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Swans have the scent for survival

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By Jonathan Twigg

SATURDAY (Feb 10) saw the Liberty Stadium in Swansea witness a ‘turf war’, won by the commemorative, Chinese New Year shirt wearing home side 1-0.

Visitors Burnley continued their miserable winless run which started on December 12, whilst Carlos Carvalhal’s side are now nine games unbeaten, lifting themselves clear of the relegation zone.

“You don’t have to see it; you smell it” can be attributed to an egocentric player who patrolled the left wing for both clubs four decades, Leighton James.

Saturday’s contest was fractious with neither side gaining ascendency, requiring the input of a mercurial talent like James, winner of 54 Welsh caps after his international in October 1971 against Czechoslovakia in Prague.

How former Swan, Jack Cork would have liked a smudging of the influence imposed by James in scoring 124 goals from 645 games to rub off on him, whilst the home faithful welcomed Andre Ayew to the bench, following his £16 million return from West Ham.

Brother Jordan was leading the line and loan signing Andy King also warming the splinters because the Premier Leagues newest ‘Tinkerman’ has taken his side from the depths of the Ocean to now have their heads above water.

This Portuguese man of war is wary of the sharks around him but can see the coastline of the promised land and knows how to get there, with James’ analogy from bygone years, ringing true.

James made his league debut for the Turf Moor outfit in November 1970 against Nottingham Forest, returning twice to the North West in a career which saw him transfer for a mammoth £310,000 to Derby in 1975.

He left Burnley for a second time in 1978 when they were relegated to the third division and signed for Swansea City helping them from the third division to the first division in the heady days of the John Toshack era. He had spells with Sunderland, Bury and Newport County before he retired in 1989 when at Burnley, to explore more avenues.

James, in his punditry role would have vilified Olsson for diving which brought a yellow card before half time, alongside Ayew, Clucas and Ki Sung Yeung’s efforts to hit the target.

They needed to watch the matchday mascot in the half time break as Neyland Pirate Ethan Blockwell gave goalkeeper ‘Cyril the Swan’ a lesson in finishing.

The East stand corner were drumming the beat as everything remained black and white; Johann Gudmundsson forcing a save from Lucas Fabianski, before Andre Ayew made his entrance to replace Olsson after Jeff Hendrick snagged a yellow card for stopping brother Jordan’s charge.

The side needed new life; brothers in arms, possibly ‘Kolo or Yaya’ were joined by Tammy Abraham, the Tinkerman’s batteries now recharged with a ‘Triple A’ strike force taking the game to Burnley.

Referee Marriner received queries over his parentage as Pope made a wonder save to deny Abraham, Jordan Ayew and Kyle Naughton smashed shots goalward, before the breakthrough came with six minutes remaining.

Ki hammered home the winner from the edge of the box after Naughton and Jordan Ayew’s silky build up play invoked the loudest rendition of ‘Land of my Fathers’ west of Twickenham.

Ethan Blockwell: The Neyland Pirate was a match day mascot as Swansea beat Burnley 1-0

Sean Dyche’s side were reduced to humping long balls which drew no change from Alfie Mawson and skipper Frederico Fernandez and when the new King ‘of Wales’ came across the drawbridge for his debut to replace ‘Prince Jordan’, a crescendo of choral voices greeted the signal of four additional minutes without fear.

James tried his hand at management in the League of Wales with Llanelli, taking in spells also at Garden Village and Haverfordwest but he didn’t enjoy the success Carvalhal has kindled way down by the sea.

An echo from the beach portrays the words of Martha and the Muffins from 1979, James surely remembering the wish for the sun not to go down. He didn’t need to see the ball; he could smell it and Carvalhal has the scent of survival from the sea as he approaches a return to his previous Club Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday (Feb 17).

The Swans travel to Hillsborough in search of a place in the FA Cup quarter final for the first time since 1964, where they eventually lost to Preston North End 2-1 in the semi-final at Villa Park, with the backing of the Jack Army who are enjoying the fruits of the BBQ served by Carvalhal.

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Three summer tests announced for Wales

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WALES will play three summer tests in Cardiff this July as revised international fixtures have been announced.

Wayne Pivac’s side will face Canada (July 3) and back-to-back games against Argentina (July 10 & 17) at Principality Stadium.

These tests replace the scheduled summer tour to Argentina which has had to be cancelled due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic and uncertainty around travel restrictions.

The Pumas will now travel to Cardiff for two tests against the Six Nations Champions.

Wales will kick off their summer campaign on July 3 at home to Canada. The Canucks who are coached by former Wales captains Kingsley Jones and Rob Howley will visit Cardiff for the first time since 2008.

“We are looking forward to this summer, the opportunity it presents, and we are delighted to have three tests confirmed,” said Wales head coach Wayne Pivac.

“It is disappointing not to have the opportunity to tour Argentina, especially on the back of our 2020 tour to New Zealand being cancelled, but in the current climate it is completely understandable.

“What is important is we have games and as we have said all along, this summer is a huge opportunity for us.   We are delighted and proud to have 10 players selected for the British & Irish Lions, it is reward for all their hard work and we wish them all the best this summer.

“With those players away we always earmarked this summer as an important development opportunity for us.

“It is an opportunity to bring players into this environment, look at them closely and expose them to test match rugby.  It is also an opportunity for current internationals to step-up into further leadership roles, so on both counts it is an important camp for us looking ahead to RWC2023.”

WRU CEO Steve Phillips added: “It is a huge credit to World Rugby that a full schedule of summer international rugby has been achieved against the backdrop of the global pandemic.

“Whilst it is obviously disappointing not to tour, we are delighted in Wales to be hosting Canada and to be able to honour the 2017 San Francisco agreement by hosting the Pumas for back-to-back matches, which will be hugely important to our international player development.

“Wayne has been adamant that his squad needs matches this summer and World Rugby have certainly delivered on that front.

“We are, of course, acutely aware of current restrictions and the ongoing and complex global COVID-19 picture. We will continue to monitor the situation in terms of any potential spectator access, but will remain entirely compliant and vigilant of all restrictions.

“In the current circumstances we are simply delighted to be able to play international rugby and any advance on that will be a bonus.”

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Aber fail to break down ten-man Flint

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ABERYSTWYTH Town and Flint Town United played out a goalless draw on Saturday (May 8).

It could have been much different for Aber, though, as they played against a Flint side who had Ben Amiss sent off in the first half, but they failed to make their advantage count.

With Wales experiencing some unseasonal weather, the Deeside coast was battered by mother-nature in the build-up to the game and full credit must go to the volunteers at the Silkmen for producing an excellent playing surface.

Aber started the game brightly and carved out two great openings in the first five minutes.  Firstly, Louis Bradford volleyed over the bar from close range before some brilliant work down the left from Harry Franklin teed up a cross for Jonathan Evans who’s goal bound header looked to have given the Seasiders the initiative.

However, home stopper Jon Rushton had other ideas, pulling off a sumptuous save down low, pawing the ball away to safety.

After the two quick chances for Aber, Flint settled into the contest and began creating chances of their own.

The home side saw strikes from Alex Jones and Callum Brately fall narrowly wide of the post before creating their best opportunity of the half with 23 minutes having elapsed.

Great play down the right flank saw the ball land to Ross Weaver. His strike, via a deflection from Black and Green defender Ian Kearney forced Connor Roberts into a great stop.

Franklin was causing problems for the Silkmen and Aber’s most likely route towards victory looked to be coming down his wing. He had a glorious opportunity to give Aber the lead but couldn’t keep his effort under the crossbar. He did have the ball in the back of the net but an early flag from the linesman denied him his fourth of the season.

The game’s flashpoint came with just seconds to go until the break. A heavy tackle in midfield from Ben Amiss on Jamie Veale, sparking a 19-man melee in midfield and saw referee Bryn Markham Jones reach for his red card for the Flint Town United striker.

With Aber having a numerical advantage, they enjoyed more of the ball in the second stanza but could only create sporadic chances against a well drilled and organised back line. Mathew Jones saw a strike fall narrowly over the bar whilst Kearney’s header from a corner landed on the roof of the home net.

To their credit, Flint did look to gain a winner of their own and had spells of pressure but like their opponents, they couldn’t break down an organised Seasiders’ defence. The lively Jones for the hosts came closest with his header going wide of the far post.

Gavin Allen introduced Owain Jones and Marc Williams as well as Jamie Reed late on in search of the go ahead goal but despite the addition of additional fire power, there was to be no late drama.

Jon Owen saw a shot well stopped by Rushton whilst Jenkins tried to connect with a Jack Rimmer cross in the final minute but could only make connection with the home keeper, earning himself a yellow card in the process.

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Scarlets convincingly beat Ospreys

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Rainbow Cup • Scarlets 22 – Ospreys 6

SCARLETS delivered a dominant derby performance to claim their first victory of the Rainbow Cup campaign, beating the Ospreys 22-6, at a rain-soaked Parc y Scarlets.

Prop Alex Jeffries scored the only try of the match, with full-back Leigh Halfpenny delivering a typically dead-eyed goal-kicking display in atrocious conditions.

The platform was laid by the Scarlets pack, with skipper Ken Owens, Blade Thomson and Aaron Shingler to the fore; the man of the match Kieran Hardy mixed up his game intelligently, while a much-improved defensive display saw the visitors restricted to just two kicks at goal from fly-half Luke Price.

It was the Ospreys who opened the scoring with a penalty from the boot of Price on two minutes, but the Scarlets responded strongly with Halfpenny levelling on 17 after the visitors were caught offside.

The outstanding Jonathan Davies looked like he made it over the whitewash after bursting through a couple of tackles, but the television match official adjudged the Wales centre had lost the ball as he slid over the whitewash and the score was chalked off.

Nevertheless, the Scarlets continued to boss proceedings.

With the Ospreys falling foul of Scottish referee Ben Blain, Halfpenny added a couple more penalties and an impressive half for the home side was capped when Jeffries crossed two minutes before the interval

A well-worked line-out move saw Davies burst onto a pass from Owens, breaking through a couple of tackles before feeding the tight-head prop on his inside.

Jeffries still had plenty to do but showed a superb turn of pace to race clear 20 metres to the whitewash to touch down against his former side.

That made it 16-3 at half-time with the Scarlets seemingly in firm control.

The visitors, looking for their first PRO14 win at Parc y Scarlets since 2015, did enjoy more of the game in the second period.

Price reduced the arrears with a penalty and it needed some superb defence to keep the Ospreys line-out maul at bay.

Another Halfpenny penalty five minutes from time extended the lead to 22-6 to ensure a comfortable victory and a seasonal double over the Scarlets’ arch-rivals.

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