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Scotland and Wales serve up a thriller

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Scotland 24 – Wales 25

NEVER-DAY-DIE Wales fought back from 17-3 down against a quality Scotland team to gain their second win of this year’s Six Nations.

In the first round game, Wales got dragged into a knock-down-drag-out scrap against Ireland which left them with a long injury list and the need to draw extra players into the squad. With so many key players out injured, the side travelled to Murrayfield bearing the weight of fans hopes rather than expectations.

And what a game those fans got!

A Scottish side full of flair and confidence and a Welsh side with pace at the back and renewed physical presence up front served up a heart-stopping thriller in arctic conditions in Edinburgh.

Scotland were on a high after beating England at Twickenham for the first time in 38 years in the last round. Their pack took England to the cleaners in the Calcutta Cup match and the Scots skilful backline looked sharp with ball in hand.

However, a lack of ruthlessness in their opponent’s twenty-two made the English game closer than it should’ve been and the home side were similarly wasteful with their territorial and possession advantages against Wales.

Too many times the Scots got into Wales’ danger zone only to overplay or misplay the advantage.

With markedly less ball and even less territory, Wales were much more ruthless than the hosts at converting presence in the opposition’s twenty-two into points.

Seeking to win their fifth Six Nations game in a row, Darcy Graham scored Scotland’s first try. Gathering a clever chip over the top by scrum-half Ali Price, Graham shook of Leigh Halfpenny’s desperate tackle and scored under the posts.

Scotland’s second try owed something to luck – both good and bad – Stuart Hogg kicked ahead and gave chase. For all the world. Halfpenny looked to have the ball covered only for it to wriggle free on the greasy surface and he went to ground. Hogg, who is the form fullback in the northern hemisphere, gathered the ball and touched down.

At 17-3 down, Wales were under the cosh but still competitive.

A driving maul from a short lineout saw Wales plough their way up-field in a series of short drives to near the Scottish line. The ball worked across the backline before Nick Tompkins fine pass found Louis Rees-Zammitt lurking with try-scoring intent. From close range, the winger made no mistake and scored the try which sent Wales in at the half 17-8 down.

Wales coach Wayne Pivac changed his half-backs on 51 minutes and was rewarded with an immediate return. Another brilliant driving line-out carved deep into the Scottish 22. Swift ball across the three-quarters released Liam Williams, whose sparkling try was converted by Callum Sheedy to bring Wales within two points.

Shortly afterwards came the moment which left Scots feeling aggrieved. As Wyn Jones challenged for the ball at the breakdown, opposite number Zander Fagerson ploughed into the ruck. Leading with his should he made direct contact with the Welsh prop’s head.

The rules on head contact are clear. Fagerson’s illegal attempt at a clear-out was given a straight red.

As former England prop David Flatman explained after the game: “Zander Fagerson’s red card was a red card. Rugby is changing and, as much as it all seems to be about the elite end of the game, the reality is the exact opposite.
“While the elite game is the most visible, it is rightly being used as a vehicle to make safer all those games of rugby that are played on muddy, isolated fields, away from specialist medical care and high definition cameras.

“Red cards like Fagerson’s are literally designed to make children safer on Sunday mornings.”

To add insult to injury, Wales’ capitalised on their one-man advantage with Wyn Jones touching down after more good close driving work by the Welsh forwards near the Scottish line.

Back came Scotland. Spurning two easy shots at goal, they created space for the ever-dangerous Stuart Hogg to turn on the pace and score a try, which Russell’s touchline conversion made into a four-point lead.

A moment of individual skill by Louis Rees-Zammitt was the standout moment of Wales’ performance. Travelling at full pelt, the Gloucester flyer latched on to Willy Halaholo’s perfectly weighted pass. Without breaking stride, the winger chipped it over the Scottish defence, outpaced Stuart Hogg (no mean feat) and gathered his own kick in Murrayfield’s deep in goal area to touch down.

Still Scotland came again and deep into stoppage time worked the ball to Scotland’s giant winger, Duhan van der Merwe. For all the world, it looked as though the last play of the match would see Welsh hearts broken at Murrayfield. Scrambling back, Owen Watkin produced the perfect tap tackle. With the clock in the red zone, Wales made no mistake in kicking the ball dead to seal the win.

Wales’ bold replacement of both half backs made near the start of the second half, galvanised the Welsh midfield at the expense of kicking reliability. If Wales bring Josh Adams back into the side against England and move Liam Williams to full-back, it is almost certain that Dan Biggar will start at outside half. Callum Sheedy, for all his skill with ball-in-hand, remains too fallible from the tee to be Wales’ frontline kicker.

Apart from an early misfire, Wales’ lineout was vastly improved. After an initial long throw went straight to Scottish hands, hooker Ken Owens and his callers kept it simple. Wales’ forward drives from the lineouts were a significant game-changer for the Welsh pack. The tactic gave Wales’ backs room by sucking in the Scottish defence.

It’s England for the Triple Crown next for Wales and, while England have been unconvincing so far, a Welsh win would still be an upset result. England have power and pace. If they can add precision to the mix, they will take some stopping.

Head coach Wayne Pivac commented: “It’s a very pleasing start, but I think it was evident to everyone that it wasn’t the complete performance.

“At 17-3 down, it wasn’t going to script but the players regathered their thoughts, the leadership on the field was good, and we came away with that score before half time.

“That was vital for us going into the changing room. The players reacted very well after half time, the replacements made an impact, and it was very nice to get the result at the end.”

On Louis Rees-Zammit, Wayne Pivac said: “He was exciting with the ball, wasn’t he? He took his opportunities very well. He’s still got work to do on his game without the ball, and that’s the exciting thing.

“He’s going to be a very exciting player for us going forward.”
Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones added: “We’re well aware there are massive improvements to make.

“You can’t give a team two tries, but I’m pleased with the resilience, character and pride in the jersey we’re still showing. What you’re seeing as well is a product of the experimentation from the Autumn Nations Cup and the hurt we took.

“Irrelevant of the advantage, I’d like to think we were in the ascendancy before the card.

“We’re aware England had a good win and are back on track. We’ll be back in Cardiff, so we’ll regroup and improve on the parts we need to.”

Alun Wyn Jones added: “Louis has been playing well for Gloucester in the Premiership. I’d heard a lot about him and seen a lot of highlights of him. Hopefully, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

“I don’t want to heap the pressure on him, I want him to continue in a similar vein.”

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Scarlets support new Wish Fund campaign for children and young people

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THE Scarlets are working in partnership with their local NHS Charity to support the Wish Fund, a new campaign which will create magical memories for children and young people living with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions and their families.

The Wish Fund will raise funds for NHS Paediatric Palliative Care services in the Hywel Dda University Health Board area. The funding will enable the services to provide activities which are beyond NHS expenditure.

These include fantastic group activities and family day trips, therapeutic play toys to help young patients process what they are experiencing, and wellbeing resources for families and young siblings.

Angharad Davies, Children’s Community Lead Nurse, said: “The Wish Fund will provide us with opportunities to give that little extra to our patients and families.

“It means we can create lasting memories together which will be cherished forever. I can’t tell you how much this means to the children and young people we work with, their families and carers, and the Paediatric Palliative Care team.”

Jonathan Davies, Scarlets Rugby, said: “We are thrilled to be able to support the Wish Fund and look forward to working with Hywel Dda Health Charities to make a real difference to families across mid and west Wales.

“We hope to inspire people across the region to join with us and bring a bit of joy to their lives. We want to help them create some brilliant memories which will last forever.”

The campaign officially launched on May 20 and the charity publicised the partnership at the Scarlets Vs Stormers match on May 21 at Parc y Scarlets.

The Wish Fund campaign will see the NHS charity and the Scarlets working together on an ongoing basis to raise funds for the campaign and raise awareness about the work of the Paediatric Palliative Care team.

Pictured L-R: Jayne Thomas (Clinical Nurse Specialist, Paediatric Palliative Care), Tiara Davies (patient), Gareth Davies, Jonathan Davies, Delton Williams (patient), Anne-Marie Llewellyn (Children’s Community Nurse)

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Rob Evans and Steff Hughes leaving Scarlets

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SCARLETS has confirmed that Rob Evans and Steff Hughes are amongst the nine players who will be leaving the club at the end of the 2021-22 season.

It has already been announced that Liam Williams has signed for Cardiff Rugby and Angus O’Brien is rejoining the Dragons for next season, while James Davies revealed in April that he is retiring from the game on medical grounds.

As well as Rob and Steff, the Llanelli-based side will also be saying its farewells and thanks to Tyler Morgan, Marc Jones, Tom Phillips and Tomi Lewis after Saturday’s final URC match of the season against DHL Stormers.

Scarlets head coach Dwayne Peel said: “I’d like to thank all these players for everything they have given to the Scarlets jersey.

“Boys like Rob, Steff, Cubby and Liam have played more than a century of games for the club and they will be fondly remembered by everyone here, staff, team-mates and supporters.

“They can be extremely proud of what they have achieved and I am sure they will have great memories of representing the Scarlets over the years.

“Every season players move on and we always respect the decisions that are made. With a reduced playing budget, we have had to cut our squad for next season and that has meant we have had some difficult decisions to make.

“The players have continued to give their full commitment, as they have always done, and I’m sure our supporters will give them the reception they all deserve at our final game against the Stormers on Saturday. I wish them all well for what comes next.”

SCARLETS LEAVERS 2021-22

ROB EVANS
The Pembrokeshire loose-head came through the Scarlets Academy and after playing for Carmarthen Quins in the Welsh Premiership made his senior debut against Sale Sharks in January 2013. Rob has made 156 Scarlets appearances and scored 13 tries, including one in Glasgow that secured a memorable away semi-final victory in the PRO14. Was a member of the side that lifted the Guinness PRO12 title in 2017 and will be remembered as a larger than life character around the squad during his 10 seasons at Parc y Scarlets. Capped 39 times for Wales,

LIAM WILLIAMS

Liam Williams is bringing to an end his second spell with the Scarlets. The 31-year-old Wales international full-back and British & Irish Lion has played 119 games for the club and has scored 34 tries, one of which set the Scarlets on their way to PRO12 glory in the final in 2017. Liam is joining Cardiff Rugby for next season.

STEFF HUGHES

Steff Hughes has made 104 appearances and scored seven tries for the Scarlets since making his debut at centre in an LV=Cup game against Saracens nine years ago. A former Wales U20s captain, the Llanelli product has skippered the Scarlets on numerous occasions, including the memorable European pool win in Bath in 2020. His two tries in a thrilling home clash against Connacht in the same season helped secure Champions Cup qualification once again.

JAMES DAVIES

James Davies has retired from rugby on medical grounds after battling concussion issues. ‘Cubby Boi’ made his Scarlets debut in 2013 and went on to make 101 appearances in a Scarlets jersey. Delivered a superb try-scoring display in the PRO12 title-winning triumph over Munster and went on to win 11 caps for Wales. Cubby also represented Wales 7s at the Commonwealth Games and Team GB at the 2016 Olympics.

MARC JONES

The experienced hooker joined the Scarlets from Sale in the summer of 2018 after making more than 150 appearances for the Sharks. The 35-year-old played 46 times for the Scarlets over four seasons, scoring four tries.

ANGUS O’BRIEN

Angus O’Brien made his Scarlets debut in 2018 and has made 45 appearances, scoring 112 points, including seven tries. The fly-half is returning to play for his home region, the Dragons, ahead of the 2022-23 campaign.

TOM PHILLIPS

A former Wales U20s Grand Slam-winning captain, Tom has played 30 matches for the Scarlets since making his senior debut in 2015. Suffered a serious knee ligament injury in the opening URC match of the season in Edinburgh.

TYLER MORGAN

The Wales international centre has been at the Scarlets for two seasons, making his debut in the Challenge Cup quarter-final defeat in Toulon in 2020. The 26-year-old has made 22 appearances, scoring one try.

TOMI LEWIS

A Wales sevens international,Tomi has made two senior appearances for the Scarlets. Returned to action this season after a lengthy absence recovering from knee surgery and has been playing in the Indigo Premiership for Llandovery RFC.

Physiotherapist Carys Moggridge is also leaving the Scarlets to take up a role with the Welsh Rugby Union.

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Matchroom Whites win Worthington Cup

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MATCHROOM Whites have won the Llanelli Snooker League’s Worthington Cup team final, after a 4-1 victory in the final against Morfa Social

A highlight of the match was another fine Tyler Rees break of 89, although the maximum was on at one point.

Tyler Rees’ winning streak wasn’t over though, as he teamed up with his Matchroom teammate Chris Davies to win the final of the Doubles tournament, defeating Dean Bowen and Mark Sargent; more nice breaks in this one, Rees firing another 68, while Chris Davies added a fine 71.

Meanwhile, more success for the Matchroom came with Matchroom Blacks’ 4-1 Division 2 Olympic Cup final victory at the expense of Reading Room Reds, with Ryan Maides, Adrian Davies, Rhys Morgan and Thomas Williams winning; just Phil Payne offered any winning resistance for the Burry Port side.

Meanwhile, Ammanord Snooker World’s leftie Anthony Krysa is through to the final of this year’s Singles, after a 3-0 victory against Kev Gronow of the Gremlin Club; Krysa made some nice breaks, including a fine 75 knock.

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