JD Welsh Cup Round 1
Ammanford AFC v Cardiff Draconians
Cardiff Draconians gave a good account of themselves in this JD Welsh Cup encounter against their higher league opponents Ammanford AFC.
As expected Ammanford’s Manager Gruff Harrison made a couple of changes to his lineup from the side that started against Llanelli Town in their last league outing.
The first half hour of this game was a tense affair with the visitors trying to press the home side whilst defending soundly at the back.
Ammanford’s first real chance came in the 32nd minute when winger Ricky Martin cut inside and fired a powerful shot which forced the Draconian’s Goalkeeper Callum Meyer into a flying save tipping the ball over his crossbar.
Minutes later Ammanford’s central defender Euros Griffiths headed the ball over the crossbar from a free kick.
Ten minutes later an Ammanford corner kick saw the same player rise majestically above the visitors defence and head the ball into the net 1-0
It was a perfect time for the home side to score right on the stroke of half time!
The second half saw Ammanford slowly starting to control the game and in the 54th minute were awarded a penalty.
Ammanford’s Mathew Fisher stepped up but his spot kick sailed over the crossbar.
Three minutes later a rash challenge from Draconian’s Thomas McLean on Ammanford’s Brett Enoch saw the referee brandish his red card and the visitors faced an up hill battle with ten men.
In the 65th minute Lee Trundle almost doubled Ammanford’s lead but his shot went narrowly wide.
However a minute later Mathew Fisher made amends for his penalty miss by dribbling his way into the visitors penalty area and placed his close range shot into the corner of the net deceiving the visitors Goalkeeper to make it 2-0.
With the home team in command Ammanford made changes with Ben Soal and Tristan Jenkins replacing Dale Jones and Ricky Martin.
The Draconian’s never say die spirit paid dividends when Bradley Stubbs stunned the home crowd by pulling a goal back.
Ammanford made their final substitution when striker Craig Frater came on for Bruno Forkouh.
It was all Ammanford in the last ten minutes as the visitors ten men started to tire.
In the 87th minute Ammanford made it 3-1 when Lee Trundle powered a fierce shot past the Draconian’s keeper.
A minute later straight from the restart, Ammanford’s Craig Frater got the ball and caught the Draconian’s defence flat footed as his shot rolled along the grass and into the Draconian’s net to make it 4-1.
With time almost up Ammanford were awarded a second penalty which Lee Trundle took , he tried to dink his kick into the middle of the visitors goal but keeper Callum Meyer stood his ground in the middle of his goal and easily caught the ball.
Ammanford’s second penalty miss of the game didn’t really impact on the result of this cup tie.
The final whistle blew and Ammanford celebrated the win and progress into round 2 of the JD Welsh Cup.
A spirited performance from the Cardiff Draconians which their supporters would have fully appreciated.
The Six Nations is back
THIS WEEK, thanks mostly to the weather, more especially rather too much of it, The Herald looks at the Six Nations’ story so far and the prospects ahead.
The change from Warrenball to a more open style under new coach Wayne Pivac looks fantastic when it works. When it misfires, however, Wales look disjointed. Strangely, for a side whose members are familiar with each other’s strengths and weaknesses, Wales looked shapeless for long periods chasing the Irish game. While a few faces have changed, nowhere near as many as could account for the lack of nous in key periods of play in Dublin.
The danger the Italian performance flattered to deceive could not be more evident as Wales prepare to face a rejuvenated French team at home this weekend.
Wales will need to tighten up in both first phases of the game. The Welsh lineout has been intermittently effective and conceding a try from a defensive lineout last time out suggests adjustments need to be made in that area.
The Italian pack applied pressure in the scrum. While Wales fared better against the Irish pack, it should be remembered that Ireland were given a real going over in the tight in their victory over Scotland. The French will pose a different question at the scrum. Traditionally strong at scrum-time, the French also tend to lack discipline there. England have mercilessly exposed the French pack’s uneven temperament in years passed and Wales will need to show something of the same guile and wit to combat a large French eight.
Against Ireland, handling errors and turnovers at the breakdown cost the Welsh side dearly. There was – putting it charitably – some confusion about the rule relating to offside at the ruck against Ireland. Wales will be glad that Johnny Sexton is unavailable to referee this Saturday’s game. Matthew Carley of England will be in charge and – if he officiates the same way as he does in the English Premiership – the offside line at the breakdown will be clearer to both teams.
At the time of writing this article, Wales are yet to announce their team for this Saturday’s clash. It would be a surprise, however, if Gareth Davies did not replace Tomos Williams at scrum-half. Dan Biggar is expected to be fit and should start at 10 if he is. Wales might choose to tinker with their midfield. Hadleigh Parkes is nailed on (if fit) and Wales could elect to shuffle George North back inside from the wing, both to get him closer to the ball and for his sheer physical presence. That would be a tough call for Nick Tompkins, who looks a class act but might reflect a wish to counter France’s physical threat.
Wales will need to be markedly better in defence against France than they were a fortnight ago.
There’s been a lot of talk about how France have shown increased dynamism and quality of play. However, France have conceded a lot of tries in their first two matches, something which won’t please the side’s defensive coach, Shaun Edwards.
Under head coach Fabien Galthie, France’s line speed has been outstanding. Sharp in attack and savage in defence, when France get it right they are hard to live with.
The French gave England an absolute pasting for the first sixty minutes in Paris and were better in every phase and aspect of the game. After forty minutes against Italy, they looked ready to run in a cricket score but their second-half performance was patchy and indifferent, even though they had enough quality to see off the Italians.
The undoubted stars of the French team so far have been their half-back pairing of Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack. The 9 and 10 look by far the best combination in the Six Nations, combining real pace and flair with tactically astute kicking and slick distribution. If Wales can disrupt the link between the pair – possibly by hitting the channel on Ntamack’s inside shoulder from first phase possession, and that’s a big if – France could be placed on the back foot. Give Ntamack space, however, and there’ll be only one winner. The Welsh back row should have developed a plan to stymie the half-backs and unsettle France’s play from the base and that is likely to be a key element of the game. The two best back-row forwards in this year’s tournament, Justin Tipuric and French skipper Charles Ollivon will have an important say in the outcome of that element of play.
Up front, France look a formidable unit. Wales’ tight five can expect a real examination in the scrum. Wales look vulnerable to the risk of conceding penalties in that phase. Wales’ forward coach, former skipper Jonathan Humphreys, has called for greater consistency from refs at the scrum. As a former hooker, he should know what goes on in the front row stays in the front row. If refs had any idea, they would abolish scrums altogether.
A sneaking suspicion persists that this England team – and its coach – hit their peak together in the World Cup semi-final win against New Zealand.
Muddled selection in the first two games, especially against France, has made England look unusually ineffectual in game phases where they are usually strong. Juggling around with the back-row and the absence of a specialist number eight has made the English appear jerky and hesitant at times.
England have also lacked definite leadership on the pitch. Owen Farrell is a fine player, if one who divides opinion almost as much as Marmite, but he doesn’t seem an easy fit as skipper of this England team. During the weather-induced chaos at Murrayfield, George Ford looked in control of the team in the pinch.
England’s tight five is a strong unit but seemed far less than the sum of their parts in Paris. Against Scotland, it was hard to tell what was going on, but there appeared to be signs of improvement. The Irish pack are no pushovers but is likely to be less of a challenge than either Scotland or France. If England secure good first phase possession, they should manage to squeeze the Irish supply line to Johnny Sexton. Once that is done, if it is done, England will have gone a long way to winning the game.
Ireland’s new coach Andy Farrell – yes, Owen’s dad – has not tried to uproot tree trunks by changing the Irish playing style.
Abrasive in defence, dogged up front, a strong kicking game remains at the heart of Ireland’s game. Ireland’s skipper, Johnny Sexton, remains the same as he always has been: Ronan O’Gara with gas. Able to vary his game to suit the conditions, slick in the pass, clever with a tactical kicking game, and lethal from the kicking tee, Johnny Sexton’s only remaining ambition is to ref every game he takes part in. A superb all-round player, it is likely that Sexton will want to test out England’s full-back early while keeping the ball away from England’s gifted winger Johnny May.
Ireland’s strength lies in their back-row forwards. Living constantly close to the offside line and led by CJ Stander, the Irish snuffed out Wales’ attacking threat. Against an unsettled English back-row, the Irish loose three could cause real problems.
Jordan Larmour is in sparkling form at full-back and his combination with Andrew Conway looks particularly impressive both with the ball in hand and in defence.
Where Ireland might creak is in the front row. The tight forwards looked exposed by a rugged Scotland scrum and uneven against Wales, conceding a penalty at an attacking five-yard scrummage. England have their problems up front, but anything better than bare parity in the scrum means Ireland will be doing well.
Gregor Townsend is a coach under pressure.
Scotland are a combination of exhilaration and frustration. Latterly, there’s been a lot more of the latter than the former.
The rift between Finn Russell and Gregor Townsend suggests a deeper malaise than a clash between one star player and a coach. Scotland were beyond dismal at the Rugby World Cup and the SRU made few friends by waving the shroud of legal action against the competition’s organisers in the aftermath of Typhoon Hagibis, which devastated the area around Yokohama.
On the field in this year’s Six Nations, Scotland have looked solid in the tight and Adam Hastings has made a good impression at 10. Huw Jones looks back towards his form of 2018. But that’s about it. There’s been the odd glimmer from other players but Scotland look hideously disorganised across the field of play, as though the players have just met each other for the first time.
If their campaign could be summed up in one play, it is Stuart Hogg dropping the ball when over the line against Ireland. Collectively and individually, Scotland seem unable to sustain concentration over eighty minutes.
Gregor Townsend was a mercurial and talented player and his coaching career at Glasgow Warriors suggested he brought something of that style allied to a more ruthless cutting edge. However, he looks out of his depth in charge of the national side.
If only they could start a game like they finish one, Italy would do a lot better. Too often they are caught cold in the first fifteen minutes and spend time and energy digging themselves out of holes of their own making.
The Italian tight five are a strong unit, they have a gifted playmaker in inside centre Carlo Canna, and Matteo Minozzi is a crackerjack winger. But they are desperately short of consistent quality around the field.
Nevertheless, against France, Italy capitalised when the home team’s concentration waivered and they should provide Scotland with a tough workout and at Stadio Olimpico could finally end their losing streak. That rather depends on which Scotland turns up and the Italian’s ability to pounce on Scottish mistakes with a ruthlessness which has been missing so far, especially against Wales. Time after time in Cardiff, Italy’s pack hauled their team into promising positions only to watch them vanish due to indecision in the backs. The Italian backs need to match their front eight’s effort if they are to get anything out of the game.
The concern is that the gap between Italy and the other Six Nations is growing and calls for an extended, even two-division European international tournament, are sure to add to the pressure the team feels to deliver.
Reds dominate Ammanford
Three first half goals for the “Reds” of Llanelli Town left Ammanford with it all to do in the second half in this JD Cymru South league fixture.
The game could not have started any worse for the home team as the Reds won an early corner kick with two minutes played.
The ball was swung high into the Ammanford six yards area and Ammanford’s goalkeeper Craig Morris leaped to grab the ball out of the air, unfortunately for the keeper , the ball was dropped from his grasp and Llanelli’s Kyle Copp was first to react and punished the error with an easy tap in from two yards out.
Worse was to follow for the home team when a Llanelli counter attack saw Kyle Copp play the pass of the evening (a
rabona ), which split the home defence wide open and played in team mate Zac Brown who was clean through on goal and he calmly slotted the ball into the back of the net to double the visitors lead. 0-2
Ammanford’s first half misery was compounded when they conceded a penalty kick.
The resultant spot kick was dispatched into the back of the Ammanford net by Zac Brown.
Ammanford tried to get back in the game and came close when an Andy Robinson free kick was well saved by Llanelli’s keeper Kai Rees.
The second half saw Llanelli increase their lead when Reds playmaker Jordan Davies squeezed the ball into the back of the Ammanford net from close range at the far post.
Ammanford did win a penalty of their own when Ammanford’s Brett Enoch was upended in the Llanelli penalty area.
Ammanford’s Luke Borelli stepped up and thumped the ball into the corner of net sending the keeper the wrong way.
Any glimmer of hope of a comeback was extinguished when Reds got their fifth goal through Kyle Copp.
Ammanford managed another goal when winger Tristan Jenkins took on his marker and beat him by cutting inside and ran into the penalty area and placed his shot wide of Reds keeper Kai Rees into the net.
Ammanford tried to rally a late comeback and striker Gavin Jones brought a fine save out of the Reds keeper Kai Rees.
The game ended with a resounding away win for Llanelli Town 2-5.
Ammanford AFC will travel to Haverfordwest County for their next game.
WALES TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT
Wales have made one change to their starting XV to face Ireland this weekend with Nick Tompkins, who made a try scoring debut in round one, coming into the side.
Tompkins will line-up at outside centre with George North moving to the wing for the clash in Dublin.
North will line-up in an experienced back-three alongside Josh Adams and Leigh Halfpenny whilst Tompkins will partner Hadleigh Parkes in the midfield. Tomos Williams and Dan Biggar continue their partnership at half-back.
Wales have named an unchanged pack with Wyn Jones, Ken Owens and Dillon Lewis in the front-row and Jake Ball lining up alongside captain Alun Wyn Jones.
Aaron Wainwright, Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau feature in the back-row.
“We’ve made just one change after a winning start last weekend,” said Wales head coach Wayne Pivac.
“Nick comes into the side, I thought he played exceptionally well when he came on last week so he deserves the start. George, who played really well last weekend at centre, moves back out to the wing.
“On the bench we have a few players back available, Rhys Carre impressed at the RWC and he comes back in. Adam Beard comes in for Cory Hill who picked up a leg injury earlier this week, Gareth (Davies) is fully fit and Owen Williams comes onto the bench and gives us a bit more cover.
“Momentum is important in the Championship, it was nice to get a good winning start under our belts and hopefully we can build on that through the tournament.”
On the bench Rhys Carre joins Ryan Elias and Leon Brown as the front-row replacements with Adam Beard and Ross Moriarty completing the forward contingent. Gareth Davies, Owen Williams and Johnny McNicholl provide the back-line cover.
WALES TEAM TO PLAY IRELAND (Saturday February 8 KO14.15 ITV & S4C)
15. Leigh Halfpenny (86 Caps)
14. George North (92 Caps)
13. Nick Tompkins (1 Cap)
12. Hadleigh Parkes (26 Caps)
11. Josh Adams (22 Caps)
10. Dan Biggar (80 Caps)
9. Tomos Williams (17 Caps)
1. Wyn Jones (23 Caps)
2. Ken Owens (74 Caps)
3. Dillon Lewis (23 Caps)
4. Jake Ball (43 Caps)
5. Alun Wyn Jones (C) (135 Caps)
6. Aaron Wainwright (19 Caps)
7. Justin Tipuric (73 Caps)
8. Taulupe Faletau (73 Caps)
16. Ryan Elias (10 Caps)
17. Rhys Carre (6 Caps)
18. Leon Brown (7 Caps)
19. Adam Beard (20 Caps)
20. Ross Moriarty (42 Caps)
21. Gareth Davies (51 Caps)
22. Owen Williams (3 Caps)
23. Johnny McNicholl (1 Cap)
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