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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

We take life too lightly and sport too seriously

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By Jonathan Twigg

DEBATE rages in Wales at present, where rugby has infiltrated the summer domain of cricket, which has held unparalleled dominance of the summer sunshine.

There has been a culture change, whereby summer tours and early season fixtures of the traditional winter sports means earlier starts.

Look no further than next seasons football league championship season for Swansea City, starting on Saturday (Aug 5) until Sunday (May 26) 2019.

The outcry from the boundary ropes comes more about how mini ruby has become a summer sport, bulldozered through, as opposed to negotiated.

WRU figurehead in this Ryan Jones, former Wales captain and British Lion parading the paraphernalia, Cricket Wales Development Officer Keri Chahal, having face to face meetings to form common ground.

The winner, undoubtedly now rugby as their mini game is happening in front of our eyes, but has cricket lost?

Jason Roy: In action against Australia

Not looking at the participation statistics in the new ‘All Stars’ programme, where children bestowed in blue attire are bouncing around cricket fields in the sunshine, the magic there to entice the next generation.

What sells it to parents, who undoubtedly influence their siblings?  The paradox of ‘I played the game, so you must do also’ may live in both sports, but it’s more than that.

Attendances at international matches, in cricket’s case by supporting England, well the England and Wales Cricket Board side, the pathway? Saturday (Jun 16) saw them rock up in Cardiff, rugby capital of Wales, the Swalec Stadium to be precise, skirting the River Taff through Bute Park, the hosts leading a five match series against Australia 1-0.

Sell out you would think? Far from it; the Principality Stadium, bestowed with a retractable roof, unequivocally is, if Australia are the visitors, the Swalec attracted around 13,000, a fifth of their rugby rivals capacity.

Does cricket lack that panache to attract the floating spectator, often then with the family in tow?  The game has stand out stars, opening batsman Jason Roy pulverising the Aussie attack, the Richardson’s, Jhye and Kane, of no blood synchronisation, a rarity in this sport for two with the same name to be sharing the new ball. Root 66, the featured face of the cricketing market, Joe, England Captain present, alongside former Glamorgan opening bowler Alex Wharf, making his ODI debut, as an umpire.

Coloured clothing, blue against yellow for the 11am start, the Aussie public back home having a choice of watching cricket, World Cup football against France, or rugby as the Wallabies welcomed Ireland to Melbourne.

Cricket is sensational down under, the viewing figures from Saturday would make an interesting comparative, lifting some of the ‘doom and gloom’ emanating from our ‘middle England’ type dulcet tones of the cricketing ‘I know best brigade’.

Food for thought, or is it time for the Blazers and prawn sandwiches to be confined to the attic, relics of periods passed? 100 ball ‘City’ cricket is another gurus dream, not welcomed by the current ‘Blazers’, where Saturday’s game produced 102 runs for one wicket, from just a third of the games total deliveries.

Believe me, there was a following of supporters, some perhaps beer monsters, in fancy dress but the majority of paying punters here, at £65 were from a generation brought up on John Arlott, a commentator remembered with fondness, his soupy‑thick Hampshire vowels drawling “we take life too lightly and sport too seriously.”

‘Wise up or weep’ is the cry for cricket, as this game on paper had everything, including the proverbial rain, which has so impacted the winter sports programme to influence the thinking of the WRU game management board.

England’s batsman rattled up for the first time in history five consecutive 50 plus run partnerships with stand in skipper Josh Butler ‘ramping’ sixes over the wicket keepers head; text book they are not but part of the modern game as he brought up his own 50 in the forty first over, with 17 runs in five balls!

What are the indicators for success? Tactical understanding from a blooded skipper Tim Paine, Jason Roy 120, Josh Butler 91 not out and Johnny Bairstow 42, in England’s highest ever ODI total of 342-8, where the expectation nowadays is 300 plus. Certainly, making sunshine on a rainy day sings Zoe, although those in the know were drumming Mambo number 5 with a cucumber sandwich during the interval.

Australia, looking to save some grace on a day when their rugby and football comrades were dispensed made a fist of it, Maxwell striking 31 alongside Glamorgan star Shaun Marsh.

Marsh handled the pressure but the crowd sensed the game slipping into the memory bank, in the lowering sunlight, buoyed by the beach ball antics of amongst others, Baywatch, tennis players and the Smurfs who embraced the evening’s ambiance, before the jobsworth lumbered in.

Marsh passed 2000 white ball runs on his way to 131, the end coming through Roy’s match winning catch to secure the star player award as over 600 runs were chalked in the scorebook. Something was missing, no pyrotechnics from which to salivate. Down to the pitch maybe, a slow burner typifying middle England in the centre of Wales, or is the product label just too predictable.  Maybe a famous son of Yorkshire can answer that, after all he was called upon to ring the five minute ‘bell’ to signal the start of play.

That Yorkshireman; Neil Warnock; the irony, Manager of the newest Premier League football team, Cardiff City, promoted last season from the Championship, brought in for ‘iconic value’. Can the traditional sports share the space before time is called one wonders, with no frills, no fuss, depicted serenely by Arlott.

That memory is worth a toast, of his favourite Beaujolais tipple, for this is cricket as we know it, but for how much longer?

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Raiders battle hard in defeat

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West Wales Raiders        12

Hemel Stags       48

By Ian Golden at Stebonheath Park

HEMEL Stags produced their first win of the season against a West Wales Raiders side who made them fight all the way on Saturday (Jun 9).

Both teams had failed to record a victory this year before this game so something had to give, and as RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer watched from the stands, West Wales wasted their most realistic chance this season to get a win on the board, but at least they conceded less than 50 points for the first time.

It was a competitive encounter up to a point. There wasn’t a great difference in quality between the sides but Raiders, who were without influential but injured Welsh international forwards Morgan Evans and Connor Farrer, produced the most handling errors, whilst Hemel defended well and took their chances.

Raiders had the first chance to score early on. Phil Cowburn started the move with a strong run through the centre, but his pass to Brad Kislingbury was a bit short and rather than letting the ball bounce before recovering it, he knocked on and the chance was lost.

Hemel took the lead on seven minutes. A dropped ball gifted James Thornton with the try and Keiran Smith converted.

From kick-off they doubled their advantage. Jordan Fitzpatrick-Parry going in under the sticks and Smith converting.

Raiders’ luck wasn’t improving. Steve Parry looked to have grounded then was pushed back up, but the referee ruled it out.

Eventually they got a try back. Cowburn kicked a neat grubber and Harrison Elliot collected well to score under the sticks. Fraser Stroud converted.

West Wales were close to levelling the score but it was Hemel who extended their lead. After receiving a debatable forward pass, Louis Sheriff was unchallenged to run under the posts. Smith converted.

Again Raiders looked to get a try back but Nye Walker and Steve Parry were both held up over the line. Wayne Jowitt suffered the same fate at the other end, but his side did win a goal-line drop-out from the next play. From that resulting set, Paul Stamp grounded and Smith improved to give Hemel a 24-6 half-time lead.

Stamp increased Hemel’s lead further seven minutes into the second half after making a clean break to score under the posts, before going over for his hat-trick six minutes later. Smith converted both.

Handling errors continued to let Raiders down, but this time when on the attack. A good set and great passing move set up Sam Baker to dive in the corner, but the ball slipped from his grasp when going for the line.

However as soon as West Wales regained the ball, they scored. The mercurial Cowburn, surely one of the best signings Raiders have made this year, tore through the defence to score his side’s second try of the game. Stroud converted.

But it was mere respite. Smith set up the experienced Sheriff for his second of the day to bring up 40 points, before hitting the post with the goal attempt.

James Thornton was next over the line for Hemel, with Alex Williams completing the scoring two minutes from time, producing celebrations in the sheds which would have continued long into their journey north.

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Felinfoel beaten but Llangennech win again

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IN Division 1 of the South Wales Cricket Association, there were defeats for two of the three Carmarthenshire teams while the other game was abandoned.

Dafen were all out for 66 in their game at Aberdare with only Matthew Evans scoring 14 and Jeremy Dawes scoring 17.

Jac Morgan made a late score of 10 but five wickets from Nathan Spain ensured a quick dismissal for Dafen.

Gareth Wesley scored 26 for Aberdare and Luke Garthwaite finished not out on 36 to give his side an easy victory.

Bronwydd suffered defeat as they were all out for 182 in reply to Merthyr Tydfil’s score of 201-8.

Merthyr had Kerry Morgan scored 39 for his side and Andrew Murphy made the same score. Jamie Murphy scored 35.

Bronwydd’s George Gleeson scored 33 in reply and Meirion Davies added 29 runs. Oliver Furneaux top scored with 65 but that was as good as it got for Bronwydd.

Blaine Harris took six wickets for Merthyr to help his side to victory.

Llandysul’s game with Swansea Civil Service had to be abandoned because of the weather. Llandysul had made 235-8 from their 50 overs with Ben Edkins scoring 59, Andrew Edwards adding 44 and Llewelyn Hughes finishing not out on 64.

Unfortunately the rain intervened and the game was abandoned.

On Saturday, Bronwydd are at home to Aberdare, Dafen host Gowerton and Llandysul travel to Maesteg Celtic.

In Division 2, leaders Llangennech earned another victory as they beat Briton Ferry Town by 96 runs.

Llangennech scored 237-6 in their innings with David Williams scoring 30, Matthew Jones scoring 62 while Scott Lloyd finished not out on 78.

In reply, Yakoob Ali scored 25 and Neil Baggrideg added 45 for Briton Ferry while Ben Probert later scored 34.

It wasn’t enough for the Town as they were all out for 141 with Jack Williams, Bav Patel, Stephen Lloyd and Matthew Jones all taking two wickets.

Drefach suffered defeat as they were all out for 124 in reply to Baglan’s score of 221-5.

Lee Williams finished not out on 77 for Baglan and Jason Carpenter was also unbeaten on 65.

Rob Seymour top scored for Drefach with 42 and Harry McBryde added 16

Tomos Ellis-Williams scored 28 and Morgan Davies added 19 but that was as good as it got for Drefach as John O’Leary took four wickets for Baglan.

Felinfoel were also beaten despite making 195-4 in their innings. Rhys Harries scored 33 and Andrew Thomas added 41 as they made a good start.

Julian Griffiths top scored with 55 and Tom Jones was not out on 42.

In reply, a score of 89 from Craig Evans set Briton Ferry Steel on their way to victory while Steve Maddock added 44 and 17 not out from Rhodri Maddock gave the Steel the win.

On Sarturday, Drefach host Cimla, Llangennech are at home to Baglan and Felinfoel travel to Skewen.

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