Thursday, 31 January 2013

Further rows over Welsh Cup tie venue

Flint Town United have successfully appealed against this weekend’s FAW Welsh Cup tie being switched to Caerau Ely FC, much to the Cardiff-based side’s derision.

The game was originally switched because two cancellations up at Flint mean under competition rules that the fixture is switched to the opponents’ ground. But Flint appealed the decision, believed to be based on the fact that the first postponement wasn’t their fault as it was called on the advice of the FAW due to the heavy snow in south Wales before the game’s proposed date of January 19. It was adjudged as too dangerous for Caerau to travel on that date.

Caerau, unhappy at the decision to switch the game back to Flint, took to Twitter. They said: “The [FAW] have gone against their own rules and we now have to go up to [Flint] to replay our game. It makes you ask why we bother.

“We had an email from [the FAW] saying the decision they made for [the] game to be played was final and [we] could not appeal their decision. I wonder if the English FA would make the same decision?

“The [FAW] cannot go against their own rules. It is unethical and immoral to make such decisions despite clear evidence.

“We have adhered to all the rules expected by us and feel extremely let down by the [FAW]. We will fulfil our fixture as requested.

“If this is the route the [FAW] are heading then we are worried about the future of Welsh Football. We aim to take this matter further.”

Flint also confirmed the switch of the fixture back to their Cae-y-Castell ground.

An FAW spokesperson said: “The committee chairman made the decision initially to switch the game to Caerau but Flint appealed, and the full committee sat and decided to side with Flint so the game was switched back to Cae-yr-Castell.”

The game will kick off on Saturday, February 2 at 2.30pm.

Wales announce squad for Austria game

Wales have announced their squad for the forthcoming friendly with Austria at Swansea City’s Liberty Stadium on February 6.

The biggest talking point is the return of Cardiff striker Craig Bellamy to the fold, with much discussion taking place in the media as to whether the 33-year-old would continue his international career.

He had missed Wales’ opening four World Cup 2014 qualifiers through injury.

Another long-term absentee to return is Jack Collison. His last appearance was in the Gary Speed memorial fixture against Costa Rica almost a year ago, and his return to the Welsh midfield is a welcome one.

Promising young Swansea left back Ben Davies will get the chance to gain extra senior international experience, as will Huddersfield defender Joel Lynch, both of whom made their international debuts in the second half of 2012.

Uncapped Swansea defender Jazz Richards, on loan at Crystal Palace, also gets a chance to show manager Chris Coleman what he can do.

Wales squad:
Goalkeepers: Lewis Price (Crystal Palace), Boaz Myhill (West Brom), Owain Fon Williams (Tranmere).
Defenders: Ashley Williams (Swansea, captain), Jazz Richards (Swansea), Joel Lynch (Huddersfield), Sam Ricketts (Bolton), Chris Gunter (Reading), Adam Matthews (Celtic), Ben Davies (Swansea).
Midfielders: Jack Collison (West Ham), Andy King (Leicester), Joe Allen (Liverpool), Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal), David Vaughan (Sunderland), Joe Ledley (Celtic), Gareth Bale (Tottenham), Hal Robson-Kanu (Reading).
Forwards: Sam Vokes (Burnley), Simon Church (Reading), Craig Bellamy (Cardiff) Craig Davies (Bolton).

Llanelli AFC strengthen further

Welsh Premier League side Llanelli AFC have strengthened their squad with a further three signings, taking the total number of inbound transfers to eight for the current window.

Port Talbot Town midfielder Dylan Blain and striker Jeff White, as well as former Cardiff and Swansea youth product Jordan Smith, have signed on the dotted line to continue what has been a busy month for Llanelli manager Bob Jeffrey.

White will help to fill the void left by the departed Martin Rose, who moved in the other direction this month, and Luke Bowen, who moved to Port Melbourne Sharks.

The former Bridgend Street and Rhoose FC front man has made 20 appearances in his debut Welsh Premier League season for Port Talbot, netting seven times in the process.

Blain is far more experienced at this level, having played more than 330 games for Port Talbot, Haverfordwest and Newtown during his career. His experience will be invaluable as Jeffrey builds a largely new team at Stebonheath Park.

Speaking of Blain’s move, Port Talbot FC said: “Dylan told the club that Port Talbot were by far the best club he has played for, and that he was sad to be leaving, although he desperately wanted to play regularly.

“He added that his favourite memory at the club was beating Swansea City in the FAW Premier Cup.”

Port Talbot also signed three players from Llanelli, with Lee Surman, Martin Rose and Ashley Evans moving to the GenQuip Stadium; Surman and Rose starting their second spells with the club.

Port Talbot winger Nicky Holland also recently made the switch to Llanelli as the players continue to trade personnel.

Smith is a talented midfield player who impressed with Swansea’s reserve side while at the Liberty Stadium. He signs for the Reds from Haverfordwest County and operates in the centre of midfield.

Additionally to all this, Llanelli have announced that winger Geoff Kellaway is leaving the club, having only joined last summer, for local rivals Carmarthen Town.

Kellaway has made 22 appearances this term, scoring twice, as injuries hampered his settling in. Despite this, he was becoming a favourite with Reds fans, who will be sorry to see him go.

A club statement said: “The club would like to wish Geoff the very best of success in the future and thank him for his efforts this season.”

One Evans in and one out for Newport

Wales under-18s captain Lee Evans has signed for Wolves for an undisclosed fee from Newport County, while the club have announced the loan signing of Will Evans until the end of the season.

Speaking of his move, 18-year-old Lee said: "The facilities are superb here and it is a great opportunity for me. I do want to thank everyone at Newport for everything they have done, especially the manager Justin Edinburgh for giving me my chance.

"For him to have all that faith in me and pick a 17-year-old to play at Wembley (in the 2-0 FA Trophy Final loss to York City last May) was unbelievable. And Glyn Jones and the Academy have all been great to me as well and helped me develop my game.

"I’m looking forward to a new challenge now and getting going here at Wolves. I'll go into the under-21s set-up and from there it’s up to me to try and impress and, like all the young players, see if I can get in and around the first team squad."

Evans has made a real impact for Justin Edinburgh’s side since making his debut in March 2012. This season has seen him make 22 appearances (18 starts), bagging three goals as The Exiles battle for promotion in to the Football League.

As well as captaining the Welsh under-18s side, Evans also made his debut for the under-23s last summer, and is currently on standby for the Wales under-21s’ friendly with Iceland on February 6 ahead of the senior team’s friendly with Austria in Swansea the same day.

A Newport statement indicated that there had been interest from “a host of Championship and Premiership outfits”, but Wolves appear to have made their move to beat off the competition.

Replacement Will Evans is also a central midfielder, who previously played for Swindon Town.

He has signed to fill the gap left by Lee's departure, with Exiles manager Justin Edinburgh saying: "We have kept a close eye on the situation regarding Lee and did not want to be caught short going into the second half of the season.

"Will can play centre back or centre midfield, and he will strengthen the squad. Will is a player that we have watched and he is the right sort of player to come to the club."

Welsh badminton stars impress in Cyprus

Every Welsh badminton player who competed at the Cyprus Open reached the final in their event, with three picking up gold medals, ahead of the upcoming Yonex Welsh National Badminton Championships in Cardiff.

The tournament was a huge boost to the sport in this country, with top Welsh players demonstrating their talents against international opponents.

Women’s doubles duo Carissa Turner and Sarah Thomas took gold, with Thomas also celebrating victory with Oliver Gwilt in the mixed doubles. The men’s doubles saw Joe Morgan and Nic Strange completing Wales’ gold medal haul.

Turner and Thomas defeated the home Cypriot pair of Maria Avraamidou and Stella Knekna 21-14, 21-13 in the final of the women’s doubles.

Turner then went on to take silver in the women’s singles after being beaten at the final hurdle by Bulgaria’s world No49 Linda Zetchiri.

Thomas’ second competition fared one better, as her and Gwilt overcame Belgium’s Nathan Vervaeke and Sabine Devooght 21-10, 21-17 for their debut tournament win in only their first year together.

Thomas said: “I am really pleased with my two wins in Cyprus this weekend. It was great to go away and all do so well as a team, showing all our hard work over the past year is paying off.”

Morgan and Strange faced English opposition in the final, and Sam Parsons and Rhys Walker took them to three sets before finally succumbing 22-24, 21-19, 17-21 to leave Wales with its third gold.

Morgan said: “It was great to get back on the winning trail again and gives us a confidence boost ahead of the nationals this weekend.”

Things could have been even better for Wales, but Daniel Font turned his ankle over in the warm up and was forced to pull out of the singles event, as well as the men’s doubles alongside Gwilt.

The players can now look forward to the Yonex Welsh National Badminton Championships at the Sport Wales Centre in Cardiff this weekend, with home favourites in action on both Saturday and Sunday.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Simon Laps up a return to the Bluebirds

Cardiff City have signed former Norwich defender Simon Lappin on a permanent transfer after the ex-Bluebirds loanee was released from his contract in East Anglia.

The versatile defender played twice on loan for the club late last year, and they have now taken the opportunity to sign the 30-year-old permanently to provide cover for first choice left back Andrew Taylor.

Lappin debuted away at Barnsley, where he was sent off for two bookable offences as Cardiff won 2-1, while he also stepped in away at Birmingham in a 1-0 win on New Year’s Day as Taylor was ill.

The former St Mirren defender said: “I’m absolutely delighted to be signing for Cardiff City on a permanent deal and pleased that we’ve now finalised everything. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season and hopefully we can continue the good form we’ve been showing the past couple of months.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my loan spell here with a great squad of lads. The manager, staff and everyone at the club have been fantastic with me and when I heard they wanted me back here on a permanent deal it was an easy decision to return.

“We’re all chomping at the bit to face Leeds at their place on Saturday afternoon, where we’ll have to be on top of our game once again to get the result.

“We’ve got a lot of challenges coming up and we need to be ready every time we step out there now to achieve what we want to.”

Lappin looks to be Cardiff boss Malky Mackay’s third and final signing of the transfer window, following Fraizer Campbell’s £600,000 switch from Sunderland, and young Rhys Healey coming in from Gap Connahs Quay. He will wear the number 24 shirt.

SWALEC Plate fourth round drawn

The fourth round of the SWALEC Plate has been drawn, with fixtures currently pencilled in for February 16.

There are still 10 third round fixtures to decide thanks to the recent inclement weather, but these teams can now square up to each other knowing what fates await them in the last 16 of the competition.

The only north division team in the hat, Pwllheli, have been drawn away at Division Two West side Felinfoel, and will be looking to keep their run going.

There are three Third Division sides still in the competition, with the winner of Brecon (Three South East) and Waunarlwydd (One West) drawing Two East’s Llantrisant at home.

Pontypool United (Three East) or Pill Harriers (Two East) will face Taibach (Two West) away, while Brynmawr (Three East) could be travelling to One West’s Kidwelly if they overcome Garndiffaith (Two East) and Crymych (Two West) in their respective still-to-be-played third round ties.

SWALEC Plate fourth round draw in full:
Rhydyfelin/Rhiwbina v Loughor
Ystrad Rhondda/Treorchy v Seven Sisters/Kenfig Hill
Waunarlwydd/Brecon v Llantrisant
Taibach v Pontypool United/Pill Harriers
Cwmllynfell v Builth Wells
Heol y Cyw/Maesteg v Penallta/Nelson
Crymych/Kidwelly v Garndiffaith/Brynmawr
Felinfoel v Pwllheli

Afan Lido hopeful of signing Prangley

Welsh Premier League strugglers Afan Lido say they are close to signing striker Simon Prangley from Taffs Well.

A spokesperson for the club said: “We were speaking to the player this morning and it was pretty much agreed. We’re just waiting now, and we hope to push it through before the end of the window.”

The striker has been in fine goalscoring form for the Welsh League Division One table toppers, who will be disappointed that a prolific player has moved on at such a crucial time in the season.

Club secretary Norma Samuel said Prangley leaves the club with their best wishes, and that there could be a replacement signed in the near future.

She said: “He wants to try his luck in the Premiership and good luck to him. We’ve got good cover and plenty of irons in the fire.

“He is a very good player and we wish him all the best. The boy is showing great ambition so good luck to him.”

Afan Lido have only managed four wins and two draws from their 21 fixtures this season, and will be hoping Prangley can help reverse their stuttering form as they battle to avoid dropping down in to the Welsh League.

Newport could face Swansea in SWALEC Cup

The draw for the SWALEC Cup second round drew up the mouth-watering proposition of Newport facing up to Swansea in round two if the Gwent side overcome Bonymaen.

Swansea have been struggling for any sort of form in the Principality Premiership this season, but they can again put aside the stresses and strains of league rugby to look forward to a plum tie at Rodney Parade if Newport progress.

If top Premiership side Bedwas can overcome Llandovery in their yet-to-be-played first round encounter, then they will travel to Carmarthen Quins.

Elsewhere, the winner of the all-Championship tie between Ebbw Vale and Newbridge will be rewarded with a trip to Cardiff RFC’s Arms Park stadium, where the hosts narrowly overcame a plucky Cardiff Met side in round one.

Tata Steel will play host to Pontypridd in another fixture seeing a Championship side trying to topple a Premiership opponent.

An all-Championship encounter will see the winner of Blackwood and Pontypool taking on Glamorgan Wanderers, with all three teams looking to put disappointing league campaigns aside in the hope of Cup glory.

SWALEC Cup second round draw in full:
Carmarthen Quins v Bedwas/Llandovery
Neath v Cross Keys
Blackwood/Pontypool v Glamorgan Wanderers
Whitland/Aberavon v Llanharan/Beddau
Bargoed v Bridgend Ravens
Newport/Bonymaen v Swansea
Tata Steel v Pontypridd
Cardiff v Ebbw Vale/Newbridge

Only three sides confirmed for SWALEC Bowl fifth round

With the recent decimation of fixtures brought about by the ever-changing weather, only three sides had been confirmed for the last 16 of the SWALEC Bowl by the time of the fifth round draw.

Tycroes, Penlan and Fishguard are the only teams definitely through to the latter stages, with 29 teams in total appearing in the draw for a place in the quarter-finals.

The ties will take place on February 16.

Tycroes, of Division Four West, will travel to the winners of the all-Division Four South East tie between Wattstown and Llantwit Major, while Penlan will travel to either Abercwmboi or Cardiff Meds. Fishguard, of Division Four West, will get a chance at a Cup shock as they host the winners of the all-Division Two North clash between Shotton Steel and Llangollen.

Other potential shocks await too. Either Hafodyrynys (Four East) or Nantyglo (Five East) will get COBRA or Denbigh (both Two North).

Six West side Cambrian Welfare, the lowest ranked team left in the tournament, can also get a chance at a shock if they overcome Five South Central side Glyncoch. The winner of that tie will travel to either Bettws (Five East) or Monmouth (Four East).

Swalec Bowl fifth round draw in full:
Blaenavon/Brynithel v Glyncorrwg/Pontrhydyfen
Wattstown/Llantwit Major v Tycroes
New Dock Stars/Penybanc v Pontycymmer/Bryncethin
Hafodyrynys/Nantyglo v COBRA/Denbigh
Abercwmboi/Cardiff Meds v Penlan
Canton/Cilfynydd v Newport Saracens/New Tredegar
Fishguard v Shotton Steel/Llangollen
Bettws/Monmouth v Cambrian Welfare/Glyncoch

Premier clubs to clash in Welsh Cup

Bangor City will host Newtown or Airbus UK, while Carmarthen Town will face Prestatyn Town in the quarter-finals of the FAW Welsh Cup.

The Premier League sides were drawn together this week at FAW HQ, with all the ties set to be played on the weekend of St David’s Day - March 1-3.

The winner of the Caerau Ely/Flint Town United tie, which has been switched to Cardiff this weekend (February 2) after two postponements in Flintshire, will play host to Barry Town in the quarters, meaning that there will be at least one lower league representative in the semi-finals of the competition.

The final tie sees Haverfordwest County play host to the winner of the TNS/Rhyl fixture, where neither side will fancy the long trip to the Welsh League Division One promotion hopefuls.

Draw in full:
Bangor City v Newtown AFC/Airbus UK Broughton
Caerau Ely/Flint Town Utd v Barry Town
Carmarthen Town v Prestatyn Town
Haverfordwest County v The New Saints/Rhyl FC

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Support Welsh Rugby this 6 Nations

I’m not sure about any of the All Wales Sport viewers, but I for one were warmed to the cockles of my heart reading how the WRU have kindly lowered prices for next year’s home Six Nations matches against Scotland and Italy.
It was so nice to see a sporting governing body truly in touch with its supporters. Knowing how difficult economic times are at present, it was a real shot in the arm to the Welsh supporter... - Who am I kidding!?
The Welsh rugby team had an awful Autumn series and after the first two losses, a huge batch of returned New Zealand tickets came on sale - I remember about five years ago that I practically had to sell my soul to get my hands on a pair! The alarm bells must surely have been ringing in Roger Lewis’ ears.
“The WRU wants to play its part in supporting Welsh clubs and fans in these tough economic times.” Roger Lewis
Wales are defending 6 Nations champions and only have two home matches this year, with the final match against England which will always sell out. However, during the past few weeks twitter and indeed, All Wales Sport have been inundated with clubs trying to offload unwanted Ireland tickets. The Ireland match nearly always produces in terms of entertainment and controversy (re: Mike Phillips quick throw-in and the story of tip tackles last year) but at an average price of £75 a ticket, the WRU are quite frankly taking the proverbial.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my country and my rugby and the two go hand in hand, nothing makes me happier than when Wales are playing well, especially after living through the very sparse years of the 90’s.
Much has been alluded to about how the Welsh rugby regions are struggling both on and off the field, with Ospreys competing with a premier league football team while their rivals down the M4 are looking likely that they will face similar opposition to filling seats.
However, Wales’ fifth region - its national rugby team - has pretty much been immune to these dwindling numbers and clever ad campaigns from the WRU such as ‘support the boys’ has made sure Internationals are sure fire ways to line the coffers of the governing body, while clubs lower down scratch around to barely make ends meet.
So this Saturday, if you truly want to get behind Welsh rugby, go along to your local rugby club and watch the match in a great atmosphere where it won’t cost you £5 for a pint!

Monday, 28 January 2013

Caerau Ely lament fruitless trip to Flint

Caerau Ely chairman Mark Rees has labelled the decision to allow the team to travel 426 miles for a Welsh Cup football game at Flint Town that was “never going to be played” an “absolute joke”.

The fourth-round tie was doubtful for Saturday, January 26, but the capital city minnows made the trip to North Wales, which is a 332-426-mile round trip depending on which route they chose, after being told by an FAW official the game would be on.

Mr Rees said: “They were desperate to get the game on due to the double postponement rule (which sees the game switched to the away side’s ground if it is called off twice).

“They had a pitch inspection at 7.30am and we were told by the FAW official the game would be 100 per cent on. When we were an hour from Flint the same official called and again there was no issue.

“We arrived at quarter to one and the pitch was like a swimming pool, there was no way it would ever have gone ahead.

“There’s a bit of controversy because we should never have travelled. It cost us several hundred pounds to get there. We think it’s a bit selfish really.

“They worked really hard and were desperate to get the game on but it’s a shame we travelled. We really wanted to play.”

Caerau posted on Twitter: “It is unacceptable for a small club to travel all the way to north Wales to play a game on a pitch which was totally unplayable.”

An official statement from Flint Town said: “We regret that the game was called off at such late notice, approximately an hour before the scheduled kick-off. However, we have acted in good faith throughout, and following an early morning inspection by a Welsh Premier League official, the pitch was passed fit.

“In the intervening hours, a team of committee men and supporters worked hard to clear the remaining surface water off the pitch. However, the appointed match official decided that the pitch was unplayable following his inspection.

“Although it is true that there were still areas of surface water on the pitch, we were disappointed at this decision, especially as the game at near neighbours Connahs Quay went ahead in similar circumstances.

“This is the second successive week that this tie has been postponed. However, we would stress that on the first occasion this was done specifically at the request of the Welsh FA, who deemed the prevailing road conditions in the south Wales area meant that it was too dangerous for Caerau Ely to travel.”

An FAW spokesperson said: “After the first inspection (on the day) it was felt the game could go ahead. There was snow on the pitch but it was okay underneath.

“It was the same after a further inspection, and attempts were made to clear the snow off the pitch. But by kick-off the pitch was unplayable as a lot of the snow had melted.

“Although the decision was made by the match official, both clubs agreed the game couldn’t be played.”

Mr Rees confirmed that Caerau’s Cwrt-Yr-Ala ground would host the re-arranged fourth round tie, with a place in the quarter-finals at stake. It takes place this Saturday (February 2).

Swalec Cup Round Up

Carmarthen Quins made light work of the conditions to cruise into the second round of the Swalec Cup with a comfortable 36-15 victory over Narberth at the Lewis Lloyd Ground.
The Quins were wary of history repeating itself going into the match with the Premiership side falling to lower league opposition last season, but the visitors were on the front foot from the outset, with centre Alex Pickersgill opening proceedings with a well-taken try.
With a strong wind in their favour, Quins ran in a further four tries before the interval with scrum half Rhodri Wells grabbing a brace, while Chris Banfield and Rheon James also went over to lead 31-3 at the break.

Narberth, who are having a fine season in the Championship, did have the better of the second half with Stuart Morris crossing, while the referee awarded a penalty try for a trip on Steve Martin. James Russell added a conversion to go with his first half penalty but the damage had already been done.

It was the visitors that were to have the final say with Banfield racing over for his second of the match.
In the capital, Cardiff Met were denied a famous Swalec Cup victory, as James Thomas crossed at the death to spare seven time winners Cardiff's blushes in the first round at the Arms Park.
 Indiscipline very nearly cost the hosts dearly, with back row Dan Crimmins given his marching orders on the hour mark for a second yellow, while Ryan Harford was also sinbinned early on.
The Students, who sit third in the Championship, settled any early nerves thanks to a Miles Normandale touchdown, with Matt O’Brien adding the extras and firing over a penalty.
However, it was the Premiership side that would lead at the interval thanks to two Joe Griffin penalties and a try from flanker Reuben Tucker.
As proceedings progressed, the playing surface began to resemble a treacle topped pitch with it becoming very much a war of attrition up front, but the young students' pack more than held their own.
The Blue and Blacks continued to fall foul of the referee, with fly half O’Brien on hand to punish the hosts and looked to have booted his team to a cup upset, as they led 16-13 going into the final ten minutes.
Outside half Thomas ensured there would be no fairytale ending for the Students though, as he jinked over to break the visitors’ hearts.
Backed by a boisterous following, Cardiff Met tried desperately to regain the advantage but Martyn Fowler’s men were not to be denied as they sealed a hard-fought place in round two.
Premiership strugglers Swansea avoided a potential banana skin when they entertained the Swalec Cup’s lowest ranked team RGC 1404 at St Helens.
The hosts were comfortable winners in the end but the North Wales side certainly made them work for the win.
With an average age of just 19.5 years, it was perhaps no surprise that the visitors were a little naive at times and tried to play running rugby in suicidal situations. The All Whites made them pay in the opening half then, with tries from James McWilliams-Gray, Nathan Brooks Nicky Harwood and Aled Jenkins, the latter converted by full back Nicky J Thomas.
Chris Horsman’s men regrouped, raising their game after the break and their tenacious tackling began to pay dividends as they dominated the third quarter. They were eventually rewarded when replacement Rhodri Evans returned a Swansea kick with interest, with Carwyn Ap Myrddin finishing off the move to score from close range.
The North Walians continued to cause problems but were unable to turn pressure into points, and Swansea restored their twenty point lead when referee Kelvin Shorte awarded the All Whites a penalty try for a collapsed scrum.
RGC weren’t finished, however, and had the last say when substitute Callum Mitchell crossed from close range for an unconverted try.
Bridgend, twice winners of the Welsh Cup more than a quarter of a century ago, eased their way into the second round of this season’s competition with an emphatic derby victory over the town’s Athletic side at the Brewery Field.
 They produced an outstanding performance, despite being greatly below strength due to calls on their players to do LV Cup duty with the Ospreys against the Dragons last night.
 One of the stars was ironically former Athletic back row man, Tom Morgan, who was sin-binned early in the game, before returning to the field to cross for an important try.
He proved the scourge of the Athletic team, continually being a key man in their set piece dominance.
 Wing Rhys Ward-Jones, another ex-Athletic player, also made a significant mark on his rare appearance for the Premiership side, going over for a try in each half.
 Athletic were still just in contention at the interval trailing only 14-3, but the Ravens consolidated their advantage in the second period and deserved to march on with something to spare.
 Andrew Waite and Scott Hicks both crossed after the break, while Lewis Williams converted three of the five touchdowns.
 All Bridgend Athletic could manage was a Steve Lewis penalty after just three minutes which gave the Division One side the lead, albeit short-lived   
 Elsewhere, fourteen times winners Llanelli were dumped out of the Cup by Pontyrpidd at Parc y Sacrlets, while the other five scheduled ties fell foul of the the inclement weather.

Neath to face Aberavon Greenstars on Friday

Neath will travel to take on Aberavon Green Stars this Friday in a celebration match (kick off 7.15pm).
The Little Warren-based club are celebrating their 125th Anniversary and were due to play Aberavon on that date but the Talbot Athletic side have to play their postponed Swalec Cup game at Whitland at the weekend so Neath have stepped in to fill the breach.
Neath coach Pat Horgan said, "Having had a bye in the Cup, we'd have gone three weeks without a game which is too long, so this is an ideal opportunity to get some game time before the next big one at home to Cross Keys the following Friday.
"For any club to reach 125 years is a significant milestone and we congratulate Aberavon Green Stars on their achievement and we are delighted to step in to assist their celebrations." 
Neath last played the Green Stars as part of  their centenary celebrations on September 8th 1987.
Neath won 52-12, scoring 10 tries in the process through wingers Chris Higgs and Graham Davies (two each), centre Robbie James, Adrian Davies, replacement Lee Evans and one for each of the back row Lloyd Isaac, David Morgan and Adrian Varney.
Johnny Griffiths (2), Steve Powell, Lee Evans and Adrian Davies kicked conversions. Adrian and Chris Bridges, who made their debuts in that game, went on to become full Welsh internationals.
Popular long-serving lock Steve Dando captained the Neath XV which was :- Jonathan Griffiths; Chris Higgs, Robbie James, Steve Powell (Lee Evans), Graham Davies; Adrian Davies, Chris Bridges; Phil Jones, Mike Richards, Mike Truslove; Steve Dando (captain), Tony Rees; Lloyd Isaac, David Morgan, Adrian Varney

Bedwas RFC 'building for the future' after ground purchase

Bedwas RFC secretary David Cousins billed this weekend as a “proud” moment for the club after they completed the purchase of The Bridgefield back from the holding company it has belonged to in recent times.

Now that they own their car park, ground and club, with the deal completed Friday, Mr Cousins said that it would provide them with “stability”, and a chance to “plan our own destiny”.

He told the Mid Glamorgan Press: “It is a great achievement to get our ground back, and now we can go from strength to strength.

“We’re top of the Premiership and we hope to be around there come the end of the season. Not many people know we have been in the Premiership since it started 10 years ago, and now we want to become one of the biggest clubs in Wales. That’s the goal.

“We’re very proud of what we’ve done, and we are looking forward to building the club.”

Back in November 2011, Caerphilly County Borough Council announced they were helping the club financially as they “need to improve their facilities in line with WRU requirements”, with funding being agreed at a full cabinet meeting on November 3 of that year.

Speaking at the time, Coun Colin Mann, deputy leader of council, said: “We are delighted to support Bedwas RFC as we recognise the club’s important role in the community. We look forward to the club progressing thanks to this investment.

“The council has provided financial support to other local rugby clubs in the past and we have seen positive results from this arrangement.”

Mr Cousins announced there would be a celebration day “for all the people who’ve helped” to mark this achievement, with February earmarked for the event. Members can keep an eye on the Bedwas RFC website for details announced in the near future.

He added: “We’re grateful to the council for all their help with the purchase, and to chairman Mark Lewis and the other directors who worked tirelessly to get to this point.”

Friday, 25 January 2013

Rees to join Blues in summer

Former Wales captain, hooker Matthew Rees, is set to join Cardiff Blues from Llanelli Scarlets in the summer after agreeing a two-year contract.

The 57-times capped Welshman has captained his country on eight occasions, and will leave Parc y Scarlets after nine years with the region.

“Leaving the Scarlets has been a tough decision to make after being there for so many years,” said the 32-year-old Tonyrefail native. “[That] is where I established myself as a player, however I feel that this is the right decision at this point in my career.

“From working with Phil [Davies, Cardiff Blues coach] in the past, I know he is a very organised coach, and knows how to get the best out of players. I am looking forward to working with him again.

“So far this season, I have been really impressed with the young players that Phil has brought through and now with some key signings to strengthen the squad, I’m sure there will be more success to come from the team, which with my experience I hope to contribute to.”

Rees played in all three of the British Lions tests in South Africa in 2009, and formed part of the famous all-Welsh front row alongside Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones.

He missed the 2011 Rugby World Cup campaign through injury, and has struggled to hold down a regular starting berth at Llanelli since, so has decided to move on to pastures new.

Scarlets coach Simon Easterby wished Rees well for the future, saying: “Matthew has contributed a great deal to the region during his years with us; he has set high standards, made a mark for others to aspire to and been a strong mentor for a number of our younger forwards in recent years, pushing their development forward.

“We respect Matthew's reasons for moving to a new region and wish him all the very best with the Cardiff Blues.

“He leaves with our sincere thanks, gratitude as a region and respect for all he has done and achieved in a Scarlets shirt. He has been a key part of our team.”

Further bad news for Scarlets comes in the form of centre Rhodri Gomer-Davies announcing his retirement after failing to overcome a knee injury.

But fans will be buoyed, though, by the news that hooker Emyr Phillips and prop Phil John have signed new contracts with the region.

Swalec Cup Predictions

The first round of the Swalec Cup competition kicks off this weekend with Premiership sides, Championship sides and North Wales development side RGC 1404 being pitted against each other in a bid to reach the second round.
With the weather predicted to thaw before Saturday, grounds may be more under threat from waterlogged conditions rather than frozen pitches, and with the LV Cup and Six Nations round the corner, some Premiership sides may see their resources stretched.
Newport v Bonymaen-POSTPONED
Bedwas v Llandovery - POSTPONED
Blackwood v Pontypool- POSTPONED

Bridgend Ravens v Bridgend Athletic
With bragging rights at stake, the first of the local derbies will surely bring the whole of the town out. Athletic gave Premiership side Neath a scare last year and will be looking to go one better against their local rivals.
 However, the Ravens have come along well under coach Ben Rose, though losing no fewer than 18 players to various commitments is likely to stretch their resources, but I think they should come through unscathed.
Verdict - Bridgend Ravens by 7 points.
Cardiff v Cardiff Met
The students have impressed this year in the Championship and will be hopeful of going on a similar Cup run as last year that saw them reach the quarter-finals  Cardiff also reached the quarters last year and will be eager to stay in the mix for the title.
Verdict - Cardiff by 12 points.
Ebbw Vale v Newbridge -POSTPONED
Llanelli v Pontypridd
This, on paper, is the tie of the round; both are former winners with Pontypridd on the hunt for a league and Cup double.
Llanelli will be weakened by the LV Cup and will be missing a handful of players, but the Carmarthenshire team has won the Cup on 14 occasions and have a perfect record at home so far this season.
"We've not lost at home yet this season and all you can ask for in a cup competition is home advantage,” commented head of rugby, Anthony Buchanan.
"Pontypridd are one of the favourites for the cup but if you're going to play the best sides at any time, you might as well play them early on in the competition."
Ponty will look to put the disappointment of going out of the British and Irish Cup behind them with a big performance, and will be targeting a Cup and League double after falling just short last season.
However, they too have a number of players missing through injury and other commitments, but will be determined to still be in the hunt for the draw come tea time tomorrow.
“What will carry us through into this game is our absolute desire to succeed in this competition. The Welsh Cup is always an important target for us and will see us rise to the huge challenge that an away trip to Llanelli poses. We will give it our best shot,” said team manager Richard Langmead.
Verdict - Pontypridd by 6 points
Llanharan v Beddau
The sides met back at the start of the season in the league with the Dairymen just edging it and I predict another tight contest.
Llanharan have won their last three matches on the bounce and will be high in confidence going into the clash. With the Dairyfield sure to be heavy underfoot, it will be a battle up front and I think the hosts will just clinch it.
Verdict - Llanharan by 6 points
Narberth v Carmarthen Quins
Quins travel to the Lewis Lloyd Ground looking to build on their impressive performance against Cornish Pirates last weekend, but the Premiership side will be wary of the lower leagued opposition, having gone out at the hands of Ebbw Vale last season.
"They are very strong and we know what these games are like because Ebbw Vale knocked us out last season. Going down there will be a very tough game, it'll be a big occasion for them,” cautioned Quins team manager Steff Thomas.
"We've got ambitions to do well in the cup and we'd love to have a good cup run.
“But we've got to take it one game at a time. We've got to get past Narberth first and that will be a huge challenge,” added Thomas.
Narberth will undoubtedly be up for the encounter and are the highest place West side in the Championship this season and will be gunning for an upset. However, I think the visitors will be too strong for the Otters.
Verdict - Carmarthen Quins by 15 points.
Swansea v RGC 1404
Swansea won their first match in eleven attempts at Dundee last weekend and will be looking to build some momentum when they host the Cup’s lowest ranked team RGC 1404.
The All Whites will be missing several players due to the LV Cup but would hope to have enough strength in depth against the Division One East side.
The North Wales development side have won ten out of twelve matches to see them sit second in the table, and will be hoping to cause an upset here, but I think the step up will ultimately be too big.
Verdict - Swansea by 20 points.
Whitland v Aberavon
Both of these sides are struggling in their respective leagues this season but the Borderers did produce the goods at home once this season when they defeated Ebbw Vale.
In my opinion, the Wizards should run away with this as they look to end a poor run of results.
Verdict - Aberavon by 25 points.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Bluebirds to sign Healey

Gap Connahs Quay have announced on their website that striker Rhys Healey has signed for Cardiff City, but it is believed he still has to undertake a medical.

The 18-year-old has been in great form for the Welsh Premier League side, who face Bangor City in the Welsh Cup fourth round this weekend, notching 12 goals in 12 starts and eight substitute appearances this season.

Described as “shy but personable” by the north Wales club, he has agreed terms on a two-and-a-half-year deal with the current English Championship leaders.

The statement on Connahs Quay’s website said: “Rhys has been a pleasure to know, always keen to help and in love with the game.

“His attitude was best summed up when the first team match with Prestatyn was waterlogged off, and with no game for 10 days the team arranged a day out.  Rhys wanted to play instead and went to a quagmire of a pitch to turn out for a very young Nomads team at Coedpoeth; he scored a hat-trick as our mostly under-17 side beat the WNL title chasers in the NEWFA Cup.

“Cardiff City have been brilliant in the way they have worked with us; generous, patient and always courteous.  If they treat Rhys as well, and I am sure they will, then he’s got a great chance at a great club.

“Congratulation and good luck Rhys! It is no more than he deserved, having been enthusiastic, hardworking and loyal since he first pulled on an academy shirt here.”

Welsh Cup Fourth Round Predictions

This weekend sees the fourth round of the Welsh Cup take place, with five of the top six sides in the Welsh Premier League in action.

Chepstow Town v Havorfordwest

Many neutral eyes may be on Larkfield Park where Welsh League Division Three side Chepstow Town take on Haverfordwest.

Chepstow are the lowest-ranked team still in the competition, and they face a stiff challenge from Havorfordwest, who currently sit fourth in Welsh League Division One, four points off the top and with at least one game in hand on the three teams above them.

But Chepstow have only lost once in seven matches stretching back to October, and will surely be looking to stretch their run further, so could push this in to extra time.

Prediction: Chepstow 1-2 Havorfordwest (AET)

TNS v Rhyl

Having recently lost the Word Cup final to Carmarthen on penalties, Premier League leaders TNS will want to put things right in this encounter.

Rhyl currently lead the Huws Gray Alliance league by 14 points, although second-placed Caersws do have two more games to play.

They are unbeaten in 25 fixtures this season, and will want to put on a good performance live on S4C, but they may find TNS a step too far.

Rhyl have scored in every game this season, while TNS have managed to do so in all but five matches since the league season started in August, so expect goals!

Prediction: TNS 3-2 Rhyl

Carmarthen Town v Bala Town

Both these sides are almost identical in form this season, Carmarthen’s one extra draw putting them a point ahead of Bala in the Premier League table.

It is Carmarthen’s first match since that memorable penalty win over TNS, and they will be looking to continue their good Cup fortune.

Bala hold the upper hand in the head-to-head this season with a 3-0 win at Maes Tegid back in September and a 1-1 draw at Carmarthen last month, surely giving them confidence to avoid defeat once more.

Prediction: Carmarthen 1-1 Bala Town (AET, Carmarthen on penalties)

Newtown v Airbus UK

Another all-Welsh Premier League tie takes place at Latham Park as Newtown take on second-placed Airbus UK.

Newtown are unbeaten in four since a 2-1 home defeat to Afan Lido on December 15, but the last time these two sides met, Airbus triumphed by the same scoreline last November.

Airbus triumphed 6-1 at Prestatyn Town last time out and will be looking to put on a similar attacking performance to ensure Cup progression. It is difficult to see past them doing so.

Prediction: Newton 0-2 Airbus UK

Gap Connahs Quay v Bangor City

The third and final all-Welsh Premier League tie sees Connahs Quay host Bangor in what should be a close game.

The Nomads are unbeaten in four and have been busy in front of goal, notching no fewer than 10 goals in 360 minutes of league football, or one every 36 minutes.

Bangor, on the other hand, haven’t won in five, which has seen them slip to fourth in the table in the chase for European places. However, three of these have been score draws, so Bangor are in good goalscoring form as well.

We can hopefully expect goals in this one then as well.

Prediction: Gap Connahs Quay 2-1 Bangor City

Barry Town v Pontardawe Town

Welsh League Division One promotion hopefuls Barry Town host Pontardawe Town in what looks like another tough fixture to call.

Five points separate the sides, but Barry have played four fixtures more, indicating it could be a tough day at the office for the home side.

Yet their last fixture on January 12 saw Barry survive a late Pontardawe fightback to secure a 2-1 victory. 

Pontardawe’s previous six fixtures had seen them unbeaten, keeping four clean sheets in the process, showing how good a victory it was for Barry.

This time should see the away side put the record straight.

Prediction: Barry Town 0-1 Pontardawe Town

Prestatyn Town v West End

That Airbus UK hammering aside, Prestatyn have been in good goalscoring form as of late, notching 18 goals in their last seven fixtures. Andy Parkinson has notched six of those from midfield, and he is one player West End will have to keep their eye on.

West End have been going well in the Welsh League Division one, and this game will provide welcome respite from the daily pressures of league football.

They are unbeaten in 11 fixtures in all competitions stretching back to August, but haven’t played since December 8 in the last round of the Welsh Cup, and haven’t played a league fixture since November 3.

A lack of recent fixtures could work against them.

Prediction: Prestatyn 2-0 West End

Flint Town United v Caerau Ely

The final fixture sees Huw Gray Alliance side Flint play host to Caerau Ely of the Welsh League Division Two.

Flint have called for volunteers to help them clear the pitch of snow before the fixture in fear of the snow melting, flooding the pitch and getting the game called off, so it is touch and go currently whether this tie will go ahead.

Caerau travelled to Flintshire in the last round and defeated Flint’s neighbours Holywell Town 2-0, so won’t be worried about another long trip up north.
But Flint should have too much for their visitors on this occasion and see themselves progress.

Prediction: Flint Town United 2-0 Caerau Ely