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Wales Online
Mark Orders

Winners and losers as Hadleigh Parkes downs Steve Hansen and Welsh prop at heart of rugby's big shock

Warren Gatland would have had a busy weekend, looking for players to fill his Wales Six Nations squad for the Six Nations, with the announcement due on January 17.

But there was plenty to focus on in the world of Welsh rugby and beyond.

The regions had a mixed weekend, with the Scarlets the only ones with a win to celebrate. The Ospreys could have taken the spoils against Leinster, but it wasn't to be, albeit there was a fair bit for them to be encouraged by, not least their scrum.

READ MORE: Overlooked Welsh flanker throws hat into ring by outplaying Wales hopeful in front of Gatland

Rain disrupted the rugby programme in Welsh rugby's lower divisions.

Anyway, let's assess the weekend's winners and losers.


Hadleigh Parkes

The first couple of weeks of the rugby season in Japan must have been a bit — how shall we say — discombobulating for Hadleigh Parkes.

He hadn’t lost a competitive game over two previous campaigns, after all, while winning back-to-back titles with the Wild Knights. But the former Wales international tasted defeat twice in a row with new club Ricoh Black Rams in the early knockings of the current term.

Matters changed for the better over the weekend when the Rams came up against Toyota Verblitz in Tokyo. It was a case of a former Wales player squaring up to an ex-Wales coach, with Parkes opposing Steve Hansen, who now acts as coaching consultant to Verblitz.

And it didn’t prove a happy day for Hansen.

Parkes scored an early try, and although Verblitz rallied, the initiative was wrestled back as the hosts posted the upset result of the round in the Top League, taking the spoils at 29-25.

The former Scarlets centre was part of a superb defensive effort that restricted the visitors to just a single try.

He’s still got it, then.

Another Welsh try scorer in Japan was Cory Hill, who profited from a quickly taken tapped penalty from Faf de Klerk in Yokohama Canon Eagles' clash with Suntory Sungoliath. But it wasn’t enough to stop the Eagles from falling to a 32-23 defeat.

Joe Jones

Ealing Trailfinders had been making it look easy in the English Championship, winning 10 straight games with a bonus point arriving in every match.

But the saying suggests that all good things must come to an end, and the saying’s right.

On Saturday, Caldy RFC, who had shipped 50-plus points in their previous game, pulled off the upset of the season in the Championship by downing the Trailfinders.

Playing an important part in the 26-24 win was Welsh tighthead prop Joe Jones.

Caldy called on the Sale Sharks player amid problems that had left them stretched in the front row. He responded with a fine effort as the hosts took advantage of an early sending off to claim only their third league win of the season.

Once part of the Cardiff set-up, North Walian Jones spent time with Perpignan before joining Sale in 2018 and he has also played for Doncaster and Coventry. He has featured more than 30 times in England’s top flight, but the former Wales U20s front rower won’t have enjoyed many more matches than the one he played in last Saturday, with the win sparking scenes of unbridled joy around Paton Field.

Dwayne Peel

There was a smile as Dwayne Peel left his interview with the Viaplay Sports team on Saturday evening, and it wasn't just because Tom Shanklin wouldn't release him from a vice-like handshake.

The Scarlets head coach has been through a difficult time.

But he'd just seen his side produce a fine all-round performance to defeat Cardiff at the Arms Park.

He'll know there's still a lot of work ahead, but, after four wins in five matches, the outlook is looking a whole lot brighter for the west Walians.

Penarth RFC

“What will you do when leagues come in?” So ran the question in Penarth’s clubhouse the year before Welsh rugby was restructured along competitive and democratic lines in 1990.

“We’ll find our level,” came the insouciant answer from a club official.

More than a few wondered what that standard would be.

Penarth, after all, had long found the going beyond tough at the top in Welsh rugby.

But the club had a certain charm about it. They would lose but there was always next week. They didn’t take themselves too seriously.

But then leagues started and rugby became a shade more serious and Penarth lost all 14 of their fixtures in year one, scoring just nine tries.

Oh dear.

It is only a game, though, especially beyond the professional sphere.

Fast-forward to today and the picture is more cheerful for Penarth.

The club lead Admiral National League 3 East Central by six points and haven’t lost in the league since Llanharan beat them on September 3. On Saturday, they defeated Tylorstown 45-5. Other notable successes this term include a 65-11 away win over Cardiff Quins, a 44-29 triumph at St Albans and a 59-0 beating of Old Illtydians.

For the avoidance of doubt, Penarth are not going to hit Leinster-standards any time soon.

But they are enjoying a successful campaign. For those who can recall their on-pitch challenges back in the day, that is good to see.

Immanuel Feyi-Waboso

Rare is it that a player is feted as man of the match after his team are soundly beaten.

Take a bow, then, Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, the precocious teenager who was touted as a future Wales international before leaving Cardiff to pursue his academic studies in England.

The three-quarter was signed by Exeter Chiefs after a short stint with Wasps and on Saturday he banked game-time with Taunton Titans against Cambridge in England’s National League 1.

It didn’t end well for the Titans, who lost 36-8 at home, but one newspaper named Feyi-Waboso as man of the match.

What is there to say?

The 19-year-old is a player with real promise.

Immanuel Feyi Waboso in full flight (David Rogers/Getty Images)

When he left for Aston University to continue his medical studies, Cardiff academy boss Gruff Rees warned: “The worry I have now is he could be lost to England or, even worse, he could drift away from the game.”

It doesn’t look as if he’s drifting away from the game, but you’d hope the Welsh Rugby Union were still in touch with him. Welsh rugby doesn’t have such riches to allow a player of his potential to end up in the Test clutches of others.

Welsh cream in Devon

They are both young and have a fair bit to learn, but, still, Dafydd Jenkins and Christ Tshiunza continue to make significant strides.

The pair banged in 29 tackles between them for Exeter Chiefs in the 35-12 win over Northampton, with lock Jenkins responsible for 15 of those hits and his back-row mate taking care of the rest.

Once, second rows were considered big blokes who won lineout ball, sometimes pushed their weight in scrums, huffed and puffed at mauls and did a bit of enforcing if it was required.

Nowadays, they are expected to do all of the above as well as get around the field and return high tackle and carry counts, handle and contest breakdowns. Some of the tall boys even offload.

But, still, for a 20-year-old second row to be making 15 tackles is good going.

Tshiunza, too, is an athlete.

It will be interesting to see if Warren Gatland favours the pair when he makes his Wales Six Nations selection next week.

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Dragons scrum and discipline

The former referee Roger Quittenton once told the journalist Huw Richards about Graham Price’s scrummaging potency. "Any decision about a scrum has an element of guesswork. You just hope that is informed guesswork,” said the English official.

There was, he continued, a notable exception to this rule: "If Graham Price is in the scrum you know that if something happens it is almost certainly because of him, since he can do pretty much what he likes against almost any opponent."

What the Dragons would have given to have Pricey anchoring their scrum against the Bulls last Friday.

Even at the age of 71.

Kidding, of course.

But their scrum was a disaster area against the South Africans, and indeed against the Scarlets the weekend before.

They are without Leon Brown and Lloyd Fairbrother has had bereavement leave.

It has meant a huge burden has been placed on Chris Coleman, with the young tighthead starting the last three games. He is seen as a player with potential, but his time on the front line appears to have come too soon.

He needs a recharge after a tough few weeks, while on the other side of the scrum there are also issues. Aki Seiuli is a force of nature around the field, like an extra back rower, but, like Coleman he concedes a lot of penalties when it comes to the pushing and shoving game.

Before last weekend, Coleman and Seiuli were the two most heavily penalised players in the United Rugby Championship, with penalty counts of 16 and 14 respectively, and the suspicion is they are still heading that particular table after the Bulls encounter.

In total, the Dragons incurred the referee’s displeasure 17 times in all areas against the South Africans, who were pinged on just eight occasions.

Somehow, the Welsh side have to tighten up.

Cardiff’s defence

An improvement's needed here, too.

One count suggested the Arms Park club missed 31 tackles against the Scarlets.

By another reckoning, the tally was much more.

Perhaps the individual doing the figures in the first count just added up the number of times Cardiff failed to put the Scarlets’ young centre Joe Roberts to the floor. How good was he on Saturday? Carwyn Tuipulotu also had his strongest game for the west Walians.

But let’s get back to Cardiff and their porous rearguard.

Josh Adams and Liam Williams aside, every member of the Cardiff backline hit defensive problems of some sort, while up front there were too many players left clutching hands full of thin air against opponents who mixed their play up nicely, going direct when they need to while spreading the ball quickly and skilfully at other times.

And to think Sione Kalamafoni wasn’t playing.

Let's just hazard a guess and say this week there could be extra tackling practice for Dai Young’s players.


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