NEWCASTLE EMLYN became the first ever winners of the WRU Division One West League title on Wednesday night when they defeated Gorseinon at Dol Wiber. With a number of players still suffering from the effects of Sunday’s cup final, Director of Rugby Marc Lloyd was forced to make a total of nine changes from Sunday’s starting line-up. It was a tribute to the strength in depth of the squad and also the excellent coaching they have received all season from Lloyd, player coach Arwel Davies and scrum specialist Charles Gale that these players were able to slot in and perform in the manner they did to clinch the title with one game left. Knowing that a bonus point win would give them the Championship, Emlyn started the game at a rate of knots and soon put the Gorseinon line under a great deal of pressure. However Gorseinon had not read the script and were not prepared to roll over and hand the title to the home side. They defended their line resolutely and the first half saw almost total Emlyn territorial dominance but when the excellent referee Justin Williams blew for half time Emlyn only had one try on the scoreboard.
What a try it was, after some fifteen minutes play Gorseinon took a twenty two metre restart and the ball was caught by Emlyn flanker Joel James. He then slipped a pass to oncoming full back Shaun Leonard, his pace took him past two defenders. Leonard off loaded in the tackle to supporting winger Teifi on Davies and when he was tackled he passed to the impressive Joel James who took a defender with him over the line for a try converted by Leonard. The large crowd then settled down expecting a try fest, but it was not to be as a combination of over complication behind, poor option taking and the stern Gorseinon defence meant that there were no further additions to the score in the first half. The half time team talk by coaches Lloyd and Davies must have been worth listening to as it had an immediate effect on the home side. Emlyn went back to doing what they do best, using forwards to set up two, three phases of play then moving it wider. In number eight Luke Kendall and Joel James they had two back row forwards who carried the ball with purpose always taking at least a couple of defenders out with their powerful runs. The Emlyn front row of props Dai Jones and Gethin Davies along with hooker Bedwyr Davies had the upper hand all evening and the next score originated from a scrum. Gorseinon managed to wheel two Emlyn attempts at push over tries and on the third scrum the ball was moved wide for outside half Steffan Evans to use his strength to force his way over the line for a try converted by Leonard.
Lloyd now started to empty the Emlyn bench when an arm injury forced Joel James off to be replaced by Brynmor Jones and there proved to be no let up for the visitors defence as Jones linked well with Kendall to carry the ball at the visitors line. The two second rows, of returning skipper Gethin Greves and Bleddyn Davies also supported the runners intelligently as did the front row. When regular scrum half Mike Jones came on to replace the rapidly developing back row forward Gareth Thomson this necessitated a tactical switch. Owain Powell reverted to his normal open side position and then veteran Arwel Davies replaced Bleddyn Davies, Gorseinon’s hopes of getting anything from the game virtually disappeared.
The tempo of the game increased greatly and the off loading out of the tackle was a joy to behold as Emlyn went in search of the two tries which would hand them the title. But with the introduction of greater experience from the bench there was far greater control to the Emlyn game. The wild passes and over ambitious moves of the first half were a thing of the past as Emlyn laid siege to the visitors line. The third try came from a fine two handed line out catch by Arwel Davies and a drive to the Gorseinon line, held up short, the ball was moved back on the blind side for powerful number eight Kendall to cross for a try converted by Leonard.
From the restart Leonard caught the ball and went on a long mazy run and ignoring the support outside him the full back looked certain to score the all important fourth try but a desperate tackle from behind brought him down a couple of metres from the line. With hooker Alex Williams and prop Gareth Lloyd on the field giving the home side not only fresh legs but greater scrum power due to their freshness, the home side camped on the visitors line. Scrum after scrum was wheeled to be reset, drives close to the scrum were stopped by determined tackling.
Eventually the ball was moved wider for centre Alun Howells to come on a run back to the forwards. When he was held up it was his co-centre Viv Jenkins who managed to rip the ball out of the maul and cross for the fourth try, greeted by a huge roar from the crowd, converted by Leonard. Gorseinon never gave up and ran the ball back at the home team at every opportunity. In centre Andrew Burden they had a powerful runner who took some stopping and scrum half Jack Gronow tried his best to get his threequarter line moving, but as many sides have found out this year, breaching the Emlyn defence is not an easy job and defensively as well as in attack Howells and Jenkins have proven to be an excellent combination.
Emlyn by now were rampant running the ball from all parts of the field with the confidence of a side that knew they had the game and championship won. Both wingers Teifi on Davies and fireman Daniel Davies were bundled into touch short of the line after excellent runs. The fifth and final try was an absolute gem scored in the dying minutes of the game. From a midfield scrum just inside the Gorseinon half, Kendall picked up from the base drew two defenders and put scrum half Mike Jones away on another run. He then drew the last defender and slipped the pass to the supporting Leonard who crossed for a try, which he was unable to convert to complete the scoring. * With the title already won Emlyn went away to Crymych for their final game and went down to a heavy 41-8 defeat to their nearest rivals. It will have mattered little to Emlyn who capped a season that saw them in a Millennium Stadium final with the league trophy. However it will serve
Scarlets convincingly beat Ospreys
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.
Three summer tests announced for Wales
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.”
A 48-7 victory over Italy leaves Wales a win from the Grand Slam
IT was always going to be a tough game for the Italian side, but now it is official, Wales are one win away from the Grand Slam!
Wales scored seven tries through Josh Adams, Taulupe Faletau, Ken Owens (2), George North, Callum Sheedy and Louis Rees-Zammit as they secured a comfortable Six Nations win in Rome.
The unbeaten tournament leaders reeled off a third successive bonus-point victory to increase pressure on their rivals for silverware. Italy meanwhile are staring down the barrel at another Wooden Spoon – they haven’t won a Six Nations match since 2015.https://www.youtube.com/embed/QI4FARxZcKk?feature=oembed
STILL A BIT OF WORK TO DO
The Welsh captain, Alun Wyn Jones, who is just one win away from winning his fourth Six Nations Grand Slam told S4C: “We were pretty clinical, particularly in the first half.
“We’re a tad frustrated with the second half but it’s a case of job done and plenty to work on.
“The excitement I feel every time I pull on this red jersey is insurmountable, so I’m looking forward to getting back to it on Monday and preparing for next weekend.”
Jones added: “It’s job done, but there’s still a bit to work on.”
Another heavy defeat will again raise the inevitable questions about Italy’s position in the Six Nations and whether there should be relegation.
The facts speak for themselves.
Today marked a 31st successive defeat for the Azzurri in the competition, with their last victory coming against Scotland in 2015.
Italy have not managed a home Six Nations win for eight years, with 20 successive losses.
Italy have conceded 187 points and 26 tries in four games this year.
Italy: Trulla, Bellini, Brex, Canna, Ioane, Garbisi, Varney; Fischetti, Bigi (capt), Zilocchi, Cannone, Sisi, Negri, Meyer, Lamaro.
Replacements: Fabiani for Ioane (7-18), Lovotti for Fischetti (65) Riccioni for Zilocchi (33), Lazzaroni for Cannone (52), Mbanda for Meyer (26-36), Violi for Varney (63), Mori for Garbisi (54) Padovani for Trulla (44).
Wales: L Williams; Rees-Zammit, North, J Davies, Adams; Biggar, G Davies; W Jones, Owens, Tomas Francis, Hill, AW Jones (capt), Navidi, Tipuric, Faletau.
Replacements: Dee for Owens (54), Carre for W Jones (57), Brown for Francis (45), Ball for AW Jones (54), Wainwright for Faletau (51), L Williams for G Davies (52), Sheedy for Biggar (52), Halaholo for North (46)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Touch judges: Pascal Gauzere (France) & Christophe Ridley (England)
TMO: Tom Foley (England)https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1370764974163947527&lang=en-gb&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.herald.wales%2Fsport%2Fa-48-7-victory-over-italy-leaves-wales-a-win-from-the-grand-slam%2F&theme=light&widgetsVersion=e1ffbdb%3A1614796141937&width=500px
Surely it was discipline that was the main problem for Italy.
Mistakes and an incredible ability to give away stupid penalties, as a series of needless errors allowed the visitors to build an insurmountable lead early on.
It all started with Paolo Garbisi sending the ball dead from the kick-off before Luca Bigi infringed at the breakdown. The captain then cynically stopped a Gareth Davies quick tap and was duly yellow carded. Against 14 men, Wales built up an advantage they would not relinquish as the visitors won the game before it had really started. It was not a good example from the skipper and is symptomatic of where the Italians are currently at.
Arguably since before the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour, the back has struggled for form, leading many to question whether that was it for the Welsh centurion. Although he is only 28, it must be remembered that North has been around at the top level for a long time and there is only so much the body can take in modern day rugby. However, the move into the midfield seems to have given him a new lease of life.
To the surprise of many, Callum Sheedy did not start against Italy after his superb performance versus England. Instead, it was the much criticised Dan Biggar who continued at fly-half and produced a significantly improved display before giving way to the Bristol playmaker in the second period. Sheedy was also excellent when he came on and it leaves Wayne Pivac with a decision to make going forward. No doubt, Biggar will start next week against France – albeit the head coach is not afraid of making a big call – but the 25-year-old is certainly not far off the first XV.
Much has been said and written about the Azzurri’s continued presence in the Six Nations and based on the evidence in this fixture, they really shouldn’t be playing in a competition of this stature. Franco Smith’s charges were never at the races with Wales racing into a 22-0 lead midway through the half without really breaking a sweat. Italy hardly threatened on attack – especially during the first half – and it looked like it was a case of men against boys for large periods of this Test. The result means they have now lost 31 matches on the trot, which is the longest losing streak in the history of the Championship, and they last tasted victory in a Round Three clash against Scotland in 2015. The time is now ripe for tournament organisers to reconsider their participation.
Although Italy were never in this encounter, Wales deserve plenty of credit as they impressed for the entire game and made full use of the opportunities which were presented to them.
Pivac will be delighted with the clinical fashion with which his players went about their business and they had their bonus point in the bag by the half-hour mark after Josh Adams, Taulupe Faletau and Ken Owens (2) crossed for tries. Despite leading 27-0 at the interval, Wales did not take their foot of the pedal with North also crossing the whitewash soon after the restart and although Monty Ioane scored a try for the hosts, that was a mere blip as Wales continued to dominate and sealed their win with five-pointers from Sheedy and Louis Rees-Zammit.
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