Friday, 31 August 2012

Revamped Principality Premiership preparing for lift-off

IT'S all systems go tomorrow as the new-look Principality Welsh Premiership kicks off with some eye-catching clashes involving all 12 clubs.

That number of course doesn’t include Pontypool. They lost a bitter court battle with the WRU over their relegation to the new Championship after the union’s decision to cut the top flight from 14 teams to a dozen.

However, first up, reigning champions Pontypridd go to Cross Keys – the Pandy Park side beat the Valley Commandos in the Welsh Cup final in May – while The Gnoll hosts a classic derby tussle between Neath and Swansea.

The showdown in Gwent could well be a battle of the two teams who are contesting the Premiership title come the end of the season though the likes of Llanelli and Aberavon should have something to say about that.

In other matches tomorrow, Cardiff, looking for a big improvement under new director of rugby Martyn Fowler, entertain Llandovery at the Arms Park and Llanelli face a tough opener at the Brewery Field against Bridgend.

Simon King’s Aberavon, who came third last term, get their campaign under way at home against Newport while Carmarthen Quins head east to take on Bedwas at Bridge Field.

For Pontypridd head coach Dale McIntosh, he knows his men are there to be shot at this season and it will take a huge effort if they want to retain the trophy won on home soil at Sardis Road in May.

“There are some good teams out there,” he said. “Every single team in this competition is going to be a threat and if you disrespect them you are going to get what you deserve.

“Every year it gets tougher but I’m really comfortable with the squad we’ve got this time. On paper, a lot of the clubs have got very good squads as well so it’s about trying to perform week in and week out.

“I’ve got a funny feeling it’s going to be even tougher this year which is great for rugby in Wales.

“We’ve got a few boys who are back with us. Scott Roberts and Rhys Shellard were brought up on Pontypridd and they’ve come home which we are delighted about.

“We’ve got a couple of youngsters coming through and Thomas Pascoe has come in from Mountain Ash as well and Dai Flanagan has come back too so it’s looking good.”

While Pontypridd are bidding to continue their success, the likes of Swansea, now coached by former Wales hooker Mefin Davies, and Cardiff have ground to make up following a lean few seasons.

Cardiff chief Fowler is confident his club can turn the corner and his minimum expectation for his first term in charge is a top-six finish.

He said: “Being director of rugby at Cardiff is an exciting and humbling experience. It’s a club I’ve always aspired to coach and to be given the opportunity to head a very talented coaching team is an exciting prospect.

“Over the last couple of years while the partnership between Cardiff and the Blues has been bedding in we’ve probably suffered a bit more. Hopefully now the partnership will start paying dividends.

“Being a Cardiffian through and through it hurts to see them not doing so well but it’s a difficult situation because being reliant on the Blues it’s almost like coaching with your hands tied behind your back. But we’ll get there.

“Player retention and recruitment for us is based on the talent in the Blues regional pool. What we’ve got at Cardiff is a one-to-22 squad which will be bolstered by the movement from the Blues.

“A minimum expectation is to be in the top six. It’s a club that’s synonymous with excellence in terms of performance and winning trophies over the years.”

My weekend Premiership predictions (week one);

Aberavon v Newport

The Wizards had an excellent season last time out while Newport have recruited heavily with several new faces arriving from Pontypool among others. The hosts should hit the ground running with a win but it will be close.

Verdict – Aberavon by five points

Bedwas v Carmarthen Quins

Bedwas could well be the league’s dark horses this season and they’ll enjoy getting their fixtures under way on home turf against a side which threatened to break into the top three at times last term.

Verdict – Quins by six points

Bridgend v Llanelli

One thing you can almost guarantee in the Premiership is that Llanelli will be there or thereabouts come May. Their link with the Scarlets is always worth a couple of wins a season but Bridgend, under Ben Rose, won’t roll over for anyone.

Verdict – Llanelli by nine points

Cardiff v Llandovery

The Drovers, like Aberavon, had some big victories in 2011/12 and might well have been involved in the fight for silverware had they not tailed off towards the end. Cardiff are due a good one after ninth place last time around saw Martyn Fowler take over the managerial hot seat.

Verdict – Cardiff by six points

Cross Keys v Pontypridd

The game of the day on the first weekend sees the cup holders host the league champions in a possible precursor to the grand final come next year. Keys are formidable at home while Ponty have a good mix of youth and experience to call on.

Verdict – Pontypridd by two points

Neath v Swansea

These two old and fierce rivals won’t be able to ease gently into their league campaigns with a big derby clash scheduled for match day one. Swansea’s players will also want to impress new coach Mefin Davies but Neath lost just three times at The Gnoll last season and should have too much firepower for the visitors.

Verdict – Neath by nine points

By David Williams

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

All systems go for Neath try machine James

NEATH winger Kevin James can’t wait for the start of the new Principality Premiership season this Saturday when Swansea are visitors to The Gnoll.

But unlike the rest of his team-mates, James hasn’t had the summer off. Instead he has tried his hand at rugby league with South Wales Scorpions and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

The 31-year old scored four tries in ten appearances for Neath’s other professional rugby side and he says he has learned a lot to take back to the 15-man game.

“I thoroughly enjoyed switching codes this summer,” he said. “It was a good bunch of boys and coaches at the Scorpions. The whole set-up in extremely professional and in any walk of life it’s good to have a change now and again. It has benefitted me as I’ve picked up a few new skills.

“It was good to have a different perspective on how to defend or attack. My fitness has certainly improved. Hopefully I can use the experience and knowledge I’ve learned to help the younger boys at Neath and push them forward.

“In some ways League was easier to play and in some ways it was harder. In Union in my position as winger, you have to look for the ball but in League you can’t really go past the middle of the pitch and have to stay in your own little area.

“It’s been good to improve my defence too especially in recent weeks when results didn’t go well and we had to do a lot of defending. Hopefully I’ll be able to go back to the Scorpions next year.”

But for now, James is primed and ready to start the Premiership season for Neath and is hoping for a win against one their oldest local rivals in what should be a classic season opener.

“I’m really excited for the first game,” he said. “I’m a Neath boy and I made my debut for the club when I was 18 so this makes it my 13th or 14th season in rugby. I’ve been to a few others clubs in between but I’m Neath through and through and played over 200 times for the club, scoring over 100 tries.

“Neath rugby means a lot to me. We had a bit of an up and down season last year and there were some tough times but the boys stuck together and that’s what makes this team so good.

“The team spirit at the club is excellent and I don’t think many clubs would have stayed so positive the way we did. We’re a bunch of mates, we have good camaraderie and team spirit. That can only help us on the field.

“The club looks like it’s really going places now and I’m looking forward to helping put Neath back on the map and winning some trophies like we did in the past. We’ve a few new additions to the squad, some youngsters who are looking really good and we’ve done well in training.

“It’s always a good game against Swansea and we can’t wait for them to visit The Gnoll this Saturday. It’s a big derby game and everyone raises their game on both sides.

“It’s nice to have them first game up, but it’s about getting the win at the end of the day and playing attractive rugby. It’ll be good to set us up for the rest of the season.”

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Swansea clinch league title with cup final to come

SWANSEA’S players could be forgiven for taking their eye off the ball at around 3.30pm yesterday.

They hadn’t long got their match against Clydach under way at St Helen’s when the news came through that the South Wales Cricket Association division one crown was theirs.

They saw out the game, which Clydach won by 68 runs, before celebrating the first part of a potential league and cup double.

Either Llandudno or Mochdre await in the final of the Welsh Cup next Sunday when the Swansea players attempt to retain the trophy they won last year.

For now, all of the talk at the club will be about their return to the Swalec Premier League after last season’s relegation.

Had the rain not affected Tata Steel’s game away at Maesteg Celtic, there might have been an interesting climax to the league season although it would have taken a big swing in points for the Steelmen to catch Swansea.

For the record, Clydach made 233-7 in a game reduced to 41 overs with Jason Davies scoring 55 and Nicky Fisher ending the innings unbeaten on 50 having put on 84 for the sixth wicket with James Garland.

Although Ashley Pass smashed 70 for the hosts, 4-52 from Dean Kriescher and Steven Reeve’s 3-37 helped dismiss Swansea for 165 though they could be excused for having their minds elsewhere.

The only other game in the top flight to beat the weather saw Neath thrash Pontardawe by nine wickets to overtake Tata Steel and end the season as runners-up.

Relegated Pontardawe could only muster 79-8 with Neath, thanks to an unbeaten 40 from Callum Walters, getting the runs needed with ease.

As for the ups and downs in divisions two, three and four, they won’t be set in stone, according to the league, until the Glamorgan & Monmouthshire League has finished in two weeks’ time.

That’s because there are issues surrounding promotion to and relegation from the Swalec Premier League and what impact that will have on the Thomas Carroll South Wales Cricket Association.

That said, one matter that was decided yesterday was the destination of the division four title and it was the weather again that had the last laugh. Cimla weren’t complaining as they kept their slender lead over Dyffryn to clinch the trophy after both clubs’ fixtures were rained off.

Baglan finished third and skipper Lee Williams rounded off his campaign in fine style with 103 not out in a nine-wicket hammering of Felinfoel. Neath thirds also beat Llantwit Major Cavaliers by 44 runs.

Briton Ferry Steel could have saved themselves from the drop in division two after they beat Aberdare and Morriston lost to Llandysul. The game between champions Carmarthen and runners-up Cowbridge was washed out.

Bronwydd and Llanelli picked up winning draws against Gorseinon and Skewen respectively with Ryan Nicholas notching an unbeaten 101 for Llanelli. His knock included 10 fours and two sixes.

Daryl Phillips took 5-32 as division three champs Briton Ferry Town saw off Drefach by 36 runs and there were also wins for Maesteg and Margam.

Maesteg have had a poor campaign by their standards but did end on a high with a seven-wicket success at Landore while Margam brought Pwll’s miserable few months to an equally miserable close.

There had been a glimmer of hope for Pwll after Margam could only muster 120-9 in 45 overs, but even that was too much of an ask for the visitors and they were all out for 92 with Ian Jepson taking 4-12 and Luke O’Connor 3-17.

Sorry Saundersfoot washed away in final day woe

AS the old saying goes; if you’re going to go down, go down fighting.

Sadly for Saundersfoot in the Pembroke County Cricket League, they weren’t even given the chance to show their fighting spirit.

Locked in a titanic struggle to preserve their division one status, Saundersfoot knew a win at Lawrenny would probably be enough to stave off the dreaded drop.

But in Wales there is always the prospect of the weather playing a part in proceedings and that’s just what it did yesterday.

Saundersfoot’s hopes of staying up were washed away as their game was abandoned without a ball being bowled while the other teams around them, like Narberth, got the requisite points to ensure their survival.

At the start of the afternoon it was Narberth who occupied last place but their low-scoring affair against Carew was ended prematurely with the champions only 16 runs shy of their victory target.

Narberth had scored 91-9 with Richie Adams and Jordan Howell each contributing 20 to the total and Rhys Davies recording a five-wicket haul for Carew, who then suffered a few shaky moments due to Ben Hughes’s 4-27 before play was stopped with them on 76-5.

Llangwm consolidated third place in the only fixture to be completed, winning by four wickets at home to Cresselly. Andrew Harries, Ollie Davies and Darren Brick took three wickets each as the visitors were all out for 140.

And it was Gary Phillips, with an unbeaten 43, who saw Llangwm home to round off a successful season with only Carew and Neyland finishing above them in the standings.

Promotion and relegation matters were settled, again mostly by the weather, in the league’s five other divisions.

In a dramatic finish to division two, Johnston survived the drop despite seeing their game at Cresselly seconds abandoned with the former needing just three runs to win. A draw in the match between Herbrandston and Hook wasn’t good enough for either team and both went down.

Lamphey saw off Stackpole to win division three, Camrose & Spitall took the title in division four, Lawrenny seconds did likewise in five and Stackpole seconds were already winners of division six.

Llandudno seize initiative as Bridge collapse

LLANDUDNO regained top spot in the North Wales Cricket League premier division as former leaders Menai Bridge slipped up at third-placed Mochdre.

Their nine-wicket thrashing of Bangor, who were bowled out for an embarrassingly low 30, gives Llandudno a slim advantage in the title run-in.

They head Menai Bridge by just three points with as many games left this season but go toe-to-toe with Mochdre tomorrow at The Oval.

Llandudno couldn’t have wished for an easier afternoon yesterday as Bangor were simply unable to get the ball off the square – their 30 runs came in 25 overs and three balls!

Again, Gordon Kerr was the pick of the attack, claiming 5-7 in 12 overs, seven of which were maidens.

Only Bangor opener Andrew Savage reached double figures, but only just with 10, as Llandudno captain Jack Rimmington weighed in with 3-13. All of which made the visitors’ win inevitable.

One of the innings of the day came from Mochdre opener Will Jones as he carted the Menai Bridge attack around the ground for 110 off 124 deliveries, including 12 fours and three sixes.

The hosts made 201-7 declared and the reply was never likely to match that effort with Adam Campion taking 4-37 as Menai Bridge were bowled out for 153.

The only other premier division game to produce a result was at Northop where the hosts beat Llay Welfare by three wickets chasing 111 for the win.

Hawarden Park were another team who made the most of the rain hitting their closest rivals as the division one leaders thrashed Llandudno seconds and Llanrwst never got going against Gresford.

Batting first, Hawarden Park amassed 216-5 declared in 43 overs with Tom Ducker racing to 78 off only 53 balls and Jason Biddulph hitting 65 from 77 deliveries.

Ian Martin’s 5-15 did for Llandudno so Hawarden Park head Llanrwst by 19 points with three games of the season to go.

With Pontblyddyn seconds seeing their home clash with Chirk abandoned, Marchwiel & Wrexham jumped at the chance to close the gap on their relegation rivals by beating Halkyn, who declared on 119-8 batting first.

A half-century from George Forgrave put the hosts on their way to what turned out to be a reasonably comfortable five-wicket triumph.

Finally, Menai Bridge seconds cruised to a six-wicket success at home against Bangor seconds. Bangor declared on 173-8 after 45 overs, Ian Morgan scoring 83, before Cefyn Owen, with an unbeaten 49, saw the home team to victory.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Proud Gravell hoping Neath hit the heights this term

NEATH captain Gareth Gravell has spoken of his pride at retaining the skipper's armband for the third successive season.

The 31-year old flanker continues to bring his valuable experience to the club and he hopes to lead the Welsh All Blacks to honours this term.

“I’m very proud to lead this team again,” he said. “Neath are a great club and we’re looking to hit the heights again this season.

“I think we’ll do well this year. We had a difficult end to last year with injuries as we had quite a tense campaign and we slipped out of the play-off spots.

“But as long as we keep our squad fit, we should be challenging for honours again. We’ve got the two cup competitions too and we want to make a good impression there and get to a couple of finals.

“We’ll be working hard in training and the odd bit of luck too will see us through.”

Neath have a tough start to the league, taking on Swansea at The Gnoll on September 1. And while the Whites finished five places below Neath last season, Gravell knows it will be a hard opener for his men.

“Swansea is always a big one for the fans and players,” said Gravell, who hails from Burry Port. “We haven’t had many pre-season games, just the one against the Adam Jones XV.

“But the boys train well, they always do exceptionally in training and it gets just as tense as games at times. That’s the way we like to treat it anyway.

“We’ve been working on a lot of contact and getting used to some of the new rules coming in, working hard, gelling well as a team so we can hit the ground running.”

Neath have a handful of new signings and trialists and Gravell is happy by the way they’ve all slotted in with coach Pat Horgan’s systems.

“The new boys have all fitted in well especially some of the youngsters from the lower divisions, they’ve really put their hands up in fairness,” Gravell said.

“We want to be known as an entertaining side this season. We want to play a good set of rugby, score lots of tries and get fans in at The Gnoll. If we play well, play a good brand of the game and the boys enjoy it, then the wins will follow.”

Leaders Porth look to maintain perfect start to season

MacWhirter Welsh League weekend preview

AFC Porth take their perfect start to the new Welsh League division one campaign to Goytre United tomorrow.

The Rhondda side has won all three of its games so far this term and have not conceded a goal yet in four-and-a-half hours of football.

They sit proudly at the top of the table with last season’s champions, Cambrian & Clydach, one of three teams two points behind.

One of those, Ton Pentre, the third Rhondda outfit in the top four, kick-off the weekend’s action tonight when they entertain Bryntirion Athletic.

Cambrian have home advantage too with Cwmbran Celtic, who have two wins from their first three outings, the visitors to the title-holders.

Haverfordwest County in third host first division new boys Monmouth Town while West End go to Jenner Park to take on Barry Town. Taffs Well visit Caerleon and Tata Steel, the only side without a point, face Pontardawe Town.

The surprise strugglers so far have been Bridgend Town, eighth last season but one off the bottom of the table at present with an alarming number of goals conceded, 14, in four fixtures. They play Aberdare Town, formerly Aberaman Athletic, at home.

Like AFC Porth, Goytre in division two have an unblemished record with four successive victories. Croesyceiliog stand in the way of them making it five tomorrow.

At the bottom of the table, Cwmaman Institute and Cardiff Corinthians are both looking to get off the mark following a combined run of seven defeats. Cwmaman have a tough assignment at home against Dinas Powys and Corries make the trip to Ammanford.

Like Goytre and Dinas Powys, Caerau (Ely) and Garden Village are also yet to lose and will try to extend their positive start with clashes against Newport YMCA and Aberbargoed Buds respectively.

Elsewhere, Caldicot Town host Undy Athletic, Ely Rangers entertain Briton Ferry Llansawel and Caerau go to Penrhiwceiber Rangers.

The two newest teams to the Welsh League, division three’s Chepstow Town and Llantwit Major will finally be hoping to get their league season under way after being held up due to Pontyclun’s double appeal against their relegation last term.

Both are scheduled to be at home tomorrow, Chepstow against early leaders Risca United and Major against fourth-placed Treowen Stars.

Llanwern are only behind Risca on goal difference and will fancy their chances on home turf against Tredegar Town while Newcastle Emlyn, who won their only match so far, face Pontypridd Town.

The three sides at the foot of the table, Treharris Athletic Western, Bridgend Street and Cardiff Grange Harlequins take on Abertillery Bluebirds away, AFC Llywdcoed at home and Cardiff Met University away respectively. Bettws host Newport Civil Service in the remaining encounter.

Swansea bidding to seal league title in season finale

South Wales Cricket Association final weekend preview

IT’S do or die for Swansea tomorrow as the division one title is decided on the last day of the South Wales Cricket Association season.

The St Helen’s club hold all the aces going into their home clash against Clydach, knowing that even if they were to lose the championship could still be theirs.

That’s because second-placed Tata Steel have to win at Maesteg Celtic and hope for a major Swansea slip-up to sneak up on the rails capture the crown from under the noses of the current leaders.

There is also a very, very slim chance that Neath could come into the reckoning but they would have to thrash Pontardawe and the top two would have to lose, Swansea without picking up hardly any bonus points.

Neath could well dish out a hammering to relegated Pontardawe, especially on home turf, but, barring a big case of the jitters, Swansea should beat Clydach and secure a return to the Swalec Premier League for next season.

Dafen, long-time leaders until very recently, only have pride left to play for when they host Gowerton. The match could have easily been a title decider for Dafen only for their form to desert them badly over the last month.

In the other game tomorrow, mid-table Ynystawe entertain Llangennech, who along with Pontardawe will be playing in division two in 2013.

The ups and downs have been decided in the second division with Carmarthen Wanderers crowned champions last weekend and Cowbridge also promoted. There will be some big celebrations in the Vale of Glamorgan as the two go head-to-head to round-off a successful campaign for both clubs.

On the other hand, Morriston and Briton Ferry Steel haven’t got much to celebrate but they will look to end disappointing seasons on a positive note with matches at Llandysul and Aberdare respectively.

Elsewhere, Skewen host Llanelli and Bronwydd welcome Gorseinon with a lot of movement in the table expected by the close of play as 32 points separate third to eighth place.

While Briton Ferry Steel are moving down, local rivals Briton Ferry Town are going in the opposite direction having clinched the division three title. They are more than likely to be joined by Swansea Civil Service, who mathematically can still be caught by Porthcawl.

Town take on Drefach, Civil Service go to Pontyberem and Porthcawl visit Hills Plymouth. Pwll, who are already down, visit Margam and Maesteg need a couple of points against Landore to condemn them to the drop.

The honour of becoming division four champions is a straight two-way shoot-out between leaders Cimla and Dyffryn with just two points the difference going into the final weekend.

Cimla have the easier task of the two with a home game against one-from-bottom Llandarcy while Dyffryn entertain Ystradgynlais. There’s a slim possibility Baglan, away to Felinfoel, could pip Dyffryn for second place but it’s highly unlikely.

Meanwhile, Llantwit Major Cavaliers face Neath thirds and Llandeilo visit bottom side Kidwelly Town.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Moseley makes hay at Carmarthen club championship

MATTHEW Moseley posted the best two-round scratch score to lift the D R Evans Cup at Carmarthen’s Club Championship.

There was some exceptional scoring on the West Wales course with Moseley firing a superb 65 over the morning’s 18 holes then following that up with a 74 in the afternoon.

His total of 139 was four shots better than the next player home which turned out to be Rhys Lindquist, who also broke 70 in the morning with a 69 before matching Moseley after lunch.

Ian Marks took third place with rounds of 74 and 71 for an aggregate score of 145. There was silverware for Lindquist though as he won the Chairman’s Bowl for the best overall net score (135).

Marks was runner-up with 137, six clear of David Thomas (143) in third. Other players to acquit themselves well during the morning round were James MacDonald (net 68), Mick Fenney (69) and Ray Skinner (70). Simon Davies also came in with a net 70 in the afternoon.

Carmarthen’s junior members contested their own Club Championship and Jamie Dean took first prize in the silver section after two great rounds of 67 and 68 for a net total of 135. He beat the McAvoy brothers, Iestyn and Osian, who  finished two shots adrift on 137.

Sean Hazelby also had a fine round on the second day, shooting 67, while Osian McAvoy’s net 63 on day one was the best of the competition and could have been even better had he not finished with a 10 on the final hole.

In the bronze section, Rhys Jones won with his six-under par two-round total, beating Nick Evans by just a single shot. Jordan Evans carded a terrific net 64 on the first day and Nick’s brother Chris fired a 66 on day two.

Iestyn Evans, Jamie Dean, Jordan Evans and Sion Jenkins were once again in the prizes in the EMS Junior Open Day.

St Mary’s held three big finals recently while those not involved took part in a full handicap stableford.

First, Ian Taylor beat Joe Davis to win the Vets Challenge Cup then George Parry was victorious over Phil Banks to lift the Matchplay Knockout Shield.

The third major competition, the Summer Pairs Knockout, was won by Roy Denton and Allan Bennett after they saw off Andrew Lane and Gordon Martin to take first prize.

The stableford was won with 37 points by David Knighton, who edged out Bob Coombes by one with Fred Evans third on 34.

Lynette Bassett and Gethin Davies teamed up to win the Brodie Shields Mixed Foursome at Ashburnham with a combined net round of 74.5, just ahead of Aled and Nia Greville.

A stunning 65 gave Ben Thomas the Junior Medal, his gross score 77 was also the lowest in the event. Jordan Davies (74) was second and Daniel Brice  (77) third while Craig Young edged out Kieran Stephens on countback to claim the Bowen Cup.

Round 11 of the Dawn Patrol Seniors’ League at Derllys Court was clinched by Roger Horsfall with 41 points. Jeff Thomas was next best on 39 with Idwal Thomas making up the top three with 37.

Meanwhile, Richard Bennett was the clear winner of the Bogey Cup at The Grove as Ged Rave took second from Stuart Mason.



Brodie Shields Mixed Foursome; 1. L. Bassett & G. Davies net 74.5, 2. A. Greville & N. Greville 75.5, 3. E. Roberts & C. Stimson 76.5

Junior Medal; 1. B. Thomas net 65, 2. J. Davies 74, 3. D. Brice 77

Bowen Cup; 1. C. Young 40pts, 2. K. Stephens 40, 3. A. Price 38

Derllys Court

Seniors’ Dawn Patrol; 1. R. Horsfall 41pts, 2. J. Thomas 39, 3. I. Thomas 37

Langland Bay

4BBB Stableford; 1. M. Morgan & R. Hughes 49pts, 2. R. Evans & M. Reeves 43, 3. J. Mullins & P. Williams 43


Sunday Stableford; (div one) 1. B. Kennedy 36pts, 2. B. Hudson 35, 3. R. Williams 33, (div two) 1. S. Meredith 38, 2. A. Ing 36, 3. N. Hollingsbee 35


Harold Russell Cup (Foursomes Medal); 1. G. Doughty & C. Arnold net 66.5, 2. H. D’Urso & S. Hewitt 67.5, 3. A. Jenkins & D. Williams 68.5

Mixed Rosebowl; 1. A. Bridges & M. Bridges 28pts, 2. J. Kendall & M. Williams 28

The Grove

Bogey Cup; 1. R. Bennett 6up, 2. G. Rave 3up, 3. S. Mason 2up

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Clark happy again with youngsters performance

South Wales Scorpions’ head coach Dave Clark was happy with the part that the youngsters played in their 32-10 win over Gateshead Thunder last Sunday.

The Scorpions fielded four 18-year olds in the victory, three of whom played two matches in a weekend after travelling to Yorkshire to take on Leeds Rhinos in an under 18 clash the day before.

And as Gateshead were without a win in 63 consecutive matches against professional sides in league and cup, Clark didn’t want the South Wales outfit to give Thunder that break.

“I was really happy with the win, we gelled well and the things we’ve been working on all year started to gel well today,” said Scorpions’ coach Dave Clark. “We’re in the same boat as Gateshead really. We both lost a lot of players through the course of the year and we’re at the bottom end of the table and with both sides trying to get a win under their belts. It was going to be a challenge and I thought the boys did well.

“We didn’t want to be the side that lost to Gateshead but we knew they were hungry for it and they really challenged us throughout. We were just a bit more patient and did those little things a bit better and came up with a result.”

Luke Kell, Chris Leyshon and Mike Connor played a full game against Leeds Rhinos on Saturday then all came on as second half substitutes on Sunday against Gateshead. They were just three of eight players in the side who travelled to Leeds who have already made first team appearances this year.

“I was really proud of those 18-year olds on Sunday,” Clark said. “We had three out there who backed up from Saturday’s game. A fantastic effort from them and I take my hat off to those players.

“I think that the last month, despite just the one win, has been very successful for us. We’ve been blooding in the youngsters to get them used to what the Championship is all about. We do want to bring in new players from other clubs for next season but geographically it’s hard for us to do that, so we have to make sure we bring the right players in to support the Welsh youngsters we’re developing. It takes a special sort of player and one that wants a challenge to do that.

“It’s our aim to have a fully Welsh side in the end. This season we’ve often averaged 14 or 15 local players in our team and that’s what we want. It’s the sustainability of the club. We don’t want to bring players in for them just to stay one year. We want to develop players young and that’s what we’re doing.”

The Scorpions just have one game remaining this season, away at Barrow Raiders on Sunday 2nd September.

Monday, 20 August 2012

44th Round the Pier Swim

The 44th Round of the Pier Swim at Aberavon Beach will take place on Sunday, August 26 starting and finishing at the Little Warren clubhouse of Aberavon Green Stars RFC. 
The race will commence at 2.00 p.m. when the mayor of Neath Port Talbot CBC, Councillor Martyn Peters, accompanied by the club president, Councillor Collin Crowley, sound the gun.
Entrants should attend the clubhouse at 1.00 p.m. to register and pay the entry fee of £5. The printed tee shirts and pottery tankards for the various categories have again been donated by Tata Steel, the main sponsors, with the ladies' goblets donated by Port Talbot Brickwork Ltd. 
The entry forms for 16 and 17 year olds must be countersigned by a parent or guardian, and those over 50 have the option of starting at the water's edge.
Participants take part at their own risk and, as usual, extensive safety coverage will be provided by Aberavon Surf Lifesaving Club, Aberavon Canoe Cub and Port Talbot RNLI. 
The prize giving ceremony will be held in the Green Stars clubhouse, followed by live music by Andy & Goss. Please refer any queries to the swim organiser Bernard Donovan tel. 01639 812357 / 07505 141137.

Lydia Hall wins ISPS Handa Ladies British Masters

Lydia Hall clinched her maiden win in dramatic style as she came from two shots behind to take the inaugural ISPS Handa Ladies British Masters at Buckinghamshire Golf Club in England on Saturday.
The 24-year-old Welshwoman, who held a share of the lead after day one, shot rounds of 66, 71 and 72 for a fantastic seven under par 54-hole total. She sealed a one stroke victory over Beth Allen of the United States in glorious conditions at the stunning parkland course, which was hosting the tournament for the first time.
“I’m over the moon, obviously,” said Hall. “I’ve been waiting to win a tournament for the last five years since I came on tour. I came in close at Q School and it’s been a while. I’ve done well in Dubai the last few years but obviously today was one of my first experiences of final group and all of the pressures that come with that.”
It was a double success for the town of Bridgend, home to Hall and her experienced Tour caddie Lee Griffiths, who was on the bag for the first time.
“It was good to have Lee on the bag who is experienced as he kept me calm and focused throughout the round,” Hall said.
Griffiths, who has worked for the likes of international players such as Melissa Reid and Anja Monke, commented: “We are both from Bridgend. I played all my golf as a kid with Lydia’s coach so we go way back, myself and John Peters. John has always told me, he said, ‘big man, you could do a job for Lydia one day’ and it happened this week.
“It’s the first time I’ve worked for a Welsh girl. The Taffy were in operation today. I’m made up for her because she’s been knocking at the door for some time.”
Hall started out two behind the overnight leader, Ashleigh Simon, her partner in the last pairing, but had moved one clear of the field after three birdies in her first 11 holes, at the second, ninth and 11th.
After striking a beautiful approach shot to around a foot at the par-four 11th, Hall endured a mid-round crisis as she pulled her tee shot left at the par-three 12th and duffed a chip from the rough resulting in a double bogey five.
She then found the left jungle on 13 and had to hack out, dropping another shot there. Allen moved two shots clear with a birdie on 14 after getting up and down from the bunker, but after a 10 minute wait on the tee, Hall felt mentally prepared to start again.
At the par-five 14th, she played a beautiful chip to around a foot from the hole and sank the birdie putt to stay one behind.
It was at the par-four 17th where the drama unravelled. Allen was a stroke clear with two holes to go and played her tee shot safely to the fairway, rather than taking on the water to go for the green. After hitting her second shot into the bunker, she opted to take a penalty drop because the ball was completely imbedded and from there she hit her ball around 20 feet past the flag and three-putted for a triple bogey seven to drop two behind Hall.
After watching the drama from the 17th tee, Hall confidently drove her ball over the lake, 244 yards to the front edge of the green and three putted for a solid par to stay two clear with a hole to play.
At the par-three 18th, Hall’s ball came to rest around 35 feet shot of the hole and her second putt hit the edge of the hole, but luckily a bogey was enough to seal the win and take home the £45,000 first prize.
Hall’s father, Wayne, a former Welsh rugby international and family, were on hand to witness the spectacle.
“Absolutely fantastic, really great,” said Wayne. “The effort and determination that Lydia has shown since she was a kid has been absolutely fantastic. It’s only something she deserves.
“We are really proud of her as a family. We’ve been waiting the last 13 years for her to win, a big win, anyway. For a Welsh girl to come to England and win is even better.”
Allen was obviously left disappointed having come so close to her maiden tour win with rounds of 68, 69 and 73, but she finished alone in second, with six players in a share of third place a stroke back on five under par.
They included English duo Trish Johnson and Henrietta Zuel, South African Stacy Lee Bregman, Australian Rebecca Artis, Swede Mikaela Parmlid and Simon, with Norwegian Caroline Martens and Denmark’s Lisa Holm Sorensen a stroke further back in a share of ninth on four under par.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

New Welsh Premier season goes off with a bang

Corbett Sports Welsh Premier League weekend review

IF the opening weekend was anything to go by, supporters of the 12 clubs in the Welsh Premier League won’t be short of things to talk about over the next nine months or so.

There were hat-tricks, amazing comebacks, last-minute goals and strikes from the halfway line – and that was just in the game between Bala and Newtown on Friday night.

More of that later but it was a less spectacular opener at Park Hall where champions The New Saints got their campaign under way with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Airbus UK thanks to a second-half Simon Spender goal.

Things were just as tight at Nantporth as Bangor City needed a late Dave Morley penalty to see off league new boys Gap Connah’s Quay who were looking good for a point after Dean Canning had cancelled out Chris Simm’s opening goal.

Now to Maes Tegid where Bala recovered from 3-0 down to lead Newtown before having to settle for a point as Andy Jones equalised at the death.

Luke Boundford and Craig Whitfield put the visitors two goals to the good then Shane Sutton put forward a contender for goal of the season with an inch-perfect lob from just inside his own half to seemingly put the result beyond doubt.

However, Conall Murtagh pulled one back and from then on it was the Ian Sheridan show as he netted his side’s second, third and fourth goals while also having an effort ruled out. His 88th-minute strike looked to have given Bala an unlikely win but Jones popped up to rescue a point.

Llanelli are one side who some people are tipping to break into the top two and they came away from Port Talbot with all three points following a tough encounter with Mark Jones’s men.

Luke Bowen’s tap-in gave them the lead but home captain Cortez Belle levelled from the spot after Lee Surman had handled in the area. Craig Moses blasted in to make it 2-1 to the Reds before Port Talbot defender Paul Keddle lost his cool and was shown a second yellow card.

Bala’s Sheridan wasn’t the only player to hit a treble on the opening weekend as Andy Parkinson did exactly the same on his Prestatyn debut in a 4-2 victory against Afan Lido at Bastion Gardens.

His goals came in a 15-minute spell either side of the break with Michael Parker grabbing the other and Luke Borelli and Mark Jones getting on the scoresheet for the visitors.

Second-half efforts from Jack Christopher and Liam Thomas meant there was no happy return to Carmarthen for Aberystwyth boss Tomi Morgan, who was sacked by the Old Gold last season. The hosts could even afford to have Matthew Rees sent off in the second period.

Carew confirmed as County Cricket League kings

Pembroke County Cricket League review

CAREW were confirmed as champions of the Pembroke County Cricket League yesterday as the rain took its toll on games throughout the six-division competition.

The top-of-the-table showdown between Carew and  Neyland was rained off and with both teams taking five points it means that the long-time leaders hold an unassailable advantage going into next weekend’s final round of fixtures.

And looking at the table it’s abundantly clear that Carew are by some way the best team in the league having only tasted defeat once this term and won five more matches than their closest rivals.

The wet weather played havoc with a number of games at the weekend though two survived in the top flight as Cresselly beat Lawrenny by 94 runs and St Ishmaels saw off Haverfordwest by eight wickets.

Danny Potter (64) was the only Haverfordwest batsman to trouble the St Ishmaels attack as Andrew Pawlett took 5-39 to limit the side batting first to 112-8.

There were few problems in the St Ishmaels reply with Peter Bradshaw hitting 44 and Karl Rhead finishing with an unbeaten 45 in what was a comfortable victory for the hosts.

Simon Cole (64), Ryan Lewis (43) and Andrew Harries (47) were in the runs for Cresselly as they amassed a total of 203 at home to Lawrenny. Will Morris (5-22) was the standout bowler for the visitors.

The best any Lawrenny batsman could do was 25 and they were bowled out for 109 thanks in part to Sam Harts’s 4-47. Just 12 points separate four teams at the bottom of the table so any one of a number of permutations is possible when the sides bring the season to a close on Saturday.

Llanrhian are the champions of division two following a routine seven-wicket triumph at home to Pembroke. Batting first, Pembroke made 107, leaving Llanrhian a relatively straight-forward run chase and Jack Jones saw then home with an undefeated 46.

Kerr shows his class to maintain Llandudno's push

North Wales Cricket League review

ALL-ROUNDER Gordon Kerr added fresh impetus into Llandudno’s push for the premier division title with a virtuoso performance yesterday.

His team breezed to an impressive 128-run win against Northop, a result which keeps them in touch with leaders Menai Bridge, who also won.

The Llandudno batsmen weren’t at their very best and it took Kerr with a knock of 46, including a stand of 64 for the seventh wicket with skipper Jack Rimmington, to see them to a total of 178-7.

Any hopes Northop had of causing a surprise went up in smoke when Darren Williams was out without a run being scored and from then on it was the Kerr show. He ended up with figures of 8-30 as Northop scraped to 50.

Menai Bridge hold a 17-point lead at the top with four games left and their cause was aided by an Ashley Wood hat-trick in a nine-wicket trouncing of Brymbo.

The visitors had no answer to the Menai Bridge attack and Wood’s 4-7 saw Brymbo dismissed for just 82 with David Broderick the only player to score more than 20. The leaders eased to their victory target for the loss of one wicket as Robbie Jones ended 38 not out.

Mochdre in third are still in with an outside chance of landing the top prize and they battled to a narrow two-wicket triumph against Pontblyddyn despite Marcel Frenzen taking 7-21 for their opponents.

Last year’s champions Connah’s Quay moved up to fourth thanks largely to Martin Burger, who took 3-22 in Mold’s 206-8 then scored an unbeaten 81 as his side got home with six wickets to spare.

At the bottom, Llay Welfare looked doomed for relegation after a nine-wicket defeat at the hands of Denbigh. William Affleck took 5-10 as Llay were all out for 141 and the same player, along with Gwern Owain, scored a half-century in reply.

South African Grove Venter (69) took St Asaph to a successful run chase against Bangor, who were bowled out for 107. Simon Morley did claim 4-43 for Bangor but they went down by two wickets.

Only five points separate the top two in division one after Hawarden Park closed the gap on leaders Llanrwst, who could only manage a losing draw against Menai Bridge seconds. Jason Biddulph took 4-26 then scored 60 not out as Hawarden Park beat Conwy by five wickets.

Batting performance of the day came from Chirk’s Nick Flack who contributed 125 to his team’s total of 168 all out. Brothers Tom and Jack Thornton took seven wickets between them and Sunil Bhatt claimed the other three.

That had been in reply to Llandudno seconds’ 193-6 of which 82 were scored by Kevin James. The visitors won by 25 runs.

Pwllheli had few problems seeing off Marchwiel & Wrexham by eight wickets with debutant Andy Duffy, Nadim Rehman and Adam Williams all taking three wickets for the hosts. Reham scored 45 in reply as Pwllheli chased down Marchwiel’s 96 for the loss of two wickets.

Gresford got the better of Halkyn by only one run in a very low-scoring game. The former were bowled out for 86 but Halkyn fell agonisingly short with Paddy Richards taking four of the wickets to fall.

Winning Wanderers toast division two crown

South Wales Cricket Association division two, three and four review

IT was always on the cards but Carmarthen Wanderers finally cemented their position as the best team in division two by clinching the title against Skewen yesterday.

And it couldn’t have been an easier day at the office for the West Walians with their opponents capitulating to 34 all out as Wanderers’ captain Leighton Walters took 6-16.

Daniel James and Owain Davies were together at the crease when the winning runs were hit, leaving Wanderers victors by nine wickets with one game of the season left.

Cowbridge will join the champions in division one next year after their game against Aberdare was cancelled and Llandysul couldn’t manage an outright win at Gorseinon.

There were also draws in the games between Llanelli and Bronwydd and the two relegated clubs, Morriston and Briton Ferry Steel.

The other Briton Ferry outfit, Briton Ferry Town, are moving in the opposite direction having beaten Pontyberem by six wickets to finish top of the table.

Yakoob Ali and Shakell Amin took six of the Pontyberem wickets between them as the visitors made 152-9 in their 50 overs. Opener Craig Howells hit nine boundaries in his 48 but after him there wasn’t much resistance from the rest of the batsmen.

Ali then showed what he could do with the bat, compiling 56 off 54 balls and Town got the runs needed with nearly 15 overs remaining.

Second place will go to Swansea Civil Service after relegated Pwll conceded their match and third-placed Porthcawl were beaten at home by Margam.

The seasiders saw their opponents make 160-8 with skipper Elwyn Pugh making an unbeaten 45 and Darren Jeffries 33. Nick Lyddon kept the scoring in check with 5-59.

But the Porthcawl reply never got going and with Rhodri Reynolds (5-35) and Michael Bond (3-34) in fine fettle, Margam were comfortable winners by 68 runs. The fixtures at Maesteg and Drefach were called off.

There’ll be some fingernails bitten in division four next weekend as two points separate leaders Cimla and Dyffryn in second going into the season finale.

Dyffryn could have been in the box seat had they not lost to Felinfoel by nine runs. Felinfoel made 158 and seemed set for a quickfire win when Dyffryn were reduced to 116-8. But Clive Harding’s 6-22 ensured Felinfoel did get the victory after the tail had wagged.

The weather hit Cimla’s game at Kidwelly while Baglan beat Llandarcy by seven wickets and Neath thirds overcame Ystradgynlais. The remaining matches were also rained off.

Swansea on brink of title and return to Swalec Premier

South Wales Cricket Association division one review

THE fight for the division one title in the South Wales Cricket Association will go to the last day – but it won’t involve Dafen following their fall from grace.

Last season’s champions have gone from looking like strong contenders to defend their crown to also-rans in the space of a month.

Defeat at Neath yesterday ended their hopes of successive titles while Swansea won again to lay one hand on the trophy and an immediate return to the South Wales Premier League.

They won by seven wickets at Llangennech and can make absolutely sure of first place by beating Clydach at St Helen’s next weekend. The home side was bowled out for 119, Josh Tobin claiming 4-29, before Swansea breezed to victory.

Tata Steel are the only side that can overhaul Swansea though it would take a big points swing for Swansea to be denied. The Steelmen brushed Gowerton aside by 116 runs with Kelvin Bartle smashing 107 to at least give them some sort of chance when they visit Maesteg Celtic on Saturday.

Long-time leaders Dafen were humbled by nine wickets at Neath as home bowler Nathan Aubrey took 4-11 to help dismiss the away side for 103. Callum Walters and Matthew Davies also chipped in with two wickets each.

Keiron Thomas (43 not out) and Gareth Davies (42 not out) saw Neath home with a lot to spare. The other two fixtures at Clydach and Pontardawe were rained off.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Jones announces strong squad Testimonial match

Wales, Ospreys and British and Irish Lions star Adam Jones has named an experienced squad to take on Neath RFC for his Testimonial Game on Friday 24 August at The Gnoll (kick-off 7.45pm).  

The 35-man squad, which will be captained by Jones, is set to include four Welsh British and Irish Lions and the experience of 22 international rugby players from past and present.

Former international hooker Barry Williams, current Wales U20s coach Mark Taylor and rugby league and union legend Alan Bateman will add their experience of wearing the famous red jerseys of Wales and the Lions to the side.

Former Canada flanker and Wales’ Strength and Conditioning Coach Dan Baugh and Ospreys player turned Head Coach Steve Tandy will be swapping their coaches’ whistles for rugby boots to face Neath.

Representing the southern hemisphere, Tongans Kati Tu'ipulotu and Dave Tiueti will take the field as well as Samoan flanker George Stowers who will be released from the Ospreys. 

The region will also offer the services of Wales’ age-grade talent Daniel Suter, Morgan Allan, Sam Davies and Lloyd Peers and the experience of second-row James Goode and full-back Barry Davies. 

Speaking about his Testimonial team mates and the challenge that awaits them next Friday, Jones said: 
"To be able to share the field with so many great players for my Testimonial Game is an absolute privilege. I am overwhelmed at the response and enthusiasm of the boys wanting to pull on a jersey again. I haven't seen some of these boys for a very long time so just looking forward to playing with them once more.”

The squad will play in honour of the Testimonial Year of Wales’ three-times Grand Slam winning prop at the venue which launched Adam’s career with both Neath and the Ospreys.

“I am very excited about going back to The Gnoll. It was where it all started for me and to be able to go 'home' and hold my Testimonial game there is an honour. In 2000, when I first pulled on that Welsh All Black jersey, albeit a little snug, and replaced 'Bully" (Andrew Millward) to run out in front of a home crowd against Connaught is something I will always hold dear. Never once did I think I'd be here 12 years later playing a game in my honour.

“The Club and my region have provided great support and I’m looking forward to playing alongside Steve Tandy once more while many of my Ospreys team mates make themselves available for autograph signings in the crowd ahead of their first regional league game of the season.

“I’d like to say a special thank you to Neath Chairman, Phil Davies, Mike Cuddy and Geraint Hawkes. Without their support the Testimonial game would not have been possible.”

The squad to face Neath is as follows:

Forwards: Adam Jones (Ospreys, Wales, British & Irish Lions), Andrew Howells (Neath), Andrew Millward (Neath, Ospreys, Wales A), Daniel Suter (Ospreys, Wales U20s), Paul Jones (Neath), Mefin Davies (Neath, Ospreys, Gloucester, Leicester, Wales), Barry Williams (Neath, Ospreys, Wales, British & Irish Lions), Osprey Hooker (TBC), Lyndon Bateman (Neath, Ospreys), Steve Martin (Neath), Andrew Newman (Neath, Northampton, Ospreys, Wales A), James Goode (Ospreys, Manawatu, Newcastle Falcons), Lloyd Peers (Ospreys), Sam Williams (Ospreys), Richard Francis (Neath, Wales A), Dan Baugh (Cardiff, Canada), Steve Tandy (Neath, Ospreys), Hywel Jenkins (Llanelli, Neath, Ospreys, Wales A), Kati Tu'ipulotu (Neath, Tonga), George Stowers (Ospreys, Samoa), Morgan Allan (Ospreys, Wales U20s)

Backs: Gareth Morris (Neath), Cellan Edwards (Abercrave), Carwyn Owen (Abercrave), Nathan Brew (Neath, Wales), Dave Tiueti (Neath, Ospreys, Tonga), James Storey (Neath), Allan Bateman (Maesteg, Neath, Warrington RL, Wales, British & Irish Lions, Great Britain RL), Mark Taylor (Pontypool, Swansea, Wales, British & Irish Lions), Leigh Davies (Neath, Llanelli, Ospreys, Wales) Andy Williams (Ospreys, Bath, Dragons, Wales), Lee Jarvis (Cardiff, Wales), Dylan Pugh (Neath), Sam Davies (Ospreys, Wales U18s, U20s), Barry Davies (Scarlets, Brive, Ospreys, Wales)