Report by Jon Twigg, photos by Darren Harries
SUCH a magnificent occasion on Friday (Mar 30), a Quarter Final of the Heinekein European Cup in the depth of West Wales at Parc Y Scarlets, French giants, metaphorically and physically La Rochelle in town; reminiscent of King William in 1066, to conquer, greeted by a capacity 16,000 natives.
A warm message of welcome from European Rugby’s Chairman Simon Halliday, a flying England winger from the last millennium his roots stretched with longevity to his birth place, Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire.
Like King William, having conquered the struggle for La Rochelle was to consolidate their assets, something they failed to do after securing an early 7-3 lead after six minutes, through a converted try by second row Romain Sazy.
Full back Leigh Halfpenny had struck with not five minutes played, a penalty for offside and reduced the lead a minute after the western based side on the Bay of Biscay’s touchdown, with an immaculate reproduction, this time from just inside his opponent’s half.
The Scarlets are a team of Samson Lees, the props uncompromising style making him a fans favourite, anchoring the choral Hymns and Arias at crescendo level. Prop Uini Atonio was stopped in his tracks likewise number 8 Afa Amosa, the Scarlets also winning the crucial first engagement at the scrum set piece, against a heavyweight eight, looking then to play their open game.
‘Try of the round in this seasons Champions Cup for the Scarlets’ Halliday had pronounced, not once but on two occasions. That is no mean feat looking at the quality on show in this seasons tournament, where Wayne Pivac’s charges have a skills set to crunch the shells of any snail in its way; able to up their game to push unseen boundaries making the Easter date of 2018 on par with 1066 for notability.
The fringes were rough and ready, robust tackling and yardage measured in centimetres on the gain line, drawing a mistake, Halfpenny obliging on 17 minutes for a 9-7 lead. Enter a new gladiator, Pontyberem junior Josh Mcloed to the amphitheatre for an injured Paul Asquith, feeding the crowd their ‘bread of heaven’ destructive if the truck and trailer before them, which would last all through the night.
Second row David Bullring dominated the front of the line out, scrum half Gareth Davies afforded time and space to punctuate holes and Ospreys bound centre Scott Williams darting arrow like after 25 minutes, Welsh international Halfpenny, a former adversary with Toulon, majestic going four from four.
‘Freestyle’ rugby witnessed in the cauldron a throwback to the ‘billy can’ victories over Bath at the Rec and Toulon acted as catalysts, the home side with a full complement internationals back in harness, awash with history from eleven years ago, Munster the fall guys, hooker Ken Owens the only player to have witnessed such an occasion before.
Kiwi centre Hadleigh Parkes couldn’t release a scoring pass as the outside cover closed in the twilight, the crowd aware that the breeze would favour the home side in the second half. Rhys Patchell at outside half was dictating direction as players lay strewn across the hallowed turf, the intensity of the conflict taking its toll, with scrum half Alexi Bales slotting a penalty on the half time whistle, his second successful kick for score of 12-10.
Man of the match Owens, an unbloodied hero took not one step back, leading his forwards into the mix in the second half, Aaron Shingler and Tadgh Beirne standing like beacons atop of Snowdon. Crammed to the rafters, the atmosphere electric the crowd played their part as the visiting juggernaut was stopped in its tracks as the Dragon roared fire. Puff the magic dragon, lived by the sea but in this case, unlike little boys, the Dragon would live long as the air from the Lougor estuary built mountains of men. Halfpenny stretched the lead, centre Arthur Retiere sensing his team needed some gusto cleverly built a pathway to the Scarlets line, as his side searched a first victory away from home in 2018.
The penalty count rose quickly, the Scarlets defence holding firm, as did English referee Luke Pearce issuing warnings as try scorer Sazy catch and drive was stopped, wave after wave of French delivery succumbing and the Scarlets, who released the tension as Davies quick tap and go took play over the halfway line.
‘Escargots’ are usually served as a starter in France and it was the dynamic home back row who broke this snails shell, as the definition suggests ‘eating them alive’ a slow and absorbing feast, garlic emanating from within the broken mollusc.
Expensive these French snails maybe, both as a delicacy where 500,000,000 are consumed annually and from their bank role, which saw centre Pierrre Aguillon and Steve Barry wear their black coloured jersey. Snails, 80% water and 15% protein are easily consumed from the tongue, but beware of a marine cone snail, able to paralyse a fish instantly; a new nickname perhaps for the newest Welsh cap James Davies, Cubby now anything but a young fox, developing a name in his own right.
The final quarter saw Carmarthen Quins former star Dan Jones replace Steff Evans, the back line were ‘mustard’ as the diminutive youngster plays with a Gaelic flamboyance. Beirne set a driving maul from the line out, Parkes made a 20 metre break and Patchell, now at full back strode over before Halfpenny, with no nerves and his side led by twelve points at 22-10.
Beirne was a culprit as the visitors tactics of five metre line outs were stopped illegally, referee Pearce lenient, before heroic defence saw the lines cleared, the crowd restored to full voice. Inexplicably Halfpenny blotted his copybook after Bullring and replacement Werner Kruger dug deep the game in its final throws of glory.
The French side were unable to invade Scarlets territory, Owens and Parkes making headway before McLoed burnt a furrow on the touchline, Williams taking up the mantle, crossing from 25 metres unopposed, Halfpenny resumed normal service and the party in the park bellowed loud and clear.
The final score, at 29-17, a length of the field consolation try from replacement Pierre Boudehent secured the Scarlets place in the European Champions Cup semi-final, as Glynneath’s President Max Boyces signature tune danced the yellow brick road.
Following the other quarter finals, Scarlets will now play Leinster in Dublin’s Aviva stadium on Saturday (April 21), the heart and soul of Llanelli left many a head ‘felinfoel’ the following day. Rest assured, Llanelli and the whole region are ‘quite alright’ as they entertain Glasgow Warriors on Saturday (Apr 7), no thought yet of the semi-final date with destiny.
Felinfoel ease past Baglan
FELINFOEL’s Anthony Matthias took five wickets to set up a comfortable eight wicket win for his side against Baglan on Saturday (Jul 14).
Matthias tore through the top order to leave Baglan reeling on 65-5 and they were unable to recover, eventually being bowled out for 104.
Matthias struck early on when he had Rhys Gaskins-Davies caught by Craig Richards for a score of 4 and he then had Martin Rees caught by Julian Griffiths for a second ball duck.
Jonathan Lewis and Josh Lyddon did offer some resistance with a stand of 41. However, Matthias returned and had Jonathan Lewis caught by Stuart Parmenter for a score of 21.
Moments later Lyddon was caught by Julian Griffiths for a score of 23 and Matthias wasn’t done there as he had John O’Leary stumped by Andrew Thomas for a duck.
Stuart Parmenter then had Jason Carpenter caught by Andrew Thomas for a score of 13 and Rhys Harries had Steven Kempton caught by Jonathan Cheal.
Parmenter trapped Martin Lewis leg before while Rhys Harries bowled Craig Jewell.
Taylor Rees offered some resistance with a score of 28 which included three fours and two sixes before being caught by Andrew Thomas off the bowling of Cheal.
Felinfoel lost two early wickets in their reply as Andrew Thomas was bowled by Taylor Rees for a four-ball duck and Rees also had Rhys Harries caught by Jason Carpenter for a score of 2.
Despite those wickets, Rhys Jones and Julian Griffiths shared an unbroken stand of 100 to send Felinfoel to victory.
Rhys Jones hit six fours as he finished not out on 29 while Julian Griffiths hit fourteen fours as he finished not out on 64 from 51 balls.
On Saturday (Jul 21), Felinfoel will be looking for another win when they travel to bottom of the table Cimla.
Dafen and Felinfoel earn derby wins
IN Division 1 of the South Wales Association Cricket League last Saturday, Dafen earned victory over Carmarthenshire rivals Llandysul.
Llandysul batted first in their game with Dafen and they were bowled out for 186 in 49 overs.
Opener Gary Williams got Llandysul going with a score of 84 and Rhidian Harris scored 12.
Ben Edkins scored 52 but when he fell to the bowling of Philip George, Llandysul suffered a late batting collapse.
Their remaining batsmen failed to make it into double figures as they went from 161-4 to 186 all out.
George finished with excellent figures of 6-21 from his 10 overs while Chris Hudson also took three wickets.
In reply, Nicky Davies made an early score of 32 before he was caught off the bowling of Andrew Edwards.
Simon Davies scored 19 and Matthew Evans top scored as he hit ten fours in a knock of 69.
Jonathan Randell then finished not out on 27 to help Dafen to victory by five wickets.
On Saturday (Jul 14), Dafen will look to pick up another win when they take on Gorseinon while Llandysul travel to Merthyr Tydfil.
The other game in Division 1 saw Bronwydd beaten by second placed Cowbridge.
Cowbridge made 250-8 from their 50 overs and had opener Thomas Merilaht top scoring on 91.
Ben Wright scored 40 before he was bowled by Matthew Vaughan and Tatenda Chiradza scored 27.
Brad Evans scored 37 and Jack Cropper scored 15 but no other batsmen made it into double figures as Bronwydd hit back.
Dafydd Morgan finished with excellent figures of 4-36 while Pauluge Gihan Secstus Fernando took three wickets.
In reply, James Cales scored 23 and James Dickson scored 38 while Oliver Furneaux scored 22. Meirion Davies scored 44 but that was as good as it got for Bronwydd.
Three wickets apiece from Brad Evans and Nicholas Wood ensured that the Carmarthenshire side were bowled out for 174.
On Saturday (Jul 14), they will be looking to get back to winning ways when they host Maesteg Celtic.
FELINFOEL also earned a derby victory over Llangennech as they beat them by 88 runs.
The home side batted first and were all out for 201 despite looking well set to make a good total on 166-3.
Opener Andrew Thomas scored 19 and Rhys Jones scored 36.
Julian Griffiths scored 24 while Rhys Harries was their top scorer with 81 as he hit 12 fours and a six.
Felinfoel then collapsed as Gareth George, Simon Clement, James Taube and Matthew Jones all took two wickets for Llangennech.
The visitors lost wickets at regular intervals in their reply as Hedd-Wyn Jones and Scott Lloyd both scored 10.
James Taube was his side’s top scorer with 33 runs, Matthew Jones scored 15 and Stuart Goddard made a late score of 21 but it wasn’t enough to help them to victory.
Tom Jones took four wickets for the loss of 25 runs for Felinfoel while Rhys Harries took three for the loss of 19 runs.
On Saturday (Jul 14), Felinfoel will look to keep their recent good run going when they take on Baglan.
Llangennech will look to get back to winning ways as they travel to Briton Ferry Steel.
The other game in Division 2 saw Drefach beaten by Maesteg.
Drefach batted first and scores of 59 from Dafydd Humphreys, 36 from James Carter and 62 not out from Owen Donovan helped them post a good total of 210-5.
Maesteg’s Andrew King then set his side on their way to victory with an excellent century. He was out on a score of 107 but other scores of 32 from Lloyd Wilkshire and 15 not out from Chris Parry saw them to victory.
Rob Seymour took two wickets for Drefach but the defeat means they stay third from bottom in the table.
On Saturday (Jul 14), Drefach will look to take themselves away from the drop zone as they travel to fourth from bottom Skewen.
Llanelli slip to defeat
JUST a week after their excellent win over Carmarthen Wanderers Llanelli suffered a disappointing 216-run defeat at the hands of Clydach in Division 2 of the South Wales Premier League.
On Saturday (Jul 7), Clydach won the toss and elected to bat and that proved to be a good decision as they posted a challenging total of 263-5 from their 50 overs.
Jonathan Hubschmid hit five fours and a six as he scored 57 while McKenzie Squires scored 25.
Sam Davies hit ten fours in a knock of 88 but he was then run out by Marcus Leaf as the home side did their best to keep the score down.
However, James Garland smashed three fours and a six in a score of 28 from 14 balls as Clydach piled on the runs late on.
Jack Todd then hit three fours and two sixes in a knock of 38 not out from 20 balls.
Llanelli struggled in their reply as only one of their batsmen, Marcus Leaf with 17, made it into double figures.
Jamie Lewis was in fine form for Clydach taking seven wickets as he had Leaf caught by Liam Garland, Iwan Rees trapped leg before and Steven Devonald caught by Christopher Donne.
Lewis took further wickets of Matthew Roberts, Ryan Nicholas, David Richards and Morgan Jones as Llanelli limped to a disappointing total of 47 all out.
Llanelli will look to put this defeat behind them when they take on Newport Fugitives away on Saturday (Jul 14).
Wanderers bounce back
CARMARTHEN Wanderers had better luck on Saturday (Jul 7) as they beat Panteg by three wickets in a high scoring game.
Panteg won the toss and elected to bat and they posted an excellent total of 236-8 from their 50 overs.
Will Bragg was the star of the innings for Panteg as he hit nine fours in a score of 103 before he fell to the bowling of Gareth Thomas.
Akhtar Balouch made 29 before being out to the bowling of Owain Binding and Daniel Wilkinson added 46 runs to the total.
In reply a score of 75 from Thomas got the Wanderers off to a good start and they also had captain Leighton Walters and Owain Davies make scores of 35.
Liam Rogers then finished not out on 43 to see the Wanderers over the line.
On Saturday (Jul 14), the Wanderers will be looking for another win when they take on third placed Penarth at Trinity Fields.
Ammanford up to third
AMMANFORD moved up to third place in Division 1 after they beat Ynysygerwn by 45 runs.
They made a solid start to their innings with Rhodri-Huw Davies making 56 and Elis Richards scored 17.
Daniel Roberts was the mainstay of the innings as he hit seventeen fours and a six in a score of 120 from just 95 balls.
He was run out by Josh Griffiths but that scored helped Ammanford post an excellent total of 272-7 from their 50 overs.
Alex McCormack scored 40 as the visitors made a steady start to their reply and Darren Thomas scored 77 and although Josh Griffiths finished not out on 20 Ynysygerwn fell short of their target on 227-9.
Matthew Fisher bowled well as he took four wickets and Sean Coaker also took two.
On Saturday (Jul 14), Ammanford are at home again as they take on fourth placed St Fagans.
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