AUSTRALIA defeated Wales on Saturday (Nov 11) at the Principality Stadium in the first game of the Under Armour Autumn International series to stretch their run to thirteen consecutive victories over their hosts dating back nearly a decade. Wales now haven’t won their opening match of an Autumn series since 2009 [40-3 v Romania] and this result also extends the Wallabies current unbeaten run to seven, their longest since reaching the 2015 World Cup Final at Twickenham.
Such is their current pedigree they took the scalp of arch rivals New Zealand 23-18 last month and this green and gold side are content to mobilise the ball in direct lines whenever possible, whilst expertly managing the game away from their own try line under pressure. Their first half dominance laid the foundations for the success as they had 67% possession making the home side make 80 tackles to defend their line, whilst having to make just 30 themselves.
Statistics won’t lie to Head Coach Warren Gatland, who selected a side which included eight Scarlets players and scrum half Aled Davies carded as a substitute. Gatland had changed the game plan which served him so well over the decade he has overseen the national side, looking to develop a line up capable of challenging at the very top come the 2019 World Cup.
He gave a debut to Gloucester playmaker Owen Williams at inside centre and with injuries in the backrow of skipper Sam Warbarton, Ross Moriarty and Justin Tipuric his hand was forced to play exuberance, vigour and players in form alongside Taulupe Faletau. Stepping up to the plate in the heat of the battle were Josh Navidi and ‘son of Hendy’, flanker Aaron Shingler, both of whom were tenacious in their defence duties.
A nervous Welsh start settled after six minutes when outside half Dan Biggar put a searching kick into the Aussie 22 and winger Liam Williams followed up to charge down the clearance from full back Kurtley Beale. A scrambled defensive clearance subsequently saw hooker Ken Owens find second row Jake Ball at the front of the line out before third phase ball found winger Steff Evans coming in on the opposite wing to draw a penalty for offside on the 10m line. Leigh Halfpenny, in his first international game under a Scarlets ‘flag’ duly slotted it over for a 3-0 lead, which lasted less than four minutes as the green and gold responded through hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau. He was driven over by his fellow forwards following their first real incision into Welsh territory allowing outside half Ben Foley to convert for 7-3 lead.
Spurred into action prop Rob Evans, returning after a prolonged absence for a head injury suffered against Connaught in September combined with centre Jonathan Davies for the red machine to move the ball 45m, only to see former Scarlets winger Liam Williams held up with a last ditch tackle.
Wales were now confident and scrum half Gareth Davies made an incisive 30m break. Quick second phase ball set centre Jonathan Davies clear once again to put Williams away on a 3 v 1 overlap; demonstrating quick hands through Halfpenny it allowed winger Steff Evans to crash over in the corner on his home debut and Halfpenny added the extras for a lead of 10-7.
The game sea sawed again after 23 absorbing minutes when second row Adam Coleman waltzed over unopposed with Rob Evans guilty of ball watching, for a converted try to see Australia lead 14-10. The experienced Foley and half back partner Will Gena were vibrant and positive with the ball in hand putting Wales firmly on the back foot.
Composure was needed under pressure and the go to man in the line out was back row star Shingler, who was winning ball at the front or back of the line. One such success resulted in a penalty permitting Biggar to kick to the edge of the visitors 22 but to no avail. In such an open and fast game, where the collisions between players was high on intensity, the difference emerged between the two nations as Australia converted their opportunities into points.
Wales conceded a penalty after Tom Francis in the front row was penalised for not scrummaging square and the Wallabies accepted another penalty decision from New Zealand referee Glenn Jackson allowing winger Reece Hodge to thump over a monster penalty and a 17-10 lead with five minutes of the half remaining.
Halfpenny responded with a 35m penalty from in front of the posts after Ken Owens had won the ball back for his team, but Australia completed the first half scoring when some sustained drives and slick hands drew the defence allowing flanker Michael Hooper to slew over the line for a superb try, converted by Foley on the cusp of half time for his side to lead 24-13.
Optimism for the second half was held where the Dragon could roar dependent on them making key decisions to clear their lines and play in the opposition territory. That optimism amongst the crowd was raised when Halfpenny and Faletau put Liam Williams in space and his kick took play midway into the opposition half only to see the ball lost in a tackle on Jonathan Davies. Faletau and Williams again combined on the opposite wing as Foley was putting the ball into the rooftop testing Halfpenny and Evans who fielded the bombardment with aplomb.
Biggar set up a line out from 15m after a penalty was awarded for holding the ball and after several phases of driving play Halfpenny nailed a straight forward penalty from 20m out, leaving Wales eight adrift at 24-16 with half an hour to play.
Turnover ball on halfway saw some enterprise around the hands of Rob Evans as he again sounded the battle cry for his team mates to grow in stature and play the situation which panned out before them. A scrum free kick moved skipper Alun Wyn Jones to call for a second set piece where Faletau and Williams combined on the blindside making 30m as pressure was imposed on the visitors 22 line. Wales were now like a pack of hounds who had found a scent and were firmly hunting for the jugular of a Wallaby side who were pinned inside their own half.
Evans grubber kick was collected by Jonathan Davies as the red tide built momentum to a chorus of hymns ‘n arias. A penalty conceded for not rolling away saw discussion between Jones, Biggar and Halfpenny before the full back pushed his kick wide of the right hand post from just inside his own half.
Bancyfelin born Davies was on fire, bringing his ‘Lions’ form from the summer to the banquet and he collected the restart as play returned deep into Australian terrain.
An expansive Welsh back line moved the ball at will as the halfway point of the half passed, with winger Evans, his namesake Rob and Shingler to the fore in rugby more akin to a Barbarian’s style. On small margins games at the highest level are won and lost; full back Beale performed a sublime tackle to not only stop a flying Evans in his prime but emerge with the ball and race from his own half to score under the posts before anyone in the 70,275 could draw breath. Foley converted for a 29-16 lead as the crowds astonishment at what they had witnessed in a match changing split second slowly dawned and their appreciation followed.
The high tempo of the game saw substitutes enter the amphitheatre and Hodge land short with a penalty from inside his own half as the time wound down to the final 15 minutes. Back came the Men of Harlech and Hooper was yellow carded with Jackson’s patience was eliminated with the build up of infringements. From the dominant scrum Wales applied pressure through Biggar’s touch finder with eight minutes to play. His forwards secured good line out ball to draw another penalty in front of the posts as scrum after scrum ensued in the anticipation of tasting the ‘Bread of Heaven’ from the top table. Scrum half Davies emerged into space to make good ground only for his skipper Jones to spill the ball with the line agonisingly close.
Aled Davies came on at scrum half and fellow replacement Hallem Amos was held up just short of the line as Wales went through a plethora of moves to test the wilting golden wattle to the brink. Biggars hopes of a quick play were called back by Jackson and from the resultant penalty ball was again secured at the line out which allowed for some enterprising handling before Amos harvested his first international since the 2015 World Cup. Halfpenny missed the touchline conversion which would have put Wales within a score of victory and the game ended 29-21 and parity in terms of possession and territory, a startling turn around on the first half statistics.
Gatland will be pleased, if he can be in defeat where the set piece was dominant, the defence successfully making 98% of their 264 tackles but most importantly seeing his attacking options bear fruit. In an offensive display his runners beat their man on 20 occasions and off loaded 18 times as they had a 100% success from mauls and 95% success rate at rucks, conceding just three penalties, ten less than their opponents.
The error count ultimately proved the difference for Wales between success and failure as Australia outscored them four tries to two. To a man those Scarlets players who drew on their countries colours did themselves, their Region and nation proud, where the tourists clinical execution of turn over possession to points was key. Youngster Evans will reflect on a positive try scoring attacking display with some concern over his defensive decision making. He will do well to remember Rome wasn’t built in a day and the Scarlets style of play is certainly a blueprint Gatland and his staff are embracing for the future.
Injuries to Evans plus more concerningly Lions star centre Davies may cause some player rotation before Wales take on Georgia tomorrow [2:30pm] with an eye on New Zealand the week after, coached by former Wales head honcho Steve Hanson who bring an unbeaten record stretching back 64 years.
One Scarlets player who will not be playing in these games will be New Zealand born centre Hadleigh Parkes, who is earmarked for a debut in December against South Africa. Parks was reunited with Scarlets Head Coach Wayne Pivac when he came to Parc Y Scarlets in 2014 and he will be a beneficiary of the three year residency rule, allowing him to make his debut three years to the day from his signing for the Scarlets.
Aber make perfect start
ON a wet and windy August evening an excellent crowd turned out at Park Avenue to see the Black and Greens make the perfect start to 2019/20, with a 3-2 win over Carmarthen which leaves them at the Top of the nascent Cymru Premier table – this morning at least!
The visitors scored first through Liam Thomas’ 13th minute penalty, but Town Captain Marc Williams equalised with a deft header five minutes before the break.
The second half belonged to Aber as Williams pounced on a defensive mistake to put them ahead on 55 minutes, and Luke Boundford’s sumptuous volley, right in front of an adoring Nark’s Corner gave Town some breathing space thirteen minutes later. Luke Bowen snaffled up a consolation for Carmarthen in the 90th minute but it was to be Aber’s night as they held on for a huge victory.
Carmarthen probably had the best of a high paced and competitive start to the game, and the thirteenth minute was unlucky for Aber as Luke Bowen sneaked round the back and was pulled down in the area for a penalty, which Top Scorer Liam Thomas converted confidently.
Fortunately the goal stung the hosts into action: Williams saw a snap volley scoop wide, Ryan Wollacott headed wide and Wes Baynes forced Lee Idzi into a save with a header with Aber improving.
Wollacott then kept Aber in it with a superb last ditch tackle to deny Chris Jones a certain goal at the other end.
Baynes sent a lob just over the crossbar, the impressive Paulo Mendes set up Joe Phillips for a low drive which skimmed just wide. Then finally the breakthrough came as Matthew Jones sent in a sweet cross for Williams to glance home expertly at the far post, and douse Aber’s frustrations.
McCormick denied Bowen low down but the Black and Greens were in the ascendancy, with Williams (twice) and Stuart Jones going close, and the half time whistle came too soon for the improving Black and Greens.
Carmarthen came back after the break, Ceri Morgan sent a shot wide, McCormick punched wide a glancing header and Jones fired over – but then a simple ball down the middle caused consternation in Carmarthen’s back four and the irrepressible Williams nicked in between Lees Surman and Idzi to lob the ball home for a deserved lead, which got the home crowd signing in praise.
All Carmarthen’s efforts to equalise from free kicks and corners were cleared by a confident defence, and then with twenty two to go came a glorious moment when Boundford picked up the ball on the edge of the area, found space and curled home a delicious right footed volley into the far post to send Nark’s Corner into raptures, and Matthew Bishop’s men into a 3-1 lead.
What a goal for your Boundford’s home debut! Mendes typified a domineering performance by blocking Harling’s effort, and with Aber working hard to see the game out, the visitors tiring and the home fans singing, the job seemed all but done.
In the 90th minute McCormick spilled Jordan Vickers’ right wing cross for Bowen to nick a consolation goal, but Town kept Carmarthen at bay, with Boundford firing an injury time effort over the bar, and a thrilling game ended at 3-2.
The Black and Greens thoroughly deserved the three points last night for an exciting attacking performance, and two wins out of two plus seven goals has been a very good start to 2019/20 for Aberystwyth Town. They will now head to Barry Town on Friday night (ko 7.45pm) fully confident in their ability to achieve a positive result, before The New Saints come calling on Bank Holiday Monday, August 26.
Junior tournament a great success
THE highly acclaimed Bow Street Football Club Junior tournament celebrated its seventeenth year of existence in style on the weekend of July 13-14.
An excellent level of entries was again attracted this year, and large crowds came to enjoy the two-day festival, now widely recognised as one of the foremost events of its kind in Wales.
Bow Street chairman Wyn Lewis said: “It was another absolutely brilliant weekend. We were blessed with suitable weather on both days, and as a club, we are very proud to be the hosts of such a phenomenal event, and I want to thank all who contributed to the success of the tournament.
“I particularly want to thank the army of volunteers from Bow Street FC who worked extremely hard as a team to ensure that the whole event proceeded in an organised, efficient and friendly manner It is believed that there was over 1700 in attendance on the Saturday and we thank all our visitors for supporting us again this year.
“I would also like to thank our new tournament sponsors, Brian Jones and Castell Howell Foods for their magnificent support and commitment over the weekend.”
Brian Jones added: “We are delighted to support such a superbly organised event, and I was amazed at the standard of the youngsters on Sunday. The best thing was seeing all who were present thoroughly enjoying themselves.”
Main organiser, Amlyn Evans added: “It is an absolute pleasure to organise such an enjoyable event. Again, as every year, the greatest pleasure is seeing the enjoyment on the faces of all the competitors and spectators. The effort put in by club officials to ensure the smooth running of the whole event is phenomenal. Not only is it enjoyable, but it does provide Bow Street youngsters and others from this area the invaluable opportunity to test their skills against a large variety of teams from away.”
There were teams participating from as far afield as Pontyclun, Cardiff, Pwllheli and Caernarfon and for the sixth consecutive year, an all-girls competition took place on the Sunday.
Winners and Runners up:
Winners – Penrhyncoch
Runners Up – Llambed
Winners –Bro Hedd Wyn
Runners Up – Lampeter
Winners – Bow Street
Runners Up – Berriw
Winners – Builth
Runners Up – Penrhyncoch
Winners – Llanilar
Runners Up – Canton Rangers (Cardiff)
Winners – Padarn United
Runners Up – Penrhyncoch
Winners – Bow Street
Runners Up – Rhayader
Girls Under 12
Winners – Penrhyncoch
Runners Up – Porthmadog
Player of The Day – Keisha Swai(Porthmadog)
Mark Horwood Memorial Award
(Trophy for best local player of the day.)
Saturday – Stefan Gillies(Penrhyncoch)
Sunday – Mari Hefin(Bow Street)
Overall Player Of The Day
Saturday – Robin Williams (Bro Hedd Wyn)
Sunday – Cayo Carruthers (Llanilar)
Large crowds expected for Junior tournament
LARGE crowds are expected this coming weekend (Jul 13-14) for yet another huge occasion for Bow Street Football Club.
The club will be staging its seventeenth consecutive annual junior tournament. Since the inaugural tournament in 2003, the event has rapidly grown in to one of the most prestigious and successful in the whole of Wales.
The tournament is organised by the Spar Mid Wales League team, and games will take place on 9 different pitches at the club’s Cae Piod ground.
This year has again attracted an excellent number of entries with approximately 130 teams applying to participate in the eight different categories.
Teams from as far as Caernarfon and Cardiff will participate on the two days, and competition takes place on Saturday at under 6’s, under 8’s, under 10,s and under 11’s. On Sunday, teams compete at under 12’s, under 14’s and under 16’s.
For the sixth year running there will be a specific all girls category, which will take place on Sunday at under 12.
Bow Street FC are delighted to reveal that the tournament has a brand new sponsor. Castell Howell Foods, firmly established as one of the UK’s leading independent food wholesalers, has agreed to sponsor the extremely popular event for the next two years.
Bow Street chairman Wyn Lewis said: “We are very proud that this tournament continues to go from strength to strength, and it is obvious from the entries that amazingly, its popularity is still increasing. It is incredible that many of our categories were full a couple of months in advance of the tournament. We are very grateful to the clubs from all over Wales who continue to support us.
“We are absolutely delighted to welcome Brian Jones and Castell Howell Foods on board as our tournament sponsors. Castell Howell are well known for their commitment to community activities especially junior sport, and we appreciate the faith they have shown in us by agreeing to become our partners. Brian Jones is a hugely respected figure in Welsh life and having been fortunate to meet him on a few occasions, it is obvious he has a huge passion for supporting youngsters playing all sports and taking part in community-based activities. The Bow Street tournament we believe is such an event as it enjoys support from all parts of Wales.”
Castell Howell’s Managing Director, Brian Jones said: “May I say how delighted, happy and proud we are to be associated with this now very well established, popular and hugely successful Junior Football Festival organised by Bow Street FC.
“We at Castell Howell are big supporters of communities and believe greatly in giving our youngsters opportunities and we are delighted to support this superb event in Bow Street.”
One of the tournament organisers, Amlyn Ifans added: “This year has attracted an exciting number of entries yet again, and we look forward to an enjoyable two days competition! It is marvellous that a small village community club continues to facilitate such a prestigious event, which gives our own junior players valuable experience of challenging players from outside the locality.’
One of the original organisers, Allan ‘Baba’ Evans said: “I am so chuffed at the way this event has developed since we started it in 2003. I am so proud of the way that the whole club and the community always embrace the annual tournament.”
Play starts at 10.00am on both days, a wide variety of refreshments are available, and, as ever, there is ample parking space.
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