Phil Rees Photography - www.philreesphotography.co.uk
Gogledd Cymru U18 Girls were extremely unlucky not to win against the Newport-Gwent Dragons on Sunday, but nonetheless secured an historic draw at Caernarfon.
Continuing the rotation of captains of the season, Bethan Lloyd-Jones led out Gogledd Cymru for the day. The team were psyched up for the game well in advance, and after the courageous performance against the Scarlets knew it was more than possible to take the game to the Dragons.
The game got off to a positive start for the home team, as Gogledd stormed their way right up to the opposition try line and were unlucky to be denied an early try in the opening 10 minutes.
However the advantage was soon with the opposition, as the Dragons scored an opportunistic try through Cerys Hale, which went unconverted.
Gogledd didn't let their shoulders drop, however, and through some impressive counter-attacking soon found themselves in the Dragons' 22. An aggressive and somewhat abrasive battle up front was won by the hard-working Gogledd forward pack and after sustained pressure fly-half Gwen Harries stepped her way over the line to level the scores, to snatch Gogledd's first official try of the season. Versatile flanker Cara Hope duly added the conversion, to take the home side into the lead, much to the delight of the passionate home crowd.
The next 20 minutes were hard-fought, with several penalties going against the home side, which forced Gogledd to step up their defence. This they did, with Harries, Hayley Ellis and Chloe Dymond making bone-crunching tackles which stopped the much-experienced Dragons players in their tracks.
Despite this, Alexia Evans thundered through some last-ditch tackles and heroic on-the-line defence to score with an outstretched arm.
Scrum-half Kaya Harding, who piled pressure on the Dragons half-backs throughout the game stood out as the home team applied the pressure. With just a few moments remaining in the first half, she picked up from the base of a ruck and out-ran half the opposition backline to score a superb solo try, taking the half-time score to 12-10.
Despite having the lion's share of possession and piecing together more phases than the Dragons, luck didn't seem to be on the home team's side. They conceded a try against the run of play, as Dragons' Jade Harding scored to take the Dragons into the lead. The only conversion added by the Dragons was then kicked by George Teuma.
The home team continued to dominate territory and possession, and were able to convert this pressure into points. Gogledd lock Amelia Stubbs smashed through several would-be tacklers to set up a great position close to the try-line. Strong surges forwards from both forwards and backs soon resulted in Hope spotting a gap and diving over, to level the result and deny the pre-match favourites a much-expected victory.
After the match the Dragons admitted that having seen previous performances of Gogledd Cymru, they were expecting an easy game. Judging by their reactions to the drawn match, this game was anything but.
This comprehensive performance by the home team sent out a message to all the teams in the south - Gogledd Cymru are a force to be reckoned with.
WRU International Skills Coach Jason Strange is a busy man, combining the new role with that of Wales Under 20 attack coach, Ebbw Vale head coach and continuing to teach at Ebbw Fawr Learning Community.
Warren Gatland and Sam Warburton look ahead to this week's crunch RBS 6 Nations tie against France, where the Wales skipper in particular is keen to make his mark, as Paris has proved a bleak place for him in the past.
Following their historic win over England, Wales Under 20 suffered a narrow, 36-34 loss to their Scottish counterparts last weekend, despite outscoring them by five tries to three. Watch the match highlights and reaction.
WRU TV go behind the scenes with the Wales squad as they put the final touches in place ahead of the clash against Scotland at Murrayfield. Follow the squad on their captain's run, the kickers visit to Murrayfield and Neil Jenkins' press conference