FOR the first time in 11 years the Scarlets have reached the European Cup quarter finals having secured a 30-27 victory on Saturday (Jan 20), over Toulon and in doing so replace them at the top of the group 5, which included Benetton Treviso and Bath.
It was not only the belief achieved from the victory the previous at the Recreation Ground Bath which set the barometer for Wayne Pivac’s men but the way it was won.
The game against Toulon was one which envigored all the sleeping giants from their slumber and Parc Y Scarlets became a cauldron of emotion as the weeks build up reached a crescendo.
The French visitor didn’t arrive just to enjoy the party and for long periods held the upper hand requiring the home side to search for some much need water for life. It came majestically from the Hydro North Stand, with a choral rendition worthy of any ‘Twmpath’ where the rousing beat echoed around a near full house capacity of 14,476.
The first half began where the Bath encounter had ended against Toulon, the three times winners who are also through to the knockout stages as one of the best runners up.
Free flowing rugby, utilising the space created from the impact runners led by skipper Ken Owens resulted in New Zealand winger Tom Prydie racing over in the third minute for try created by full back Rhys Patchell’s long pass, converted by outside half Dan Jones, who also converted a charged down effort from centre Hadleigh Parks before crossing himself under the posts to establish a 27-16 lead.
Toulon displayed the form which made them European kings as they responded immediately to Pyrdie’s opening try when a throw to the back of the line out by hooker Guilhem Guirado led to a disciplined drive from his fellow forwards, for Springbok number 8 Duane Vermeulan to touch down.
Jones extended the lead to 10-5 as English referee Wayne Barnes whistle became centre of attention as he was consistently punishing indiscretions at the gain line, with outside half Anthony Belleau responding in kind and atoning for his earlier missed conversion.
The lead switched away from the Scarlets when England winger Chris Ashton intercepted Patchell’s loose pass in midfield to race 65 metres for a converted try. Bellau was at fault when the adopted ‘Kiwi’ centre Parkes scored, as his clearance kick was charged down by flanker Aaron Shingler who showed ‘Giggs’ like footballing skills for Jones to also add a penalty, before Bellau did the same.
The action was non stop, end to end and at times close to the knuckle with neither side wilting under the enormity of the prize for victory. The Scarlets game didn’t change with prop Rob Evans and a subdued Irish second row Thaig Beirne appearing in midfield to create chances.
Parkes was also instrumental in the third try as he cleared his lines, with Wales newest squad member James ‘Cubby’ Davies harrying to set up a prime front foot attacking position. The line out was secured, and quick hands allowed Jones to ghost in unopposed with Bellau ending the first half action with a penalty and 27-21 scoreboard in favour of the Scarlets.
The standard set in the first half was so high the following forty minutes would have done well to live up to it and such was the case, as it became like the day after the Lord Mayor’s Show. A positive for the home throng’s voices was the reappearance after injury for former Toulon full back Leigh Halfpenny, the Gorseinon born international content to ease himself back in with an accomplished final fifteen minute.
Absorbing the black tide was important; Davies with 23 and Owens with 21 led the troops into battle as the ‘billy cans brewed’ in the background, the side making a thumping 134 tackles.
Substitutions as is the norm in rugby at present played their part in a grinding second half. The Scarlets showed they could ‘dog it out’ to muster the required win, with the only points coming from the boot of replacement play maker Francois Trinh-Duc with the difference being a strike from 45 metres from Patchell on fifty minutes, although Trinh-Duc’s overtime drop kick from 30 metres came within a whisker of spoiling an ‘epic’ occassion.
Pivac would look at the replays for the game, noting with some concern the ease in which the French flair broke tackles and made good yardage. Toulon will be a tough opponent in the later stages of the competition as they arrived with out suspended international centre Mathieu Bastareaud but it will be the defence display which Pivac can take pride.
In the space of eight days the West Walians have shown their steel and panache, making the Easter weekend quarter final showdown with La Rochelle, travelling from the South West of France a potential blockbuster at Parc Y Scarlets.
Could this be the highest profile game witnessed in the modern rugby era? Rest assured it is the most important in over a decade.
Cefneithin hold off Cwmgors for second win
Cwmgors 22-31 Cefneithin
LOOKING for their first WRU Bowl victory since the restart, Cwmgors welcomed Cefneithin to Parc y Werin, the hosts kicking off playing towards Ysgol y Waun.
The visitors notched the opening score with an early converted try, before Andrew Mason sent a penalty over after 12 minutes for the home side.
The Cherries scored an excellent try on 20 minutes, a fine break from the impressive “Owz” resulting in a well-worked try; the resulting conversion unluckily came off the post, but ‘Gors led 8-7.
Some great work by the forwards brought due reward as Cwm grabbed a second touch down which Mason converted; but before the interval, Cefneithin hit back with a try of their own, to leave them trailing by just a point at the break.
Cefn then took the lead early in the second half with a penalty, and missed another minutes later, before breaching the Cwmgors defence to record a third try of the afternoon on 50 minutes.
Minutes later, the ever-industrious “Owz” popped up again, another clinical break and good support which saw Ioan Jones crash over the whitewash for the try; Andrew Mason’s conversion meant Cwm were just two points adrift.
But, ten minutes from the end, home hopes soon evaporated by a late try from the visitors which gave the Cherries too much to do and they ultimately went down to a valiant defeat.
Cwmgors travel to Tumble this Saturday (Sept 25) while Cefneithin host Amman United.
Amman United too good for Betws
AMMAN United earned their fourth win of the campaign on Saturday as they beat Betws 43-13.
After a short delay following the late arrival of the referee, it was Betws who opened the scoring when outside half Aled Rees Jones slotted an early penalty.
But the home side were soon on the attack; backrow man Alun Lewis’ jinking run opened the defence and his perfect pass put in supporting scrum- half Alex Williams to grab the try.
Following Dan Jones’ excellent run, Betws were penalised, and outside half Tom Caddell made no mistake with the resulting kick. A well struck penalty from the boot of Betws placekicker Jones made it 8-6 after 17 minutes.
Newly-married Iwan Davies showed no sign of flagging and was in the thick of things as his superb run typified his all-round effort, along with impressive centre Hacuna Bezzara.
Craig Ratliffe’s break then created space, and Rhodri Lewis’ pass put in Dan Jones for try number two, Caddell’s conversion making it 15-6.
Amman’s purple-patch continued as wing Eurig Morgan crossed for a fine corner try, but Betws showed their sheer grit, despite being down a man by now, peppering the Amman try-line before Rory McGhee forced his way over for a deserved try which Aled Rees Jones converted on the stroke of half time.
A gallant Betws defence was breached early in the second half as Iwan Davies’ pass put in centre Bezzara for a Caddell-converted try.
A superb individual try from Alex Williams which saw him sidestep in for another Amman try began taking the match out of the visitors’ grasp on the hour mark.
Eurig Morgan’s ‘try’ was then ruled out for a forward-pass, just before Alex Williams incurred the referee’s wrath, yellow-carded for a dangerous tackle.
Betws almost took advantage of the 14 men as scrum half Ryan Tancock, who had a solid game, made a searing midfield break which sadly earned no end reward.
Betws’ tiring defensive legs conceded a further score as Alun Lewis provided a try on a plate for replacement Liam Poole to gallop over with minutes remaining.
Caddell’s conversion completed the scoring on an entertaining encounter.
Amman make the trip to Cefneithin on Saturday (Sept 25), while Betws are next in action on October 2.
Ynys prove one hill too far
Cwmamman Utd Reserves 2-4 Ynysygerwn
AFTER two 5-1 wins Cwmamman Reserves, playing their second game in 3 days, put up a brave fight against an Ynysygerwn team with lots of first team experience while also having to play 70 mins of the match with ten men.
The last thing they needed on tired legs was the dismissal of Brieg Matthews after 18 mins for an off the ball incident and it had been a tight match to that point.
But then on 23mins a through ball to Rhys Brewer saw him open the scoring for Ynys.
The 10 men of Cwm fought hard and Ashley Twigg was causing problems on the flank while Olly Dymond was brought down for a strong penalty shout but the referee waved play on.
Grant Rees and Stuart Dunn were strong at the centre of defence. Then just on half time a failure to clear at a corner saw Josh Davies slot it home for the equaliser for CWM.
The second half saw Ynysygerwn increase their possession as Cwm tired and in the 50th minute Tom Phillips flicked in a corner which was quickly followed by a goal in the 53rd minute when a ball over the top saw Charlie Farrell make it 3-1 for Ynys.
Again Cwm came back with Rhys Williams and Rhydian Jones making strong runs and Cam Isaac who had been a safe pair of hands for Cwm in goals but playing out for the last 15 mins score a great individual goal for 3-2.
Cwm pressed and had another strong penalty appeal before themselves conceding a penalty in the last minute which was converted by Nathan Davies to seal a hard fought 4-2 win for Ynysygerwn.
Cwm will enjoy the week’s rest before entertaining Briton Ferry next Saturday (Sept 25).
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