THE GAME of the third round of the Women Regional Championship saw the Scarlets Ladies take on their local rivals, the Ospreys, at the BT Sports Cardiff Arms Park last Sunday, December 20th. Both teams went into the game with unbeaten records so something had to give. The two teams went on to produce an outstanding display of rugby, which was yet another great advert for Women’s Regional Rugby in Wales.
The girls in red were on the back foot from the start. The Scarlets failed to deal with the initial kick off reception adequately allowing the Ospreys a strong attacking foothold deep inside the Scarlets half. When the Scarlets infringed at the breakdown, outstanding Ospreys outside half, Robyn Wilkins was on hand to settle any Ospreys nerves with a welltaken penalty with barely 2 minutes on the clock. The Ospreys continued to dominate early possession but the resolute defence of the Scarlets held firm. The Scarlets finally gained some possession and it was their turn to show their attacking qualities and from a free flowing move the Ospreys were caught off side.
Centre, Jodie Evans stepped forward to slot an excellent penalty from near the 10m line to tie the scores. From the restart, the Scarlets once again went on the attack. A scything break by Scarlets no 10, Hannah Jones saw her cut through the Ospreys defensive line. Jones was brought down with the line at her mercy by a fantastic try saving tack by Ospreys winger Ffion Bowen. Fortunately, Jodie Evans was on hand to gather Jones’s off load to score near the posts. Uncharacteristically Evans pushed her attempt at the extras wide of the upright. The game was now ebbing and flowing, with both teams creating opportunities and neutralizing those opportunities with ferocious defensive play. For the Ospreys, Scrum Half Keira Bevan was a constant threat with her elusive running whilst Scarlets captain Sioned Harries led by example in both attack and defence.
As the half drew to a close, the Scarlets’ discipline began to let them down. A series of unforced penalties gave the Ospreys momentum and finally from yet another soft infringement at the breakdown, Wilkins was able to slot her second penalty of the day and draw the first half to a conclusion with the Scarlets holding a slender 8-6 lead. The Ospreys started the second half by far the better. Barely 3 minutes into the half the Ospreys were camped on the Scarlets line. The Ospreys scrum had been gradually gaining dominance over the Scarlets 8 and that dominance came to the fore as they powered over the line for No 8 Shona Powell-Hughes to score. Wilkins adding the extras.
The game was taken away from The Scarlets over the next 10 minutes thanks to a further three excellently taken Wilkins penalties. The Scarlets poor discipline at the breakdown was once again costing them dearly allowing the Ospreys dominance of both territory and possession, allowing Wilkins the opportunities to demonstrate her unerring accuracy with the boot. The final Ospreys score came barely 3 minutes later. A flowing move by the Ospreys outside backs resulted in centre Adi Taviner breaking through the Scarlets defensive line. Taviner fed the ever-impressive Powell-Hughes who powered over for her and the Ospreys second try of the game.
Wilkins again converting to give the Ospreys a 29-8 lead. To their credit, the Scarlets came back into the game and were rewarded by scoring their second try of the game. After a period of sustained pressure by the reds, a break by centre Elen Evans saw her release back rower Alisha Butchers to score under the posts. Jodie Evans added the extra 2 points to draw the game to its conclusion.
Speaking after the game, Scarlets Captain Sioned Harries was in positive mood despite the loss; “I’m extremely proud of all the girls’ efforts and commitment throughout the campaign so far, entering the championship as the current title holders will always bring great pressure, but I thought the girls were excellent today and showed great endeavour. Unfortunately, we didn’t start the second half as we ended the first and the Ospreys punished us. We know what we need to work on for the next round of games and I am confident we will come back stronger for this experience. Our main focus is giving each player the best opportunity to showcase their talent on a regional and national scale whilst developing our ability as a squad.”
Scarlets Team: 15 Dyddgu Hywel 14 Angharad de Smet 13 Elen Evans 12 Jodie Evans 11 Jess Kavanagh 10 Hannah Jones 9 Ffion Lewis; 1 Emma Edwards 2 Delyth Davies 3 Danielle Jenkins 4 Ffion Jones 5 Elin Hywel 6 Alisha Butchers 7 Sioned Harries 8 Natalie Walsh Replacements: Morfudd Ifans, Rachel Norris, Gwenllian Prys, Awen Prysor, Jennie Collins, Steph Harries, Beth Jones, Brittony Price.