WALES gave themselves the best chance of finishing second in the Six Nations Championship as they beat Italy 38-14 at the Principality Stadium on Sunday afternoon (Mar 11).
Italy kicked off following a rousing rendition of Bread of Heaven and it wasn’t long before the Welsh Dragon roared into life.
Wales turned the ball over before winning a penalty which Gareth Anscombe kicked to touch. From the resulting line-out Wales worked the ball to the middle of the field and Hadleigh Parkes burst through the tacklers to touch down under the posts. Cardiff Blues kicker Anscombe added the extras.
From the kick off Italy won the ball back but Owen Watkin intercepted a pass and ran into the 22 before offloading to George North who went over for the try and Anscombe once again added the extras.
Any thoughts the home side had of an easy afternoon soon evaporated as Italy worked the ball over to the left hand side for Zebre’s Matteo Minozzi who reached over in the corner after breaking the tackle of Liam Williams. Tommaso Allan then added the conversion.
Wales continued to put the pressure on with kicks into the Italy 22 and on 16 minutes they nearly had a third try but a knock on prevented debutant James Davies from going any further.
From the resultant Italy scrum Wales were able to win the ball back and they thought they had their third try as Williams passed to Steff Evans on the left wing who kicked inside towards the posts and Gareth Davies ran on to touch the ball down.
However, French referee Jerome Garces went to the TMO to check if Davies was in front of the kicker which video replays proved to be correct and the try was ruled out.
With twenty minutes gone it was Italy’s turn to for a spell of pressure but a loose pass saw Williams kick the ball forward and pounce on it just past the halfway line only for Italy to win the ball back.
Captain Taulupe Faletau was doing his best to show why he had been given the armband for the game and he produced one of the biggest hits of the game as he floored Italy kicker Allan. Thankfully after a few minutes of treatment he was back on his feet.
Italy again had a good spell of pressure and won the ball twice in quick succession from turnovers before being given a penalty. Allan, perhaps still feeling the effects of that monstrous hit, sent his kick wide of the posts and the score stayed at 14-7.
Shortly before the break Wales won a penalty and Anscombe showed his fellow kicker how it was done as he increased the lead to 17-7.
On the stroke of half time the ball was kicked to the left hand side but Steff Evans couldn’t quite collect the ball and he knocked the ball on. Italy’s Minozzi ran in to collect the ball with Liam Williams also running in close behind who made another crunching tackle on the Italian.
Referee Garces again went to the TMO as replays showed Williams’ shoulder catching Minozzi on the cheek. After some delay, Garces showed Williams a yellow card, much to the anger of the Welsh fans.
The second half started with Wales a man light but that didn’t seem to affect them as they went in search of a third try.
Davies charged down a clearance kick giving Wales a scrum which saw Davies pass to Cory Hill who stretched his way over for that third try and Anscombe added the extra two points.
Moments later, Italy attacked but Davies was deemed to have knocked the ball on deliberately and he was given a yellow card, meaning Wales were two men light, albeit for another two minutes.
Williams’ penalty ended but Coach Warren Gatland decided he would bring Halfpenny on in his place, and he got one of the biggest cheers of the afternoon as he entered the field.
Dean Budd and Tommaso Benvenuti tried their best to get Italy back into the game but some good defending from Wales meant they were unable to go any further.
James Davies then passed to Faletau who in turn found Justin Tipuric but he knocked the ball on and the chance had gone.
With 65 minutes gone, Patchell offloaded quickly for George North who dropped down for his second try of the game and Wales’ fourth giving them a bonus point. Halfpenny then added the extra two points.
With ten minutes to go Patchell found Parkes who threw a lobbed pass out to the wing where Tipuric was on hand to collect and touch down in the corner for Wales’ fifth try and Halfpenny converted again.
With five minutes to go, Italy looked to restore some pride and it was sub Federico Ruzza who found Mattia Bellini who touched down before Allan added the extras.
The bonus point win puts Wales second in the table, a point ahead of England and France and with one final round of games to come, Wales will be hoping they can finish in style.
On Saturday (Mar 17), Wales take on France, also aiming to finish second, at the Principality Stadium (Kick off 5pm) while Six Nations Champions Ireland take on England at Twickenham (2:45pm).
Amman earn first win of the season
AMMAN United claimed their first win of the season after an opening-day draw, and a cup defeat at Haverfordwest last weekend.
However, you would have been hard pushed to imagine a 50-point final-score when, just before half time, the score remained 0-0.
But two injury time scores had then given Amman an unlikely 12-0 interval lead against the Bulldogs.
A bright opening from United saw centre Gavin Lewis, on yet another comeback, show his trickery with a nice run and offload early on. Hooker George Clark had a fine game and was in the thick of everything, as were fellow forwards Iwan Davies, Dan Jones, Rhydian Jones and captain Alun Lewis.
Bynea suffered a very early blow, losing Corey Butler to an untimely injury, and they were later to also see Jamie Thomas limp off before half time.
These injuries meant a large period of added-time, and the Bulldogs’ valiant defence cracked during the injury-time as Joel Foster and Alun Lewis combined to put in flanker Rhydian Jones for the opening try, which Tom Caddell converted.
A frustrating couple of minutes for the visitors was compounded when a quick tap and go penalty from scrum half Foster saw him smuggle over the try line for a second try on the stroke of half time.
The Reds continued in good heart after the restart, and after some good play,Foster and and Dan Jones were involved before Rhydian Jones slipped a fine offload to skipper Alun Lewis who went under the posts for another converted try.
Another “vet” came on, Adrian Thomas off the bench as the home side largely dominated with their pack in the ascendency, Cian Lewis, Jason Knell and Rhys Phillips having put in a good shift throughout.
The Bulldogs then had a purple patch for a while,centre Jack Mal almost finishing off a fine move, before more calamity struck for them as Jake Sam was sadly stretchered off.
Amman capitalised and grabbed a bonus point try when the excellent George Clarke went over for another score to make it 24-0.
But the dogged visitors were always a threat, and carved out an excellent try for their efforts as wing Nathan Baker finished off a well-worked team move, which outside half Finlay Cook converted.
Amman hit back when the back row combined well before Dan Jones went over the whitewash for a try.
A very young Bynea side battled to the end,and some more excellent play was rewarded with a try for Tom Badger, converted by Cook.
However, the home side had the last word and grabbed a very late injury time try as the industrious Rhydian Jones crossed for the final score of the game.
Amman face a tough trip to Tumble on Saturday, October 1, while Bynea are home against New Dock Stars.
Ammanford upset Penybont to reach MG Cup quarter finals
Report by Ian Parfitt
AMMANFORD produced arguably the shock of the third round in the MG Nathaniel Cup with a 2-1 victory at Penybont, who currently sit third in the Cymru Premier League, on Tuesday night (Sept 20).
Penybont started the game well and looked dangerous with ex Ammanford player Kai Whitmore calling the shots.
Ammanford however were also playing some neat football themselves and this was quickly becoming a competitive contest.
Ammanford took the lead in the 28th minute when Brett Enoch took advantage of a moment of calamity in the Penybont defence to fire home.
As expected Penybont increased the pressure on the Ammanford goal in search of an equaliser but Ammanford held firm to go into the interval ahead.
Kyle Marsh in particular having a fine game in the Ammanford goal. Ammanford fans would have been expecting a long 45 minutes after the break but it only took a minute for Penybont to find the equaliser, Mael Davies scoring with a firm header.
Penybont were hungry for more goals and looked especially dangerous from the flanks. The Ammanford defence, who were superb throughout held firm under a barrage of high balls into the box.
Ammanford were also keen to get a second and looked dangerous on the counter attack, both Jordan Langley and Callum Silcox going agonisingly close to restoring the visitors’ lead.
The Ammanford defence continued to form a formidable wall at the back which Penybont were unable to breach.
This fantastic rearguard action was rewarded in the 81st minute when Callum Thomas scored what turned out to be the winner for Ammanford, running through on goal and producing a composed finish to slot the ball past Penybont keeper Alex Pennock.
Ammanford players continued to put their bodies on the line to preserve the lead, epitomised by Tom Pratt who took one on the head in the six yard box.
Lee Trundle spurned a glorious chance to make the game safe for Ammanford with a couple of minutes remaining but it mattered not as the final whistle produced jubilant scenes in the away camp.
Ammanford progress to the Fourth round on what was a glorious night for the club.
Strong Ammanford performance seals Cup win over Whitland
AMMANFORD got their Division 1 Cup campaign off to an excellent start on Saturday (Sept 17) as they beat Whitland 42-13.
Ammanford built up a 17-3 lead and increased that further to 8-29 before pulling away in the closing stages.
Geraint Jones scored a penalty for Whitland and unconverted tries from Gino Setaro and Lewis Gibby followed.
Captain Alex Davies was named as Ammanford’s man of the match as he lead his side to a bonus point win.
The scrum half was among the try scorers as were Morgan Plimmer, Rhodri Jones, Liam Smith, Carwyn Richards, Mathew Lemon and Tiaan Evans.
Ryan Williams added four conversions and one penalty for the visitors.
The next round of Cup fixtures is scheduled for October 15. Ammanford host Newcastle Emlyn while Whitland travel to Tondu.
Ammanford return to action in League 1 West Central on Saturday, September 24 as they host Birchgrove.
Whitland are also back in league action in League 1 West as they visit Pembroke.
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