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“I have beaten New Zealand”: The Dragon Round Up

There are not many rugby players still alive in Wales who can say, “I have beaten New Zealand.”

It’s a fairly select group and the numbers did not increase at the weekend, although for a while it seemed as though they might.

Wales led New Zealand 19-5 at one stage during their opening World Rugby U20 Championships match in South Africa.

That’s when the ruthlessness of past Kiwi-killers has kicked in – including, it should be said, the Wales U20s who beat the Baby Blacks back in 2019 and 2012 – but this time, the hunted prey managed to escape.

New Zealand hit back in the second-half and Wales eventually suffered an agonising one-point defeat, losing 27-26.

Head coach Mark Jones saw his side move into a commanding lead through tries from Lloyd Lewis, Dan Edwards and the impressive Morgan Morse.

But New Zealand came storming back with 22 unanswered points, although a late try from Sam Scarfe ensured Wales picked up two bonus points.

Jones, who was in charge for the first time after taking over from Byron Hayward, said: “I’m so proud of their effort. Our line-out was a real weapon, we were dangerous with ball in hand and we finished the far stronger.

“I thought we played well and there were plenty of positives to come out of the performance. That said, there is plenty to work on and we are all gutted.

“We just need to work on nailing the detail in big moments like that 15-minute period just after half-time when we allowed New Zealand to take back momentum.”

Wales now turn their attention to their second match of the tournament, against Japan on Thursday.

There were Welsh winners, however, in the English women’s game as Kelsey Jones, Bethan Lewis, Sisilia Tuipulotu and Lisa Neumann were all in the Gloucester-Hartpury squad that beat Exeter Chiefs 34-19 in the final of the Premier 15s.

They did it in front of a record crowd for a final, too, with 9,668 turning up at Kingsholm which was renamed “Queensholm” for the day.

There was also notable Welsh golfing success at the weekend as Stuart Manley won his fourth European Challenge Tour title.

The 44-year-old clinched the Blot Open de Bretagne title in France with a birdie at the 72nd hole on Sunday.

Manley, whose last win came at the 2021 Euram Bank Open, battled through a testing final day with the lead changing hands several times, but holed a 15-foot birdie at the last to secure victory.

“It feels amazing, awesome. I’m lost for words,” he said.

“It’s been a long, tiring week. I was really pleased with my 62 in the second round. That is probably my lowest round on the Challenge Tour and DP World Tour.

“To have the lead at the start of the third round is always quite tough and I didn’t have my game during the last few rounds. I managed to keep the ball in play and stayed close to the guys and managed to hole the odd putt, and then I’ve hit the best shot I’ve hit all year at the last which I’m chuffed about.

“Fingers crossed I can get it done for the rest of the season. It gives me some confidence and puts me inside the top 20 on the rankings.”

Meanwhile, back on Welsh soil, brother and sister, Hannah and Joe Brier, were triumphing in Cardiff in a unique family double.

Both won their respective events to become Welsh champions at the Welsh Athletics Championships on Saturday.

Stepping up from the 100m and 200m distances – which have seen her represent Wales at the Commonwealth Games – Hannah won the women’s 400m title at her first attempt.

Minutes later, brother Joe took the men’s title over the same one lap distance, which has seen him represent Great Britain at the Olympic Games.

The family double is believed to be the first time siblings have won the same event at a Welsh Championship.

Proud mum Lynne Brier, who is herself a coach with Swansea Harriers, said: “Watching Hannah run first would have inspired Joe because he’s not one to ever let her get the better of him!

“There’s a bit of competition between them, they support each other but there’s competition there as well. Neither of them likes the other to get on top.”

There was also a Welsh presence on the podium at the British National Cycling Championships, where Stevie Williams and Elynor Backstedt both finished third.

Williams – who rode at the Giro d’Italia last month – finished third in the senior men’s road race behind winner Fred Wright and runner-up James Knox at Saltburn in Yorkshire on Sunday.

Beckstedt also took third behind Anna Shackley and Flora Perkins in the Women’s U23 road race.

And even Royal Ascot ended with a winning Welsh flavour thanks to Pyledriver.

Welsh co-owners, Guy and Huw Leach, watched their horse defy the odds yet again as he romped home to win the Hardwicke Stakes at odds of 7/2 on Saturday, the final day of the meeting.

The horse had not raced for a year, but showed his class by hitting the front in the final furlong.

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