Sunday, 31 March 2013

Welsh League and Huws Gray/Welsh Alliance round-up

Haverfordwest’s hopes of a Welsh League title and return to the Premier league look severely perilous after being held to a scoreless draw by Aberdare Town.

The result leaves County fourth, trailing leaders Taffs Well by six points, and they need to get back to winning ways quickly having only won one of their last six in all competitions if they are to realise their aim of a promotion back to the big league.

The Wellmen are five points clear of Cambrian & Clydach and AFC Porth after a 3-1 victory at Tata Steel, Tyrone Topper helping them with a stunning brace.

Cambrian kept up the chase with a victory over fierce rivals Monmouth Town. Steve Turner and Josh Ryall scored their goals, as they remained on the same points as AFC Porth, who edged Caerleon by the odd-goal-in-five in a 3-2 win.

At the other end of the table, Goytre United's recent renewed vigour continued as they recorded a vital 2-0 win at Cwmbran Celtic with Josh Clark and Craig Steins finding the net.

Elsewhere, Jordan Cotterill netted a hat-trick as Barry Town won 4-1 at Bryntirion Athletic, with TJ Nagi getting the fourth. Jack Delve hit Bryntirion’s reply.

In Division Two, leaders Goytre were held to a 0-0 draw at Caerau Ely, while there were huge victories for Undy Athletic and Briton Ferry Llansawel, winning 6-1 at Ammanford and 7-0 at home to Ely Rangers respectively.

Cwmaman Institute’s miserable and winless season continued as Danny Edwards, Luke Young and Declan Flanagan goals condemned them to a 3-0 defeat at Newport YMCA.

In Division Three, second-placed AFC Lwydcoed edged an 11-goal thriller 6-5 at bottom side Treharris Western Athletic, while top side Cardiff Met went down 2-1 at Pontypridd Town in third.

Elsewhere, Bridgend Street and Chepstow Town fought out a hugely entertaining 3-3 draw.

The arctic weather which has recently hit North Wales almost decimated the Huws Gray Alliance league programme for a second week running, with only three games surviving on Saturday.

Neither leaders Rhyl nor nearest challengers Cefn Druids were in action, but there was an early goal flourish at Caersws who fought out a 1-1 draw with visitors Buckley Town at the Recreation Ground.

The hosts took a dramatic first minute lead thanks to a great strike by Mark Jones, but from the restart, Buckley hit back when former Bangor City marksman Alan Bull netted to immediately equalise.

Despite the efforts of both sides, defences dominated and neither managed to add anything to the scoreboard.

A Christian Jenkins goal was enough to give Penryncoch all three points at Flint Town United, with the home side blowing the chance to salvage a point following a late penalty miss by Aaron Edwards.

In the only other game to survive, Conwy Borough thumped visitors Llanrhaeadr 6-1. Toby Jones led the way with a brace, with debutant Teddy Whelan, Danny Desormeaux, Lloyd Ellams and Scott Beckett completing the rout. Joe Vaughan netted a late consolation for the visitors.

The weather has already taken its toll on the Easter Monday programme, with all scheduled games postponed.

Caernarfon Town and Denbigh are locked together at the head of the Welsh Alliance after they won yesterday against Llanberis and Gwalchmai respectively.

Llangefni had yet another bad day at the office as the basement club made it 16 defeats in 19 league games this season with a 5-0 home defeat against Glantraeth.

TNS crack open the champagne for another WPL title

The New Saints captured their sixth Welsh Premier League title in eight years with a 3-0 win over 10-man Carmarthen Town at Park Hall.

While the Old Gold never looked too sure of ruining the party, they put up a strong fight before Casey Thomas’ brainless red card for a high challenge on Chris Marriott on the hour. From then on in, it was just a case of counting down the clock as TNS sealed their seventh title in all with four games still to play.

It is just reward for the only full-time club in the league, who have dominated Welsh football over recent years, particularly since director of football Craig Harrison came in to the club in 2011.

“The players have deserved to be where they are and to win the league in the manner they have is a tremendous achievement,” he said.  “I believe there is more to come from a young squad that has a great combination of senior players to give a fantastic balance.”

They will now be looking to make it a league and Cup double, having already lost the Word Cup final this season to yesterday’s opponents, with their Welsh Cup semi-final against Bangor City coming up next week.

The Saints were unbeaten in eight in all competitions since losing the Word Cup on penalties, and hadn’t lost in the league in 12 since, again, yesterday’s opponents triumphed 3-0 at Park Hall in November.

But despite being the only club to defeat the champions elect since October 2012, Carmarthen went in to the fixture having won only one of their previous four in all competitions.

The match was a physical encounter, with tempers on both sides threatening to boil over on various occasions, epitomised by Thomas’ straight red.

The goalmouth action was very much edged by the home side. Ryan Fraughan’s 36th minute cross was met by veteran Scott Ruscoe, who headed past Steve Cann to break the deadlock and, shortly after Thomas’ dismissal, top scorer Michael Wilde beat his marker Matthew Rees to a long ball and produced a clinical left foot finish to start the party.

Saints signed off when Wilde nodded home from six yards following a Fraughan corner, his free header giving Cann no chance. Moments later, Cann denied Wilde a famous hat-trick, but his 20 goals thus far put him top of the Welsh Premier scoring chart.

Airbus had kept the pressure up with a 4-1 Good Friday thumping of Prestatyn which meant that TNS had to win to seal the title.

A Ryan Wade brace and further goals from Wayne Riley and Mike Roddy completed a victory that also really put the pressure on Bangor City in the race for second place.

Riley fired them ahead on 18 minutes, meeting an angled ball to the edge of the box. Roddy then doubled the advantage on 25 minutes, firing through a crowded area.

It was 3-0 in the opening moments of the second half when Wade drifted through the napping defence to fire home, before Andy Parkinson expertly curled home a free-kick for the visitors to cut the deficit.

But in to the final 10 minutes Airbus wrapped up the win when Lewis Short robbed a defender, dragged the goalkeeper out and squared for Wade to tap in his second.

That win meant Airbus sat four points ahead of Bangor when they kicked off against Port Talbot yesterday, and their hopes of finishing runners-up were dealt a big blow as they were held to a 3-3 draw at the Nantporth Stadium.

Les Davies salvaged a point with the equaliser in the fourth minute of added time, and now Bangor find themselves very much looking upwards at Airbus, who also hold a game in hand as well as their three-point advantage.

Scott Young’s Steelmen defied a dismal record at Bangor where they had not won on eight previous visits, taking the lead on three occasions before Davies grabbed his late, late leveller.

Chad Bond gave the visitors a 20th minute lead, but Bangor were on level terms at the break, thanks to a scrambled Chris Jones leveller.

David Brooks restored the visitors’ lead, giving a captain’s performance from the penalty spot, before Ryan Edwards struck for the Citizens following Chris Simm’s pass.

Brooks had the Steelmen on course for a rare triumph with his second goal until Davies made it all square for a third and final time.

In the Conference, debt-ridden Llanelli went down 1-0 at home to Newtown. The Reds’ illustrious Welsh Premier tenure is on the brink of ending even if they escape the relegation places with creditors chasing money owed, and Newtown’s Craig Whitfield netted the Robins winner a minute from time to compound another miserable week in their recent history.

Having appeared in Europe, the Reds’ future looks very bleak and they face another appearance in the High Court on April 22 when the club is likely to be wound up.

Even if they do survive, they are unlikely to obtain a domestic licence and the game against Bala at Stebonheath Park on April 20 is set to be their last in the Welsh Premier before probably dropping down to the Welsh League.

Connah’s Quay Town’s home fixture with Afan Lido fell foul of the North Walian snow, while Bala and Aberystwyth was also postponed on Friday night.

RGC Produce Monumental Comeback

Leaders RGC-1404 produced a monumental comeback from 21-0 down to see off Rumney 24-21 and extend their advantage at the summit to four points.

Rumney, third in the table, opened up their lead through tries by Chris Jones, Tom Silva and Lawrence Facey, all converted by Danny Clarke, as they capitalised on uncharacteristic errors from the visitors.

Mike Jones, Carwyn Meredith and Kelvin Davies all crossed, before Llywarch Meredith added a bonus point try to complete an unlikely comeback. Rhodri Jones added two conversions to seal the victory that keeps them four points clear of the chasing Ystrad Rhondda, with the title showdown at Parc Eiras next Saturday.

Ystrad kept the heat on with a tight 12-6 win over second from bottom Mountain Ash. Kyle Evans and Sean Webber tries ensured RGC’s lead wasn’t extended, while Ystrad also hold a game in hand over the leaders.

Tredegar’s sorry season continued with the referee blowing the final whistle 10 minutes early as they trailed Rhydyfelin 114-10, having arrived with only 13 men.

The hosts had run in 18 tries by this point, including four tries for Lloyd Peart and hat-tricks for Ross Lucas and Rhys Chinock, with Lucas also adding nine conversions. Their eight remaining tries were shared between four players – Casey Pitman, Mark Tyler, Josh Hawkins and Keiron Phillips all grabbing braces, with Kristian Norman adding another three conversions.

Tredegar had managed two tries through Josh Jackus and Brendan O’Sullivan while the hosts had two players in the sin bin to level the numbers out.

Elsewhere, fourth-placed Penallta handed a 37-3 defeat to Gilfach Goch at Ystrad Fawr to move to within a point of Rumney. Shaun Powell scored a hat-trick of tries, while Ross Edwards and Martyn Dunn made it five to secure the home side a bonus point.

Trystell Lewis, Peter Hutchins, Gareth Fear and captain Jamie Summers earned Treorchy a bonus point in their 20-15 victory over lowly Merthyr, while Ynysybwl edged their lower table clash at Heol y Cyw 20-16 through Dale Stuckey and penalty tries, and Nathan Ellis kicking 10 points.

Nant Conwy took advantage of Pwllheli’s game being called off to extend their lead at the top of One North to six points.

They ran in 10 tries in a 58-7 bonus point win in the bottom v top of the table clash at Llangefni. Andre Hughes crossed twice, with the rest of the scores shared around the team. Carwyn Roberts, Rhys Jones, Gareth Jones, Sion Pringle, Aeros Jones, Robin Glyn, Eryl Jones and Elgan Davies all added five points to the scoreboard. Mark Gray got Llangefni’s single score.

Third-placed Ruthin blew the chance to close the gap on Pwllheli as they went down 23-21 at Bethesda. Hugh Sharples scored twice for the visitors, and Shay Owen kicked 11 points, but two Daniel Jones tries and a third from Matthew Parry earned Bethesda the win. Parry added the extra points with his boot.

Elsewhere, Caernarfon edged a tight encounter with Dolgellau 24-22. Both teams scored three tries, with the home side’s coming from Lewis Parker (two) and Iolo Hughes, Kelvin Morris converting all three and adding a penalty to pip Dolgellau to the win.

Yet they remain in fifth, as fourth-placed Bala were victorious by an 18-10 scoreline at Bro Ffestiniog. Rhydian Jones scored all of the visitors’ points via two tries, one conversion and two penalties in a productive day for the Bala fly half.

Tondu earned their 16th win in 18 league games at the top of One West, swooping to a 44-26 victory over Lougher.

They ran in six tries, with Darren Thomas scoring twice and Matthew Phillips, Mark Roberts, Hywel Davies and David Griggs getting the others. Paul Smithson converted three and added two penalties, with Matthew Murphy converting another.

Lougher also gained a bonus point for running in four scores of their own. Andrew Bamfield got two of them, with Dan George and Mick O’Kelly also crossing. Tom Davies converted three of them.

Cwmllynfell also won, the second-placed side edging a tight encounter with Kenfig Hill 26-24 at Groft Goch. The Mules outscored their visitors four tries to two, earning two bonus points in the process.

Curtis Kerton, Rhodri Clark, Tom James and Matthew Davies went over for the home side, with Craig Jones and Tristan Lewis replying for Cwmllynfell. It was Peter Thomas they can thank for winning the game for them, kicking 16 points to edge them home.

Third-placed Waunarlwydd ensured they weren’t left further behind by the top two courtesy of a 24-19 victory over lowly Skewen. Alan Pope and Michael Lewis both scored tries for the home side, with Lee Evans adding 14 points with his boot.

Mark Harvey replied for Skewen, who also had James Ball to thank for converting Harvey’s try and adding four penalties of his own to keep them in the game.

Elsewhere, Ammanford ran in seven tries as they hammered Llangennech 46-3. Jake Sims scored a brace, with Gary Stevens, Llyr Morris, Gareth Rees, Dexter Thomas and Johnny Evans getting the others.

Camarthen Athletic were also big scorers, crossing nine times in a 69-3 victory at basement club Aberavon Quins, and Kidwelly beat Glynneath 22-12 with Tom Garvill (two) and Andy Francis scoring their three tries.

Swalec Championship round-up

With the table-topping clash between Ebbw Vale and Bargoed postponed as the Vale duelled with Principality Premiership leaders Pontypridd in the Swalec Cup, Cardiff Met were handed a chance to close the gap on the top two.

It was an opportunity they failed to take, going down 24-16 at Narberth.

James Russel was in imperious form for the home side, kicking 14 of their 24 points, with Johnny Morgan and Will Lewis tries completing their scoring. Rhodri Davies crossed for the students’ only try, with Matthew Bryant kicking their other points in an intriguing battle between two kickers.

There was a large emphasis on play at the bottom of the table yesterday, with Narberth’s winning margin the largest of the day as every encounter was tightly contested.

Pontypool continued their mini resurgence with a 21-20 victory over Bonymaen. Elliot Goodman and Sam Cook crossed for their scores, with Clayton Gullis kicking 11 points.

Dan Joseph grabbed a brace of tries for the visitors and Nathan Brookes added another, while Richard Cunniffe kicked five points.

Elsewhere, Glamorgan Wanderers boosted their own chances of avoiding relegation with a 26-21 victory over Llanharen. Ianto Griffiths kicked 16 of their points, with Will Higgins and Ed Doe crossing for scores to keep the Wanderers seven points clear of Pontypool in the table.

The visitors out-scored their hosts in the try count with Tom Pascoe, Morgan Williams and Rhys Walker all going over the whitewash, while Ryan Ellis added two penalties to keep them in contention.

Blackwood were pushed hard by bottom club Whitland, but eventually triumphed by a single point: 19-18.

The hosts scored three tries through Josh Clarke, Justin Jones and Aaron Quick, with Paul Emanuelli converting two of them.

Dylan Richards and Andrew Jenkins notched for Whitland, with Scott Newton kicking a further eight points as they fell to their 17th defeat in 19 league games, in which they haven’t won in 11 since October 20.

Newbridge climbed to fourth in the table, moving just five points behind Cardiff Met, with their second win of the week: 23-18 at home to Beddau.

Neil Burnett was the star of the show for the hosts, crossing for a try and kicking two conversions and a penalty – a personal tally of 18 points. Dwayne Dyer’s touchdown completed their scoring.

Beddau also scored twice through Dan Fox and Bradley Coombs, while Andy Humberstone converted one of those and added two penalties.

They climb above Tata Steel, the only side to lose at home in the Championship this week, going down 21-26 to Bridgend Athletic.

The Ath secured a bonus point by notching four tries as they climbed above Beddau due to their loss at Newbridge. Scott Hicks scored twice, with Aled Thomas and James Olds getting the others. Steve Lewis converted three of them.

John Phillips, Ron Hill and Robbie Mayer all crossed for Steel, and two Scott Walters penalties completed their scoring. The result brings to an end a five-match winning streak for the club.

Swalec Cup and Principality Premiership round-up

Ebbw Vale were just moments away from one of the greatest ever Swalec Cup shocks yesterday before Pontypridd captain Chris Dicomidis scored a last minute try and Dai Flanagan completed the turnaround with a tough conversion.

The Steelmen had given as good as they got throughout, and will be disappointed they couldn’t see this quarter-final out and put themselves just 80 minutes away from the final at the Millennium Stadium.

Ponty’s Simon Humberstone and Vale’s Josh Lewis traded early penalties, before Dafydd Lockyer continued his recent try scoring run on 24 minutes, converted by Humberstone.

Lewis kicked over again for the Championship leaders, before setting up a 30-metre Luke Davies try after 35 minutes with a brilliant kick behind the Ponty defence, and then converting it.

But Humberstone again slotted over on the stroke of half-time to leave the score at 16-13 to the hosts.

Lewis kicked three more penalties in the second half, with Flanagan replying with one for Ponty as the Steelmen’s supporters dreamt of the semis going in to the dying moments holding a 22-16 lead. But injuries seemed to take their toll and the resistance crumbled with Dicomidis crossing and Flanagan keeping his nerve from out wide to send Ponty through.

The Premiership leaders will now face Carmarthen Quins in the last four, but Vale can be immensely proud of their showing, victorious coach Dale McIntosh saying after: “I am pleased we won because that must have been one of the hardest games we have played in all season. From the kick-off you could see they were up for it.

“Ebbw Vale were more accurate than we were in a number of phases of play, which was a surprise, and as expected they played with a lot of passion and commitment. But all credit to our boys who stuck with it and got their reward in the end. I thought it was a cracking game from start to finish.”

Ponty’s absence from Premiership action meant other sides could take some of the limelight. At the Brewery Field, Ashley Evans inspired Bridgend Ravens to a second half comeback to deny Bedwas a win that would have aided their quest to secure a play-off place.

The winger notched two tries, with Jamie Murphy and Nathan Edwards adding two more to secure the Ravens a bonus point.

Evans crossed on three minutes, but Bedwas went on to dominate the remainder of the half. Ethan Davies kicked a penalty, then converted a Stuart Thomas try after some good work by winger Matthew John.

Centre Lewis Robling kicked a further Bedwas penalty from half-way, but then the Ravens hit back with a try by full back Murphy, despite being down to 14 men after flanker Arthur Ellis was sent to the sin bin.

Scrum half Josh Davies then crossed for Bedwas after a quickly taken penalty, and Ethan Davies converted and added a penalty to make it 23-10 at the interval.

Back came the Ravens, and Murphy booted over a long-range penalty of his own, followed immediately by a try from centre Edwards.

Ethan Davies kicked a penalty as Bedwas sought to regain control of the topsy-turvy encounter, but the Ravens secured the bonus point as Evans crossed over again on 57 minutes. Lewis Williams added the extras, but Bedwas still had a one-point lead going into the final quarter.

Then, Williams took centre stage in the 62nd minute with a 25-metre penalty after Bedwas were penalised at a scrum, and the Ravens held on to complete the turnaround.

Llanelli were made to work hard by Swansea at St Helen’s but won a try-fest with the league’s bottom side 38-35 courtesy of a late Justin James try.

The visitors out-scored the host by six tries to four, ensuring that Swansea at least picked up two bonus points from this entertaining encounter which saw the lead swap hands four times.

Richard Williams opened the scoring for the Whites after four minutes, before Dan Thomas crossed for his first score of the day, which Jordan Williams converted. Then, two minutes later, Kyle Evans added another score, which Williams again converted, for a 14-5 lead.

Dan Baker brought Swansea back in to it on 28, which Nicky Thomas converted, but just before the break Dan Thomas grabbed his second try for Llanelli and a 12-19 half-time lead.

Baker crossed for his second, and Swansea’s third, on 53 minutes, but just three minutes later, Thomas grabbed his hat-trick, converted by Williams, to stretch Llanelli’s lead. They then looked to have it sewn up on 58 when a converted second try for Evans put them 19-33 ahead.

But the Whites refused to lie down, and Nicky Thomas kicked three penalties in nine minutes before converting when Jamie Thomas dived over on 72 for a 35-33 lead with eight remaining.

But just as their fans may have been beginning to think of victory, James broke their hearts with three left on the clock to give Llanelli a 35-38 win which sees them climb above Cross Keys in to third.

In the day’s other game, Ponty’s Cup semi-final opponents Carmarthen Quins triumphed 17-12 over Llandovery at Carmarthen Park.

Quins prop Rob Evans and Llandovery’s Shaun Miles traded first half tries, before Alex Pickersgill crossed again for the home side on 45 to put them 14 ahead as Dan Newton added the extras.

Kieron Murphy scored for Llandovery on the hour, but six minutes later a Newton penalty made the ending more comfortable for the home side, who climbed above their visitors in the table as a result.

On Friday, Newport triumphed in the Gwent Derby over Cross Keys, winning 18-13 in a result that really dents Keys' hopes of securing a play-off place.

Centre Dominic Franchi crossed for Newport in the first-half, which Geraint O’Driscoll converted, while all Keys managed in the opening period were two Dorian Jones penalties.

Leon Andrews went over for Keys early in the second-half, which Jones converted to put the visitors in the lead. It looked as though they would get the result they needed, but Newport who have improved as the season has gone on, had other ideas.

O’Driscoll landed two splendid penalties and Elliot Frewen, who came on as a replacement, crossed for an unconverted try to complete the late turnaround.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Principality Premiership Predictions

If you take Pontypridd’s insurmountable lead out of the equation, it is all very close at the top of the Principality Premiership with five teams still with realistic hopes of bagging the two other play-off places. It is derby weekend in the Premiership with a few feisty clashes coming our way.

Newport v Cross Keys
This Friday night's Gwent derby showdown will be these two sides' fourth meeting this season, with each team claiming a win apiece as well as a draw. Cross Keys will see this as a must win match if they are to claim one of the play-off places. The Pandy Park side currently sit in the coveted third position, but with the likes of Llanelli and Llandovery breathing down their necks.
Discipline (or the lack thereof) has been a big issue for the Keys this season, and Greg Woods will have to rely on his men to not get caught up in the ferocious derby atmosphere if they are to avoid coming unstuck.
Newport on the other hand have managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory more times than I can remember this season, but they will hope that they can put in a more complete performance tonight.
However, I think Cross Keys will be determined to do all they can to hold on to their play-off spot and I see them taking home the points this evening.
Verdict - Cross Keys by 10 points.
 Bridgend v Bedwas
To say Bridgend were woeful last time out against Swansea would be an understatement; to be up against 12 men and not be able to exploit that is criminal. Having said that, I have seen the Ravens a few times this season and have been impressed by certain areas of their game, but they really need to cut out silly errors and lack of clinical finishing in the opposition 22.
Bedwas have surpassed everyone’s expectations this season and if they can bag a play-off place, I don’t think there would be any Premiership followers that would begrudge them. They have five matches remaining, but those include a trip to Parc y Scarlets and a visit to the Bridge Field to face Pontypridd, so a good win here, then, would be just the tonic for some big games to come.
Verdict - Bedwas by 12 points.
Carmarthen Quins v Llandovery
The wild west derby is probably my Premiership game of the day - a loss for either of these teams will probably spell an end to their play-off push. The Quins, who have been solid all season, will be high on confidence having just secured a Cup semi-final, and had it not been for a lapse before Christmas at Dundee, they would have found themselves British and Irish Cup quarter-finalists too!
Llandovery started the season with a bang but looked to have reasserted their play-off ambitions at the start of the month, thumping Cross Keys at Church Bank. They were left clicking their heels last weekend as their match at Bridgend fell foul of the weather and so should be well prepared for tomorrow’s derby as a result.
This will undoubtedly be a tight contest, but I think Llandovery will just come out on top.
Verdict - Llandovery by 3 points
Swansea v Llanelli
The basement boys gave Llanelli a run for their money at Parc y Scarlets and the All Whites will be hoping to go one better at St Helens... - But I think it will be an almighty challenge! Llanelli were very impressive against Cardiff last week and with their Welsh Under 20 stars back and performing well, I think this should be a straightforward win for the men in red.
Verdict - Llanelli by 15 points.
 Neath v Aberavon
This Ospreylian derby clash will be a dress rehearsal for their Swalec Cup semi-final in two weeks' time, with the Gnoll hopefully full to the brim for this Easter Sunday set-to. Both these sides have turned their season around in recent weeks and seem to be coming into form at just the right time. Patrick Horgan’s men, who have been bolstered since Christmas with the return of key personnel, will start as favourites at the Gnoll, but the Wizards showed proper grit to dispatch Swansea last week and we must not forget the magnificent Jamie Davies, who past the 4000 points barrier in that match.
A lot will be said about winning psychological battles going into the Cup encounter but I tend to think the outcome of this match won’t have too much bearing on their Cup showdown in a couple of weeks' time. With regards to this weekend, though, I think Neath will have just enough in front of their home crowd to bag the points.
Verdict - Neath by 5 points.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Joe’s Dutch courage sees Wales avoid wooden spoon

Joe Phillips provided some final hole drama at the under-16s Quadrangular in Southerndown by edging out Dario Antonisse to see Wales halve their match with the Netherlands and avoid the wooden spoon.

The Gower golfer went in to the hole knowing that as Jordan Golley (Clyne) had halved with Pierre Verlaar, if he could avoid defeat then Wales would avoid finishing bottom.

It was big pressure on such young shoulders, particularly as both he and Golley had been thrashed 7&6 in the morning’s foursomes by the same opponents, but he came through by a hole and condemned the courageous Dutch to the dreaded last place booby prize.

It also stopped a losing run that had seen the hosts beaten by eventual winners Ireland on day one and then reigning champions Scotland on day two.

The hosts trailed 3-1 from the morning’s foursomes play, with only Ben Chamberlain (Padeswood & Buckley) and Tom Davies (Penrhos) scoring a point via a two hole victory over Mike Toorop and Maarten van Mourik.

But after going 4-1 down after the first singles match as Chamberlain lost to Veth 3&2, Wales took five of the remaining seven points to square the match at 6-6.

Davies picked up his second victory of the day, beating Markovitz 3&2, while Dan Pickering (Pontypridd) and Nefyn & District’s Tom Froom also picked up wins over Toorop and Jim de Heij respectively, before Phillips’ late heroics.

In the day’s other encounter, Ireland wrestled Scotland’s crown from their grasp with an impressive 8-4 victory to be crowned champions.

Wales had gone down heavily to Ireland in their first encounter, 9.5-2.5. Their only points that day came via the formidable doubles partnership of Chamberlain and Davies, while Abergele’s Harri Jones beat Conor Purcell in the singles play and Phillips and Jamie Pickering (Pontypridd) halved with Mark Rea and David Brady.

They put up a better fight against the defending champions, but Scotland won the last three matches to take the day 8-4.

Chamberlain and Davies again triumphed, meaning they were unbeaten throughout while playing together, thumping Niall McMullen and Jack Thomas 6&4.

Chamberlain’s good day continued with a 5&4 beating of Thomas, while the Pickering brothers picked up singles wins over Chris Curran and Cameron Black to complete Wales’ scoring.

Overall, Wales finished the event with a gross of 12.5-23.5.

Late drama in Gloucester costs Colwyn Bay victory

Colwyn Bay conceded a late equaliser at Gloucester City last night (March 27), but still earned a vital point in their fight against relegation from the Blue Square Bet North Division.

Player/manager Frank Sinclair thought he had won the game when he forced the ball over the line from close range on 83 minutes, but they conceded just two minutes later to leave Sinclair “unbelievably disappointed” they couldn’t secure what would have been an important victory.

“The boys have given everything tonight,” he said. “They’ve done everything I asked of them. Some of the football we played at times was unbelievable, and in the first 15 minutes they couldn’t deal with us at all and we could have been two or three goals up.

“On another day we would have won this game comfortably. We’ve had a lot of shots at goal but they’ve all gone to the ‘keeper. In the end we have given them a point with a sloppy set piece.”

The night looked like it could be fruitful for the Seagulls after they took an eighth-minute lead. Rob Hopley saw his shot blocked in the area by Gloucester ‘keeper Mike Green, but Gaz Evans followed up to fire in the rebound.

Much like the Welsh national side against Croatia a day previously, it took something special from Gloucester to break the resistance. It came via a 25-yard special from the boot of Tom Webb to make it 1-1 on 20 minutes.

Rather than let the setback affect their attacking intent, the Seagulls again went forward and could have had a penalty when Jamie Ellison collided with Green chasing a loose ball, but nothing was given.

In to the second half, another penalty shout came and went for an alleged handball, and Hopley, Evans and Charlie Joyce all went close.

In to the final 10, Mike Lea’s free-kick was spilled by Green and Sinclair followed up to prod home, but just two minutes later, Chris Sanna was forced to expertly save a Matt Liddiard effort, and from the resulting corner the same player rose highest to head home and leave the Bay with just a point.

Liddiard could have won it for the home side in added time from another corner, but his header sailed over the bar, much to the relief of the travelling fans.

The result means the Bay remain four points behind closest rivals Corby, but still hold two games in hand over them, Corby having drawn 1-1 at Vauxhall Motors a day earlier.

Next up is a tough encounter with table topping Chester City, who have only lost once this season, before they travel to Stalybridge, just three places and nine points ahead of them, on Easter Monday (April 1).

In the Evo-Stik League Southern – Division One South & West, Merthyr Town’s promotion bid took another hit as they went down 3-2 at home to mid-table Clevedon Town.

They remain in fourth place, five points behind Swindon Supermarine above them, but having played a game more. They have won only one of their five fixtures this month and will need to get back to winning ways to seal a play-off spot.

Ian Traylor gave Merthyr the lead, running on to a through ball to slot past Joe Perry in the Clevedon goal. But Reeko Best scored twice to turn the game on its head.

Aaron Cornwall scored from all of 25 yards to make it 2-2, but a late Clevedon free-kick was floated in and Steve Kingdon’s headed goal condemned Merthyr to defeat.

Newbridge pounce on defensive lapse to steal win in Cardiff

A last-minute Steffan Morgan try helped Newbridge up to fifth in the Championship table as they edged a tight affair at Glamorgan Wanderers.

With the Wanderers camped on their own try line in the dying moments the option to kick was taken. But Newbridge charged it down and Morgan was able to steal the win, with Neil Burnett adding the extras.

The result puts a huge dent in the home side's survival hopes this season.

The rest of the match had consisted of an enticing dual between Burnett and Ianto Griffiths, with Burnett edging that personal battle 14-12.

They had traded two penalties each in the first half before Burnett missed a kick at goal and Griffiths compounded it with a drop goal to make the score 9-6 to the home side.

Burnett responded with two further penalties to make the score 9-12 before Josh Skinner was sin binned for the visitors and Griffiths again levelled the score at 12-12 with his third penalty.

With the match looking like it would produce Wanderers’ third draw of the season, the late drama ensured Newbridge picked up their first win in three league games and their first this calendar month. They trail fourth-placed Tata Steel by four points, but hold a game in hand over the Port Talbot-based side.

It was the Wanderers’ eighth straight defeat in all competitions, and they stay second from bottom on 21 points.. The trail Bonymaen above them by nine, but hold a game in hand over them.

Wales set up Georgia clash in under-18s tournament

Wales ran in seven tries as they demolished Portugal 45-0 in their FIRA-AER Under-18 tournament clash in France.

Allan Lewis’ side put in an impressive performance to bounce back from their 18-17 reverse at the hands of Scotland first time out, and will now play Georgia on Saturday (March 30, 12 noon kick-off) to decide their final placing in the U18 Justin Bridou Championship Elite Division.

Captain and full back Dafydd Howells, who has represented Neath in the Principality Premiership, led the way with a hat-trick of tries, with Josh Adams, Dan Jones, Rhys Williams and Torin Myhill getting the other scores. Jones also kicked four conversions for a personal match tally of 13 points, and Luke Price added another.

Wales' defence coach Shaun Edwards had worked hard with the group since the Scottish game, with a clean sheet just rewards for the players and staff after the heartbreak of losing to the Scots by a single point after leading 12-2 at the halfway mark.

Coach Lewis said: “After reviewing the Scotland game we concluded we didn’t need to change the way we played, but to execute that approach better. We continued to challenge the opposition with ball in hand and produced a quick tempo, which produced some very satisfying tries.

“The work Shaun Edwards has done defensively certainly bore fruit in not conceding any tries and with an extremely high tackle completion rate.”

Georgia will provide a different test for this young Welsh side according to Lewis, based on their performances thus far in France.

“Georgia have made great strides in recent years,” added Lewis. “They pushed Ireland very close in the first game and saw off Italy on Tuesday (March 26). They will be a different proposition to Portugal.

“We need to continue to impose our style of play on the game, which will hopefully create some try scoring opportunities.

“We are pleased with the level of exposure all the players have had so far and the way they have all responded to that, which has given us some selection headaches ahead of Saturday’s game.”

Wales currently stand fifth in the Elite Division rankings, while Georgia are just behind them in sixth. England lead the way with France second and Ireland in third.

Wales squad v Portugal: Dafydd Howells (captain, Ospreys); Josh Adams (Scarlets), Garyn Smith (Blues), Tyler Morgan (Dragons (Joe Thomas Ospreys 40)), Rhys Williams (Exiles); Daniel Jones (Scarlets (Luke Price, Ospreys  41)), Tom Williams (Blues (Daniel Brooks, Ospreys 41)); Keagan Bale (Dragons (Robert Lewis, Blues 41)), Ryan Elias (Scarlets (Torin Myhill, Scarlets 41)), Dillon Lewis (Blues (Alex Jeffries, Dragons 41)), Gareth Allen (Dragons  (Adam Williams, Ospreys 55)), Rory Thornton (Ospreys), Tom Phillips (Scarlets), Matthew Marley (Blues), Jonathon Fox (Ospreys).

Tries: Dafydd Howells (3), Josh Adams, Dan Jones, Rhys Williams, Torin Myhill.

Cons: Dan Jones (4), Luke Price

Yellow card: Tom Phillips (74)

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Resurgent Wales stun Ireland on day two in Rosslare

Wales overcame an overnight deficit to defeat Ireland 11-9 in their under-18 boys’ international at Rosslare.

Trailing 4.5-3.5 from day one, Wales triumphed 2.5-15 in the foursomes before taking the singles 5-3 to complete a thrilling comeback and re-capture the crown Ireland had carried home from Cardigan last year.

Wales were victorious in two of the four foursomes matches. The Vale of Glamorgan’s Tim Harry and American-based Charlie Spencer-White combined to beat Sean Flanagan and Matthew Kane by one hole, and Otto Mand (Greenmeadow) and Llanwern’s Jack Davidson triumphed 4&2 over David Byrne and Rowan Lester.

Thomas Williams (Wrexham) and Jake Darlington (Celtic Manor) halved with David Carey and Ronan Mullarney, while Ridgeway’s Alex Matthews and Mountain Ash’s Rhys Jones lost to Jack Walsh and Niall Foley by one hole.

It was the afternoon’s singles play where Wales really shone, despite a late Irish fightback giving the final score a more respectable look.

Spencer-White, Mand, Darlington and Williams were all comfortable victors, with Spencer-White and Mand handing 3&2 defeats to Kane and Foley respectively.

Darlington defeated Carey 2&1, while Williams overcame Mullarney by the same scoreline.

Harry and Davidson halved their matches against Flanagan and Walsh respectively, before the Irish fightback came through Byrne and Lester.

Byrne produced the display of the day, trouncing Matthews, who didn’t have the best of times on day two, by 6&5 in the penultimate match, and Lester triumphed over Rhys Jones in the final encounter. But by that point Wales had already secured the win.

Another cruel defeat, but further hope for future

On paper, the latest round of World Cup qualifiers looked the same as last October – a comeback victory over the Scots, followed by a tight defeat to Croatia.

But this time around the truth is much deeper than that, and signs are there that a second Welsh rejuvenation could possibly be around the corner similar to that seen under Gary Speed’s guidance.

Last October, Gareth Bale quite simply tore Scotland to shreds by himself, while on a terrible pitch in Osijek, Croatia held 76% of possession and took 29 shots at the Welsh goal, getting 20 on target in a busy night for stand in ‘keeper Lewis Price.

This time around, Wales had to dig deep in Glasgow as Bale failed to resurface for the second 45 minutes, and had a couple of chances gone the other way they could have been celebrating a victory over a country ranked in the world’s Top 10 this morning.

Yes, Wales’ hopes of reaching their first major tournament since 1958 are again over, but rather than doom or gloom there is again genuine hope for the future.

It has been said before…“this team are still so young”…“they’ll get better as they get older”. Some would say straws are once again being clutched at. But let us look at Wales’ current options.

Our current midfield is, arguably, our best in recent memory. While it may lack some of the fight and organisation of that available to Mark Hughes during his reign, Aaron Ramsey, Joe Allen and Gareth Bale are technically the most talented players (bar Ryan Giggs) to line up in a Welsh shirt since Hughes himself was playing.

And in Scotland, Ramsey and Joe Ledley’s excellent displays in pulling Wales up by their bootstraps rubbished media claims that Wales were, in fact, a one-man Bale show.

Add to this that over the course of 127 minutes, Welsh fans were introduced to a new gem – Crystal Palace’s Jonathan Williams – and there is a lot of optimism going forward.

Known as ‘Joniesta’ by Palace supporters, Williams showed a good passing range, ability with either foot, good acceleration from a standing start and an impeccable first touch to really make you sit up and take note.

While it may only be two matches, he certainly showed he hasn’t been severely hampered by his leg break in 2011, and looks like he may be as important over the next two qualification campaigns as any of our other midfield options.

As one ardent Palace follower said to me: “He will be better than [Wilfred Zaha] 100 per cent if he can avoid injury”.

Craig Bellamy is a welcome and experienced return to the squad, although his offside count for both club and country remains infuriating. The main problem is that he is not an out-and-out striker.

Like Bale, Bellamy likes to drop deep to receive possession as well as chasing balls over the top, and there were times when he would turn on the half-way line to find only Hal Robson-Kanu or Williams ahead of him.

Steve Morrison has been a little hit and miss, and it is really in this department that Wales are crying out for improvement the most. How well would John Hartson or Ian Rush perform feeding off the current supply?

Defence, too, remains another issue. Ashley Williams continues to thrive with Premiership experience, and Ben Davies has done more than enough to stake his claim as a future regular these past six months. But manager Chris Coleman opted to bring James Collins back in to the heart of defence alongside Williams last night, and he did little other than continue to show his career is on the wane.

You only have to look at the two benches. The players Croatia brought on, for example, included Ivica Olic – two-time Champions League finalist with Bayern Munich – and Inter Milan’s Mateo Kovacic. Could you ever picture such players sat on the Welsh bench?

Wales really have to try to squeeze every bit of talent out of what we have. The soon-to-open Dragon Parc in Newport has to be utilised properly in order to ensure a continued talent stream for the national side in years to come, and as much as possible should be done to ensure talent across the field to provide a spine as stiff as in the previously mentioned Hughes squad that came so close to taking us to Euro 2004.

Croatia, a country that only gained independence in the early 1990s, and whose population is only just over 1.2 million more than here, is the perfect example of a “smaller” nation achieving in football. As of this month’s published Fifa World Rankings, Croatia are ranked ninth, closing in on nations like the Netherlands and Portugal above them, and now above footballing powerhouses like France (17th) and Brazil (18th) below them.

Social and economical circumstances of course dictate, and fans and sociologists would probably argue till the cow comes on home on why Wales could or couldn’t match the feats of other countries similar in size and population to ours.

The real hope for Wales is pipping Scotland and Serbia to third. Higher rankings, and therefore, better seedings in future qualifying tournaments are a must if progression is to be made. And with the re-structuring of the groups going in to the qualifiers for Euro 2016, this could be Wales’ best shot yet at re-living the glory days of John Charles et al in Sweden 55 years ago.

Athletic dent Cwmllynfell's title hopes

Carmarthen Athletic dented Cwmllynfell’s Division One West title hopes as the Red and Blacks produced a clinical display to end the highfliers' 18 match unbeaten streak with a 30-17 home victory.

Athletic, who were many people’s title favourites back in September, have undergone a rebuilding process this season having lost 17 players in the summer, but have finally started to hit top gear.
The hosts outscored their rivals four tries to two with touchdowns from centres Viv Jenkins and Rhys Jones, while flanker Richard Bloomfield and captain Gareth Bennett also crossed. Scrum-half Scott Maynard added two conversions and two penalties to seal the win.
Athletic moved up to fourth with the win but their surge in form will come too late to trouble the top two, but if the squad remains intact, they will no doubt be there or thereabouts next season.
Clive Llewellyn and Alex Wilkins crossed the whitewash for Cwmllynfell, but it was to be a fruitless night for the title contenders in the end.
Cwmllynfell’s last loss was on the opening day of the season, and this result sees them remain second in the table behind Tondu, 17 points adrift of the leaders but with three matches in hand.
The Blues, who found out they will face One East side Heol y Cyw in the semi-finals of the Swalec Plate in their quest for Cup glory, are facing a tough end to the season with fixtures stacking up, but the carrot of a potential league and Cup double still remains in their grasp.
The big league showdown against Tondu was scheduled for April 13th but that will have to be re-arranged as the Blues are in Cup action that day.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Swalec Trophies Semi-final draw

Swalec Cup
Ebbw Vale/Pontypridd v Carmarthen Quins
Neath v Aberavon

Swalec Plate
Rhydyfelin v Ystrad Rhondda
Cwmllynfell v Heol y Cyw

Swalec Bowl
Wattstown v Blaenavon/Penlan
Cilfynydd/Cambrian Welfare v Fishguard & Goodwick

*Semi-final fixtures to be played the weekend of Saturday April 13

Olympians to kick off Porthcawl’s Parkrun scheme

Over the past few months, *six sports clubs in the Bridgend county have been working towards bringing the Parkrun scheme to Porthcawl’s seafront.

This coming Saturday (March 30th), the Parkrun scheme will be launched with local Olympic heroes, Marc and Helen Jenkins, in attendance to drop the flag and start the first Parkrun event.
The following Saturday (April 6th), the Parkrun event will go public - a spokesperson for Bridgend CBC thinks the event will be advantageous to the picturesque Seaside town, “Parkrun is a positive initiative to get people active, while also being in addition to this an economic benefit with a boost to the local economy, as many participants will use the weekly event as a social activity with family and friends, staying on for refreshments."
 The Parkrun scheme was started in 2004 in Bushy Park, Teddington with just 13 runners and has grown exponentially since its conception with over 220 Parkruns across the UK, with even plans to take it world-wide.
There are currently schemes in Cardiff, Newport, Tredegar and Aberystwyth, with Carmarthen and Pontypridd soon to be set up.
Parkrun is a free, weekly 5 kilometre timed run which is open to everyone, whether you wish to run or walk the course; the website describes the scheme as ‘a non-commercial, free, feel-good, community based event’.
Project Co-ordinator Steve Brace was keen to stress that, “ this is not a race, although some athletes will by their nature run for times; it is aimed to be a social, running/jogging/walking activity as a step towards a healthier lifestyle, open to all.”
 Brace added, “The other valuable feature of the scheme is the utilisation and recruitment of new volunteers to support the event, and the exit route to local clubs, should they wish to progress in their running, training and competition.”
 If you wish to register for the Porthcawl parkrun or any other events around the UK, you can find details at
 *The 6 sports clubs involved in the organisation are Brackla Harriers; Bridgend AC; Cornelly Striders; Cwm Ogwr Runners; Pencoed Triathlon Club and Porthcawl Runners 

Monday, 25 March 2013

Haverfordwest suffer promotion blow at hands of Goytre United

Haverfordwest’s possible Welsh Premier League return was derailed slightly on the weekend, while the entire Huws Gray Alliance schedule was wiped out by the north Wales weather.

Haverfordwest, who are chasing the Welsh league Division One title, went down 1-0 at home to relegation-threatened Goytre United in one of the day’s shock results.

An unstoppable Joe Clarke free-kick on 35 minutes won the day for the visitors, who showed guts and determination throughout to limit the title challenger’s chances.

The Bluebirds are now four points behind leaders Taffs Well having played the same number of games and are just one ahead of Monmouth, but the third-placed side have three games in hand.

The result moves United above Bridgend Town and Tata Steel in to 13th in the table. They are now five points clear of basement side Caerleon, although the Gwent club have a game in hand.

Tata Steel fought out a goalless draw at AFC Porth, Christian Orchard missing a penalty for the home side after 38 minutes to help the visitors earn a vital point in their own battle against relegation. That draw moves them three points ahead of Caerleon, whose game at home to Taffs Well was called off.

Barry Town came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at home to Aberdare. The visitors had established a cushion through Lewis Hitchcock and Richard French, kitted out in Barry’s away strip after forgetting their own, but Jordan Cotterall and Lewis Cosslett levelled matters.

Three games also survived in Division Two, including Undy Athletic and Ely Rangers both registering 4-0 away wins at Cardiff Corinthians and Cwmaman Institute respectively.

Cwmaman’s defeat made it 89 goals conceded in 23 games with just 18 finding the back of the opposition's net. They have managed only two draws in what has been a dismal league campaign.

The other match saw Penrhiwceiber Rangers and Briton Ferry Llansawel fight out a 1-1 draw.

The only game to be played in Division Three saw Cardiff Grange Harlequins triumph 2-0 away at Newcastle Emlyn.

In the Huws Gray Alliance, Rhyl were forced to put the champagne on ice as their hopes of wrapping up the title and securing a return to the Welsh Premier League were thwarted by the postponment of their home match against nearest rivals Cefn Druids.

Leading by 15 points with just five matches remaining, the Lilywhites required only a solitary point against the Druids to seal the league title.

But after the club fought to get the game on, the league ordered it to be called off despite the local council and police declaring the roads safe for supporters.

Chairman Paul Higginson said the club was “very disappointed” with the decision, but that they are confident of having the league won by the time of the re-arranged fixture.

“The ground and weather here are fine to play,” he said on the day. “We were advised at about 10.30 that Cefn Druids had applied for a postponement due to being unable to travel.

“We were able to get here but we don’t know the circumstances around Cefn.”

League secretary Chas Rowland explained the decision to call off the fixture was on the grounds of safety, saying: “The roads are treacherous in North Wales and so travelling would have put people’s lives at risk.

“Unfortunately, [an entire league program being called off] isn’t an uncommon thing. It’s happened this season and it certainly happened last season.”

The Rhyl-Cefn Druids fixture was the last to fall on Saturday (March 23) morning.

In the only game played in the Welsh Alliance, Holywell romped to a 10-0 victory at Nefyn United. Ian Griffiths bagged a hat-trick for the Wellmen, with Steve Thomas, Sam Jones, Paul Williams, Graeme Williams, Ashley Durham, Mark Orme and Tony Roebuck getting the others.

The result moves them within three points of league leaders Caernarfon Town, with a game in hand, and this thrashing followed on from a mid-week 7-1 drubbing of Llandudno Junction.

TNS all but secure WPL title in weather-hit weekend

The New Saints put themselves just three points away from a seventh Welsh Premier League title with a 3-0 victory at Port Talbot Town on Sunday (March 24).

Inclement weather meant that it was one of only two fixtures to take place over the weekend, and if TNS now defeat Carmarthen at Park Hall on Saturday (March 30) the league title will be theirs. They can afford to lose, for if Airbus UK fail to win their encounter with Prestatyn on Friday (March 29), then the title will already be on its way to Oswestry before they kick off.

Mike Wilde, Aeron Edwards and Jamie Mullan were the Saints’ scorers at the Gen Quip Stadium, as the Steelmen ended the match with 10 men following Lee Surman’s red card.

The home side started the brighter and Martin Rose and Surman both tested visiting ‘keeper Craig Harrison.

Yet Surman’s miserable afternoon began when he, along with Martin Rose, hesitated to allow Alex Darlington’s pass to reach Wilde, who headed home.

Harrison then spilt a David Brookes effort for a corner, from which Carl Payne hit the woodwork.

But Port Talbot’s resurgence was thwarted when Edwards doubled the lead on 28 minutes.

Scott Young’s side again started the second half in the ascendency, and they had a strong penalty shout turned down for handball.

But Talbot again self-destructed and Ashley Evans’ weak back-pass allowed Mullan to kill the game off before Surman’s match ended early with a straight red card.

On Saturday, Llanelli ignored their returning off-field problems to win a crucial relegation six-pointer at Afan Lido 3-1, despite playing more than an hour with 10 men.

The West Walians must again appear before a High Court Judge today (March 25) after having their fourth winding up order of the season served against them last week.

The local council also repossessed their Stebonheath Park ground’s social club, but the players produced one of their best performances of the season amid the turmoil.

Goals from Craig Moses, Jordan Smith and Jack McKenna all but sealed the hosts’ relegation from the Welsh Premier League, but they fought their own corner well in an entertaining encounter.

A quiet opening period was played out on a boggy pitch, but the game came to life on the quarter hour. A Craig Williams corner for the visitors was flicked on and Moses ran in at the back post ahead of a defender to stab home.

Moses then nodded tamely wide from an Adam Davies cross as Llanelli began to take control.

But towards the half-hour mark the home side enjoyed a period of pressure. First, Simon Prangley fired wide from eight yards when a corner was nodded down in to his path, Luke Borrelli then fired right across goal from a deep Chris Hartland cross, and Hartland saw a shot deflected wide.

Morris was very harshly given his marching orders on 28 minutes after catching Borrelli, and Lido missed further first-half chances through Anthony Rawlings and then Chris Phillips, who clipped the ball the wrong side of the post after the ball ran kindly for him off a defender’s legs.

Llanelli started well in the second period and, after 53 minutes McKenna sent Smith through on the left. He swung the ball in to the six yard box where Alex Evans stooped unmarked and somehow nodded it wide with a poor connection – an outstanding contender for miss of the season.

Llanelli never looked like ruing that miss, continually throwing themselves in the way of shots, passes and crosses in a dogged determination to protect their lead.

They doubled it on 66 minutes, Smith curling a free-kick over the wall and down in to the bottom right corner. Lido ‘keeper Kristian Rogers was very slow in getting down to it and will undoubtedly be disappointed not to have kept it out.

With the visitors looking like they might hold out they conceded in to injury time. The defence failed to deal with a long ball and a poor backwards header was pounced upon by Hartland, who cut in to the box and fired home.

But instead of piling on the pressure looking for an equaliser, Lido conceded again. Man of the match McKenna countered down the left and, unhindered, cut inside just as Hartland had moments earlier and fired home to seal a magnificent, and possibly last ever, victory for the Reds.

Wrexham triumph at Wembley on penalties

Wrexham defeated Grimsby 4-1 on penalties to become the first Welsh club to lift the FA Trophy on their first ever visit to Wembley.

Player/manager Andy Morrell called his side’s win “unbelievable”, and said he would “savour this for a long, long time.”

Unperturbed by weather conditions across the UK, more than 35,000 fans were present at the English national stadium to witness two of the Blue Square Premier’s leading promotion contenders go head to head.

After a quiet first half, the second period sprung in to life and Kevin Thornton’s 81st-minute penalty for the Dragons cancelled out Andy Cook’s opener, before the north Walians eventually triumphed on spot kicks.

A two-footed challenge from Grimsby’s Craig Disley on Wrexham skipper Dean Keates threatened to see tempers boil over, but thankfully both sets of players let their play do the talking.

Jay Harris avoided three challenges before firing over, and scuffed another shot wide, while Grimsby’s Marcus Marshall went close with a header.

Just after the break, Grimsby’s ‘keeper James McKeown slipped as Morrell raced through but recovered to block the striker’s effort, and Danny Wright somehow fired wide on the turn after Stephen Wright’s corner had fallen to him.

Former Blackpool striker Brett Ormerod went close with a header as Wrexham looked for the opener, but they were hit by a Mariners’ sucker punch. Joe Colbeck burst down the right in to the area and acutely found Cook with a pull-back. His first shot was excellently saved by Chris Maxwell, but the ball went straight back to him and he fired home after 70 minutes.

Wrexham created and missed a couple more chances, but they got their reward when Keates was clumsily felled by Shaun Pearson in the area. Thornton stepped up and sent McKeown the wrong way to equalise.

Wrexham continued to threaten in extra time but couldn’t force a winner, with Danny Wright’s thunderous volley acrobatically tipped on to the post by McKeown the closest they came.

The FA Trophy was to be decided on penalties for only the second time in its history, and when Sam Hatton hit the post with Grimsby’s first effort and Richard Brodie fired over, the momentum was well and truly with the Welsh side.

Adrian Cieslewicz, Danny Wright, Chris Westwood and Johnny Hunt all sent McKeown the wrong way to seal a memorable day for Wrexham at a bitterly cold Wembley Stadium.

“I didn’t think we were going to do it, but we were brilliant,” added Morrell. “We kept going and attacking, but their ‘keeper was stopping everything. It’s just brilliant.”

Goalscorer Thornton dedicated the win to the fans, saying: “You’ll never get days like this again in your career so you have to make the most of them. Obviously we were the better team today but it’s just a horrible way to win a Cup final.

“The fans have been amazing. For them to have a day out like this is brilliant.”

Morrell echoed that sentiment, saying of the Supporters’ trust’s acquisition of the club in 2011: “It could have been completely different if the fans hadn’t stood up and been counted. They have put a base in, a foundation under the club that has meant the players get paid.

“There’s a stability there, and that allows us to go and do our stuff.”

Wrexham’s win caps a remarkable 13 months for Welsh football that has seen Cardiff City, Newport County, Swansea City and Wrexham all compete in showpiece finals at Wembley.

Cardiff lost the Capital One Cup final on penalties to Liverpool and Newport lost the FA Trophy final to York City last year, but Swansea and Wrexham put the record straight with memorable victories over the past month in the same two competitions that will live long in the memory.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Swalec Cup round-up

Neath, Aberavon and Carmarthen Quins all moved to within one match of the Swalec Cup final, after defeating Bargoed, Swansea and Blackwood respectively.

The Welsh All Blacks are hoping to make their 13th appearance in the final in May, overcame a never say die Bargoed 39-27 at the Gnoll.

Indiscipline cost the Championship side dearly as they had two players - centre Simon Parry and replacement Mikey Roberts – sin-binned and during their time off the field, the Welsh All Blacks scored three converted tries.

Fly-half Dai Langdon once again played a starring role for Neath as he bagged 19 points through a try, four conversions and two penalties.

From the moment Langdon crossed the line after only a minute, Neath always appeared to be in control as they established a commanding 24-5 half-time advantage.

Parry was shown the yellow card by Porthcawl referee Ian Davies after 25 minutes, and Gareth Gravell and Bowdy Davies both took advantage to go over for tries during his time in the bin.

Later on, Roberts was also dispatched to the side-lines and wing Chris Morgans made the most of his absence to cross, before Roy Jones then touched down for Neath as they continued to dominate proceedings.

Bargoed’s most potent attacking threat, full-back Andrew McLaughlin, opened his side’s account two minutes before the break, but injured himself in crossing the line and left the field with the game held up for 10 minutes.

Visiting wing Gareth Dare was also stretchered off, a major blow to the Championship side's hopes of causing an upset.

Shortly after, however, Lee Williams pounced for Bargoed’s second try, while Simon Parry and Craig Lynch scored in injury time for Neath. Josh Prosser kicked two conversions and a penalty.

In the all Premiership clash, Aberavon overcame Swansea 23-16 in a hard-fought win at an Arctic St Helens.

Wizards legendary fly half Jamie Davies crossed the 4,000 points threshold for his club as he added 13 points to his personal tally, while centre Matthew Jenkins claimed a brace for the visitors.

Swansea and Aberavon have had a torrid time of it this season in the league and both sides knew a Cup run would be just the tonic for their supporters.

It was the Wizards that drew first blood as centre Matthew Jenkins darted through a gap in the hosts' defence to score, with Davies adding the extras.

However, it was the All Whites that would lead at the interval thanks to a Richard Williams touchdown and eight points from the boot of full back Nick J Thomas, and on the stroke of half time, Aberavon’s Chris Davies was given ten minutes to cool down by referee Neil Hennessey for a dangerous tackle.

The start of the second half saw Jamie Davies and Thomas exchange penalties as Aberavon negated the fact they were a player short.

With the Wizards restored to their full compliment, a sublime pass from fly half Davies put centre Jenkins in space and the midfield maestro outpaced the Swansea defence to cross, with Davies again on target with the extras.

The critical blow for the All Whites came as the match moved into the final ten minutes as hooker Paul John was yellowed.  The Wizards controlled proceedings well with the boot of Davies firing home two further penalties, then, to put the match out of Swansea’s reach.

Carmarthen Quins booked their place in the semis with a routine victory over Championship side Blackwood on Saunday in a game delayed 24 hours by the storms that swept across Wales.

The battling Gwent side did themselves credit with some enterprising rugby, but found the Quins pack far too strong.

The Quins, still in with an outside chance of making the Principality Premiership play-offs, raced out of the blocks and found themselves 10 points up after only 11 minutes.

Jack Maynard struck a sweet penalty to open the score, before hooker Richard Wilkes crossed for the afternoon’s opening try, converted by Maynard.

Blackwood, who have not enjoyed the best of seasons, responded swiftly with a magnificent length-of-the-field touchdown by Mark Williams.

Sean Bennett secured the Quins' second try, which Maynard converted, and then impressive full-back Jack Dixon made the game a little more secure for the West Walians with an unconverted try just before the break.

Centre Rheon James went over early in the second-half, and by then it was simply a case of how many the Quins would win by. Haydn Pugh rounded off the travelling side's scoring with an unconverted try six minutes from time.

To their credit, Blackwood never gave up and made the scoreline more respectable in injury time when wing Rhodri Usher touched down for a try which Paul Emmanuelli converted.

The other Swalec Cup quarter-final was postponed, with Ebbw Vale and Pontypridd yet to rearrange their mouth-watering tie.