Three regions may have lost, the light may have gone out on any hopes of Wales having a representative in the United Rugby Championship play-offs and Wales’ Six Nations ended in an anti- climax, but the weekend hasn’t been a total washout – from a Welsh perspective.
There were still a number of notable individual efforts. The Ospreys had reason to be pleased after beating arch-rivals Scarlets 54-36 at Swansea. Unfortunately, the Women of Wales couldn’t end their Six Nations campaign with a win against Italy.
Rugby correspondent Mark Orders reviews the winners and losers:
Wow. Indeed, let’s wow seven times to match the number of defenders the Gloucester wing left for dead in the club’s 64-0 win over Bath. Those with enough energy could even whack 169 times to match the number of meters Rees-Zammit ran in the derby at Kingsholm.
The Wales international scored two tries and didn’t have the chance to score a hat-trick. Any Gallagher Premiership weekend squad without him wouldn’t be worth the paper it’s written on.
More applause for the uncapped Welshman, who leads the campaign in his budding career as one of the most successful players in one of the most successful teams in European rugby. Refell was front and center as Leicester Tigers beat Bristol Bears 56-26 in an English top flight clash at Welford Road.
Awarding him a nine out of 10 in their Player Ratings, WalesOnline’s sister title LeicestershireLive – which has seen a fair amount of openside this term – enthused: “The Tigers’ Player of the Season award is going to be hotly contested and surely Tommy ‘Turnover’ Reffell’s name will be in the spotlight.
“He was once again exceptional, appearing all over the pitch – making tackles, stealing the loose ball, charging the kick for Moroni’s try. But nothing epitomized the type of player the Welshman is more than his pursuit from 50 yards out when the game was dead, stopping a certain try. You can read more about Reffel here.
Credit to Refel. Wales head coach Wayne Pivac may have shown no signs of opening the door for the England-based player, but the Pencoed kid keeps knocking.
As the Ospreys pushed for 50 points in the dying seconds against the Scarlets, the AP man unleashed a Sweet Caroline blast and countless black flags were waved around the stadium.
It’s been a tough few years for the Swansea-based team, but at this time on Saturday it’s hard to imagine any home fan would have wanted to be anywhere else on the planet.
Toby Booth’s side is right. Great returning players, pretty much all playing to form. Chances taken, power on at max. If only they were allowed to field this side more often.
Someone presents Scott Baldwin with an award for foreknowledge. Wales’ The 2015 World Cup hooker told WalesOnline in 2019: “If we look at the 2023 World Cup, I see him as the starting hooker for Wales. He’s a big man, he’s strong, he’s good on the pitch and he can scrum.”
Nothing has happened since to contradict this prediction.
Lake had an immense game for the Ospreys against the Scarlets, repeatedly hitting their defensive wall and also making a number of heavy tackles. The 6-foot-1, 17th 4-pound hooker was an overwhelming influence in everything he did, capping his effort with two tries.
The thing with him is that he always plays like he means it, looking desperate to win every game. It was an outstanding effort at Swansea.com Stadium.
It took a long time and some people doubted Gareth Anscombe would return to the level he was operating at before the knee injury that sidelined him for more than two years. But the fly-half shone like a beacon behind the Ospreys scrum against the Scarlets, not only handling the game with authority but also displaying the vision and class that took him into the starting line-up for the Land of Wales for the 2019 Grand Slam campaign.
He finally looked perfect for Toby Booth’s team. They’ve lacked creativity this season, but with a dominant pack returning the ball with the front foot, Anscombe provided the variety and touches the Ospreys lacked, whether via kicking over the top or show-and- gos to get it through the gaps.
This bodes well for the South West Wales region, and Wales manager Wayne Pivac is said to have noted his efforts as well.
The Scarlets may have missed significantly at Swansea, but their left wing had no such problems. A tough-to-stop client, Conbeer scored three tries and looked threatening every time he received the ball.
Wales have an abundance of quality wings but it’s better to have too many than too few and Conbeer has put himself on Wayne Pivac’s radar. Nothing is unlikely to happen in the short term, but if there are injuries to any of Pivac’s front-liners, young Scarlet might be a name that comes to mind.
The same applies to Keelan Giles, who had an equally excellent game in the Loughor derby.
“Can we play you every week?” sang The Shed as Gloucester thrashed Bath 64-0 at Kingsholm on Saturday. It must have been one of the saddest days of Taulupe Faletau’s career.
A proud man who never fails to give his all, the Wales No.8 has made 15 tackles, a tally surpassed by just one other Bath player. But as a team the visitors were a mess, missing 28 total hits, dispatching 13 penalties, failing to cherish the ball and boasting an unreliable lineup. Their performance belied the traditions of a club that was once synonymous with excellence.
It will all be over soon at the Rec for their number 8 as he prepares to leave for Cardiff. Faletau being Faletau, he will want to help the club at least end a dreadful campaign on a high note. But the unequivocal conclusion with two games to go of 2021-22 is that Bath are in dire straits.
Which brings us to the Dragons.
The financial challenges they face are well documented, but nine of the starters who beat the Scarlets 38-27 at Llanelli in mid-April were on duty when Dean Ryan’s side lost 23-18 to Zebre at the weekend. end last. This was after a 38-19 home loss to the Scarlets the previous weekend. One step forward, two steps back.
They had to attempt 219 tackles against Zebre, who had never won a game all season. Bravo, the Welsh team did not play against Leinster.
The Dragons were also unruly, inflicting 15 penalties, some of them unnecessary, and picking up yellow cards for two players. They also had scrimmage and lineout issues and missed an abysmal 32 tackles.
With Bradley Roberts, Sean Lonsdale, JJ Hanrahan, Max Clark and Sio Tompkinson heading into next season, there must be significant improvement.
Dai Young surprised some with a semi-cheerful attitude in his post-match interview following Cardiff’s 42-21 loss to Munster. Was it because the manager of the rugby team played out his season with games against Zebre, the Dragons and Benetton, three sides with Cardiff in the last four of the United Rugby Championship?
Such an end to the campaign could be a double-edged sword, beware. A loss or two in those games and more criticism could come.
Cardiff is a weird side. They can go from sublime to substandard and back again in a matter of minutes.
Against Munster, everyone in their starting lineup missed at least one tackle except for Rory Thornton, who left the pitch injured in the 18th minute. Cardiff were quite the game and sparkled brilliantly in attack, with Lloyd Williams looking sharp at scrum-half, Rey Lee-Lo a constant threat in midfield, Rhys Carre working hard in all areas, Seb Davies athletic on the pitch and James Botham and Josh Navidi totally above the roles.
Still, Cardiff missed 32 tackles and gave Munster a margin of victory that didn’t reflect the game. Their top five can feel underpowered at times and Young’s players are struggling to break out of a spiral that has seen them lose four games in a row.
Really, they need the kind of on-pitch steel that their director of rugby brought to the table as a player. As with the Dragons, the next term has to be better.
It looks hard to put Wales Women in the losers’ section after a largely positive Six Nations campaign that ended in third place, their best in 13 years. But they should have beaten Italy in Cardiff.
Up 8-7 after a try by substitute scrum-half Keira Bevan, they failed to cope with the ensuing restart, with Bevan dropping back into his 22 rather than boxing and his compatriot under Lleucu George regrouping his attempt at clearance directly into touch. From the resulting line-out deep in their own territory, Wales spat a penalty and paid the price as Michela Sillari sent the ball between the posts to secure the visitors a 10-8 success.
Call it an expensive lesson in game management. That said, Wales had enough possession in the 80 minutes to have built a winning lead.
There were upsides, not least in the form of an outstanding performance from back rower Alex Callender and a dominating scrum. But, in the end, they failed to translate the ball they won into points on the board and couldn’t seal the win.
So many promises. But it’s up to all concerned to learn from this loss.
The Scarlets continue to be a team with split personalities – strong in attack but weak in defence, not helped by indiscipline.
With Gareth Davies pulling the strings, they played a big role in the first half against the Ospreys, only to come undone after Corey Baldwin was yellow carded for a deliberate drive-in. Steff Evans was sent to the cooler in the previous game, while three players saw yellow in the previous game.
Shipping 54 points to their great rivals, the Ospreys, will be a bitter pill to swallow. Dwayne Peel will know his team needs to show more determination when the pressure mounts.