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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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Sport

Trimsaran secure top spot

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TRIMSARAN secured top spot in WRU Bowl Group G2 as they beat Furnace United 18-15 on Saturday (Oct 9).

A big crowd showed up at Caeffair for the top of the pool clash between the two sides and they were not disappointed.

Furnace kicked the game off and from the start it was the cherries who were in the ascendancy and were rewarded with an early shot at goal to make it 3-0 to the visitors.

Furnace were forcing Trim into mistakes and taking advantage of their ill-discipline. They were rewarded with another shot at goal which was missed. It was turning out to be a typical local derby game with both teams cancelling each other out for much of the first half.

The Trimsaran pack started to outmuscle the visiting pack at the set piece as the game approached the last 10 minutes of the first half and they were awarded a kickable penalty which outside half Corey Phillips converted to draw Trim level.

With half time approaching Trimsaran number 8 burst through the Furnace defence after some sustained pressure in Furnace territory and found second row Lee Thomas outside him who touched down with a superb long arm stretch to score the games’ first try. With the conversion missed it was 8-3 to the home team at half time.

Trimsaran kicked off a dramatic second half. Seven minutes into the second half Furnace were applying some pressure in the Trimsaran 22 when suddenly the referee in charge blew his whistle and halted play.

To the surprise of everyone in attendance he red carded Trimsaran second row and tryscorer Lee Thomas. This handed Furnace a numerical advantage early in the second half but some brilliant defence from Trim kept the cherries at bay.

10 minutes later Furnace finally had their first try of the game to even up the scoreboard at 8-8.

It only took a further 5 minutes for Furnace to retake the lead after a great finish from their Full back Myles Harries after a break down the right wing by Furnace before spreading the ball in the field of Play for Myles to touchdown.

With a man advantage it seemed Furnace were going to make it count. 5 minutes later Furnace were shown a yellow card after a dump tackle. This evened the game up and with the penalty Trim kicked to the touchline and drove their way over from a maul with prop Iwan Green emerging the try scorer.  The conversion was successful and once again we were all level at 15-15.

With 12 minutes to go both teams would have fancied their chances at getting within range and securing a win.

Trim kept their tails up and with some good play and a great break they got themselves up to kicking range. Furnace give the penalty away for offside and outside half Corey Phillips kept his nerve to give Trim the lead 18-15 with 5 minutes to go.

Trim were looking to control the final stages of the game and see it out but got penalised just inside their half and Furnace attempted a penalty which fell just short to equalise the game.

With 3 minutes left there was a scuffle near the halfway line and the referee again brought his red card out and give it to Trimsaran number 8 Steff Roberts in which seemed to be a case of mistaken identity as he was accused of striking an opponent but it didn’t appear to be him.

This gave Furnace one last chance to steal the victory from Trim. Some brave defence from the lineout from the home team looked to have turned the ball over but another pen was awarded to Furnace who kicked their way into the 22 and with a 2 man advantage fancied their chances to snatch victory. Trim competed well in the lineout though and forced a knock on from the cherries and with it a loud roar of delight from the vocal home support.

A fantastic Derby game played out by both teams which sees Trim secure top spot in group G2 with one game to spare.

That game takes place this weekend when Trimsaran welcome New Dock Stars to Caeffair on Saturday (Oct 16).

PHOTOS BY DARREN HARRIES
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Burry Port Reserves hold off Seaside

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BURRY PORT Reserves closed the gap to second placed Seaside Reserves on Saturday (Oct 9) as they beat them 2-1.

The home side took the lead early on when Dean Thomas scored a penalty after 12 minutes.

Seaside hit back though and were level on 39 minutes when Nathan Lewis found the back of the net.

It remained 1-1 at half time but 13 minutes into the second half, Burry Port regained the lead.

Ioan Williams, who had only come on to the pitch a minute earlier, scored the goal which would ultimately prove to be the winner.

It earned Burry Port a third straight win in Carmarthenshire AFL Reserve Division 1 and they now sit three points behind Seaside.

Other results in the Division on Saturday saw leaders Loughor Reserves thrash Drefach reserves 7-1 while Gorseinon Athletic Reserves beat Trallwm Reserves 4-1.

Pontlliw Reserves were also 4-0 winners away at Killay Reserves.

On Saturday, October 16, Burry Port will look for another win as they take on Gorseinon while second plays first as Seaside host Loughor.

PHOTO BY DARREN HARRIES

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Kidwelly edge past Burry Port

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KIDWELLY beat Burry Port by just two points on Saturday (Oct 9) as they took ownership of the Lewi Jones Cup.

The Cup is played for in memory of Lewi Jones and is up for grabs when the holder meets another competing club.

A big crowd gathered for the game in Burry Port and they witnessed two good sides give their all for the win.

It was Kidwelly though who eventually came out on top winning by 11 points to 9.

Captain James Owens scored two penalties for Kidwelly while the crucial try was scored in the corner by Luke Thomas.

The Blacks scored three penalties but will take a losing bonus point for their efforts.

As well as winning the Lewi Jones cup for the first time, Kidwelly also move to within two points of the Blacks in WRU Plate Group G1.

On Saturday, October 16, Kidwelly are in action again as they host Llanelli Wanderers.

Burry Port are next in action the following weekend (Oct 23) when they travel to Felinfoel.

A big crowd gathered for the game. PHOTOS BY DARREN HARRIES
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