Thursday, 28 February 2013

County to stay at Rodney Parade for ‘foreseeable future’

Newport County are to stay at Rodney Parade for the next decade after signing a 10-year lease with Newport Rugby, which meets the requirements of all three clubs.

With the club having to inform the Football League where they wish to play their games next season, should they get promoted, by the end of the today (February 28), the deal has been confirmed publicly.

The agreement will see improvement works carried out at the ground, which also hosts Newport RFC and Newport Gwent Dragons, including Newport County paying for a new pitch surface to be laid, and the rugby club investing in a new irrigation system.

There are also plans to further develop Rodney Parade over the period of the lease, helping to improve a facility the Newport community can use and be proud of.

Newport RFC CEO Chris Brown said: “We needed a 10-year lease agreement in place in order for [Newport County] to go in to the play-offs, and that’s the thing we’ve managed to do.

“The agreement, I believe, is really good for football at Newport, I think it’s good for rugby at Newport, I think it’s good for the sustainability of the rugby here in Newport, and we’re very excited about the things we are going to be doing together.

“We are going to be doing some serious work on the playing surface over the summer in order to have a flatter and better playing surface available for next season, and for many years to come.

“That’s going to include increased drainage, a sprinkler system and a new surface to some extent on the top. It will be a grass surface and not a synthetic surface.”

Newport County CEO Dave Boddy reiterated the importance of the deal for the football club, no matter which division they will be playing in next year, and that there would be no worries regarding fixture clashes for any of the clubs involved.

He said: “It’s our future here for 10 years, regardless of which league we’re in. On the back of this first year's experience and the history of how the club ran at Spytty (Park, County’s former ground), we decided some time back that we wanted to be here for the foreseeable future.

“The requirement of the Football league to have a 10-year lease has driven that. The detail of the lease has been that it’s had to work for all the governing bodies.”

Rodney Parade director and former Dragons coach Jim McCreedy believes the deal is mutually beneficial to both sides in terms of developing the ground.

He said: “Since [Rodney Parade] was first built, there has been dialogue about football coming here. When the [current] facilities were built it was obviously a natural progression. The more use this gets, it generates more money which, as has been documented, rugby needs. It’s beneficial to both sides.

“County have got an opportunity for bigger gates if they go up, and the beauty of this agreement is that there is an opportunity to improve on what has always been known as one of the better pitches in Wales, even further.

“It’s been hard work for the ground staff and for the operations manager to play as many games as they have, but I think they’ve only lost four games - two for the rugby and two for the football - which really is a brilliant achievement.”

There will also be some joint ventures between the clubs which they believe will benefit the local community and the city of Newport, with details on those to be released at a later date.

Walker returns to Principality Premiership roots

Ospreys wing, Eli Walker, has had a whirlwind year which has seen him win a starting place in the regional first team, as well as being named in this season’s Six Nations 35-man Wales squad.

Walker started his playing career at Gorseinon rugby club before going on to play in the Principality Premiership for Swansea, under the guidance of coach, Richard Webster.
The speedster, who has had the daunting challenge of filling the no 11 jersey vacated by Shane Williams at the Ospreys, has caught the eye of many this season, with his most notable display coming in his man of the match performance against Toulouse in the Heineken Cup.
The one man try machine knows the support the Principality provides to the Premiership is crucial to the successful development of younger players, and in the video below, Walker looks back at his time at Swansea.

Scorpions boost their international ranks with a Scotsman

The South Wales Scorpions could potentially have players in five different international squads at this year’s World Cup, after Scottish international Shae Lyon-Fraser signed a permanent deal from Wigan Warriors.

The 20-year-old centre/wing from Glasgow initially appeared for the club on the dual registration rule from Wigan last year, and after scoring tries in two consecutive friendlies between the clubs as part of their ongoing partnership, the Scorpions have brought him in permanently.

Coach Dave Clark said: “We’re delighted to have signed Shae for the 2013 season. I’m sure that he will be a fantastic asset to the side and I know that he is welcoming the potential to play first team rugby league throughout 2013.

“Shae’s signing means that we now have the potential to have players in five World Cup squads at the end of the year. James Tutuila is a Tongan international, Chris Vitalini has ambitions to play against Wales at the Millennium Stadium for Italy, Haydn Peacock has Irish grandparents and has declared his interests for the men in green, plus of course we have a number of Welsh international players.

“We’re now all looking forward to our first match of the season, against London Skolars at The Gnoll in Neath this Sunday (March 3).”

Jones chasing the leader in La Manga

Welsh golfer Will Jones hit a fantastic opening round at the Spanish International Amateur Championship at La Manga, Murcia, finishing the day just two shots off the lead.

The Oswestry golfer (22) hit a par 73, which ties him for second with six other players; including Englishmen Jamie Rutherford and Harry Casey, and Irishman Dermot McElroy.

It is another Irishman who leads the pack – Lucan’s Richard O’Donovan carded a two-under 71 to make himself the overnight leader.

Strong winds throughout the day made for a few high scores, including fellow Welshman Jason Shufflebotham. The Prestatyn golfer carded 89, with only Italy’s Valerio Pelliccia (90) returning to the clubhouse with a higher score.

Kidderminster’s Henry James, who qualifies for Wales through his Cardiff-born father, carded a first-round 82, leaving him tied for 91st place alongside seven other golfers, including Ireland’s Aaron Kearney.

The Welshmen’s results leave their country tied for 12th (155) with England B and France C in the Nations Cup competition, which sees teams of three competing. The highest carded score is eliminated, with the other two players added together to give a gross score.

Ireland A, made up of O’Donovan, Chris Selfridge and Rheeve Whitson, lead the way with 146.

The Englishmen involved in the draw are looking to bring home the title for the fourth consecutive year, but defending champion Jack Hiluta did not make the best of starts. His first-round 80 left him tied for 73rd with 13 other golfers, including compatriots Harry Ellis, Joshua White, Luke Johnson and Ben Loughrey.

Another notable face is that of European No1 Adrien Saddier. The Frenchman carded a first-round 76 to leave him five strokes behind O’Donovan and three behind Jones going in to day two.

At the end of today’s (Thursday, February 28) play, the top 32 will make the cut to be entered in to the match play format for the remaining three days of the event.

GUW announce Celia Bartlett as new president

The Golf Union of Wales (GUW) have announced that Newport Links president Celia Bartlett is to step in as their new president.

Bartlett (61) was one of the first women to be president of a golf club in Wales, and also plays a key role in ensuring the governing body of Welsh amateur golf meets equality standards.

Celia Bartlett.

Playing off a handicap of 13, Bartlett is a qualified referee, a former Newport ladies’ captain, handicap secretary, competitions secretary and the first lady elected to the Newport club committee.

She has also been secretary and president of the Pembrokeshire society of lady golf captains, and Dyfed ladies league treasurer.

She worked as a PE teacher, and has been on the GUW council since 2007. She follows Louise Fleet as president, who was the first chair of the GUW before becoming president.

She said: “I am looking forward to representing Welsh golf. It will be a lot of hard work, but I am ready for that.

“Wales punches well above its weight as a golfing nation, because we are only small, so it will be nice to represent that and do what I can to promote the image of Welsh golf.

“It is a huge, huge honour, not something I ever envisaged. I was a little late coming to golf because I played a lot of other sports. It is also a great honour for a small club like Newport, so I am delighted.

“I am looking forward to it being an interesting job. The aim is a very simple one, to get more people playing golf – that is the main purpose for the Golf Union of Wales and Golf Development Wales.”

The role as president is a two-year term, while former Ryder Cup Wales chairman John Jermine continues as chairman of the GUW.

"I know that Celia will make a major contribution during her term of office,” said Jermine. “It is vital that the president has a total commitment to making golf fully inclusive, is able to attract new players to the game and must also have an understanding of the culture and history of the union to help with representing us at many high profile national and international events.

“Celia has a wealth of experience and great enthusiasm and passion for the game and we are all looking forward to working with her during the next two years - we are all delighted she is our new president."

Cross and O’Brien Star as Met Romp into the Semis

Cardiff Met booked their BUCS Championship semi-final spot in emphatic style, running rampant in a 9-try victory over Northumbria at Cyncoed.
Sam Cross races away for his second of the afternoon

The capital side are having a stellar year in both University and domestic competitions, having already secured the BUCS South Premier A title, while they currently sitting third in the Swalec Championship.

Captain Sam Cross lead by example for the hosts with two of Met’s nine tries, while fly-half Matt O’Brien notched up 24 points in a commanding performance at the fulcrum.

RAMPAGE: Jordan Saunders was a nuisance in the loose for the Northumbria defence
The hosts were far too strong for the visitors with the Met pack dominating proceedings, allowing their exciting backs to have free reign and carve their rivals apart.

Northumbria’s pack surely realised it was going to be a long afternoon when their scrum was decimated early on by the Welsh students’ eight man drive, and from the resulting penalty, O’Brien found touch inside the opponents’ 22.

Good line-out ball provided the backs with ammunition and after three phases of play, O’Brien’s cute dink over the defence was welcomingly collected by wing, Pierre Tucker, to dab down out wide. O’Brien missed the conversion, but added a simple penalty not long after for an 8-0 lead.

Oli Edwards drives towards the whitewash
Met’s front five were winning the physical contest, and their supremacy paid dividends; after quick, recycled ball, Ben Axten-Burrett and Kyle Tayler combined well to send Cross over for his first of the afternoon.

Northumbria, who struggled to gain any foothold in the match, made a rare foray into opposition territory, with winger Oli Foster looking dangerous with the ball in hand, and they were soon to get their first points when Toby East dropped a goal.

The visitors had a period of ascendancy with a number of promising attacks, but fundamental errors proved costly as inopportune knock-ons spoilt valuable field positions.
The final ten minutes of the half saw the Welsh students back in control, with flanker, Tayler, and hooker, Tom Emery, both barging over after great forward work to lead 29-3 at the break.

TRY TIME: Kyle Taylor shrugs off the tackle of Finlay Coxon-Smith to cross.
The visitors started the second half with a much higher intensity, centre Ryan Martin showing quick feet to make good yardage. Tom Scourfield and Tom Grimes produced powerful carries, and the visitors got their breakthrough when Martin showed great pace to finish off a lovely move in the 22, with East adding the extras.

But that was as good as it got for the visitors as Cardiff unleashed a torrent of sustained attack on the Northumbrian whitewash. Replacement scrum half, Rhodri Davies, reacted first when the ball popped out of the Northumbrian scrum in their own 22 to cross, and with that, any hope of a Northumbrian comeback were quashed.
Cross stretches to claim quality line-out ball
Photos courtesy of Joseph Kiff
Davies’ introduction provided a fresh impetus in the Cardiff backline as O’Brien, Cross, Jack Lavin and Miles Normandale all touched down in the final ten minutes.

Cardiff Met will now host Hartpury  next Wednesday March 6 in the semi-finals of the BUCS Championship, for the chance to play for the crown at Twickenham.

Cardiff Met 64-10 Northumbria

Cardiff Met: Tries: P Tucker 7, S Cross 21, 72, K Tayler 34, T Emery 40, R Davies65, M O’Brien 69, J Lavin 75, M Normandale 80+3; Cons: M O’Brien 21,34,40,66,69,73,75,80+3; Pens: M O’Brien 11.

Northumbria: Tries: R Martin 52; Cons: T East 54; Drop Goals: T East 25.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Wrexham make second loan signing

Player/manager Andy Morrell has continued his busy week since guiding Wrexham to their first finals appearance at Wembley, bringing in defender David Artlell on loan from Northampton Town until the end of the season.

Following Rochdale striker Dele Adebola (37) in through the front door, Artell (32) will also provide experience to a side chasing a league and Cup double that would mark a memorable season for the Dragons.

Artell only joined Northampton in the summer from Port Vale, and scored on his debut as the Cobblers knocked last season’s Capital One Cup finalists Cardiff City out in the first round.

But after 14 starts for the club he ruptured his Achilles tendon in October, missing three months of the season. Northampton boss Aidy Boothroyd believes that the game time will help his player.

He said: “David has found his opportunities limited. He is fit again now and he needs to be playing regular football. We have a lot of competition for places in defence and it won’t do David any good to be sat on the bench.

“He hasn’t played for almost five months and he needs games between now and the end of the season. Wrexham are local to where David lives so it is a logical move for all parties.”

Artell has garnered significant experience of the lower leagues, having begun his career at Rotherham United and making nearly 40 appearances for the Millers.

His career has also seen him take in Mansfield Town, Chester City, Crewe Alexandra and Morecombe, where he made more than 100 appearances.

Neither Adebola or Ardell played in Tuesday’s (February 26) 1-0 win at Barrow due to their international clearance not coming through from Fifa.

Adebola's now has, so he could make his debut at home against Alfreton on Saturday (March 3), while Artell is still waiting for his.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Cold weekend can’t extinguish sizzling Swalec League action

In Division One West, Tondu extended their advantage at the top of the table to 12 points as they comfortably saw off visiting Waunarlwydd 23-15 at Pandy Park.

Darren Thomas bagged a brace of tries for the Waterwheelers, while Daniel Watts also crossed. Outside half Paul Smithson added eight points with the boot.

The result moves Tondu 12 points clear of Cwmllynfell in second, who didn’t play, although they have now played three games more than their nearest rivals.

At the other end of the table, relegation threatened Skewen boosted their hopes of avoiding the drop with a 20-11 home win over Kidwelly.

The hosts outscored their rivals two tries to one with touchdowns from Matthew Myatt and James Ball, while Anthony Buselli slotted both conversions and two penalties to deny the mid-table Black and Ambers a bonus point.

Meanwhile, Carmarthen Athletic leapt to fifth in the table with a bonus point, 39-15 success at local rivals, Llangennech.

Athletic’s Scott Maynard was the star of the show, as the scrum half helped himself to 24 of his side’s points through a brace, four conversions and two penalties. The visitors also crossed three more times through Dyfed Morgan, Rhys Schiavone and Adam Davies.

The only fixture scheduled in Division One East saw Heol y Cyw heap more woe on relegation doomed Tredegar with a staggering 73-0 thumping.

The Cockerels were rampant throughout and ran in 11 tries in all. Paul Songhurst claimed a hat-trick, with Rhys Eskin and Gareth Howells crossing twice. Wayne Howe, Nicky Bees, Luke O’Driscoll and Mike Huckridge also went over in yet another game all those associated with Tredegar will want to forget.

Rhiwbina scored nine tries in a runaway 55-10 victory against visitors Garndiffaith at Caedelyn and returned to second position in Division Two East.

The outstanding Bret Chatwin crossed for four tries, including a superb first half hat-trick, and looked dangerous every time he had the ball in his hands.

Garn had a man yellow carded as early as the fifth minute, and were constantly under pressure in the scrums, where the Squirrels' front row were dominant.

Chatwin had the first of his tries after a break by Richard Saltmarsh, who converted four of the first half tries. Pat Howell stole the ball and charged over for the second Rhiwbina try, and not to be outdone, Paul Smith bulldozed through for the Squirrels' third try.

Great handling saw Chatwin complete his hat-trick, and Garn responded with a try by Rhys Wells.

Wells scored his second try soon after the restart, but then it was all Rhiwbina as they scored further tries through Gareth McCarthy and Joe O'Sullivan, and a 30-metre special from Sean Cochlin, before Chatwin sliced through under the posts for his fourth try, converted by Josh Davies.
Rhiwbina's Pat Howell charges his way over against Garndiffaith
The Nelson-Rhymney and Tylorstown-Llantwit Fardre fixtures were unfortunately called off.

Penarth eased their relegation worries in Three South East with a hard-fought, 10-0 victory over Pentyrch in a vital result for the club.

The Three West title now looks like Amman United’s to lose after the highfliers saw off title rivals Newcastle Emlyn 29-15, to open up a 12-point advantage at the top of the table.

United ran in five tries through Dean Williams, Chris Rees, Ryan Williams, Doug Jenkins and Andrew Lacey.

Trailblazers Bryncethin edged out Briton Ferry in a Four South West try thriller, with the Bridgend side triumphing 36-26.

Lewis Davies bagged a brace for Bryncethin as they outscored the visitors five tries to four, while Tony Millington, Evan Parry-John and Geoff Hobbs also went over for the hosts.

Third-placed Penybanc closed the gap on Cwmgors in second to just a point in Five South West with their 11th win in 12 league games – 47-15 away at Llandybie.

Finally, Gowerton maintained their unblemished league record in Five West with an emphatic 65-0 drubbing of visitors Cefneithin.

The Swansea side, who are a massive 14 points clear of their nearest rivals at the summit, ran in 11 tries with Liam Hedges, Gethin Lillicrap and Lewis Williams all crossing twice for the pacemakers.

Elsewhere in that division, Pembroke closed the gap on second-placed New Dock Saints to just three points with a 31-10 home win over Pontyates, although they have played two more games than their rivals.

Wales women announce Algarve Cup squad

Wales women’s football manager Jarmo Matikainen has named his squad for the Algarve Cup – to be played in early March.

The annual invitation tournament, held in the Algarve in Portugal, sees top women’s teams from all over the world compete over three group games (March 6, 8 and 11), with a final positional match taking place on March 13.

Welsh star Jessica Fishlock will have a quick return to Europe after recently joining Seattle Reign in the States, while the squad has a young look to it. Seven players plying their trade in Wales, and Chelsea Ladies providing no fewer than four of their stars.

Hosts Portugal and Hungary lie in wait, both of whom Wales defeated at last year’s event, with Mexico the third opponents. Wales’ final group foes last year were the Republic of Ireland, with the teams sharing the spoils.

The final match saw Wales go down to Norway, so they will want to go one better this year.

The event will act as preparation for the forthcoming Fifa Women’s World Cup qualifiers.

Wales squad:
Nicola Davies - Chelsea
Rhian Nokes - Cardiff City Ladies
Kylie Davies - Chelsea
Lauren Hancock - Cardiff City FC
Carys Hawkins - Sunnana SK
Hayley Ladd - Coventry
Danielle Oates - Blackburn
Lauren Price - Cardiff City FC
Nicola Cousins - Cardiff City Ladies
Loren Dykes - Bristol Academy
Jessica Fishlock - Seattle Reign FC
Michelle Green - Cardiff City Ladies
Sophie Ingle - Chelsea
Angharad James - Bristol Academy
Rachel Hignett - Bristol Academy
Sarah Wiltshire - Watford
Megan Wynne - Watford
Natasha Harding - Bristol Academy
Shan Jones - Caernarfon
Nadia Lawrence - Cardiff City Ladies
Helen Ward (Lander) - Chelsea
One further player to be added to the squad.

Alice Evans - Cardiff City Ladies
Gemma Jackson - Blackburn
Kayleigh Green - Cardiff City Ladies
Lauren Townsend - Cardiff City Ladies
Stephanie Turner - Cardiff Met Ladies
Helen Bleazard - Chelsea
Josie Green - Watford
Rachel Rowe - Cardiff City FC
Samantha Quayle - Bristol Academy
Erin Vaughan - Aston Villa

Neath continue fine form in Principality Premiership

Neath continued their remarkable turnaround in form by battling back from a 12-point deficit at the Brewery Field on Saturday (February 23) to see off local rivals Bridgend 22-18.

Wing Rhys Ward Jones opened the score for the hosts by finishing off a superb backs move, but for all their possession, they only led 5-3 at the quarter mark as Neath made use of one foray into opposition territory for Dean Cummins to fire over a penalty.

Before the interval, the Ravens were awarded  a penalty try by referee Martyn Williams when they drove the Neath scrum back over their own try line.

The Welsh All Blacks came out with their team-talk ringing in their ears after the break, and following a number of forwards surges, Roy Jones barged over. Lee Davies and Tom Morgan were yellow-carded and the Neath recovery was definitely on with first, Lee Evans driving over, before they were awarded the match’s second penalty try as the Ravens illegally stopped a rolling maul on their try line.

Pontypridd stretched their lead at the top of the Premiership to seven points but had to rally to overcome a spirited Newport at Sardis Road on Friday night (February 22).

The hosts led for most of this encounter  until the 77th minute, but two late converted tries gave Ponty a 32-24 success, securing a bonus point in the process.

Chris Dicomidis, Wayne O’Connor, Matthew Nuthall and Dan Godfrey crossed the whitewash for Ponty, with Dai Flanagan contributing the rest of the points with the boot.

Second-placed Bedwas lost ground in the battle for the top when they went down13-8 at home to Cross Keys on the same evening in almost arctic conditions at the Bridge Field. The visitors are now only a point behind their victims in third spot.

Ryan James bagged Keys’ only try in the first period, which was converted by Dean Gunter, before he was sin binned towards the end of the first half. Despite this, Bedwas didn’t take hold and their numerical advantage was wasted.

Dorian Jones put over two penalties either side of a Lewis Robling effort in the second half, while a late Scott Williams touchdown gave Bedwas a losing bonus point in a much better second half showing, although the match was riddled with handling errors from both sides.

In the other game, Carmarthen Quins beat Swansea for the fourth time this season; winning 23-8 after leading just 6-5 at the break. Swansea finished with only 13 men after the late dismissals of David Blyth and Ieuan Dobbs.

A penalty try and a Rheon James touchdown earned the Quins 10 points, with Chris Banfield’s boot doing the rest. Jamie Thomas crossed in the first minute for Swansea.

In the Championship, only game survived the weather, but Narberth will wish it hadn’t after going down 61-9 at Tata Steel.

The hosts ran in nine tries in total, with Simon Evans and Stuart Edbrook running in a brace each. Gareth Edwards, Lloyd Elliot, Ricky Thomas, Cameron Davies and Gareth Walter also crossed, with Walter also converting five of them and kicking two penalties.

James Russell kicked three penalties for the visitors, who missed the chance to close the gap on Cardiff Met in third place, having now played a game more than them and fourth-placed Newbridge.

Wrexham sign Adebola on loan

Journeyman striker Dele Adebola has joined Blue Square Premier leaders Wrexham on loan from Rochdale until the end of the season.

The Dragons will be the 37-year-old’s 15th club, including other loan deals in his career, scoring 166 goals along the way.

Adebola joined Rochdale on a free transfer in the summer, but has fallen out of favour at Spotland and has decided to move to get more game time.

As well as fighting for promotion back in to the Football League, Wrexham will also provide Adebola with the chance to appear at Wembley in next month’s FA Trophy final.

The former Crewe, Coventry, Nottingham Forest and Bristol City striker managed six goals in 26 appearances for Rochdale this term, with his last coming back in December.

He is a former team-mate of Wrexham player manager Andy Morrell.

A Rochdale statement read: “We would like to wish Dele the very best of luck during his time at the Dragons!”

Morgan earns international selection after impressing on south Wales darts scene

Tonyrefail’s Morgan Dobbs has spent the past few years making a name for himself in south Wales’ various darts competitions, but now he will have the chance to get recognised internationally after earning selection for Wales youth – at the age of just 13!

The Tonyrefail Comprehensive School pupil stars for the Ely Valley Miners alongside his father, brother and grandparents, for Scott’s Hotel in the Glamorgan Men’s Superleague, by himself in the Beddau Premier League, at county level for Glamorgan, and is even earning praise for his talents at the Steve Brown Academy in Bristol.

His international selection through the British Darts Organisation (BDO) at under-18 level will see him compete in the British Youth Internationals (BYI) in Fife in Scotland in April, followed by a trip to Hungary in July for the Europe Cup Youth.

“I came home from school and I checked my phone and I had a text from Sue Williams, the Welsh selector, saying ‘please ring me back, this is urgent’,” explains Morgan.

“I rang her, and she said ‘sorry to tell you, you’ve been selected for Wales’. I just handed the phone to my father and started running around like a lunatic.”

“He was screaming and crying and didn’t know what to do!” adds father Lee, also a keen darts player, who along with wife Julia can drive Morgan between 500-700 miles a month to compete.

“Sometimes it’s baffling what he can do. When those infamous words, ‘game on’, are mentioned, he just gets on with it.”

Morgan with the practice board in the family home, sporting his new competition shirt

Being picked for Wales also means he has gained entry to the World Youth Masters (WYM) in Hull in November as part of his prize. A singles event, he will be facing the best young darts players from around the world.

“I’m looking forward to the BYI and also the WYM because you know there’s going to be some good players if they have been selected for their country.”

He has also impressed for Glamorgan, where he is ranked 47th in the Top 50 players, alongside his brother and captain, Jordan. Playing once a month on a Sunday, they compete against teams from other regions, which brings Morgan face to face with new foes to test his wits against.

The Steve Brown Academies, of which Morgan attends in Bristol, look at bringing through the darting stars of tomorrow, and push them in to the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC). It gives them national competitions to compete in against the cream of the crop of young British darts stars.

All these competitions can see Morgan compete up to five times a week, meaning it is an all-encompassing hobby that has seen him leave his other sporting pursuits, including football and rugby, behind (“his mother does his homework,” quips mum Julia).

“Jordan has been playing for Glamorgan since he was 13 himself,” Julia explains. “Jordan is nearly 21 now, so Morgan has been brought up with a dart board.

“His first board was magnetic, and he used to just throw the magnetic darts at the cloth.”

“He used to come away with us when he was six or seven,” adds father Lee. “When the boys were practicing he would just practice with them.

“He joined his nan and gramps up the Miners when he was nine. He only used to play at home because some clubs were fussy with ages, but he could mark and check a board at nine.”

“Since I’ve been playing I’ve just always enjoyed it,” adds Morgan. “You don’t know who you’re going to play and I hate losing! On a Sunday, most people just have a laugh but I always want to win.

“It’s nice to play people you don’t know because you don’t know how they’re going to play and it always just brings your darts on.”

One memory Morgan already has to cherish was when he got to face two-time World Matchplay runner up Terry Jenkins in a match slightly rigged to favour the younger player. Caller Huw Ware announced that whatever Morgan threw would be doubled, while whatever Terry hit would be halved, meaning there was, only just, an upset on the cards.

“In Beddau I played singles against him,” beams Morgan. “He gave me a signed board.”

He often competes in and wins tournaments against fully grown men, which he says he prefers to facing youngsters as he knows he has to be on his best form.

In 2012, such form saw him hold the Beddau league record of 12 consecutive wins. In the current Pontyclun & District season, Morgan is joint-fourth for the number of 180’s scored with three (father Lee has five), while his highest out is 122 and he is second on the list for the ‘least darts out’ in singles play with 14.

His displays have also led to the birth of his nickname – Dynamite Dobbs – with father Lee explaining: “When he played in Ton Pentre, a fella said to me: ‘that kid by there is dynamite’. So I said: ‘what do you mean?’, and he said: ‘he’s dangerous’.

“I thought about it, and when I was asked what to put on his shirts, I remembered what that guy said and there we go.”

It’s now a case of Morgan just working hard at his game and trying to continually improve himself as he gets older.

“As soon as I leave school I want to play darts,” he says. “The one person that’s really inspired me is Adrian Lewis. He’s the only world champion to go straight from school in to the darts world.”

It’s a dream that father Lee endorses, and with the drive and belief that Morgan displays at an age when most boys are struggling to work life out, there doesn’t seem to be much evidence that he won’t be able to realise his ambitions.

Halfpenny, Dyer and James star in stellar weekend for Welsh sport

Leigh Halfpenny, Nathan Dyer and Becky James were just three names on the lips of Welsh sports fans this morning (February 25) after a memorable weekend for sport in the country.

It was a weekend that saw the Six Nations continue its upturn, the first British cyclist win four medals at one World Championships, and Swansea City become the first Welsh club to bring the League Cup across the Severn Bridge in to Wales.

There were glory tales all over the country, as Wrexham, Cardiff City and Newport County also contributed to 48 hours of celebration.

James kicked off the celebrations early with two bronze medals at the 2013 Track Cycling World Championships in Minsk earlier in the week, continuing the country’s love affair with the sport since the heroics at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Her first world title then came via a thrilling fightback to beat Germany’s Kristina Vogel in the sprint final on Saturday.

The 21-year-old from Abergavenny lost the first race but then levelled and memorably won the decider to send the travelling British contingent in to raptures.

“It’s unbelievable,” she said. “I can’t believe this has just happened to me. I’m world champion and I can't believe it!”

Meanwhile, in Rome, the Welsh rugby side were restoring their country’s faith in the national sport with a solid if unspectacular 26-9 victory over Italy to keep their hopes of a Six Nations title alive.

Leigh Halfpenny kicked 16 of Wales’ points – four penalties and converting tries by Jonathan Davies and Alex Cuthbert - which put Wales in a commanding position on the hour.

Then the defence stood up to the mark and continually repelled the Italian attack, who only registered three penalties through the boot of Kris Burton for their efforts.

The win secured Wales’ fourth successive away victory in the championship, a feat not achieved since 1979, and coach Shaun Edwards was delighted with the Welsh efforts in horrendous rain at the Stadio Olympico.

He said: “If you’d come up with that scoreline when I saw that rain in the morning, I would have bitten your hand off. It was such a wet day and we knew there were going to be a lot of scrums and I thought our scrum was outstanding.

“Whenever we don't concede any tries I am usually pretty happy.”

In football, Wrexham followed the lead of Cardiff City, Newport County and Swansea City in the past year by securing their place at Wembley.

Their path comes via the FA Trophy final, beating Gainsborough 4-3 on aggregate in the semi-final despite a 2-1 loss at the Blue Square Bet North side in the second leg.

Leading 3-1 from the first leg, Danny Wright extended that advantage with a 20-yard strike before the home side fought back to take the lead on the day.

Despite a second-half onslaught, Wrexham held firm to secure their first appearance at the English national stadium in their 120-year history against Blue Square Bet Premier promotion rivals Grimsby Town.

Player-manager Andy Morrell now wants the club to push on for a historic league and Cup double in the closing months of the season. He said: “York did the double last year so there’s no reason why we can't do it this year.

“The league is the priority so we’ve got to try to stay up the top. We’re still top after this weekend and it’s on to Tuesday and to Barrow away – there’s a comedown for you!

“It’ll be a very similar challenge to Gainsborough and we’ve got to be bang at it to get anything from it.”

Elsewhere, Newport continued to challenge Wrexham at the top of the Blue Square Bet Premier table, beating bottom side AFC Telford 2-1 at Rodney Parade to move in to third, just two points off leaders Wrexham and with a game in hand.

Christian Jolley and Danny Crow got their goals and it could have been more, with Jolley in particular a threat, and former Swan Scott Donnelley striking the post for the Exiles.

Manager Justin Edinburgh said: “I thought we were very efficient on a difficult surface, controlling the game from start to finish.

“I’m disappointed to concede the late goal again for the second week running, but overall I was pleased with the team’s performance.”

Then on Sunday, Cardiff continued the weekend of celebrations by returning their lead at the top of the table to eight points, with a game in hand over second and third, thanks to a tight 2-1 win over luckless Wolves at Molineux.

Frazier Campbell continued his incredible start to life at the Bluebirds with a brace to make it five goals in five games since his January move from Sunderland, before a deflected Bakary Sako free-kick signalled a late Wolves flurry the visitors had to defend against.

Cardiff received some of the luck that had evaded them in the midweek loss at home to Brighton, principally when Wolves striker Sylvain Ebanks-Blake somehow hit the crossbar from close range when it was probably easier to score.

Cardiff boss Malky Mackay was pleased with his team’s defensive efforts, saying: “It was never going to be easy here and I have never had an easy game at Wolves. They have players with Premier League quality and I was delighted with the way that we played and controlled the game to get our three points.

“We knew that Wolves would throw caution to the wind after half-time and they did, and I thought we handled that well. I was pleased with the way we saw the game out in the last 10 or 15 minutes.”

Then came the two biggest results of the weekend.

Swansea City defeated League Two side Bradford City 5-0 at Wembley to win the Capitol One Cup for the first time.

Nathan Dyer and Jonathan de Guzman both scored braces, while Spanish sensation Michu added the fifth to cap a perfect if bitterly cold day for the 33,000 who had travelled along the M4 to witness history.

It could even have been more had it not been for a combination of Bradford heads and feet, and even the crossbar at one point, but the winning margin was the greatest in the competition’s history.

The travelling Jacks were in fine voice throughout, and can now look forward to playing European football next term after securing a place in the third qualifying round of the Europa League – where they could even draw opposition from the Welsh Premier League.

Danish boss Michael Laudrup paid tribute to his opponents whose own run to the final added to the fairytale, saying: “This final will be historical, for us as well as Bradford, because I think what they have done this season is incredible.

“[To win] 5-0, and our first season here, I think it’s absolutely great. And now, [time] just to enjoy it!”

Then, finally, James came back to the fore by securing her second gold in as many days in Minsk to put the cherry on top of a sumptuous cake that Welsh fans had gorged on all weekend.

This time it was the women’s Keirin that brought victory as she fully stepped out of the shadow of Victoria Pendleton after the Olympic hero’s retirement from the sport.

She led from the front, fighting off continued attacks from her rivals to finish with the same number of medals as the entire French team for the event.

She was equally dumbfounded second time around, saying: “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe it. Wow. It’s going to take a good week for it to sink in, or two weeks, or a month.

“I just need someone to pinch me and tell me if it’s really happening to me. I feel like it’s a complete dream, apart from the pain in my legs.”

The 12 months of 2012 were labelled as an unbeatable year for sport in Britain, but this cold, dank February weekend showed that Welsh sport isn’t ready to stop partying yet.

Welsh youngsters earn narrow win over France

The Wales under-18s side narrowly beat France 29-27 at St Helens in a close-knit game that saw Wales hold off a spirited fightback.

Allan Lewis’ side always look to play with ball in hand and again showed impressive attacking play that earned them four tries.

France were first to score with a penalty for Toulouse full back Thomas Ramos, but Wales then scored three unanswered tries - two for full back Steffan Evans and one for captain and right wing Dafydd Howells – with Angus O’Brien kicking two conversions.

Wales displayed good decision-making, angles of running and skill levels for all three scores, and although Ramos notched another penalty, the hosts went in 19-6 to the good at the break.

O’Brien added a penalty early in the second half but Wales then dropped their guard and allowed the visitors back into the game.

France scored two tries from outside half Lucas Chouvet and replacement No8 Matthieu Majeau, Ramos adding the extras to take France within two points of Wales at 20-22.

However, Wales responded well with some 15-man rugby, No8 Tom Phillips and lock Josh Helps amongst those to make the hard yards before the backs showed some lovely handling skills to send Howells over, O’Brien’s conversion sealing the win.

France had the last word with a try for Thomas Fortunel in the dying moments, converted by Ramos, but Wales had done enough.

Wales face England next at St Helens on Sunday, March 10 at 2.30pm.

Wales team:
Steffan Evans (Scarlets/Ysgol y Strade/Kidwelly)
Dafydd Howells (captain) (Ospreys/Neath Port Talbot Coll/Abercrave)
Aled Summerhill (Blues/Coleg Morgannwg)
Craig Woodall (Scarlets/Amman Valley)
Josh Adams (Scarlets/Coleg Sir Gar/Pontyberem)
Angus O'Brien (Dragons/Caerleon Comp/Caerleon)
Dan Brooks (Ospreys/Llandovery Coll/Bonymaen)
Dillon Lewis (Blues/Ysgol Gyfun Garth Olwg/Pontypridd)
Torin Myhill (Scarlets/Coleg Sir Gar/Burry Port)
Javan Sebastian (Scarlets/Queen Elizabeth High/Carmarthan Athletic)
Josh Helps (Scarlets/Dyffryn Taf)
Rory Thornton (Ospreys/Gower College/Bonymaen)
Ollie Hitchings (Blues/Cowbridge Comp/Glamorgan Wanderers)
Oliver Griffiths (Dragons/Coleg Gwent/Crumlin)
Tom Phillips (Scarlets/Coleg Sir Gar/Llangennech)

Callum Mitchell (RGC/Llandrillo College/Colwyn Bay)
Ryan Elias (Scarlets/Bro Myrddin/Carmarthen Athletic)
Alex Jeffries (Dragons/Coleg Gwent/Newport)
Adam Beard (Ospreys/Neath College/Birchgrove)
Jordan Collier (Ospreys/Neath Port Talbot College/Neath)
Tom Williams (Blues/Treorchy Comp/Treorchy)
Luke Price (Ospreys/Maesydderwen/Abercrave)
Joe Thomas (Ospreys/Neath Port Talbot Coll/Morriston)

Friday, 22 February 2013

Warburton returns to Principality Premiership roots

Wales Captain, Sam Warburton, looks back on how his time at Glamorgan Wanderers in the  Principality Premiership played a pivotal role in his development as one of the world’s leading openside flankers.

Sam Warburton Principality Premiership Rugby Home - Love Wales


Born in Cardiff, Sam attended Whitchurch High School, where he originally took up an interest in football and starred for the school team alongside current Tottenham and Wales winger Gareth Bale.

After initially having a trial with Cardiff City FC at 14, Sam switched his attentions to the oval ball game and played for Rhiwbina and Glamorgan Wanderers alongside his twin brother Ben in the Principality Premiership, where he won a player of the month award, before joining the Cardiff Blues.

After an initial and successful spell with the Blues Academy, where he was part of their under-20 side that won the U20 Reebok Regional Championship in 2006-07, Warburton progressed to the first team, making his debut in 2009.

Initially, his path to the first team both domestically and internationally was blocked by one of his idols, Martyn Williams, but since Williams’ retirement, he has made the No7 shirt his own.

In May 2010, Warburton replaced Maama Molitika just after the hour mark as the Blues became the first Welsh side to win a European trophy by beating Toulon 28-21 in the final of the Amlin Challenge Cup at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille.

He made his Welsh debut in 2009 against the USA and has gone on to win 35 caps, scoring his first try against Italy in the 2011 Six Nations tournament.

He was named Welsh captain on the verge of the 2011 World Cup, their youngest ever at a tournament, and was magnificent in leading his country to the semi-final stage where he was controversially sent off in Wales’ agonising 9-8 defeat to France.

He captained them to their 2012 Grand Slam success, and is expected to have a long and fruitful career in the game.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Llandudno Junction’s new ‘good citizen’ scheme strengthens their position in the community

North Wales footballing side Llandudno Junction have begun a partnership with their local community police team to help build links with their community, and believe other clubs can do the same.

The ‘Junior Good Citizen Scheme’ encourages all club members to volunteer at community events in the club kit to represent the Railwaymen, with those who attend the most throughout the year receiving rewards for their time.

In return, the local police team will help to generate sponsorship for the club, and the two bodies hope to generate positive publicity for each other along the way. The scheme has already lead to new tracksuits for the players, which they will be wearing when involved with helping the community.
Llandudno Junction players show off their new tracksuits.

Mike Smith is the club’s under-8s coach, new commercial development officer and a committee member. He is also Llandudno Junction’s local police officer, serving as the community beat officer.

The scheme is his brainchild, and he said that the club serves as a perfect opportunity to get to know the people in his area.

He said: “I came up with the good citizen scheme as I wanted to make the club into more than just a football club. I wanted to encourage civic pride amongst the youngest residents in the hope that as they get older they will respect what they helped to create, and also encourage their friends to do the same.

“The scheme is going from strength to strength and community groups from our area, as well as others, are requesting the help of the children. The boys themselves are taking their representation of the club very seriously.

“The whole reason I launched the scheme was with a view to bring down anti-social behaviour and steering kids away from alcohol and drugs.”

The youngsters are already in high demand, with Mike taking plenty of bookings for their services.

“We are manning a ‘spot the ball’ stall at a local church open morning on March 9 to help raise funds for the church, which is in danger of closing. We are also teaming up with a local residents group and councillors to take part in a litter pick at a local beach.”

Mike added that the children will join local police and councillors to perform environmental audits to decide what needs improving in the area, and what facilities are needed. This will give the youngsters a voice for what goes on locally.

The group are available to help any community groups in the area, whether it be fundraising events or helping out at open days. They also receive input from the fire service, first aid lessons and talks from other agencies.

Mike continued: “The older members can access advice from the armed forces recruitment team and also receive help with CVs, job applications and interview preparation, and they can also receive advice about further education from local college representatives.

“We want the club to enhance the lives and education of all those who are part of it, the club and its members to be seen as a vital part of the community, and for the good citizens to be seen as role models for the younger children joining the club.

“Our aim is to be the first club in the area that parents think of when choosing where to send their child to play football, and our hope is that our players improve not only their football skills but also their social skills and their school reports.

“If there is any sign of misbehaviour on the streets then the children lose their spot in their team in addition to any other relevant action. This is proving a real deterrent, and the children all know that they are representing the club when they are out and about, especially when wearing the club tracksuits.

“Parents will also let us know if their child has been misbehaving and where necessary, the child will be dropped from the team in order to support parents. They have reported a marked improvement in behaviour at home.

“All we want to do is have a positive impact on the children’s lives in addition to coaching them to play football, and for them in turn to have a positive impact on their community.”

Mike also believes that the scheme can be put in to place by any club with a view to improving their relations with their local community and helping their young players get a good grounding in life.

The help the staff and players of Llandudno Junction give to the community will also hopefully lead to an increased interest in their matches.

Mike recommends that anybody interested in setting up a similar scheme for their club get in contact with their own local community policing team, while he is happy to provide advice and help at:

Nomads boss signs contract extension

gap Connahs Quay boss Mark McGregor has signed a contract extension with the Welsh Premier League side, tying him to the club until June 2016.

McGregor has been in in charge for three years at the Deeside Stadium, winning back- to-back Cymru Alliance Championships, reaching the semi-final of the Welsh FA Cup and establishing the team in the Welsh Premier League (WPL).

The positive news will be welcomed by fans, following the recent points deduction for fielding an ineligible player, subsequent appeal and then its withdrawal creating instability and interrupting the fixture list. It also meant the club missed out on a place in the Championship for the second half of the season, competing in the Conference half of the table instead.

McGregor has also built himself a reputation for nurturing and developing young talent, with striker Rhys Healey recently being rewarded for his fine form with a January transfer to English Championship side Cardiff City.

He said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to be staying with the Nomads for another three years. We have made significant progress as a club both on and off the field over the past three years, thanks to the tremendous support of gap personnel and, since 2012, our main shirt sponsor Think Accounting.

“We’ve had some really great times - reaching the semi-final of the Welsh Cup was an amazing experience, for example.

“For this season, the immediate priority is to ensure we don’t get dragged into a relegation fight, and then to push on and try to finish seventh or eighth.

“If we are lucky enough to still be in this league next season we will be looking to secure a top-six finish, and from there the sky’s the limit.

“I will continue to work closely with [assistant] Jay Catton and the team at the academy. With this setup, our excellent fans and the great bunch of players at our disposal, I’m confident we will go from strength to strength over the next three years.”

gap personnel CEO Gary Dewhurst said: “It has been a pleasure working with Mark over the last three years, and I am delighted he has agreed to extend his contract.

“He fully buys into the vision of developing the club, alongside the academy, while maintaining our close links with the community.

“He is an ambitious man and we fully realise we will have to help support these lofty ambitions over the next few years.”

Radyr learn their fate for the defence of their Victory Shield

Radyr Golf Club have been given a stern test to open their defence of the Victory Shield; a tough test against the Vale Resort awaiting in round one.

The club will still have fond memories of their 2012 success, in which Brent and Chris O’Neill starred, and they will be hoping they can repeat their run to make the finals day at Ashburnham Golf Club on July 29.

Drawn in the fourth quarter, the winners of that tie will face either Neath or Wenvoe Castle, with potential future foes including RAF St Athan, Pyle and Kenfig and Brynhill, who have a bye until the second round.

In the same quarter, Cottrell Park will have to overcome Lakeside, while Royal Porthcawl have to get past Whitchurch.

The first and northern quarter of the draw sees Wrexham tee off against Holyhead in round one, while Vale of Llangollen, Llandudno – Maesdu, Royal St David’s and Penmaenmawr are among those with byes in to round two.

The second quarter only has two first round ties. Aberystwyth will face Borth & Ynyslas, and Builth Wells have an intriguing tie with Cradoc. Haverfordwest and Penrhos and South Pembrokeshire and Milford Haven all await battle in round two, while finals hosts Ashburnham have been drawn against Derllys Court.

The third quarter sees the Celtic Manor gain a bye in to round two, with Pontnewydd awaiting the grand resort. St Pierre and Morlais Castle will do battle in round one, while Wernddu will have to overcome the test of Greenmeadow if they are to meet Peterstone Lake in round two.

All ties are to be played at a mutual venue agreed by both clubs, with first round ties to be played on April 29.

2013 Victory Shield draw:

First quarter:
First round (April 29):
Nefyn & District v Old Colwyn
Clays v Denbigh
Rhuddlan v Conwy
Wrexham v Holyhead

Second round (May 20):
Northop v Vale of Llangollen
Henllys Hall v Llandudno, Maesdu
Holywell v North Wales
Royal St David’s v Padeswood & Buckley
Bull Bay v Betws Y Coed
Penmaenmawr v Mold

Second quarter:
First round (April 29):
Aberystwyth v Borth & Ynyslas
Cradoc v Builth Wells

Second round (May 20):
Trefloyne v Llandrindod Wells
Haverfordwest v Penrhos
Tenby v Garnant Park
South Pembrokeshire v Milford Haven
Derllys Court v Ashburnham
St Giles v Carmarthen
Cardigan v Machynys

Third quarter:
First round (April 29):
Virginia Park v Pontypridd
Merthyr Tydfil v Llantrisant & Pontyclun
Raglan Parc v Creigiau
St Pierre v Morlais Castle
Monmouth v Caerphilly
Woodlake Park v Mountain Ash
Parc v Bargoed
Whitehall v Pontypool
West Monmouthshire v Monmouthshire
Bryn Meadows v Dewstow
Blackwood v Newport
Aberdare v Tredegar Park
Wernddu v Greenmeadow

Second round (May 20):
Pontnewydd v Celtic Manor
Wernddu/Greenmeadow v Peterstone Lake

Fourth quarter:
First round (April 29):
Llanwern v Llanishen
Pyle & Kenfig v Glamorganshire
Maesteg v RAF St Athan
Southerndown v Pontardawe
Wenvoe Castle v Neath
Vale Resort v Radyr
Whitchurch v Royal Porthcawl
Clyne v Langland Bay
Gower v St Mary’s
Glynneath v Swansea Bay
St Mellons v Cardiff
Lakeside v Cottrell Park
Coed-y-Mwstwr v Mond Valley

Second round (May 20):
Brynhill v Pennard
Coed-y-Mwstwr/Mond Valley v Morriston