WALES gave themselves the best chance of finishing second in the Six Nations Championship as they beat Italy 38-14 at the Principality Stadium on Sunday afternoon (Mar 11).
Italy kicked off following a rousing rendition of Bread of Heaven and it wasn’t long before the Welsh Dragon roared into life.
Wales turned the ball over before winning a penalty which Gareth Anscombe kicked to touch. From the resulting line-out Wales worked the ball to the middle of the field and Hadleigh Parkes burst through the tacklers to touch down under the posts. Cardiff Blues kicker Anscombe added the extras.
From the kick off Italy won the ball back but Owen Watkin intercepted a pass and ran into the 22 before offloading to George North who went over for the try and Anscombe once again added the extras.
Any thoughts the home side had of an easy afternoon soon evaporated as Italy worked the ball over to the left hand side for Zebre’s Matteo Minozzi who reached over in the corner after breaking the tackle of Liam Williams. Tommaso Allan then added the conversion.
Wales continued to put the pressure on with kicks into the Italy 22 and on 16 minutes they nearly had a third try but a knock on prevented debutant James Davies from going any further.
From the resultant Italy scrum Wales were able to win the ball back and they thought they had their third try as Williams passed to Steff Evans on the left wing who kicked inside towards the posts and Gareth Davies ran on to touch the ball down.
However, French referee Jerome Garces went to the TMO to check if Davies was in front of the kicker which video replays proved to be correct and the try was ruled out.
With twenty minutes gone it was Italy’s turn to for a spell of pressure but a loose pass saw Williams kick the ball forward and pounce on it just past the halfway line only for Italy to win the ball back.
Captain Taulupe Faletau was doing his best to show why he had been given the armband for the game and he produced one of the biggest hits of the game as he floored Italy kicker Allan. Thankfully after a few minutes of treatment he was back on his feet.
Italy again had a good spell of pressure and won the ball twice in quick succession from turnovers before being given a penalty. Allan, perhaps still feeling the effects of that monstrous hit, sent his kick wide of the posts and the score stayed at 14-7.
Shortly before the break Wales won a penalty and Anscombe showed his fellow kicker how it was done as he increased the lead to 17-7.
On the stroke of half time the ball was kicked to the left hand side but Steff Evans couldn’t quite collect the ball and he knocked the ball on. Italy’s Minozzi ran in to collect the ball with Liam Williams also running in close behind who made another crunching tackle on the Italian.
Referee Garces again went to the TMO as replays showed Williams’ shoulder catching Minozzi on the cheek. After some delay, Garces showed Williams a yellow card, much to the anger of the Welsh fans.
The second half started with Wales a man light but that didn’t seem to affect them as they went in search of a third try.
Davies charged down a clearance kick giving Wales a scrum which saw Davies pass to Cory Hill who stretched his way over for that third try and Anscombe added the extra two points.
Moments later, Italy attacked but Davies was deemed to have knocked the ball on deliberately and he was given a yellow card, meaning Wales were two men light, albeit for another two minutes.
Williams’ penalty ended but Coach Warren Gatland decided he would bring Halfpenny on in his place, and he got one of the biggest cheers of the afternoon as he entered the field.
Dean Budd and Tommaso Benvenuti tried their best to get Italy back into the game but some good defending from Wales meant they were unable to go any further.
James Davies then passed to Faletau who in turn found Justin Tipuric but he knocked the ball on and the chance had gone.
With 65 minutes gone, Patchell offloaded quickly for George North who dropped down for his second try of the game and Wales’ fourth giving them a bonus point. Halfpenny then added the extra two points.
With ten minutes to go Patchell found Parkes who threw a lobbed pass out to the wing where Tipuric was on hand to collect and touch down in the corner for Wales’ fifth try and Halfpenny converted again.
With five minutes to go, Italy looked to restore some pride and it was sub Federico Ruzza who found Mattia Bellini who touched down before Allan added the extras.
The bonus point win puts Wales second in the table, a point ahead of England and France and with one final round of games to come, Wales will be hoping they can finish in style.
On Saturday (Mar 17), Wales take on France, also aiming to finish second, at the Principality Stadium (Kick off 5pm) while Six Nations Champions Ireland take on England at Twickenham (2:45pm).
We take life too lightly and sport too seriously
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?
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?
Raiders battle hard in defeat
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.
Felinfoel beaten but Llangennech win again
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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