JUDGEMENT Day is again on target to break the Guinness PRO14 season attendance record – with 40,000 fans already booked in to see their Grand Slam heroes return to Principality Stadium.
Sales are soaring a month out from the double header, which sees the Scarlets and Dragons go head to head at 3.00pm, before Cardiff Blues take on the Ospreys at 5.15pm on Saturday, April 27, in the annual face-off between Welsh rugby’s four professional sides.
After 36,000 showed for the inaugural Judgement Day event in 2013, supporters have continued to turn out in their droves and the last three events have attracted crowds of over 60,000, providing the lead attendance figures for any round in the competition on each occasion.
At last season’s back-to-back JDVI clash 62,338 again made it the highest attended event in the Guinness PRO14 calendar, beating the Final which was watched by 46,092 at Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
“This will be my first experience of Judgement Day and I’m really excited for the occasion,” said the Blues head coach John Mulvihill.
“It’s fantastic to hear that more than 40,000 tickets have already been sold, and having seen the Principality Stadium in full flow over the Six Nations, it’s set to be a memorable evening of rugby in the capital.
“I watched last year’s Judgement Day from Australia and what struck me was the intensity of both matches and the fantastic and unique atmosphere created when you have fans from all four regions coming together.
“This year we could have three teams still in the hunt for a play-off spot, and that added jeopardy could raise the roof at the stadium. I can’t wait.
“One of our aims at the start of the season was to become the best region in Wales.
“There’s no better platform than Judgement Day to prove this and a win over Ospreys would mean we’ve got five victories from our six derby matches this season, so there’s a lot to play for.”
JDIV, in 2016, remains the best attended to date, after it broke every attendance record in the history of Welsh domestic rugby when 68,262 supporters took their places under the national stadium’s famous retractable roof.
The previous Welsh domestic record was set when 58,000 fans attended the Neath v Llanelli WRU Challenge Cup Final in 1989 and the record for any match involving a region had been the Ospreys’ victory over Leicester Tigers at Twickenham in the EDF Energy Cup Final in 2008 – which was watched by a 65,756-strong crowd.
The showpiece JDVII event has extra impetus this year with Wales’ unbeaten 2019 Guinness Six Nations heroes due to collide in regional colours and places in the Guinness PRO14 knock-out stages also likely to be on the line in each game, so a 73,931 capacity crowd has to be the target.
“The play-off race is going to go down to the wire, so there’s no doubt the matches are going to be tasty affairs as they always are,” said Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac, whose side won the competition in 2017 and reached the final in Dublin last year.
“Whenever you get in front of a big crowd like that we all enjoy it as do the coaches. We love a good atmosphere.
“It makes for a good day out for everyone and hopefully we will get another big crowd. It’s a great stadium with massive history.
“Every young player wants to go out there and play. Even our international players who have played there many times think it is a special occasion.
“It’s also a big opportunity for a lot of players who haven’t been playing Test rugby to go and show Warren Gatland that they can perform on the big stage.”
JDVII sees Wales’ four regions play-out the 21st and final round of conference stages in the Guinness PRO14, with places in the knock-out stages likely to be achievable for the Scarlets, Ospreys and Cardiff Blues, dependant on other results over the next few weeks.
The top three teams from each conference progress to the knock-out stages of the competition, with the ultimate aim of a place in the 2019 Guinness PRO14 Final in Celtic Park, Glasgow, in May.
“It’s always a big occasion for Welsh rugby with a huge crowd and a fantastic atmosphere,” said Ospreys head coach Allen Clarke, whose side have won the league, in its various guises, on four occasions themselves (2005, ‘07, ‘10, ‘12) – a feat only surpassed by reigning Champions Leinster who lifted their fifth title last season.
“We hope there’ll be plenty riding on the game in terms of qualification and play-offs.
“However, regardless of league placings there’s always regional rivalry and pride at stake.”
Tickets are priced at £25 middle tier and £15 for both lower and upper tier adult access – with the £10, U16 concession ticket available for all lower and upper seating, to ensure the family event is accessible for all.
“Derby matches are always the games that players, fans and coaches look forward to most in a season and to finish the PRO14 fixtures with a real sense of occasion and an end of season finale makes it an exciting for all involved,” added Dragons head coach Ceri Jones.
“Playing the Scarlets is always a massive challenge, but coming up against one of our local rivals off the back of the Wales Grand Slam success at Principality Stadium is a fitting climax to the season as players go head to head in pushing their claims for involvement in the Rugby World Cup and for regional pride.
“It’s sure to be a fantastic experience for all four teams and the fans.”
Print at home tickets, which don’t incur a postage charge, are available in all categories, with normal booking fees at £1 per ticket and post & packaging at £3 via www.wru.co.uk/tickets
JUDGEMENT DAY VII, Saturday, April 27, Principality Stadium:
Dragons v Scarlets – Kick Off 1500hrs
Cardiff Blues v Ospreys – Kick Off 1715hrs
Rugby pays tribute to Tommo
TRIBUTES have poured in following the news that popular Scarlets match-day announcer Andrew ‘Tommo’ Thomas has passed away at the age of 53.
Tommo was a huge character at Parc y Scarlets on match-day, bringing his infectious personality to the mic.
An official statement from the Scarlets said: “We are devastated to hear that the voice of Parc y Scarlets, Andrew ‘Tommo’ Thomas, has passed away suddenly.
“Tommo was a hugely popular figure as the Parc y Scarlets match-day announcer, a passionate Scarlets fan who brought his character and energy to every match.”
Scarlets chaplain Reverend Eldon Phillips said: “We are devastated to hear this tragic news. Tommo loved the Scarlets and put his heart and soul into his role as our match-day announcer.
“A huge character, he was much loved by supporters, players and staff.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Donna and son Cian at this sad time.”
Scarlets head coach Glenn Delaney said: “This is desperately sad news. Tommo will be greatly missed by us all. I’ll miss his smile, energy and passion. Gone too soon, much love to his family at this terrible time.”
Attack coach Richard Whiffin tweeted: “Incredibly sad news. Tommo will be greatly missed by us all. Will miss his match day hugs! Love to his friends & family at this terrible time.”
Referee Nigel Owens took to social media to say: “Rwy methu credu y peth. Well I am devastated. A great man and a true friend. I Cant beleive it. Cydymdeimlad dwys iw wraig ar mab ac ir teulu I gyd. Bydd colled enfawr ar ei ol. Always had a smile on his face. RIP Tommo
Tommo was hugely popular with Scarlets players who posted tributes on their own personal social media pages.
Springbok Uzair Cassiem said: “Devastated by the news of your passing! Always got the biggest smile, big handshake before and after games! To the family and friends of Andrew Tommo Thomas, condolences from my family and myself.
Wales prop Rob Evans said: “Really sad to hear the news about Tommo tonight. Thoughts are with his family, a great man full of laughs.”
Former Scarlets captain Rupert Moon said: “Lost a great friend @TOMMORADIO …… my brother by another mother. Thoughts with his family & all his many friends. Sleep well buddy. Big boys do cry.”
Another ex-Scarlets skipper Matthew Rees said: “Can’t believe the news coming from west tonight. Tommo you were a true gent. PYS will never be the same!!”
Former Scarlets full-back Morgan Stoddart said: “Hearing of the passing of @TOMMORADIO, dreadful news. What a great man. He brought laughter to any room he entered. Will be remembered and missed. #TrueScarlet
Title-winning Ireland lock Tadhg Beirne, now with Munster, said: “Very sad news to hear of the passing of Tommo. An absolute gentleman, a passionate Welshman, and a true Scarlet.”
Among the other former players to pay their tributes were Kieron Fonotia, Michael Tagicakibau, Ryan Lamb, Rhys Thomas and Gareth Maule, while messages of condolence came from Cardiff Blues, Dragons and Ospreys,
Dragons hooker Richard Hibbard said: “Really sad news, RIP Tommo. What a great bloke.”
Tommo was also a popular radio presenter. He had been with BBC Radio Cymru between 2014 and 2018. He then left to present a daily program on Nation Broadcasting station. In 2011 he won the Radio Presenter of the Year award for his work on Nation stations in Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion.
Rhuanedd Richards, Editor of BBC Radio Cymru, said: “Tommo was proud of his roots and a unique broadcaster who loved to entertain his audience on Radio Cymru. With his powerful voice and larger than life personality, his love for his family, west Wales and of course the Scarlets were a great influence on his broadcasting.”
Swans grab last gasp play-off spot
WAYNE ROUTLEDGE’s last-gasp header saw Swansea City secure a play-off spot with a handsome away victory over 10-man Reading on a dramatic Wednesday night (July 22).
Steve Cooper’s side knew they had to win at the Madejski Stadium to have any hope of a top-six finish, and Rhian Brewster’s 10th goal of the season gave them an ideal start.
The sending off of Yakou Meite then gave the Swans a man advantage, but the Royals equalised before the half through a George Puscas penalty.
The Swans restored their lead through a classy finish from substitute Routledge, before Liam Cullen showed great composure to steer in his first goal for the club.
And when Routledge popped up at the death to complete his brace it put the Swans into the top six as Forest suffered a 4-1 defeat at home to Stoke, meaning Swansea got into the play-offs on goal difference.
The Swans started on the front foot, with centurion Connor Roberts having particular joy down the right-hand flank.
Brewster then nearly threaded Conor Gallagher in on goal after fine work by Andre Ayew, before Roberts hit a strike into the ground and over the bar after Jake Bidwell had made the overlap on the opposite flank.
The hosts responded by having a good spell of possession, probing and asking a few questions of their own.
But the visitors hit the lead in the 16th minute through Brewster. The striker picked the ball up some 30 yards out and got the ball out of his feet before smashing a long-range drive that completely deceived Rafael in the Reading goal.
John Swift curled a free-kick over at the other end, while more good work by Roberts could not quite end with Bidwell getting on the end of a deep cross before Rafael made a hash of dealing with a Gallagher cross.
Swift headed straight at Erwin Mulder from a good counter on the half-hour mark, with Ayew quickly advancing up the field to work Rafael again.
Opportunities were coming at both ends, with Mulder called into action again as Meite took aim from the left side of the area.
Swansea were riding their luck a little and had a let-off when a sliced clearance landed on top of the bar.
Matt Grimes had a free-kick pushed away by Rafael before the home side were reduced to 10 men after Meite had pushed Mike van der Hoorn in the face after a tussle for the ball.
But the hosts made light of the numerical disadvantage by levelling after Bidwell was adjudged to have fouled Andy Rinomhota, with Puscas beating Mulder – who got a hand to the strike – from the spot.
However, the Swans should have led at the break. Ben Cabango’s shot was blocked and fell to Jay Fulton, but the Scot pulled his shot wide of the target.
Rafael pushed away an Ayew drive right on half-time, with Swansea frustrated that referee Stephen Martin did not award them a penalty of their own as Fulton went down under a challenge from Omar Richards.
With Cardiff winning and Nottingham Forest losing, Cooper knew goals were needed and he made two changes at the break.
Yan Dhanda came on for Fulton, while Routledge replaced van der Hoorn, and they were immediately on the front foot.
With Swansea committing so many players forward, Reading looked to sit deep and play on the break and they proved resolute as the visitors battled to find a way through.
Grimes curled a free-kick wide of the target and Gallagher also threatened from distance, but the hour mark came and went without any clear-cut chances to show for their dominance of possession and territory.
However, when they did craft a sight of goal they took the chance clinically. Grimes produced a lovely ball, and Routledge controlled superbly to loft the ball over Rafael and into the net.
Unfortunately for the Swans, that goal went in moments after Forest had equalised against Stoke, which appeared to put a sizeable dent in their playoff aspirations.
Nevertheless, Cooper’s side continued to search for more goals in the hope events in the East Midlands would turn back in their favour.
They so nearly made it 3-1 with 17 minutes to play as lovely link play from Rutledge and Bidwell ended with Ayew steering just wide.
The situation was changing all the time, and Stoke retook the lead at Forest to leave the door ajar for the Swans.
And, when Stoke scored a third at the City Ground and Cullen coolly fired home his first senior goal for the club with six minutes remaining, they suddenly only needed a goal to finish in the play-off places.
Grimes had a deflected shot tipped over but the Swans then got the goal they needed in stoppage time as Routledge popped up to nod in at the far post, with Stoke’s fourth goal putting the matter beyond doubt a few moments later to spark delighted celebrations among Cooper, his players and his staff.
Glamorgan launch new kit
GLAMORGAN Cricket has unveiled its new Vitality Blast playing kit for the 2020 season.
Designed by the Club’s official kit supplier, Masuri, alongside Glamorgan’s management, players and coaches, the brand-new Vitality Blast strip contains a subtle Welsh twist.
Fitting Glamorgan’s traditional colour schemes, the top is dark navy with a tonal dragon across the front – a nod to the old Glamorgan nickname and the Welsh identity – while a sharp yellow trim on the neck and sleeves frames the top.
The famous ‘Daff’ sits on the heart of the shirt, with MiPost’s strong Welsh brand centre-stage. Appearing on the collars are the logos of ‘Official Players Car Partner’, Mon Motors and Welsh company, Philtronics Solutions, with Discover Leeks on the right sleeve and SA Group on the back.
The famous Aston Martin logo features on both side of the Glamorgan T20 cap, as they continue their ongoing support of the club.
Head of Commercial, Huw Warren, said: “We’ve enjoyed working with Masuri throughout the design process and together developed an exciting new kit we’re sure our supporters will love with its strong connections with Wales.
“Our Masuri kits have always been hugely successful with players and fans alike and we look forward to continuing our commercial partnership with them.
“We can’t wait to see our players wearing the new kit when the Blast gets underway later this summer.”
Masuri CEO, Sam Miller, said: ‘’Once again it has been a pleasure working with the team at Glamorgan to bring this year’s kit to life, and we are looking forward to seeing it in use during the much anticipated Vitality Blast this year.’’
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