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Scarlets earn much needed win

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SCARLETS earned a much needed victory on Saturday (Jan 5) as they beat the Dragons 22-13 in front of over 8000 fans.

The men in Red were keen to get back to winning ways following a disappointing festive period and they were soon ahead.

Scarlets outside half Dan Jones kicked off at the Parc for the last derby of the festive season. The talking point ahead of the game was captain Ken Owens starting at number 8 because of the region’s injury in the back row with hooker Ryan Elias starting in the front row for his 100th appearance.

Within minutes Scarlerts were up in Dragons territory putting pressure on the opposition and captain Ken Owens packed down at number 8 for the first time.

The home side were held up just short of Dragons’ 22 line and they were given a penalty which Jones kicked through the posts for an early 3-0 lead.

With six minutes on the clock Dragons lined up a penalty after Scarlets were penalised this time at the scrum. Josh Lewis stepped up from the ten metre line but his attempt hit the post.

Photo by Darren Harries

Scrum half Kieran Hardy chased the 22 drop out and made a break in Dragons territory. He showed good pace and danced around defenders getting the Scarlets back up to Dragons’ 22.

With ten minutes gone the Scarlets were given another penalty and Jones scored to double the home side’s lead.

Scarlets lose the scrum penalty after a few re-sets despite the Dragons loosehead letting go of the bind. Dragons kicked downfield but Scarlets soon got back in to opposition territory. Dragons had a line out on their 22, but Scarlets regain possession and build an attacking phase. A knock-on handed possession back to the Dragons but plenty of determination and physicality on show.

On the half hour mark Dragons got a penalty on the ten metre line and this time Lewis sent it over to make it 6-3.

In the final minutes of the first half Scarlets got an attacking phase up and running in Dragons’ 22. Rob Evans was in position for a pick and go and he crossed over the line. Referee Craig Evans calls on the TMO to confirm grounding. The try wasn’t given but play was brought back for a penalty which Dan Jones slots over.

As the clock ticked over the 40 minutes the Scarlets were given a fourth penalty which Jones sent over to give his side a 12-3 lead at half time.

The Dragons got the first points on the board in the second half through a Josh Lewis penalty after a decision by the referee incensed the home crowd in the North Stand enclosure.

The first try of the game was scored shortly before the hour mark with winger Ioan Nicholas finding himself on the end of the attacking move in Dragons’ 22 after much pressure from the home side.

Ryan Elias throws in to the line in front of the South Stand, Kennedy wins at the top of the line out, and it’s passed through the hands gracefully. Johnny McNicholl puts Nicholas in for the try with the final pass in the line. A much-needed boost for the Scarlets and despite a missed conversion the home team moved eleven points clear of the opposition (17-6).

Photo by Darren Harries

Changes were made with Tom Phillips, Werner Kruger, Wyn Jones, Marc Jones and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne coming on for Ed Kennedy, Samson Lee, Rob Evans, Ryan Elias and Kieran Hardy.

With plenty of fire in the belly the Scarlets got back in to Dragons territory playing good attacking rugby. Everyone is keen to get their hands on the ball and a mammoth drive by the forwards in their 22 saw them put the opposition under huge pressure. However, the Scarlets were unable to turn the pressure in to points as the clock ticked towards the 70th minute.

Scarlets got straight back down in to opposition territory and there was another strong run to the whitewash but they couldn’t quite get over.

Play was called back after no advantage and replacement scrum half Hidalgo-Clyne took a quick tap to send himself over to make it 22-6.

The Dragons had the last word as James Benjamin crossed the whitewash with Tovey adding the extras to give a final score of 22-13.

The Scarlets now take a break from Pro14 action as they face two tough Heineken Champions Cup fixtures. The first of those at the Parc on Saturday (Jan 12) as they welcome Leicester Tigers for a 5:30 kick off.

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Ammanford suffer heaviest defeat

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AFTER two successive victories, Ammanford crashed to their heaviest defeat of the season at St Helen’s, losing to Swansea by a humiliating 240 runs on Saturday (July 24).

Swansea must have regretted their decision to bat first when Daniel Roberts had them at 12 for 2.

But that regret was transitory as their middle order went on to build a massive total of 295 for 7.

Half centuries came from the bats of Gareth Haydn (73), Osian Webber (66) and Adnan Ghori (56), whilst Hasan Hayat came painfully close with 49.

Daniel Roberts carried the Ammanford bowling with 4 for 51 from his 10 overs.

With several first team regulars missing, Ammanford’s batsmen had no answer to the bowling of Kazi Szymanski (5-19), Waqas Tanveer (3-27) and Brad Wadlan (2-4).

The only resistance came from Josef Davies (25) as the visitors crumbled to 55 all out in 14 overs.

Ammanford will want to forget this episode as they fight to get themselves clear of the pack at the foot of Premier One.

Seconds lose by seven wickets

Ammanford seconds lost by seven wickets to table-toppers Carmarthen Wanderers at the Park on Saturday.

Batting first, Ammanford were all out for 133, late resistance to the Wanderers bowling coming from Llyr Morgan (22) and Sion Evans (21).

Liam Rogers was Carmarthen’s chief wicket taker with 3 for 24.

Despite losing a wicket without a run on the board, Carmarthen’s middle order patiently stood their ground and took 32 overs to achieve their target for the loss of three wickets.

Opener Giles Thomas made 47 while Joshua Thomas was unbeaten on 49.

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Two late Thomas goals seal remarkable Cwm comeback

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TEN-MAN Cwmamman United staged a late rally to break South Gower hearts when captain Ryan Thomas popped up in the 78th and 90th minutes with two opportunist goals to see Cwm progress to the next round of the Welsh Cup.

It had been a match of few clear chances with neither keeper being challenged until much later in the game.

It started slowly and in their first competitive match of the season Cwm struggled to establish a pattern of play while their opponents who were playing their 3rd competitive match settled down quickly playing some neat football.

For Cwm Gareth Howarth and Elian Evans’ experience at the back was settling the side while Sean Howells continuously tried to seek options for the Blues in midfield.

In the 32nd minute with neither side really creating much a South Gower free kick was perfectly swung across the Cwm goal where centre back Morris flung himself between two Cwm defenders to put it beyond Cwm keeper Kyle Marsh.

The second half continued in the same vein as the first with both sides struggling in the final third of the pitch. The only noteworthy incident was a piledriver by Cwm’s Craig Gordon form outside the box spectacularly tipped by South Gower keeper Sam Williams.

The turning point strangely came with the sending off of Cwm’s Ryan Hurlow in the 55th minute. Flying down the wing he managed to leap over a dangerous incoming tackle but in venting his frustration at the player he incurred the wrath of the referee for raising his hands and suffered a straight red card.

This changed Cwm’s approach and a more urgent faster style increased both possession and frequency of attacks.

Craig Gordon and Geraint Rees were now seeing more of the ball and subs Scott Thomas and Lewis Byng were stretching the tiring Gower defence.  You knew something was coming and in the 78th minute Ryan Thomas took his opportunity well to equalise.

With penalties on the spectators’ minds and Cwm continuing the pressure in the 90th minute a long free kick into the box was half cleared, headed back across to Thomas who calmly slotted it home to great celebrations.

South Gower could justifiably feel unlucky after such a solid performance but it is Cwmamman who went through to the next round.

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Old Gold denied win by late penalty

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Pontypridd Town 1-1 Carmarthen Town

CARMARTHEN TOWN, since their relegation from the Cymru Premier League, had been waiting for the first opportunity to begin their campaign to restore their top tier status – and, having taken the lead late in this match against a competitive Pontypridd side, it seemed that they had made a perfect start.

But, sadly, deep into added time the home side were awarded a hotly disputed penalty and the Old Gold had to settle for a share of the points in this their first ever Cymru South League match.

However even before the start of the match the gathering of Town supporters were delighted to see the presence of a very familiar face in the pitch-side dug-out, namely that of Mark Aizlewood who had just been appointed Head Coach – a role similar to that which he had held on three earlier occasions often coinciding with times of some notable success for the Club.

In the early stages of the game it quickly became clear that these two teams were quite evenly balanced but while the play switched quickly from end to end, no serious scoring chances emerged.  At the heart of the visitors’ defence Lee Surman and Lewis Rocke were strong and assured while on the flanks Michael George and Corey Saunders gave them firm support – goal-keeper Scott James was never troubled during this spell.

At the other end of the pitch strikers Liam Thomas and Noah Daley could make little early impression on the Pontypridd defence, prominent within which were long-term Town defenders Dave Vincent and Jordan Knott.

But eventually the game livened up and on 19 minutes the first notable scoring opportunity arose for the hosts when Sam Johnson, from the corner of the penalty area, released a fierce angled drive that James watched carefully slip wide of the post.  Then moments later Aiden Lewis struck a stunning 30 yard free-kick that flew comfortably over the bar.

Pontypridd continued this spell of pressure when the ball reached Luke Gullick inside the penalty area – he turned sharply then fired a crisp volley that James turned aside with a smart reflex safe.  Then on 26 minutes Lewis threatened the visitors’ goal once more when he dispatched a promising 20 yard strike that James denied with a stunning full-length save.

The Old Gold at last managed to threaten the home goal in the 34th minute when Jordan Vickers sent a fine pass through to Thomas just inside the penalty area – from a very sharp angle Town’s all-time top goal-scorer drove the ball beyond the reach of ‘keeper Morgan Davies but, sadly, into the side-netting.

Yet the final action of the first-half was at the other end of the pitch – after 40 minutes Lee Baldock fired a long free-kick into the crowded penalty area where Drew Fahiya struck a fierce volley that James carefully watched safely fly over the bar.

After the interval Carmarthen began far more positively but apart from a Rocke header on 60 minutes that flew just over the bar following Keiran Howard’s corner they had nothing to show for their efforts – the hosts failed to achieve even that meagre “success”.

However as the match seemed to be drifting to a goal-less conclusion an unexpected frenzy of activity erupted.

On 88 minutes Thomas released a fierce drive that struck the post and the ball rebounded out – it was promptly returned into the goalmouth where Daley, reacting quicker than several other players, stabbed it into the net from close-range.

That setback seemed to galvanise the hosts into frenzied activity and as the match drifted into added time they were rewarded when the referee decided that Vickers’ clumsy challenge on the edge of the penalty area merited a spot-kick.

Baldock stepped forward and fired the ball beyond James’ reach and into the corner of the net.  A few minutes later the referee blew the final whistle.

Town’s next fixture is against Llantwit Major on Tuesday, July 27, k/o 7.30pm at Richmond Park, while on the following Saturday, July 31, k/o 2.30pm Risca United visit Richmond Park – both are Cymru South League matches.

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