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).
Under strength Raiders beaten
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.
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.”
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.
Draw made for Bowl second round
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
Wanderers snatch late victory
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.
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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