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.
The British & Irish Cup kicks off this weekend with the four Regional Premiership Select XVs flying the flag for Wales. Welsh
Sat 14 Nov: Blues Premiership Select v Nottingham (2.30) & Connacht Eagles v Dragons (2.30)
Sun 15 Nov: Yorkshire Carnegie v Ospreys Premiership Select (1.30) & Scarlets v Bedford Blues (3.00)
The Welsh Rugby Union is forming a new Youth Board with a brief to help keep more young people involved in the game during their late teenage years and beyond. The first task of the fifteen strong Board will be to analyse and consider the issues which lead to a number of youngsters drifting away from the sport between the ages of 16 and 21. To apply visit www.wru.wales/youthboard
The Foster's Challenge Cup will involve the 12 Principality Premiership sides and will run during European and British & Irish Cup weeks, providing vital fixtures for the participating clubs and an opportunity for upcoming players to step up to semi-professional rugby and make a claim for starting places within the Premiership squads.
Eighty schools and colleges in Wales now have a full time rugby officer as part of the WRU's school club hub scheme. All of the school club hub officers recently gathered at the National Centre of Excellence for various workshops.
With Liam Williams forced out of the World Cup through injury, lock Luke Charteris and Skills Coach Neil Jenkins say they have to put yesterday's defeat behind them as Wales now look ahead to another physical encounter against South Africa in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup.
WRU Consultant Head of Physical Performance Paul Stridgeon praises the Physical Performance department for their work and dedication as he addresses the media ahead of Wales' Pool A clash against Australia
Twelve young people have been selected to follow a one year WRU Coach Core apprenticeship programme. Coach Core was set up by the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry as part of the Olympics legacy in 2012 and the Duke of Cambridge was on hand to meet the apprentices on their first day in the job. The programme has been funded by the Hunter Foundation.