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Scarlets seal victory over Connaught

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By Jonathan Twigg

SCARLETS won their Guinness Pro 14 encounter on Friday (Sept 29) at Parc Y Scarlets 34-27 against a spirited Connaught side in a game which saw the teams share nine tries and secure maximum points.

The first half saw seven of those tries, with the Scarlets leading 26-22 thanks to their fourth try of the night, scored by British & Irish Lions full back Leigh Halfpenny.

The Scarlets had opened the scoring after seven minutes following a clean line out ball from second row David Bulbring, where the ball was moved out to an advancing Rhys Patchell, the outside half running a high attacking line, from which he popped the ball into the hands of centre Jonathan Davies, who broke his tackle and created enough space for winger Johnny Mcnicholl to circle around under the posts for Halfpenny to convert.

From the restart, secured by home flanker Wil Boyde the Scarlets moved the ball along their back division until an unfortunate mix up in midfield between centres Scott Williams and Davies saw the ball pop into the hands of outside half Jack Carty who ran in unopposed under the posts and convert his own try.

The mix up typified the game where many errors restricted the momentum in play, with an expectation that both sides would have been frustrated by their inability to take control of the game despite the fact they served up a nine try thriller.

Wales full back Halfpenny also missed two attempts at goal, the first a conversion of man of the match Stefan Evans try on 17 minutes.

The winger was on hand to finish a move which the Scarlets ran nine passes of play before Williams opened the space for Evans to dance around and finish from 40m out.

With Wales coach Warren Gatland and his management team in the stands Evans has now put himself into the slot to be involved in the Autumn International series as the diminutive winger expressed his desire and hunger to run at the opposition defence line, reflecting images of Shane Williams in his heyday.

Carty brought the score back to 12-10 with a penalty conceded from the scrum, with replacement prop Dylan Evans guilty having just come on for Wales international Rob Evans, side lined with a head injury.

Smarting from the setback of losing Evans and three points the Scarlets won possession back as the half hour mark approached thanks to the endeavours of skipper Ken Owens who charged down a clearance from full back Darragh Leader.

Number 8 Will Boyde combined with Josh McCleod and replacement Evans before further good work from Aaron Shingler and Jake Ball put flanker McCleod clear allowing Rhys Patchell to accept an inside pass from Steff Evans to score and Halfpenny to find his kicking boots gain and convert after missing a 40m penalty on 11 minutes.

Referee Nigel Owens took an age to award the try as the TMO viewed numerous angles of the play much to the discontent of the crowd and whilst applauding the innovative way technology can ‘get the decision right’ thought must be given to keeping the game live.

Connaught came back with a try after some sustained phases of play through their pack to release winger Cian Kelleher after good hands from centre Bundee Aki which Carty converted and a mistake from Mcnicholl allowed visiting number 8 John Muldoon to charge 45m through the midfield, linking well with Aki who was tackled and the ball recycled through the efforts of flanker Jarred Butler allowing winger Tim O’Halloran to score an unconverted try.

With the Scarlets behind for the first time in the match with two minutes of the half remaining the they managed to work space once again for Evans to set his wheels in motion and he drew the covering defence for Halfpenny to score and convert for a half time lead of 26-22.

The second half became a much dourer affair as both coaching teams rung the changes and the handling mistakes which epitomised the absorbing first period were there for the 7693 spectators to witness.

Halfpenny extended the lead close to the hour mark with a penalty as Aki was penalised for a double movement in the tackle, with the game drifting aimlessly as both sides were guilty of kicking possession away to allow them to regroup their defensive patterns.

Scarlets coach Wayne Pivac used all his replacements, the last of which was prop Simon Gardiner, who returned to a Scarlets shirt with just under ten minutes remaining.

The former Wales Under 21 star last played for the Region in September 2011 and after a journey which took him around Britain he has this season put in some excellent performances for Llanelli in the Principality Premiership and deservedly earned a recall to the match day squad.

On 74 minutes Connaught brought themselves back into contention of winning the game thanks to a second unconverted try by O’Halloran after he combined well with fellow wing Kelleher before the crescendo for a nervous home crowd saw replacement back row Irishman Tadhg Bierne stride over after second row Jake Ball collected the ball in midfield and make a 30m unopposed run, for Halfpenny to convert and the game end 36-27.

On Saturday (Oct 7), the Scarlets take on rivals Ospreys in the Pro 14 at the Liberty Stadium, before welcoming Cardiff Blues to Park Y Scarlets at the end of the month after they travel to Toulouse and entertain Bath in the European Cup.

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Sport

Under strength Raiders beaten

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By Sian Golden at Stebonheath Park

IF anything showed up the farcical registration rules inflicted by the RFL, it was Keighley’s club record win on Saturday (Sept 15).

Ordinarily a 112-6 rout would be celebrated, but West Wales were only able to field 12 fit players and after frustrating red and yellow cards, were down to 10 by the end of the game.

There are Welsh players who would have turned out, and perhaps the RFL should allow clubs to register community lads, who have never played professionally, to make up the numbers?

New Raiders coach Kim Williams arrives this week and his presence is much needed. It’s been a long season in Llanelli and, as plenty of arguing showed during the game, it’s a camp which needs a boost and fast.

Raiders held out for three minutes before Andy Gabriel caught Benn Hardcastle’s kick to score in the corner. Hardcastle converted.

Photo by Darren Harries

Cameron Leeming tore through the defence to ground the second try with another expert Hardcastle sideline kick.

A short kick-off led to the third as Dan Parker raced down the wing, the fourth came from a catch by Emmerson Whittell from a high kick by Hardcastle, who converted, before another short kick-off led to the fifth, this one scored by Ritchie Hawkyard and converted by Hardcastle.

Jose Kenga was next over, Leeming got his second, and James Feather scored a length of the field try. Three more Hardcastle goals made the score 46-0 on 25 minutes.

The biggest round of applause came on 33 minutes when Raiders finally broke their duck with an Alan Pope scramble to the line. Harrison Elliot converted.

There was still time for two more first half Cougars tries. Andy Gabriel was too fast for the Raiders defence, and Parker also raced over for his second. Hardcastle converted both. 58-6 at the interval.

Alfie Seeley scored the first try of the second half with Hardcastle converting, but that was before the game turned into more of a charade when Craig Lewis saw red for alleged backchat, this surely prompting Raiders’ chairman Andrew Thorne to tweet “As a chairman of a club of a club losing is hard to take but when you have 14 men on a pitch it’s an impossible task.”

Photo by Darren Harries

Hawkyard scored in the corner four minutes later with Hardcastle converting, and former South Wales Scorpion Billy Gaylor was next. Hardcastle missed the kick but got the next try, which he improved, before Chris Cullimore scored under the sticks, Hardcastle’s goal making it 86-6.

It was good work by Seeley, who weaved his way through the defence for his second, Hardcastle’s conversion bouncing in off the posts, but the game was to finish on 12 v 10 as the referee, who was evidently finding it tough to control the game, showed Hardcastle and Dalton Desmond-Walker yellow after a lengthy fight.

Gabriel claimed his hat-trick with Gaylor slicing the ball low under the sticks. Seeley sealed his hat-trick to take Cougars to 100 with Leeming also claiming his third. Gaylor, who was closer with his second conversion attempt, got this one over.

A length of the field Hawkyard try in the final minute gave him a triple and Gaylor’s goal brought down the curtain on the farce that Oscar Wilde would have been proud of writing.

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Sport

Draw made for Bowl second round

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THE draw for the second round of the WRU National Bowl has been made with a number of exciting ties to look forward to.

New Dock Stars’ reward for knocking out League 3 West A opponents Llangwm is another home tie against fellow League 3 West A side Llanybydder.

Former WRU Bowl Champions Amman United were given a walkover in the first round and they will be at home in the second round having been drawn to play South Gower.

Haverfordwest, who beat Pantyffynnon 69-5 on Saturday (Sept 15) have been rewarded with another home tie against Llangadog who won 50-14 away to Pontyates in their first round game.

Aberaeron, who beat Milford Haven in the first round, face a local derby with Lampeter Town who had a walkover against Pembroke Dock Quins in the first round.

Neyland, who had also had a walkover in the first round, have been given a home tie against Carmarthenshire side Cefneithin.

The two sides met in the same stage of last season’s competition and it was Cefneithin who came out on top on that occasion winning 25-3.

Laugharne have been drawn away to Trimsaran while Betws have also been drawn away to Cwmgors.

All matches will be played on Saturday, October 6.

Selected WRU Bowl second round fixtures:

Amman Utd v South Gower

Cardigan v Nantgaredig

Cwmgors v Betws (Ammanford)

Haverfordwest v Llangadog

Lampeter Town v Aberaeron

New Dock Stars v Llanybydder

Neyland v Cefneithin

Trimsaran v Laugharne

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Sport

Wanderers snatch late victory

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LLANELLI Wanderers earned their second win of the season on Saturday (Sept 15) as they beat Dunvant 22-19 thanks to a late try.

The powerful Dunvant pack helped their side to a 16-12 lead at half time but the Wanderers were still very much in the game.

Josh Leeds and Jordan Evans scored the tries for Llanelli while Rhydian Morgan added the rest of their first half points with the boot.

Dunvant held on to their lead in the second half as they defended well whenever the Wanderers came forward.

Photo by Darren Harries

However, with ten minutes to go the tables turned as the Wanderers cranked up the pressure even more.

Gruff Mathias, making his debut for the senior side having played in the youth team last season, went up for a Dunvant lineout and he knocked the ball down for Ryan Tovey who went on to score what would prove to be the winning try.

Morgan then added the extra two points and they were able to see the game out for an excellent win.

On Saturday (Sept 22), Llanelli Wanderers will look for another win when they take on Gorseinon away from home.

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