Turner’s turn­ing up trumps, Ex­iles are ex­cel­lent but Bay watch isn’t pretty...

Western Mail - - SPORT -

It was some­thing of a low key week­end for Welsh rugby all round, with Euro­pean semi-fi­nals in­volv­ing two re­gions just around the cor­ner.

But it didn’t stop a plethora of Welsh win­ners and losers be­ing thrown up.

We give you the pick of the bunch... been achiev­ing in the round ball game.

Head­ing to Turner’s side on Satur­day, they had won 26 out of 27 games and the ti­tle was al­ready theirs. Back in De­cem­ber, Ampthill were crushed 63-14 at Coven­try but on Satur­day in the re­turn game they over­turned the ta­bles spec­tac­u­larly to win 22-10.

“Af­ter our cave-in at Butts Arena be­fore Christ­mas, this was al­ways a game firmly in our sights,” said Turner.

“To a man the team and the bench were out­stand­ing. We fol­lowed out game plan and al­though be­hind at half time stuck at it. The play­ers de­serve huge credit for beat­ing a team as good as Coven­try.”

LON­DON WELSH

AF­TER their free-fall from the sec­ond tier Greene King IPA Cham­pi­onship to the ninth divi­sion of the English game Lon­don & SE Divi­sion Herts/ Middlesex One in one fell swoop, there’s some good news at last for the Ex­iles.

It’s not ex­actly a phoenix ris­ing from the ashes of their well­doc­u­mented money wor­ries that saw the pro­fes­sional arm of Lon­don Welsh fall into liq­ui­da­tion, but they are on an up­ward curve.

And they rounded off their ti­tle-win­ning Herts/Middlesex Divi­sion One cam­paign in style on Satur­day with an 80-0 rout of Wat­ford.

It was their 21st win from 22 games this term with the only blot on the sea­son com­ing back in Oc­to­ber when they lost 17-7 at UCS Old Boys, who would only go on to fin­ish 10th in the ta­ble.

For Lon­don Welsh, how­ever, it was a kick up the back­side needed to go on and record some pretty hefty wins to make the long jour­ney back to for­mer glo­ries in the Greene King IPA Cham­pi­onship and Aviva Premier­ship a suc­cess­ful one.

LIAM WILLIAMS

BE­ING named man of the match for Sara­cens is some­where very close to win­ning World Rugby’s player of the year gong, given the em­bar­rass­ment of riches Mark McCall has at his dis­posal at Al­lianz Park.

But on Sun­day the Lions and Wales star achieved just that in the No.15 jer­sey as Sara­cens’ 41-6 drown­ing of Bath saw a ticket booked to the Aviva Premier­ship play-offs for the ninth sea­son in a row.

And Williams was very much the ful­crum of the win, mak­ing a lung-bust­ing 13 car­ries and 208 me­tres made.

He also got a try and helped make on for scrum-half Richard Wig­glesworth as Sar­ries set out their stall to be Aviva Premier­ship kings hav­ing lost the crown to Ex­eter Chiefs last sea­son.

LLANY­BY­D­DER AND TUM­BLE

UN­FOR­TU­NATELY 120 points scored in a Welsh grass­roots rugby match is not as eye-pop­ping as it once was.

But the Divi­sion Two West clash be­tween Llany­by­d­der and Tum­ble on Satur­day is un­likely to ever see its like again as the home side piled up 56 of those points only for Tum­ble to re­ply with 64 of their own.

In a match like this there’s no losers and the home side de­serve a huge amount of credit af­ter be­ing 38-17 down at half-time only to lead 48-38 with 10 min­utes to go.

It’s not go­ing to stop Llany­by­d­der fac­ing the dreaded drop from Divi­sion Two as they are 12 points adrift of Amman United and 19 be­hind Fish­guard.

GE­ORGE NORTH

DI­NAH Wash­ing­ton and Es­ther Phillips may have smashed the US charts with their ver­sions of ‘What a Dif­fer­ence a Day Makes’, but maybe North and his Northamp­ton team­mates can re­work the lyrics fol­low­ing their epic Aviva Premier­ship win at Le­ices­ter Tigers on the week­end.

For a week af­ter be­ing em­bar­rassed 63-13 by Sara­cens at Franklin’s Gar­dens, Saints ended an 11-year wait for vic­tory at their great East Mid­lands ri­vals.

And a week af­ter only earn­ing a three out of 10 rat­ing from his lo­cal Northamp­ton news­pa­per for the per­for­mance against Sara­cens, the Wales wing was a seven this time around.

Though the only con­cern for the player head­ing back to Wales this sum­mer was prob­a­bly the blood­ied face he picked up in an heroic de­fen­sive dis­play.

DANNY WIL­SON

NOSTRADAMUS would be at a loss to ex­plain the turn­around in for­tunes at the Cardiff Blues, had the 16th cen­tury French physi­cian and re­puted seer lived 500 years later and been a keen ob­server of events at the Arms Park.

Wil­son’s re­gion had started the sea­son with three de­feats in a row, and af­ter an­nounc­ing his in­ten­tion to leave, the chances of suc­cess in the months ahead looked slim.

Yet here we are, seven months later, with the Blues hav­ing se­cured qual­i­fi­ca­tion for next sea­son’s Champions Cup and pre­par­ing for a home Euro­pean Chal­lenge Cup semi-fi­nal. Wil­son has built a suc­cess­ful sea­son out of the rub­ble of Septem­ber. It has been some ef­fort.

For he has man­aged to get the best out of a group of play­ers who have known for months that their boss would not be around next term.

If the in­put of Wil­son and backs coach Matt Sher­ratt is ob­vi­ous, then so is the work in de­fence of Shaun Edwards, who has been work­ing with the Blues on a con­sul­tancy ba­sis. On Satur­day against South­ern Kings, the cap­i­tal city re­gion were 38 points to the good and still do­ing all they could to keep the hosts out.

JONATHAN THOMAS

WITH a cash-laden squad and an am­bi­tious bil­lion­aire owner, it takes a brave man to ac­cept a coach­ing job at Bris­tol these days.

It’s some­thing of a no-win sit­u­a­tion even though the west coun­try club racked up 20 of them from 21 games this sea­son to earn pro­mo­tion back

> Blues coach Danny Wil­son, who leaves the re­gion in the sum­mer, has mas­ter­minded an im­pres­sive turn­around in form at the Arms Park this sea­son

> Liam Williams was the star man for Sara­cens last week­end; quite an achieve­ment given their ar­ray of stars

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