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Scarlets edged out by Ulster

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SCARLETS were narrowly beaten by Ulster in their Heineken Champions Cup game at Parc Y Scarlets on Friday (Dec 7).

A late try had brought them to within a point but they were unable to find a winning score and Ulster held on for a 25-24 win.

Scarlets got the game underway through Rhys Patchell and Ulster knocked the ball on handing possession straight back to the home side. The Scarlets were given a penalty which Patchell sent through the post to give them a 3-0 lead inside the first minute.

On the five-minute mark Ulster found themselves in Scarlets territory with advantage after Scarlets are penalised for offside. The Ulstermen decided to kick for the posts and scrum half John Cooney brought them level.

Ulster winger Jacob Stockdale then ran through Scarlets defence scoring the first try of the evening in the corner. Cooney’s conversion attempt was wide of the mark but Ulster go ahead for the first time.

Lewis Rawlins is taken for a HIA assessment after a big tackle from Sean Reidy. He catches him high and both go off for an assessment. Steve Cummins is on for Rawlins.

Photo by Darren Harries

Scarlets stepped up the pace a little after that tackle pushed in to Ulster’s 22. An attacking phase sees Steff Evans cross the line. Patchell added the conversion putting the Scarlets back in front.

With only six minutes of the first half remaining Ulster got a second try through winger Henry Speight after a period of pressure in the home side’s 22. He crossed in the far corner making it too difficult a conversion for Cooney.

The Scarlets got a foothold late in the first half but couldn’t turn the pressure in to points, kicking the ball in to touch. Ulster kicked themselves out of the pressure position and the score finishes 10-13 at half time.

Scarlets returned to the field in advance of Ulster looking to get a strong start to the second half. Some positive play returns in the form of pressure for Scarlets but unusual handling errors meant that Ulster keep themselves in Scarlets territory.

Ulster were then awarded a scrum penalty on Scarlets’ 10 metre line despite their tighthead pulling the scrum down. They kicked to the corner and set up an attacking phase with a line out on the 22. Centre Will Addison crossed under the posts and scrum half Cooney adds the conversion, 10-20.

As the game passed the 50-minute mark the Scarlets began to find their mojo. Jonathan Davies got them moving in to opposition territory.

The Scarlets ran it from the base of the scrum. There was great work from the forwards to win important territorial gains but they were then penalised for holding on and Ulster won a penalty under the posts which they kicked to touch.

Johnny McNicholl got  the Scarlets moving once again in the right direction. He had great support from his backline and winger Steff Evans gathers and spotted a gap on the touchline to go over the whitewash for his second of the evening. Patchell added the conversion to make it 17-20.

Just as soon as Scarlets get back within three points Ulster hit back with a third try. They got down in to Scarlets territory and ran strongly in midfield and despite what looks like a knock on play continues. Number eight Marcell Coetzee crossed the whitewash. Captain Ken Owens protests that there was a potential knock on and the referee consults the TMO for confirmation. He’s happy that the ball goes back and try is awarded. The wind pulled the conversion attempt across the posts.

Scarlets got back down in to Ulster territory. Johnny McNicholl gets the ball out to Steff Evans who ran along the touchline. He looked like he may make it a hat-trick but he was bundled in to touch.

Scarlets kept building and a try came from replacement flanker Dan Davis. Dan Jones added the conversion but the Scarlets were still a point behind.

The clock turned 80 but the Scarlets managed to keep the game alive. They won a penalty in the shadow of Ulster’s uprights, a kick to touch handed them a line out on the 10-metre line. Scarlets made territorial gains but they were unable to get the penalty required and Ulster saw the game out.

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Cwm’s good run halted by leaders

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CWMAMMAN United saw their recent good run of form halted on Saturday (Mar 16) as they returned from the Kymco Stadium in Bridgend pointless after a battling display against unbeaten league leaders Penybont who came out 2-0 winners.

In strong wind and rain Cwmamman took time to settle to the 4G pitch and conceded an early goal after 5 minutes when a free header from a corner left Chris Curtis in goal with no chance.

With the wind against them Penybont were keeping the ball on the floor and were controlling possession while Cwm tried to soak up the pressure and catch them on the break through releasing their wingers Ashley Curtis and Ryan Hurlow.

It felt like a long day at the office as Cwm’s midfield fought hard to get a foothold with Ross Morgan, Ryan Thomas and Colin Harris battling hard as the pressure mounted.

On 27 Minutes Penybont were denied a second goal after the effort was ruled off side. Curtis was again called into action and produced a great low save after a snap shot. Cwmamman were slowly getting into the game and a great header on by Chris Allen freed Ashley Curtis but he fired over the bar.

Just before half time Penybont were awarded a controversial penalty but a great save by Curtis kept the score at 1-0 to the hosts at the break.

Cwmamman were now playing against a very strong wind in the second period and Gareth Howarth and Declan John at the centre of Cwm’s defence were required to be error free while Penybont’s wing backs were also putting a lot of pressure on Calem Rees and Ashley Johns at full back.

However, it was still only a one goal deficit and Cwm felt they were still in the game. On 55 minutes Cwmamman had their best chance when Ryan Hurlow found Ryan Thomas who’s shot went narrowly passed the post.

Penybont were then handed a second goal again from a corner when the assistant referee flagged to indicate that the ball had crossed the line much to the surprise of everyone on the ground, including the home fans.

This goal secured the game for the hosts and deflated Cwmamman United who had given their all.

Cwmamman kept plugging away though and nearly pulled a goal back late on through another Ryan Thomas effort.

Cwmamman United have no fixture on Saturday (Mar 23), whilst the reserves are away to FC Nedd.

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Tour of Britain nominated for top award

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THE OVO Energy Tour of Britain has been nominated for a prestigious Sporting Event of the Year award.

The hugely successful cycle race has been shortlisted as a finalist at the Event Production Awards 2019, which take place in London this month.

The Grand Depart took place at Pembrey Country Park on Sunday, September 2 with Stage One of the race travelling north through Carmarthenshire en-route to the stage finish in Newport.

The Tour of Britain is one of eight nominees in the Sporting Event of the Year category and the winner will be announced at an awards ceremony in Hammersmith on Thursday, March 14.

The awards recognise and celebrate the hard work and achievements of key contractors, agencies and production teams within the outdoor and live events industry.

Thousands of people lined the route through Carmarthenshire to cheer on the professional riders which included world-class cyclists Geraint Thomas – fresh from his epic Tour de France victory – and Chris Froome; and communities really got into the spirt of the race with various activities and events held and by creating impressive pieces of land art.

Live televised coverage, post-race highlights and national media coverage put Carmarthenshire in the spotlight as a world-class visitor destination and host of major sporting events.

It is estimated that in just that weekend alone, the county benefitted from an economic boost of £800,000 not to mention the long-term impact.

Executive Board Member for Culture, Sport and Tourism Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths said: “This nomination is testament to the hard work of all involved to put on what is the biggest cycling race in the UK calendar.

“I wish the OVO Energy Tour of Britain team the best of luck; this award reflects the tremendous success of the event and I would like to think that we in Carmarthenshire played a small part in that.

“It is our aspiration to become the Cycling Hub of Wales and I think we have certainly proven ourselves as a first-class venue for major events.”

Talks are ongoing to build on the success of the Tour of Britain and bring more elite events to the county in the future.

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Phillips: We’ve got a big match in us

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WALES Women head coach Rowland Phillips believes his side can raise their game for their final Women’s Six Nations Test, against Ireland on Sunday (Cardiff Arms Park, 1.30).

Phillips has made two changes to the starting line-up with Elinor Snowsill starting at 10 and Alisha Butchers slotting back into the back row at blindside flanker.

Phillips said, “We want to capitalise on the confidence we’ve gained from the win over Scotland.

“We’ve shown a huge amount of character throughout this tournament – to hold Italy out at the end of that game and to come back from behind to win in Scotland showed remarkable attitude – and skill for such a young side.

“Despite that, I don’t feel we have shown how good a side we are and we’d like to do that on Sunday.

“Ireland are in a similar place as us. They played well against France last weekend. They have a strong back row and players who can make a difference. We certainly won’t be under-estimating them.

“However, we want to focus on ourselves, show what we can do with the ball and produce a better all-round performance. There’s a big game in us and hopefully we can showcase that on Sunday.”

Alisha Butchers, who earns her first start in the tournament since the opening round, is looking forward to some home comforts.

“Being at home lifts us girls massively. We’ve only had one home game this year and although England were tough opposition, we lifted our performance for our home support.

“Travelling away isn’t always accessible for our families so having them there boosts us. I love having my mum and dad and my brothers and sisters there, I can’t wait. There’s very much a family feel ethos and hopefully we can produce an entertaining game.”

“Last week’s game was really exciting and a good stepping stone for us. Moving forward I think we need to stick to our game plan, carry on working on our physicality and keep building as a team.

“Our performance was good last weekend but it can an still be better. We can use the confidence and momentum created by that victory to up our game and also spread the ball a bit more.”

Alisha is now working as a Hub Officer at Y Pant and Bryn Celynnog schools in the Pontypridd area, increasing the range of opportunities for girls to engage with rugby.

“I love it. I’ve already seen a huge increase in the number of girls playing the game and that inspires me – the thought that I’m having an impact on the next generation. They are both brilliant schools and we are getting 40 or more girls training now which is fantastic.

“Traditional 15 a side full-contact rugby isn’t for everyone so we make sure there are different formats and different opportunities all girls to enjoy taking part. A lot of them enjoyed the Rookie Rugby events we held recently, some play touch rugby, others enjoy crash mat rugby which is an introduction to contact or full contact rugby for the more established players who are keen.

“Hopefully a few of the girls – and boys – from the schools will come and support us on Sunday and bring their parents along to see what our game is all about. A few of the girls have role models within the squad, some are inspired by our captain Carys Phillips so I’ve promised they can have some photos after the match.”

Tickets available to print at home from www.cardiffblues.com/tickets and from 10am Sunday at the WRU shop, Westgate Street.

Wales Women V Ireland (Sunday, March 17, 1.30pm, Cardiff Arms Park):

Lauren Smyth (Ospreys); Jasmine Joyce (Scarlets), Hannah Jones (Scarlets), Lleucu George (Scarlets), Jess Kavanagh (RGC); Elinor Snowsill (Bristol Bears), Keira Bevan (Ospreys); Caryl Thomas (Dragons), Carys Phillips (capt, Ospreys), Amy Evans (Ospreys), Gwen Crabb (Ospreys), Mel Clay (Ospreys), Alisha Butchers (Scarlets), Bethan Lewis (Dragons) Siwan Lillicrap (Ospreys)

Replacements:

Kelsey Jones (Ospreys), Cara Hope (Ospreys), Cerys Hale (Dragons), Alex Callender (Scarlets), Manon Johnes (Cardiff Blues), Ffion Lewis (Scarlets), Robyn Wilkins (Blues), Lisa Neumann (RGC)

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