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Welsh rugby's winners and losers as Dai Young's problems get even worse and fans call for action after player incident

Wales Online logo Wales Online 02/12/2019 Anthony Woolford
Dai Young looking at the camera: Dai Young, Director of Rugby of Wasps © Getty Images Dai Young, Director of Rugby of Wasps

Wales' new era under head coach Wayne Pivac took the lion's share of the rugby limelight on the weekend.

But there were some shining displays elsewhere and those who lacked some lustre.

We look at Welsh rugby's winners and losers outside of the Principality Stadium win over Warren Gatland's Baa-baas.

WINNERS

DWAYNE PEEL

Much is made of the dearth of Welshmen as head coaches in the Gallagher Premiership and Guinness PRO14.

And while the former Wales and Lions scrum-half is only backs boss and assistant to head honcho Dan McFarland at Ulster, he's making a decent fist of things at the Kingspan Stadium.

So much so he extended his stay in Northern Ireland by a further two years when penning a new contract at the start of 2019.

Ireland may have had another deeply disappointing World Cup campaign, but in the Guinness PRO14 Leinster and Ulster are the top two teams in Conference A with Munster and Connacht having a similar standing in B.

Peel helped plot the downfall of his former paymasters on the weekend as Ulster eased to a 29-5 bonus-point win over an under-strength Scarlets in Belfast.

It extended their unbeaten run at Kingspan Stadium to 16 matches, a sequence stretching back 14 months. They're also top of Pool Three in a tough Heineken Champions Cup group that involves Clermont Auvergne, Harlequins and Bath.

LLANELLI RFC

The famous west Wales club were just 80 minutes away from joining the likes of Ystrad Rhondda, Ystalyfera, Maesteg Quins and Trebanos in the WRU Championship this season.

And it seems their Premiership play-off win over Pontypool last season to remain rubbing shoulders with Newport, Cardiff, Pontypridd and Merthyr in the semi-pro top flight, has given Llanelli the necessary kick up the backside not to flirt with relegation this term.

Their 30-26 win over rock bottom Bridgend was by the skin of their teeth, with Alex Jeffries being driven over from a close range lineout in the final minute.

But it extended their winning run to four games and moved them up to seventh in the table - 11 points clear of the Ravens at the bottom.

ASHLEY BECK

Welsh rugby's centre stage is not exactly stuffed to the gunwales.

And any WRU rejigging of the 60-cap selection policy for players plying their trade outside of Wales could yet bring the Worcester Warrior into the Test conversation.

Now back fully fit at Sixways more than a year on after breaking his leg in a European Challenge Cup clash with Stade Francais, the 29-year-old silken runner again showed what a shrewd signing he was from the Ospreys back in the summer of 2018.

a man holding a football ball: Ashley Beck runs in to score Worcester's second try in their Gallagher Premiership win over Sale Sharks at Sixways © Henry Browne/Getty Images Ashley Beck runs in to score Worcester's second try in their Gallagher Premiership win over Sale Sharks at Sixways

Had it not been for a spate of long spells on the sidelines through injuries, Beck's seven Welsh caps could well have multiplied 10-fold.

Beck was back making headline news in the Gallagher Premiership on the weekend, grabbling the all-important try in the 57th minute in their 20-13 victory over Sale Sharks.

He also threw in 54 metres from seven carries for good measure.  

CARDIFF BLUES

John Mulvihill's side pulled off a dramatic last-gasp victory out in Treviso with winger Jason Harries crossing for the match-winning try in the final play.

With 80 minutes on the clock, the Blues were trailing 28-24 and seemingly heading for defeat despite giving a good account of themselves considering the number of frontline players.

But rolling the dice one last time, they produced a thrilling score to steal the spoils and claim a four-try bonus point into the bargain.

This was a very welcome win for the Blues - their third of the season in the Guinness PRO14 - and one which takes them above Benetton into fifth place in Conference B.

LOSERS

DAI YOUNG

The former Wales skipper and Cardiff Blues coach was left bemoaning Wasps' lack of a cutting edge in the 'green zone' at Exeter Chiefs after a defeat that plunged his side into the Gallagher Premiership danger zone.

Young's side now find themselves in the bottom three with just one win from five games.

But it could have been a different story at a blustery Sandy Park had both Matteo Minozzi and Nizaam Carr not been denied by some brilliant last-ditch defending in the first period.

Michael Le Bourgeois also failed to find the killer pass from his break to the posts that would have levelled the scores at 10-10.

Instead the Chiefs pulled away to record a 38-3 victory.

"It's disappointing. We all know how good they are down here," said Young. "The green zone conversion was huge.

"We had nine entries into their 22 and came away with nothing, they had nine entries and came away with five tries. They were far more ruthless inside the 22 than we were."

THE DRAGONS

As the Rodney Parade region survey the wreckage of their 39-12 PRO14 defeat at home to Zebre on Saturday night, much will be made of the big-name players either on Wales duty or out injured.

Also the visiting pack featured five Italian internationals meaning they dominated possession, territory and provided a physical examination Dean Ryan's side couldn't pass.

It was Zebre's first victory in the PRO14 since October 26, 2018.  It was also only their third win ever outside of Italy and only their second in Wales, following the 2013 win at Cardiff Blues.

Those stats may be particularly stark, but the biggest concern was the Dragons defence at Rodney Parade on Saturday night as shadow tackling allowed the Italians to cross for five tries from all angles.

The inexperienced Dragons squad is a mitigating factor for what transpired, but some of the defending was just unacceptable.

WILL TALBOT-DAVIES

As if the defeat wasn't enough for the Dragons players, full-back Will Talbot-Davies suffered a painful blow after sliding off the pitch and into a concrete wall and metal barrier.

The 22-year-old was tended to by physios but was thankfully declared fit to carry on despite taking a knock to his head.

However, some fans who saw the incident questioned the set-up around the pitch at Rodney Parade and called for something to be done to prevent a repeat of what could have been a very serious injury.

Watch the moment below and see some of the reaction:

CALLUM SHEEDY

The Cardiff-born No.10 has been a key performer for Bristol as Pat Lam's side marched to the top of the Gallagher Premiership table last month.

His form saw legend Shane Williams demand new Welsh coach Wayne Pivac try and snare the Bristol Bear for his Six Nations squad.

But even the form horses clip hurdles along the way and it was Sheedy's turn in Bristol's 27-27 home draw with London Irish at Ashton Gate.

a football player on a field: Callum Sheedy © Alex Davidson/Getty Images Callum Sheedy

It was two points lost rather than two gained as Irish kicked a late penalty while Sheedy missed two penalty shots and a conversion.

Fellow Cardiffian Ioan Lloyd also missed a kick at goal. 

Bristol's director of rugby Pat Lam said: "In relation to the high kicking standards we have had that’s probably one of our lowest ones in terms of goal-kicking."

In mitigation for Sheedy, two of his kicks for goal hit the upright and bounced back.

OSPREYS

Struggling Ospreys finished a turbulent week with another PRO14 defeat.

After Allen Clarke left his job as head coach on Monday, Ospreys suffered an eighth defeat in nine games this season in going down to the Cheetahs at The Gnoll, Neath.

It was a sixth league loss in seven games as Ospreys remain second to bottom in Conference A.

It doesn't get any easier for the Ospreys as the Welsh region next face a tricky European Champions Cup double-header against Racing 92.

 

The hosts welcomed back Wales trio Dan Evans, Dan Lydiate and Luke Morgan from injury, while Scott Williams, Bradley Davies and Nicky Smith were released by Wales.

But a dramatic finale saw a series of Ospreys driving lineouts with Cheetahs second row Sintu Manjezi yellow-carded, but the visitors held out to clinch an 18-13 victory.

The Ospreys could well feel aggrieved a collapsed lineout drive didn't lead to a penalty try, but Irish referee Joy Neville thought otherwise.

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