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Wales 21 – 29 Australia

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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.

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Seasiders earn third win

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By Jonathan Twigg

THE Tenby Tourers sponsored Tenby United won their third game of their Division 1 West season when they beat Gorseinon on Saturday (Nov 18) at Heywood Lane 13-6 in a match sponsored by Sion Brace Construction.

The ‘Seasiders’ have found life in the division higher difficult at times this season but they played with accuracy, pace and an uncompromising attitude, attributes required to compete against teams plying their trade at this level.

Gorseinon, home club of Wales and Scarlets full back Leigh halfpenny arrived on an unbeaten six game run stretching back to the middle of September which included an away victory at the then unbeaten league leaders Dunvant progressing to the third round of the National Plate.

The Tenby side included three players on permit, all former ‘red and blacks, where Dan Colley from Pembroke came in on the wing, Pat Roberts, normally a flanker with championship side Narberth in the centre and Narberth team mate Jonathon Rogers at outside half.

Rogers brought to the table something perhaps the home side have missed on occasions in that he kept the ball going forward ensuring the game was played in the opposition areas, which was a huge motivation to his peers, especially the forwards who rose from the coal face with energy when they saw their efforts were rewarded.

Tenby’s Jonathan Rogers with the ball in hand

During the second half such was the dominance and game management applied from Tenby, Gorseinon struggled to get out of their own half for long periods. The Tenby forwards to a man were committed to the cause and took the slippery ball with confidence into the lion’s den and have the skill level to set the play or execute an off load to keep the ball alive.

Man of the match Jack Clancy would have devoured the steaks he received for his performance from Heywoods Butchers in Saundersfoot, as he made many crashing inroads to the heart of the Gorseinon defence, carrying for vital yards whilst also being like a fourth back row forward in hunting down the ball and pressurising the opposition into mistakes.

Tenby have a solid back row unit now Roy Osborne has returned from Carmarthen to dove tail in with Andrew Cooke and Barry Parsons, whose work rate was on par with Clancy.

This game was going to be won or lost on how the Tenby pack faced up to the bigger visiting forwards and alarm bells would have been ringing for coach Chris James early on as his side were nudged backwards in the scrums and needed to up their game to gain parity.

Respect came with the work off the ball in defence where props Lewis Davies and Rob Clarke were heavily involved, with young hooker Kyle Hamer who was also a key component in the offensive work of his side.

Hamer peeled off a line out on halfway to set play in motion for the opening score with Rogers left boot put Tenby in the danger zone.

Winger Moritz Neuman found Cooke on his shoulder as play went with speed into the Gorseinon 22 for centre Jack Guerrio to finish off a forty metre move under the gaze of gateman Des Brace for a 5-0 lead.

Gorseinon had an attacking flair, led by full back Andrew Steel who sought out space and wanted the ball in hand as often as he could. He found willing allies in scrum half Jack Gronow and winger Liam Cross who set the play in the Tenby half and skipper Sean Haycock had little hesitation in taking a scrum set piece when they were awarded a penalty.

Outside half Nick Popham and his centre Richard Rees couldn’t make the break through before Gronow slotted a straight forward penalty after second row Luke Dedman was caught offside to reduce the deficit to 5-3 after a quarter of an hour.

Tenby have an exciting backline who were able to exploit some missed tackles with skipper Johnnie Morgan not needing a second offering to run deep into the Gorseinon half, only to be called back for a miniscule foot in touch.

Clancy stole the line out where Parsons and Neuman stretched the home side across the field, where prop Davies and Cooke set up space for Roger to put a cross kick into the hands of Morgan on the opposite side, with space to canter across in the corner after twenty five minutes.

Referee Rob Hale who travelled from Ebbw Vale for the noon kick off took the opportunity to speak to captains about the back chat he was receiving from players who hadn’t heeded many penalties where they were marched back 10 meters and he identified issues with scrum halves Gronow and Matthew Morgans crooked feeds!

Rogers missed his second conversion attempt but Gronow added a second penalty just before half time where the indiscipline of the Tenby side would be an area of concern for coach James and his number 2 Andrew Morgan during the half time team talk.

The weather deteriorated during the second half, but it seemed to galvanise Tenby further, with Clancy, Davies and the back especially relishing the impact side of the game, which saw visiting prop Callum Steele leave the feel with a shoulder injury.

Knowing Rogers was bringing a calm acuity behind them with decision making the Tenby forwards needed no second invitation to do the hard yards, keeping the ball hemmed deep in the Gorseinon half for long periods.

Rogers missed a long range penalty although his ‘up and under’ were a cause of confusion which Cooke and Neuman capitalised on.

The game plan saw Osborne, Davies and Hamer play well with the ball in hand as did Haycock who set up one last thrust from the visitors to get an equalising score after Rogers extended the lead to 13-6 after centre Tim Payne strayed offside with five minutes to play.

With Hale playing through added time Popham had twice punted the ball into touch after the home forwards were penalised and play was set for a line out from 5 metres, which Nick Southgate secured, and his forwards got momentum.

Replacement hooker Joe Poole smuggled himself into the contact area for Tenby and the Swansea University undergraduate managed to wrestle the ball into his hands and emerge to the undoubted delight of his comrades who engulfed him when Hale blew for full time.

Coach Chris James shared that delight as he said: “It builds our campaign; it’s the first game in a sequence where we are aiming to go into 2018 close to the top of the division. We have come unstuck this year in games where we have made mistakes at crucial times and in impact areas which have cost us points but today we were magnificent in all areas.”

Having witnessed his side spend time in the opposition territory but not convert the pressure into points, James was philosophical in stating “we managed the game well, with Jonathon (Rogers) on permit from Narberth playing the game in the right areas and making calls which enabled us to be on the front foot all match. Credit to Gorseinon for the challenge they presented as Clancy, Lewis Davies, Kyle Hamer and the back row continually drove at them.”

Such was the intensity of the home play Gorseinon lost Callum Steel with a shoulder dislocation and second row Nick Southgate with an AC ligament injury as they made over seventy tackles in the second half. The Tenby backline “is purring” said James, “where the work Andrew (Morgan) puts in with handling at practice coming to fruition today and our defensive pattern and discipline restricted the opportunities we offered for Gorseinon, which ultimately led us to victory.”

Next up for Tenby will be a Pembrokeshire Cup Quarter final at Milford on Saturday (Dec 2) with a noon kick off again before they travel to Tycroes and Llanelli Wanderers in the lead up to Christmas, returning to Heywood Lane on Saturday (Dec 30) when Kidwelly will be the visitors.

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Holders through as Lawrenny beat Kilgetty in goal-fest

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By Jonathan Twigg

FIVE Second Division Cup ties took place on Saturday (Nov 18), with Saundersfoot Sports home match at the King George V field against current table toppers, Hakin United Reserves postponed as the bottom corner was deemed waterlogged by referee Charles Davies.

The winners of that tie will then travel to meet Solva at Glan Hafran in the Quarter Finals early next year as they were already through to the last eight stages as one of two Clubs to receive a bye.

Prendergast Villa were the second club to progress courtesy of a bye and they will welcome Lawrenny to the School Field after the bottom of the table side upturned the form book to overcame last season’s Division 3 champions and current promotion favourites Kilgetty 7-6.

Trailing on their own sports field 4-0 after 20 minutes and missing a plethora of players due to Adam Jenkins stag weekend, the Lawrenny side dug deep in appalling ground conditions and driving rain.

They battled themselves back to reduce the deficit to 4-2 at half time, with goals from centre midfielder Matt Lewis wide midfielder Joe Kidney. Centre forward Henry Lawrence scored the second visiting goal after his side had taken the lead through a deflected goal attempt, before Tom Baker and Lawrence opened a 4-0 lead.

The yellow and blue Kingsmore outfit then went 5-2 ahead with a strike from Brett Evans before the sides exchanged goals through home centre forward Jamie Phillips and Lawrence completed his hat trick.

The village side are made of stern stuff and they rolled up their black and gold sleeves to score three goals in five eventful minutes to set up a grandstand finish for the last ten minutes.

Playing away from their Clubhouse the ground was a tad better which allowed Phillips to net his second of the game, experienced Steve Campbell to level the scores and a minute later young winger Sam Davies to put them ahead for the first time in the keenly contested yet sporting local derby.

Kilgetty failed to square the game before referee Sean O’Connor blew for full time in the game sponsored by Morgan Construction, thanks to some heroic defending coupled with the quagmire in their own goal area and veteran goalkeeper Danny Harries being in top form.

St Clears hammered visitors Letterson 14-0 at the Leisure Centre ground having been set on their way by chirpy attacking midfielder Nathan Evans strike after 40 seconds.

The JRV Taxis sponsored game was over quickly as a contest as the Boars front three scored at will against a side who remained in Division 2 this season by default with Tenby withdrawing from Division 1 before a ball had been kicked in anger this season. Josh James led the way when he went nap for the claret and whites as Steve Thomas helped himself to four goals and the well-travelled Sean Seymour Davies bagged a hat trick alongside a visitor’s own goal.

Such was the one sided nature of the game skipper Martyn Thomas was a distant observer from centre back and his defence marshalled the opposition so well they only had fleeting forays into the danger zone.

Jonathan Sealy also had his spot kick well saved in the bottom left corner by veteran David Lawrence who was responsible for keeping the score to 14-0 with some excellent saves, although home manager Scott Page saw his side waste numerous opportunities.

Reward for the St Clears win will see them travel to the Racecourse to take on current Cup holders Merlin’s Bridge Reserves, buoyed by the return to the Carmarthenshire town of defender Dorian Davies from West Dragons.

Hundleton: Pictured before their Senior Cup game, were beaten by Merlins Bridge on Saturday

The Glenn Hotel sponsored Bridge overcame Hundleton 4-3 at the Village playing field in a scrappy encounter with veteran front man Aaron Devine opening the scoring for the Wizards before Kai Roberts on the right wing put them 2-0 ahead. Jack Phillips pulled one back for the Pembroke village side before half time and the introduction of stoic centre midfielder Lloyd Wilson set the scene for a titanic second half encounter.

With six players under the age of 18 in their starting 11 the Bridge thrived in the battle and sixteen year old left winger Ben Davies extended the lead to 3-1 after 52 minutes.

Another sixteen year old, Josh Thomas made it 4-1 after an hour of play when he struck from his position playing behind Devine and Curtis Hicks grew in stature as the game progressed. Playing in the centre of midfield Hicks dominated in the air and sprayed passes which belied the underfoot conditions in a man of the match performance.

With 10 minutes remaining winger Joe Buckle reduced the score to 4-2 and striker Dylan Davies scored to make the final few minutes a tense affair for the inexperienced visitors who were thankful for the composure to 51 year old goalkeeper Aaron Riley.

Riley made a string of fine saves to roll back the years as his experience as a Welsh league player with Haverfordwest County, albeit as a winger came to the fore, before referee Kevin Millich blew for full time.

St Ishmaels travelled to Pill Parks to take on a Llangwm side who progressed to Division 2 following three promotions in four years, but bowed out 2-0 in their first foray into the cup competition refereed by Karl Davies.

Tish scored a goal in each half with player manager Andrew Howells tapping in at the far post after nearly 30 minutes of the first half thanks to some excellent work wide out from Ieuan Hawkins. Home goalkeeper Ashley Bevans, standing between the sticks for his twin brother Anthony who was away training with the Royal Navy did well behind a back four led by veteran left back Gary Reynolds.

Glen Hewer, Dan Thomas and Martin John supported Reynolds in keeping the attacks at bay as the visiting midfield got the upper hand in the difficult conditions. In a game of few clear cut opportunities the tie was put to bed by Hawkins who capitalised on good wing play from Joseph Bates as in the first half to find space at the far post to score.

St Ishmaels will welcome Fishguard Sports to the Recreation ground, after they overcame Johnston 4-1 at Tregroes Park. The Sports were always in control of the game and led the ‘Tigers’ 2-0 thanks to strikes from former Goodwick midfielder Lewis Banks and Ryan Howells just before the half time whistle from referee Keith Amos.

Stand-in goalkeeper Lewis Boswell was blameless for the goals as the home side dominated possession against a side which lifted the West Wales Intermediate Cup just four seasons ago and they had a chance through striker Ryan Doyle just after the break when he should have pulled the score back to 2-1 when he was one on one with goal keeper.

The game went 4-0 to the Sports through defensive mistakes by centre back Jack Bevans, who lost his footing allowing Banks to score his second of the game before he was robbed close to his own 18 yard box and Matt Harries walked the ball into the net.

Doyle pulled a consolation back with a sumptuous strike before the end for Johnston who will now concentrate on pulling themselves away from second bottom of the league and the ignominy of successive relegations.

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Goodwick and Hakin earn place in fifth round

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GOODWICK United and Hakin United both kept the Pembrokeshire flag flying high on Saturday (Nov 18), as they booked their places in the fifth round of the FAW Trophy.

The Pembrokeshire League rivals have both been in excellent form so far this season and were well deserving of their fourth round victories.

Hakin United beat Caerphilly Athletic 3-2 thanks to two goals from Justin Harding and another from Ben Steele.

Goodwick United also won away beating Ynysddu Welfare 1-0 thanks to a goal from Adam Raymond.

The Vikings reached the fourth round after an 8-1 away to Cwmcarn Athletic after earlier wins against Pencoed Athletic and Bonymaen Colts.

Goodwick United beat Swansea League side Penlan 3-2 in the third round following wins over Rockspur and Ynystawe in the first two rounds.

The draw for the fifth round was made on Monday and saw Goodwick drawn at home while Hakin will play away once more.

Goodwick United were drawn at home to Penydarren BGC of the South Wales Alliance League.

Hakin United were drawn away to Llangefni Town who are currently top of the Welsh Alliance League.

Those ties will be played on Saturday, January 13, 2018.

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