allan added the extras.
The bonus point win puts Wales second in the table, a point ahead of England and France and with one final round of games to come, Wales will be hoping they can finish in style.
On Saturday (Mar 17), Wales take on France, also aiming to finish second, at the Principality Stadium (Kick off 5pm) while Six Nations Champions Ireland take on England at Twickenham (2:45pm).
Evans at the double for Roosters
PENRHYNCOCH earned a fifth win of the season on Saturday (Mar 17) as they came from behind to beat FC Queens Park 3-1 in the Huws Gray Alliance.
The Roosters were forced to make a change in goal before the match as regular keeper Leigh Jenkins was ruled out through illness and Freddie Thomas was called in to replace him.
The home side made a bright start to the match as they put pressure on the Queens Park defence.
With sixteen minutes gone, Jonathan Evans won a free kick which Cledan Davies took but the ball went just wide of the posts.
Moments later, Thomas was called in to action as Queens Park broke quickly and Shaun Cartwright sent a low drive towards goal which was pushed away by Thomas.
With twenty minutes gone a good move from the visitors found Tom Williams who was through on goal and he finished well to make it 1-0.
The home side responded well to going behind as they won a series of corners and Liam Lewis sent a header just over the bar.
Jonathan Evans then found himself in space but the Queens Park keeper came out and timed his challenge well to steal the ball.
At the other end, Queens Park won a corner but the Roosters were unable to clear and Jon Foligno had to be alert to block the rebound.
The Roosters finally got their equaliser shortly before the break when Evans spotted the Queens Park keeper off his line and he lobbed the ball in from 40 yards out to make it 1-1.
Shortly before half time Queens Park were reduced to ten men as a last ditch tackle brought down Evans in the box and the referee pointed to the spot.
Evans picked himself up and sent the penalty down the middle to make it 2-1 and put the home side in command.
They strengthened their grip on the game just three minutes in to the second half as Elian Davies saw a shot blocked on the line but he then laid the ball off for Steff Davies who tapped in to make it 3-1.
Snow had started falling on the Cae Baker pitch which made things difficult for both sets of teams but the Roosters controlled the game well.
Just after the hour mark, a corner found Carwyn Jones on the edge of the box but his shot went over the bar.
Tom Williams looked to get Queens Park back in the game but Elian Davies did well to keep him out and clear the danger.
It was nearly four for the home side with eight minutes to go but a brilliant fingertip save from the Queens Park keeper prevented sub Liam Doherty from scoring.
Queens Park continued to attack but came up against a determined Penrhyncoch defence and the home side were able to see the game out comfortably.
The win for the Roosters means they are now eighteen points above second from bottom Queens Park in the table.
They will be going for another win on Saturday (Mar 24), as they take on bottom side Llandudno Junction.
Eriksen’s sublime brace sends Spurs through
By Jonathan Twigg
THE first-ever FA Cup meeting between Swansea and Tottenham on Saturday (Mar 17) saw the Welsh wizards unceremoniously dismantled in the quarter final, their first in fifty four years thanks to a sublime performance from midfielder Christian Eriksen in a 3-0 victory at the Liberty Stadium.
The North London aristocrats arrived with their usual pomp and ceremony and left South Wales in the knowledge the hosts will not be invading Wembley, Spurs temporary home ground as White Hart Lane is refurbished, although post-match, manager Carlos Carvalhal diminished any thoughts the result would impact on his goal of premier league survival.
Around the time of the Swans last foray into the latter stages of the FA Cup, Cliff Richard and the Shadows had a number one hit single ‘Summer Holiday’, where the fun and laughter of a summer holiday left no worries for me or you’, despite there being no further welsh involvement as Spurs became the first side since Southend United in 1976 to win two games against Welsh opposition in an FA Cup run.
‘We’re going where the sun shines brightly, we’re going where the sea is blue; Swans fans have seen it in the movies and but will now have to wait at least another season to savour the atmosphere and occasion of Wembley in an FA Cup tie.
Perhaps memories of a tough tackling wing back from the post war period can be dusted off; Arthur Willis, capped once for his country against France and part of the Spurs 1950 Division 1 winning side, the Yorkshire man signed for Swansea Town in 1954 and made 96 appearances before journeying further west to take up the reigns as player manager of Haverfordwest County at the Bridge Meadow.
Willis, who died in the Town in 1987 aged 67 brought a professionalism to the Welsh league side where he was able to coerce the best local talent amongst those more seasoned campaigners from up the line.
Local rivals Pembroke Boro had lifted the title in two of the previous three years before the Bluebirds were successful for the first time in 1956/7, something the Pembrokeshire public wouldn’t witness again until 1980/1, Willis mantra like that which Pochettino has seen evolve at Spurs.
Referee Kevin Friend oversaw the fixture with a bitterly cold north westerly wind swirling around as the dark blue shirted visitors kicked off with the Video Assistant Referee Stuart Attwell in place for subjective decisions, an early call being Nathan Dyer being felled in the area by goalkeeper Michel Vorm in a strong but fair challenge, after a fantastic through ball from Tammy Abraham.
The opening goal came after 11 minutes midfielder Eriksen curled a peach of a left foot strike beyond Nortfeldt after exchanging passes with Lamela having been given the freedom of the Swansea as he was unchallenged in moving 30 yards forward.
Tottenham’s quality from playing football in tight pockets nearly drew a second goal when a long winded VAR review stood by the Assistant Referees call of offside as the match was certainly a one sided affair.
With ten minutes left of the opening half Dyer and Clucas raised the home crowd of 17498 expectations an interlude, Ericksons left foot drive getting a fingertip save from Nordfelt and Dier spooning a header over from six yards.
McNaughton, tentative against his former side was disposed of possession as the game meandered into injury time, with Lamela placing a classy right foot shot beyond Nordfelt, the game and Swansea’s foray into a potential semi-final ended.
Carvalhal, mercurial in his analysis called Narsingh off the bench for McNaughton after the half time oranges, Olsson immediately pulling a blinding save off former Swansea goal stopper Vorm, who like Lazarus was off the ground to save a point blank diving header from Abraham.
Dier drew an equally stunning save from Nordfelt at full stretch all within five minutes of the restart where Swansea had some bite in their game, coming on the front foot until Erickson killed the game just after the hour following some sustained build up play.
Spurs are on their way to Wembley, home from home for their supporters, the first time since 1981/2 when they have reached back to back semi-finals. Reflective as the Spurs go marching on that maybe the suitcase required for the summer holiday was not a realistic thought, Carvalhal having greater plans and better destinations than Wembley.
Supporters can rekindle the romance of the Cup, former Police Chief Superintendent John Daniels a mere 14 year old Ammanford schoolboy when he followed the path to Villa Park in 1964.
Much water has travelled down the river since those halcyon days for John, a potential blockbuster role in the pipeline if the book on ‘Seal Bay’ makes the cinema screens.
Now brandishing a white lining on top, more than a fair splattering of snow, he will have to wait a little longer for a trip to Wembley, his suitcase holding the memories of yesteryear and perhaps more importantly the faith he holds in Carvalhal’s renaissance, a true Jack to a King story.
Twins warm up with fine victories
CRYMYCH boxing twins Ioan and Garan Croft warmed up for the forthcoming Welsh championships with fine victories in a Wales Select v England Select tournament at the Hampshire Court Hotel, Basingstoke.
Southpaw Ioan overcame weight issues to win on a split decision against Scott Melvin, an opponent 18 months his senior, in a 56kg contest.
Garan also won on a split against Donte Dixon, a strong opponent almost two years older than his Cardigan ABC rival after boxing him from long range for much of their encounter.
Promising Fishguard schoolboy boxer Mikey O’Sullivan also registered another impressive win recently.
Pitted against Evan Williams (Cwmavon Hornets) at the Pengry Road Social club, Loughor, the Cardigan ABC boxer came out flying, almost overwhelming his opponent and giving him a standing eight count in the first and second rounds.
Williams managed to regroup in the last round, but O’Sullivan had already done enough to win by a unanimous decision.
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