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Scotland and Wales serve up a thriller

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Scotland 24 – Wales 25

NEVER-DAY-DIE Wales fought back from 17-3 down against a quality Scotland team to gain their second win of this year’s Six Nations.

In the first round game, Wales got dragged into a knock-down-drag-out scrap against Ireland which left them with a long injury list and the need to draw extra players into the squad. With so many key players out injured, the side travelled to Murrayfield bearing the weight of fans hopes rather than expectations.

And what a game those fans got!

A Scottish side full of flair and confidence and a Welsh side with pace at the back and renewed physical presence up front served up a heart-stopping thriller in arctic conditions in Edinburgh.

Scotland were on a high after beating England at Twickenham for the first time in 38 years in the last round. Their pack took England to the cleaners in the Calcutta Cup match and the Scots skilful backline looked sharp with ball in hand.

However, a lack of ruthlessness in their opponent’s twenty-two made the English game closer than it should’ve been and the home side were similarly wasteful with their territorial and possession advantages against Wales.

Too many times the Scots got into Wales’ danger zone only to overplay or misplay the advantage.

With markedly less ball and even less territory, Wales were much more ruthless than the hosts at converting presence in the opposition’s twenty-two into points.

Seeking to win their fifth Six Nations game in a row, Darcy Graham scored Scotland’s first try. Gathering a clever chip over the top by scrum-half Ali Price, Graham shook of Leigh Halfpenny’s desperate tackle and scored under the posts.

Scotland’s second try owed something to luck – both good and bad – Stuart Hogg kicked ahead and gave chase. For all the world. Halfpenny looked to have the ball covered only for it to wriggle free on the greasy surface and he went to ground. Hogg, who is the form fullback in the northern hemisphere, gathered the ball and touched down.

At 17-3 down, Wales were under the cosh but still competitive.

A driving maul from a short lineout saw Wales plough their way up-field in a series of short drives to near the Scottish line. The ball worked across the backline before Nick Tompkins fine pass found Louis Rees-Zammitt lurking with try-scoring intent. From close range, the winger made no mistake and scored the try which sent Wales in at the half 17-8 down.

Wales coach Wayne Pivac changed his half-backs on 51 minutes and was rewarded with an immediate return. Another brilliant driving line-out carved deep into the Scottish 22. Swift ball across the three-quarters released Liam Williams, whose sparkling try was converted by Callum Sheedy to bring Wales within two points.

Shortly afterwards came the moment which left Scots feeling aggrieved. As Wyn Jones challenged for the ball at the breakdown, opposite number Zander Fagerson ploughed into the ruck. Leading with his should he made direct contact with the Welsh prop’s head.

The rules on head contact are clear. Fagerson’s illegal attempt at a clear-out was given a straight red.

As former England prop David Flatman explained after the game: “Zander Fagerson’s red card was a red card. Rugby is changing and, as much as it all seems to be about the elite end of the game, the reality is the exact opposite.
“While the elite game is the most visible, it is rightly being used as a vehicle to make safer all those games of rugby that are played on muddy, isolated fields, away from specialist medical care and high definition cameras.

“Red cards like Fagerson’s are literally designed to make children safer on Sunday mornings.”

To add insult to injury, Wales’ capitalised on their one-man advantage with Wyn Jones touching down after more good close driving work by the Welsh forwards near the Scottish line.

Back came Scotland. Spurning two easy shots at goal, they created space for the ever-dangerous Stuart Hogg to turn on the pace and score a try, which Russell’s touchline conversion made into a four-point lead.

A moment of individual skill by Louis Rees-Zammitt was the standout moment of Wales’ performance. Travelling at full pelt, the Gloucester flyer latched on to Willy Halaholo’s perfectly weighted pass. Without breaking stride, the winger chipped it over the Scottish defence, outpaced Stuart Hogg (no mean feat) and gathered his own kick in Murrayfield’s deep in goal area to touch down.

Still Scotland came again and deep into stoppage time worked the ball to Scotland’s giant winger, Duhan van der Merwe. For all the world, it looked as though the last play of the match would see Welsh hearts broken at Murrayfield. Scrambling back, Owen Watkin produced the perfect tap tackle. With the clock in the red zone, Wales made no mistake in kicking the ball dead to seal the win.

Wales’ bold replacement of both half backs made near the start of the second half, galvanised the Welsh midfield at the expense of kicking reliability. If Wales bring Josh Adams back into the side against England and move Liam Williams to full-back, it is almost certain that Dan Biggar will start at outside half. Callum Sheedy, for all his skill with ball-in-hand, remains too fallible from the tee to be Wales’ frontline kicker.

Apart from an early misfire, Wales’ lineout was vastly improved. After an initial long throw went straight to Scottish hands, hooker Ken Owens and his callers kept it simple. Wales’ forward drives from the lineouts were a significant game-changer for the Welsh pack. The tactic gave Wales’ backs room by sucking in the Scottish defence.

It’s England for the Triple Crown next for Wales and, while England have been unconvincing so far, a Welsh win would still be an upset result. England have power and pace. If they can add precision to the mix, they will take some stopping.

Head coach Wayne Pivac commented: “It’s a very pleasing start, but I think it was evident to everyone that it wasn’t the complete performance.

“At 17-3 down, it wasn’t going to script but the players regathered their thoughts, the leadership on the field was good, and we came away with that score before half time.

“That was vital for us going into the changing room. The players reacted very well after half time, the replacements made an impact, and it was very nice to get the result at the end.”

On Louis Rees-Zammit, Wayne Pivac said: “He was exciting with the ball, wasn’t he? He took his opportunities very well. He’s still got work to do on his game without the ball, and that’s the exciting thing.

“He’s going to be a very exciting player for us going forward.”
Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones added: “We’re well aware there are massive improvements to make.

“You can’t give a team two tries, but I’m pleased with the resilience, character and pride in the jersey we’re still showing. What you’re seeing as well is a product of the experimentation from the Autumn Nations Cup and the hurt we took.

“Irrelevant of the advantage, I’d like to think we were in the ascendancy before the card.

“We’re aware England had a good win and are back on track. We’ll be back in Cardiff, so we’ll regroup and improve on the parts we need to.”

Alun Wyn Jones added: “Louis has been playing well for Gloucester in the Premiership. I’d heard a lot about him and seen a lot of highlights of him. Hopefully, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

“I don’t want to heap the pressure on him, I want him to continue in a similar vein.”

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Sport

Five-star Old Gold sink students

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AFTER Carmarthen opened their Cymru South League home programme some 12 days ago with a comprehensive victory over Llantwit Major they improved on even that performance with this crushing demolition of Swansea Uni who were kept deep under pressure in their own half for much of the match.

From the start Town launched a series of piercing attacks which the visitors struggled to contain.

On 5 minutes a sweeping move along the right-flank began with Jordan Vickers sprinting upfield and then playing the ball on to Liam Thomas who threaded a fine pass across to Matthew Delaney – from the corner of the penalty area he struck a fierce angled shot that goal-keeper Ben Edwards, at full-stretch, turned aside.

Yet soon afterwards the Old Gold took the lead. After 9 minutes Vickers passed the ball across Jamie Rickard who instantly sent it on to Thomas, inside the penalty area, and Town’s all-time top scorer clinically converted the opportunity.

Then on 12 minutes Delaney, from the right-wing, sent a fine long cross into the goalmouth where Scott Tancock saw his close-range glancing header fly just wide of the goal.

At this stage Town were dominating the game with their pace and movement. On 22 minutes Rickard threaded an excellent pass to Thomas on the edge the penalty area but with defenders nearby his hurried shot went marginally off-target.

In the 25th minute Vickers, a particular constant threat to the opponents’ defenders, fired an inviting cross into the goalmouth where Noah Daley was just unable to reach the ball for a simple tap-in opportunity.

The visitors, during all this time, had managed little in terms of creating a serious attacking threat. However on 30 minutes George Sellick broke clear from the centre-circle and struck a 25 yard volley which Carmarthen ‘keeper Ifan Knott, having raced some way out of his goal, first blocked and then claimed the loose ball.

But that was just a brief interruption to Town’s search for more goals and the certainty of three League points.

On 36 minutes Daley embarked on a remarkable solo run – having taken possession of the ball on the edge of the centre-circle he proceeded to pass 3 defenders and move into the penalty area then dismissively go around Edwards and drive the ball in to the empty net.

Soon afterwards, in the 39th minute, the Old Gold scored again when Thomas, on the half-way line, played a fine pass forward to Bradley Gibbings who raced free towards the penalty area where he neatly side-stepped Edwards, who was bereft of any defensive cover for the second successive time, and slid the ball into the net.

Then, to conclude a most productive 45 minutes a superb long pass out of defence was chased by Jaime Rickard deep into the visitors’ half – as Edwards came well out of his penalty area to challenge him Rickard neatly crossed the ball to Daley who converted an easy tap-in goal.

After the interval, with Carmarthen having such a commanding lead, neither team appeared to show much urgency in the blistering heat of the day. Yet in the 60th minute Town extended their lead with a well-worked move.

Vickers sprinted along the right flank before sending a deep cross to the far side of the goal area where Daley arrived with perfect timing and planted a powerful header past Edwards and into the back of the net.

The Old Gold continued to hold the advantage over the University team, in terms of both possession and territory, but the only further goalmouth action arose after 80 minutes – following a free-kick Rickard struck a promising 20 yard drive that Edwards, at full-stretch, turned around the post.

This was a most welcome result, not only in terms of the quality of the performance but also in that Town have now moved up into 5th place in the League table.

The Old Gold’s League programme now continues with a visit Goytre United on Friday, August 19, k/o 7.30pm.

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Wanderers win to keep promotion hopes alive

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CARMARTHEN Wanderers earned a big win on Saturday (Aug 13) as they beat Ynysygerwn by 162 runs.

The win keeps them in third place in Division 2 of the South Wales Premier League, 29 points off the top two. However, their next fixture is at home against league leaders Ynystawe.

On Saturday, Ynysygerwn won the toss and chose to field and they saw the Wanderers rack up 262-8 from their 50 overs.

Owen Bailey hit three early boundaries (1 six, 2 fours) before being run out on a score of 16 and Tom Davies reached a score of 25 before falling lbw to Emyr Lawrence.

Owain Binding made 17 before being stumped as the Wanderers were reduced to 82-3.

Gareth Thomas and Robbie Crawford took over and they shared 87 runs for the fourth wicket.

Thomas hit seven fours and two sixes in his score of 63 from 58 balls but he was then caught by Adam Davies off the bowling of Nathan Davies.

Carl Holding was also stumped and Liam Rogers fell on a score of 10 when he was caught and bowled by Nathan Davies.

Crawford then reached his half century as he and Eddie Byng added 34 runs for the seventh wicket but Byng became the third batsman to be stumped.

Ian Hughes was out for a third-ball duck before Crawford and Harry Conick finished unbeaten.

Conick hit a late six to finish not out on 8 while Crawford was unbeaten on 71 after hitting six fours and two sixes.

Ynysygerwn were in trouble early on in their reply as they slipped to 16-3. Ryan Sylvester made a score of 29 before falling lbw to Owen Bailey.

Adam Davies made a score of 15 for the home side but it wasn’t enough as they were bowled out for 100.

Binding was the pick of the bowlers as he finished with 5-22. Chris Turrell, Ian Hughes, Tom Davies and Owen Bailey all picked up a wicket each.

The Wanderers’ game with leaders Ynystawe starts at 12:30pm on Saturday, August 20.

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Sport

Ammanford seal place in top flight

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AMMANFORD sealed their place in next season’s top flight with a thrilling one wicket victory over Bridgend at the Park.

Bridgend won the toss and batted first, losing three quick wickets to the excellent bowling of Matthew Davies (2-20) and Dan Roberts (1-30).

However, captain Tom Baker joined opener Sam Wood at the crease and these two provided Bridgend’s main partnership of 81.

The hard track and fast outfield promised a big score but Ammanford’s bowlers stuck to their task and dismissed the visitors for 199 in their penultimate over.

Xavier Clarke bowled well for his 2 for 31 and Owen Davies cleaned up at the end with 3 for 61.

Ammanford got off to a poor start, losing regular wickets until, at 56 for 4, Rhys-Huw Davies joined opener Kurtis Marsh to provide a steadying half century partnership.

However, with the departure of Marsh for 42, three wickets fell for the addition of a single run, and Ammanford were staring down the barrel of another disappointing defeat.

Enter skipper Alun Evans, coming in at number 9 after recovering from a long afternoon in the field.

Evans and Davies added a quick 21 runs before Davies departed for an invaluable 33.

Ammanford were now well into the tail, 8 wickets down and still 68 runs short of their target. Their two last batsmen faced the daunting task of staying in with their skipper while he tried to knock off the runs.

Which, to their credit, is exactly what they did. First, Owen Davies (18) added 33 priceless runs with his captain while last man Matthew Davies (9no) courageously stuck in until the winning runs were scored. Evans finished a true captain’s innings unbeaten on 49.

Ammanford are now safe in 7th place, 60 points clear of bottom club Clydach whom they welcome to the Park next Saturday.

On Wednesday evening, Ammanford travel to Port Talbot to play the semi-final of the SWCA T20
knockout cup. Wickets pitched at 5.45pm.

Ammanford seconds lose by 67 runs

Ammanford seconds lost by 67 runs to Carmarthen Wanderers at Trinity Fields. Carmarthen batted first and were dismissed for 177 in the 42nd over

Top scorer was skipper Giles Thomas (41), supported by Oliver John (27) and James Connick (24).

Tomos Roach was Ammanford’s top wicket taker with 4 for 20. Cian Roach and Iwan Matthews picked up a couple of wickets each.

In reply, Ammanford’s batsmen just couldn’t stay in long enough to make an impression on the scoreboard. Cian Roach (27) and Steffan Williams (22) did their best but the overall response simply
wasn’t good enough and they were all out for 110 after just 25 overs.

Third XI lose by eight wickets

Ammanford thirds went down by 8 wickets to Llandarcy.

Ammanford reached 150 for 9 in their 40 overs, thanks to opener Steve Hagget (45) and skipper Neville Pritchard (35). Llandarcy’s Jon Pryce took 4 for 18.

Despite losing two early wickets, Llandarcy took just 22 overs to pass the Ammanford total, with unbeaten half centuries from David Noall and Gareth Richards.

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