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Swans grab last gasp play-off spot

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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.

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Scarlets slide to PR014 loss

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SCARLETS went down to a second defeat of the Guinness PRO14 campaign after ill-discipline cost them dear in a 20-7 loss at Scotstoun.

Trailing 10-0 at half-time, they had second row Sam Lousi red carded for a dangerous tackle two minutes into the second period and despite a spirited late resurgence left Glasgow empty handed.

On his 150th appearance, prop Samson Lee crossed for his side’s lone try to spark a comeback in the final quarter, but Scarlets were unable to take the chances they created to claw their way back into the game.

It was Lee who was handed the honour of leading out the Scarlets as the visitors looked to continue their excellent record at Scotstoun.

Both sides have built a reputation for running rugby, but the opening half proved a real arm wrestle, particularly at the breakdown.

There were threatening bursts from scrum-half Gareth Davies and centre Johnny Williams, but every time the Scarlets entered Warriors territory, they conceded a penalty.

It took 28 minutes for the scoreboard operator to be called upon with Glasgow fly-half Adam Hastings landing a long-range penalty, sandwiched between two misses from similar range.

Prop Oli Kebble then barged over from close-range with Hastings’s conversion making it 10-0 to the home side.

To compound matters Scarlets lost back-rower Josh Macleod to a leg injury, replaced by international openside James Davies.

Halfpenny was wide with his first penalty attempt as Scarlets attempted to claw back the deficit, but in the final move of the half a Williams break came to nothing as Glasgow pilfered another turnover penalty.

Needing a strong response after the restart, the second half started in disastrous fashion when Lousi was red carded for a dangerous tackle on Glasgow wing Ratu Tagive.

It wasn’t long before the Warriors took advantage of the extra man with experienced No. 8 Ryan Wilson diving over for his side’s second try.
Scotland international Adam Hastings converted and added another penalty to push the score out to 20-0, but that sparked the Scarlets into a spirited response.

With the bench making a big impact, Scarlets brought a real energy to their performance and were rewarded when Lee found a way to the line after a lovely ‘show and go’ from a couple of metres out. Halfpenny converted and suddenly the Scarlets sensed a way back.

It needed an outstanding cover tackle from Steff Evans to deny Scotland international Tommy Seymour shortly afterwards, but back came the Scarlets forcing the home side to concede a string of penalties.

It led to lock Richie Gray being shown yellow, but the visitors couldn’t make the most of it as Ken Owens had the ball dislodged as he charged towards the whitewash.

In the dying moments, the dangerous Evans almost produced a stunning solo score but wasn’t able to ground the ball in the corner, then Tom Rogers went close on the other flank.

Reduced to 13 men following the sin-binning of Nick Grigg for an illegal high shot, Glasgow were able to hold out late on, leaving the Scarlets to reflect on a second defeat of the campaign.

Speaking after the match, Scarlets head coach Glenn Delaney said: “It was a game of two halves, we weren’t accurate early in the first half. We were quite rueful we did not take the opportunities when they presented themselves. We had some territory and possession without really getting momentum with the collisions. At the breakdown area we were struggling a little bit to keep the ball and continuity going and that told.

“It was a nip and tuck first-half and they capitalised, took a chance and fair play to them for that.

“In the second period we had a red card and then we really put some momentum into the game and we looked pretty good and I felt we probably had another score in us at that point and it was all on.

“We finished with plenty of energy. That is the footie we are trying to play, we just didn’t get to do that in the first half.

“I was really proud of the effort, that is never in question with our lads. We just need to be more accurate so we can put more of a mark on our game.”
As for the injuries to Josh Macleod, Ken Owens and Blade Thomson, Delaney added: “Josh has a hamstring injury so we will have a look at that and see how he gets on. The medics are looking after him and it’s pretty early to make an assessment, we will know more in the next 24-48 hours.
“He has worked so hard to get in that Wales squad and I thought he was outstanding again today, making big plays and doing what he has been doing for us for the last 12 months.

“The form that he has shown to get us into that position he was showing that tonight so it was a shame for him. When James (Davies) came on he looked great so we have two good guys in that seven shirt.

“Ken has a shoulder injury, he has some bruising, and Blade has an elbow problem. It’s about managing it. It’s pretty early when you get those joint related things, they tend to take a day or so to really know what the severity is.”

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New Welsh rugby kit launched

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THE NEW Macron Wales kit, to be worn for the first time against France in Paris on October 24, has been unveiled simultaneously in the private changing rooms of the national team headquarters in Hensol and the Wales Women squad’s current base in Swansea University.

Jonathan Davies and Ross Moriarty were joined ‘virtually’ by Wales Women captain Siwan Lillicrap and Gwen Crabb to reveal the kit against a backdrop of jerseys from the community game in Wales which have also been produced by the WRU’s new official technical partner.

The launch of the new kit has taken on a post-Covid feel with both squads currently training in respective ‘bubbles’ and so the community aspect of the partnership – £1m of free kit to be supplied yearly to Welsh rugby clubs over six years – has been reflected by a display of existing Macron community rugby shirts.

 

A set of unique features sees the red dragon of the Welsh flag embossed across lower back of the shirt, an embossed pattern covering the sleeves – cleverly transforming the hexagonal shape of the WRU three-feathers logo into ‘dragon scales’ – and the Welsh word ANRHYDEDD (honour), also embossed, on the back of the collar.

The ‘away‘ version is a black jersey with a white v-neck collar, this time tipped with red trim that is also found on the sleeves and cuffs.

Both sleeves again feature an all over embossed pattern, but this time a geometric graphic brings a new age look to the garment.

The Welsh dragon is once again embossed on the lower back and another Welsh word, ANGERDD (passion) is embossed on the back of the collar.

“The new kit is striking representation of Welsh rugby tradition and we are delighted to be able to launch our new seven-year partnership with Macron in such a spectacular way,” said WRU CEO Steve Phillips.

“We are delighted with the bespoke kit, training and leisurewear Macron has provided so far, where Italian design meets Welsh passion with impressive results.

“And we are sure that the Welsh rugby watching public will be equally impressed when they get their hands on their favourite pieces in the expansive product range available.”

Wales Women will wear the kit in action for the first time against Scotland in their own postponed Six Nations clash on November 1 and, from next season, Macron’s affinity with Welsh rugby will increase even further when the first instalment of £6m worth of kit over six years, is supplied to the clubs in the community game throughout Wales.

“The Welsh Rugby Union represents one of the pillar stones of world rugby and for Macron to stand side by side with this sporting giant, means that we as a brand, have reached yet another great milestone,” said Macron‘s CEO Gianluca Pavanello.

“Our goal is for the new kits to be instantly recognisable and something that clearly express the Welsh identity and spirit. We hope that our hard work has paid off and that the new collection will be loved by players and fans alike and that the kits evoke the emotion that such a great nation deserves.”

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Llanelli Warriors RFC Win World Award

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THE LLANELLI WARRIORS were named double Ability Rugby International Champions, the results announced with perfect timing just as the Warriors held their presentation evening.

The Ability Rugby International Championship compares the results of all the mixed ability sides across the globe, with an emphasis on games played but with a win element incorporated.

The results for 2018/29 have been much delayed but saw the Warriors regain the title from Scottish National Clan team. They edged out newcomers the Dragon Allstars who were playing their debut season. The 2019/20 season may have been curtailed, but the Warriors still managed more fixtures than any other mixed ability side, this time edging out another new side, the Port Talbot Panthers.

Mixed Ability rugby sees players with and without disabilities play alongside each other and against ‘normal’ rugby clubs. The concept continues to spread rapidly and the days when it was just the Warriors and their Swansea rivals the Gladiators, have long gone. 10 years ago the 1st sides started forming outside of West Wales and there are now over 100 teams and groups world wide.

Captain Richard Evans was very proud. “It takes a lot to organise fixtures regularly so this is a great reward for all our efforts. The boys are very committed and we just love to play. It’s great to see so many sides playing now and it’s great to be at the forefront of the movement”.

The news boosted the Warriors presentation evening where they looked back over their season.

James Anthony was the main beneficiary, playing his 1st full season his pace on the wing and accurate boot helped him lift the Top Points Scorer award and the Player of the Year titles.

Players’ Player went to 2nd row Tom Ashour. Quick enough to have previously played on the wing, he proved a reliable source of lineout ball and was always combative around the field.

Luke Pearse was named Most Improved Player, narrowly beating Will Browne, Lloyd Cawley and Dan Grinter.
The most closely contested was Sportsman where Luke Pearse, Arwel Thomas and Dan John were pipped by Chris Davies. The nominees were described as the glue of the club by Chairman Gwilym Lewis, and vital to the teams success.

The Warriors are especially anxious for Covid regulations to lift as the new season will be their 25th. Planning is difficult at present but they hope to have a number of special fixtures. At the end of the season they are due to head out to Ireland for the 3rd Mixed Ability world tournament which will feature 24 clubs from 8 different countries.

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