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Merthyr cause cupset at the Parc

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Dion Jones: climbs highest to claim the ball

Swalec Cup

Llanelli 14

Merthyr 17

FORMER WELSH International Andy Powell and his colleagues from big spending Merthyr caused the upset of the round, as they deservedly knocked out Premiership side Llanelli in a bruising encounter at the Parc y Scarlets.

It is the first time in the club’s history that Merthyr have made it into the quarterfinals, and the victory will go down in the folklore of the club, although with promotion from the Championship a certainty, the valley side’s travelling support can be sure of many days like this in the future. The reward for victory in this tie is a trip to Sardis Road to face Premiership giants Pontypridd.

Merthyr started off the more adventurous side putting early pressure on Llanelli with big hits going in from both sets of forwards. Top points scoring full back Matthew Jarvis let Llanelli off the hook when he missed two easy penalty attempts in the first 15 minutes.

The deadlock was broken when ex-Merthyr outside half Josh Lewis slotted a 25-metre penalty after Merthyr were caught offside. However Jarvis made amends for his earlier misses when he kicked a penalty to draw the side’s level at 3-3.

Merthyr won good line out ball from both Craig Locke and young Ben Murphy, which allowed man of the match Rhys Downes to bring his backs into action with only good home defence preventing a score. Back row men Tom Daley, Phil Rees and captain Andy Powell were big ball carriers for Merthyr as the pack began to take the game to Llanelli.

However Llanelli extended their lead to 6-3, when Lewis kicked a 35-metre penalty for a high tackle. Then came the first try of the game when, Merthyr turned down a kick at goal with Gunter kicking deep into the Llanelli 22.

From the lineout won by second row Locke, outside half Gunter brought in blind side wing Alex Howman who took and inside pass to race away under the posts, Jarvis converted and Merthyr had taken the lead for the first time 6-10.

Things got worse for the home side as a Merthyr attacked once again and a chip ahead from Gunter deep in the Llanelli half caused panic and when Llanelli failed to clear their lines an attempted clearance kick was charged down by scum half Rhys Downes who raced away for the try in the corner, Jarvis slotted over the kick and Merthyr had taken a 6-17 interval lead.

The second half began with an all out attack from Llanelli to try and get back into the game, and only good defence keeping them out. Merthyr were guilty of giving away too many soft penalties and it was not long before Lewis closed the gap as he slotted over a penalty kick to bring the score 9-17.

Merthyr began to settle once again with Phil Rees and Tom Daley making good ground with big charges up field. Llanelli made several changes, as they looked for that all important score as they began to run the ball at Merthyr, but credit to Merthyr their defence was rock solid. However a missed tackle in midfield did allow home centre Nathan Edwards to race away to score wide out, Lewis missed with the conversion but Llanelli had closed the gap 14-17.

From the restart Llanelli attacked once again looking for that allimportant score turning down several kicks at goal. A penalty under the posts was turned down with Llanelli opting for a scrum. After several scrum attempts a score looked certain, but a rock solid scrummage from Merthyr kept them out and when the scum collapsed Merthyr were awarded a penalty and released the pressure.

Merthyr raced up field with time running out and big carries once again from replacement Osian Davies, Phil Rees, and Craig Locke kept Llanelli pinned their own 22.

With only minutes remaining Merthyr were awarded a penalty to seal the game but the reliable Jarvis missed, which allowed Llanelli one last attack from behind their line but the attack broke down on the half way line, with referee Gwyn Morris blowing for full time.

This was a huge win for Merthyr against a Premiership side and the whole side should be given credit for this famous win. The Merthyr forwards more than held their own against the big Llanelli pack, but credit also to half backs Downes and Gunter, with Gunter putting in some fine touch kicks, pinning Llanelli back on several occasions.

Teams:

Llanelli: 15 Dion Jones, 14 Shaun Pearce, 13 Nathan Edwards, 12 Steffan Hughes, 11 Ryan Davies, 10 Josh Lewis, 9 Josh Guy, 8 Trystan Lloyd, 7 Owain Morgan, 6 Nathan Hart, 5 Jack Jones, 4 Adam Powell, 3 Gareth Havard, 2 Torin Myhill, 1 Rhys Thomas

Replacements: 16 Tom Kaijaks, 17 Taylor Davies, 18 Jack Payne, 19 Chris Long, 20 Elliot Rees, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Jonny Lewis, 23 Matthew Pearce

Merthyr: 15 M Jarvis, 14 D Parry, 13 M Trowbridge, 12 D Bishop, 11 A Howman, 10 D Gunter, 9 R Downes, 1 J Howe, 2 R Williams, 3 G Powell, 4 C Locke, 5 B Murphy, 6 P Rees, 7 T Daley, 8 A Powell

Replacements: 16 G Way, 17 L Jones/M Davies, 18 R James, 19 R East, 20 O Davies, 21 M Luckwell, 22 A Hoskins, 23 T Hiscock.

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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.

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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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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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A 48-7 victory over Italy leaves Wales a win from the Grand Slam

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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.

Line-ups
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)

Match officials
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

MATCH ANALYSIS

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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