Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Welsh-based rivals reunite for Powerade challenge

Joe Ferguson believes he and Cennydd Mills will turn back the clock to their amateur days at next week’s Powerade PGA Assistants' Championship.

Celtic Manor's Joe Ferguson

Ferguson, based at the Celtic Manor Resort, has tipped Welshman Mills, of Tredegar Park Golf Club, to be among the pacesetters at the £32,500 final which is supported by FootJoy and will be staged at Coventry Golf Club from August 7-9.

Former England amateur player Ferguson qualified for the final by finishing joint top of the leaderboard at Honiton Golf Club in May - beating Mills by three shots.

But Ferguson knows Mills will be one of the men to beat.

“I know Cennydd well from when I played for England as an amateur and he was in the Wales squad,” said Ferguson who will be making his debut in the event.

“He’s a good, solid player who’s done well in this event before. I think that if you beat him in the final then you’re going to be finishing in the money.”

Midlander Ferguson, playing in his first final, hopes he can steal a march on any players unfamiliar with the Coventry venue.

“I used to be based in Worcestershire and played Coventry quite a lot,” said the 30-year-old.

“It’s a good course. It has plenty of par five holes and the scoring could be quite low. I hope that helps me having played there before.”

Ferguson will also play in the Wales Open again this year after making his debut in the event 12 months ago.

He took a break from golf after leaving his amateur career behind him but had his passion for the game rekindled while working at the 2010 Ryder Cup venue in a non-golf related role.

It inspired him to qualify as a PGA Professional and undertake the PGA training programme which concentrates on all aspects of golf including business, equipment technology and repairs, rules and tournament organisation, sports science, sports psychology and playing.

“I’d moved down to Bristol for my wife’s business and I worked at Celtic Manor in client service,” he explained.

“But I was booking people in for golf and watching them go out on to the course - so I got the bug back.

“An Assistants’ job came up and I got it, so after a break from the game I’m back in it again.”

Other Welsh players taking part at Coventry include Elliott Harding (Milford Haven);  Matthew Harrison (Burghill Valley);   Thomas Bowen (American Golf); Grant Edwards (Mile End); and Thomas Phillips (Hadley Wood).

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Versatile King unconcerned by number on his back

After joining the lengthy list of Welsh internationals to roll off the production line at the Ospreys’ Llandarcy HQ when he was capped on this summer’s visit to Japan, James King has described the experience as ‘a dream come true’.

The Australian born forward arrived in Ospreylia via North Wales, where he cut his rugby teeth with Mold RFC, and Ellesmere College in Shropshire. Five years and 61 regional appearances after first reporting for duty at Llandarcy, he won his first two senior international caps last month, playing the full 80 minutes in both tests.

“It’s great to have made that next step in my career, to get experience of international rugby and my Wales cap” said King.

“I worked really hard last season and was fortunate enough to be a part of the Six Nations squad. Although I didn’t get capped then it was a fantastic learning experience for me, then to not only go to Japan in the summer but to play the full 80 in both tests was something I’m really proud of.

“Wales is always where I’ve considered my home despite being born elsewhere, and this region has been my home for a five years now. To play international rugby for Wales is a dream come true. Just to get the opportunity to come down here from North Wales five years ago to try and establish myself with the Ospreys was a big personal achievement, so to get my first pro contract, then sign a new long-term one that gives me security was fantastic.

“Playing for Wales in the summer topped that all off. Even better, it means I won’t be asked in interviews any more about playing for England or anyone else!”

He made his regional debut as a teenager back in October 2009, and although his appearances were sporadic over the next two years he has now established himself as a key member of the Ospreys squad, making 24 appearances in each of the last two seasons, including coming off the bench in the PRO12 semi and final in May 2012.

Having been a part of the title winning team then, he also tasted the end of season disappointment just a couple of months ago as the region fell at the final hurdle in their pursuit of a play-off place, and he says that it’s important the Ospreys do better this time around:

“Obviously we missed out on the play-offs which was really disappointing, so we want to make sure we get back into that mix. After doing so well to win it the previous season out in Leinster made it even more disappointing as we wanted to defend our title. The expectation here is that we are always competing at the top end of the PRO12, we’ve won it more than anyone else and that brings pressure.

“We’ve got boys coming back in from a good summer, especially the Lions and the boys who’ve been with Wales U20, and competition for places will be really hard. That’s why it’s important to do very well in pre-season. That competition can hopefully push on to make up for the disappointment at the end of last season.”

On a personal level, the only target King has set himself is to ensure he rises to the challenge for a place in the team and secures regular rugby once again.

“I just want to play as many games as I can for the Ospreys” he said.

“I’ve been involved a lot over the last two years. Last season I started more games, and I want to really establish myself this season - be that in the back row or a second row position.

“Being versatile has to be beneficial to me. It all depends on who you’ve got available in the squad, obviously, but if you can fit in to more than one spot to a good standard then you will have more opportunities. I just want to use it to my advantage, and to help the team by playing where I’m needed.

“I played at openside out in Japan, like I said, I’m more than happy to play anywhere as long as I’m on the field. Whether it’s four or seven or whatever, it doesn’t really matter to me.”

Neath go through tough pre-season training

Neath RFC stalwart Dai Langdon has said that pre-season training this year has been the toughest he’s ever experienced.

The Blacks have been back in training since June and last Saturday saw a full day up in Dare Valley Country Park where the side were put through the wringer by a Royal Marines PTI instructor with two hours on intense fitness training as well as problem solving and other team building exercises.

Popular 24-year old fly-half Langdon is about to start his fourth season with Neath and will look to add to his 200 plus goal tally when the Blacks kick-off in August.

“It’s been the toughest pre-season I’ve ever had but it’s been brilliant,” Langdon said. “It’s the first time we’ve really pushed ourselves and given ourselves a goal to work to for the start of the season.

“We’re starting to get there in terms of fitness. We’ve got a way to go but it’s coming together and we’re really starting to look like a team now.

“Days like Saturday really helps the new players to fit in with us older hands. But ever since the new players came to the club, they’ve been a big part of the team.”

Langdon said he wasn’t prepared for the gruelling tasks that the club put him and his team mates through last Saturday.

“It wasn’t at all like I expected,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting to be building a raft or running up a mountain and carrying players and heavy bags. I thought it would be more of the team building element. It was a rude awakening, but I know that it was very worthwhile for the whole side and I’m sure we’ll see the fruits of it at the start of the season.

“We’re looking to play a high tempo game this season and fitness is a massive part of that and hopefully we can pick up some good results right from the start. Our strength and conditioning coach Rob Sowden-Taylor has done a brilliant job and has pushed the boys hard. I can’t wait for the season to start now.”

Neath RFC coach Neil Edwards was pleased with how the whole day went last Saturday.

“It produced what we hoped it would produce,” he said. “The boys started talking a lot more, encouraged each other and were a lot disciplined in what they were doing.

“There was a lot more to the day than fitness. Mentality was a big part of things for any rugby player and we tested them thoroughly with problem solving which helped them work for each other as a team.

“Saturday definitely helped us to grow as a family. They are now becoming one unit and understanding each other’s standards. It was a very successful day and I was pleased that we did it.”

Thursday, 25 July 2013

A Look Ahead-Principality Premiership 2013/14

Pontypridd will begin the defence of their Principality Premiership crown at home to Bedwas on September 14, as they look to build on their amazing Cup and League double success of last year.

The Valley Commandos, who only lost once in the domestic league and cup competitions, are relishing the prospect of being the side everyone wants to beat and believes the Premiership will be even more competitive this season.
“I think there are going to be even more teams in contention for the title this year. The WRU, the clubs and the players have all worked hard to raise standards and I think that will come through on the pitch. We are grateful that our first game against Bedwas is at home. Bedwas had a fantastic season last year, and have strengthened their squad further, which should all make for an opening encounter set to be a great way to kick off the campaign.” Said Ponty Head Coach Dale McIntosh.
 “While last season’s campaign is a big act to follow, we will show the same enthusiasm and ethics towards all our matches as we always do. We have trust in our players and ourselves as coaches, and we are accountable to the club, our supporters and ourselves. It's simple – if you ever become satisfied with what you have achieved, you might as well hang up your boots,” added McIntosh
 The remaining opening day fixtures see Aberavon hosting Newport, Carmarthen travelling to Bridgend, Llandovery entertaining Cardiff, Llanelli visiting Neath and Cross Keys making the trip to Swansea.
It will be a big opening month for the clubs in the Ospreylian region with the four sides eager not to repeat their performances of last year - when all four finished in the lower echelons - especially now the league will no longer be ring-fenced.
 On paper, Bridgend’s looks the hardest start in facing Carmarthen, Pontypridd, Llandovery and Llanelli before the end of September. However, the Ravens have added some quality signings so far in the off season, and the recruitment of fly-half James Dixon from Carmarthen Quins in particular, I think, will turn out to be an excellent acquisition.
 As for the other Ospreylian regions, Neath and Aberavon looked to be on a continual upward curve towards the end of last season, but the loss of Patrick Horgan from the Gnoll outfit will surely have a detrimental effect.
Meanwhile, Swansea, who finished bottom of the pile will know another season like that and they could potentially be playing a tier down.
Moving west, Llandovery notched up another excellent season last year (and arguably played the most stylish rugby of any side at the front end of last season), Carmarthen produced a solid showing, while Llanelli it seems will always be there or thereabouts come the sharp end of the season. Llanelli will, however, be wary of travelling to the Gnoll so early on in the season and will also face Carmarthen twice in a matter of weeks.
Llanelli Head coach Kevin George said: “Neath are in a period of transition with Neil Edwards and Llŷr Lane having taken over the coaching reins, along with a number of experienced players having moved on or retired. They have recruited some experienced players with the likes of Dale Ford and James Goode, too, but we would have preferred to meet them later on in the season as they will be an unknown entity in Round One.
 “The other thing that jumps out from the fixture list is that will we will play Carmarthen Quins twice in less than two weeks: with our British & Irish Cup play-off taking place on September 7, before playing them again on Wednesday September 18. The Quins have recruited well and have a number of talented academy players within their ranks so that will be tough.
 “Traditionally we have started slowly but we can’t afford to do that this season. We have recruited at half back, Aled Davies and Gareth Davies have moved up to the senior Scarlets squad, and with Lions players rested, there will be a big demand on our players, so we will assess how we’re doing at the end of September before setting targets for the season.”
 It is no doubt that Bedwas were the surprise package of last year and many, like myself, would have enjoyed seeing their hard work pay off with a place in the play-offs, but they ended up losing out in the cruellest of fashions. The big question this year will be whether the Gwent side will be able to build on last season.
And what about Cross Keys? - in my opinion, the underachievers of last year? The crux of the matter for them, I feel, will be whether or not they are able to cut down on their ill-discipline to mount a serious challenge.
Meanwhile, Newport have set their sights high for the forthcoming season with captain Gethin Robinson targeting a top three finish.
“A lot of games, we would put in a good performance but then we would let ourselves down when we didn’t need to”, said Robinson
“So that’s the thing we need to do in the coming season – start putting in consistently good performances.”
“We were the only team to beat Pontypridd and pushed them all the way at Sardis Road”, he said.
“I expect Newport to be in the top three challenging for the Premiership. That’s the way I feel about us as a club,” affirmed Robinson.
Last, but by no means least, we come to Cardiff, and Martyn Fowler’s men will surely be aiming for a higher position than the eighth they managed last term. They face a tough opening test, however, with a long journey to Llandovery.
So come next April 26th, who will be vying for a play-off place and who will possibly be preparing for life in a lower tier?
For the former, I think you would have to be pretty foolish to look past Pontypridd: once again their set up is first class and I can see them finishing top of the pile. Could the surprise packages of Bedwas and Llandovery from last season possibly mount another challenge or will they come back down to earth with a bump?
At the other end of the spectrum, the bigger implications I feel will be felt at the basement, with the team who finishes bottom potentially being relegated to the Championship, but that will only happen if the team that wins the Championship title holds the coveted ‘A’ Licence.
I believe the WRU really need to make up their minds as to what they want from the Premiership. Whether they want teams playing for more than just pride with a real competition, or if they simply want to use it as a pathway to develop young players. However, if the WRU is serious about preserving the Premiership's status as a competitive league while at the same time using it as a breeding ground for the regions to bed young talent in, then could it at all be possible to have the best of both worlds?
With the WRU opening up the possibility of relegation from the top flight this season, it will be interesting to see whether some of the clubs such as Swansea - who finished bottom last season but brought through young talent such as fly-half Sam Davies and prop Nicky Thomas - will continue in the same vein with the possibility of demotion looming over their heads, or will the clubs revert to older, experienced heads instead which may not perhaps play into the WRU’s pathway ambitions.
Swansea supremo Mefin Davies voiced his concerns at the end of last month: "There's no doubt that a Premiership without the threat of relegation helped the likes of Sam Davies and others in the Wales Under-20s squad to develop last season.
 "It's common sense that it allows you to blood players and focus on development instead of focusing solely on survival.
 "If you have relegation, then it changes your entire outlook as a coaching team and it means that young up-and-coming players may miss out on vital experience and opportunities to learn at that level.”

So what teams will shine bright this season? Will there be any surprises; who, if anyone, will be the new Bedwas? And finally, is the WRU right to re-introduce relegation and how will it affect teams that wish to blood in youngsters?

The battle for the Victory Shield reaches its climax

Only four teams remain in the battle to be crowned 2013 Victory Shield Foursomes champions with the semifinals and final set for Monday July 29 at Asburnham.

Newport are the only team left in the competition that have taken home the trophy before, last winning back in 1995. The three remaining clubs have never claimed the honours, although Haverfordwest came close five years ago when they lost out in the final to Celtic Manor.
The Gwent side saw off Holywell in the quarter-finals at Wrexham and will now face Mountain Ash, with Newport likely to stick with the combination of former club champion, Rhys Barber, and former British Police champion, Chris Dinsdale, for the contest. Mountain Ash will rely on Ian Flowers and Rhys Jones to produce the goods for the Cynon Valley club.
The other semifinal sees Haverfordwest take on Borth & Ynyslas, after they saw off Cottrell Park and Pyle & Kenfig respectively.
Former Welsh Internationals Michael Harris and Richard Scott will lead Haverfordwest’s challenge, while Borth & Ynyslas sees the recent Tucker Trophy winner, Zach Galliford, team up with the club’s greenskeeper, Marc Lewis.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Scorpions skipper pleased that World Cup trophy is in Neath this Sunday

South Wales Scorpions skipper Joe Burke is delighted that sales for the World Cup match at Neath are going so well.

The 23-year old prop, who has won three caps for Wales so far, will be hoping to make the side again for Wales v Cook Islands on Sunday 10 November in front of his home crowd, but for now will be content to pose with the World Cup trophy this Sunday when South Wales Scorpions take on Gateshead Thunder at The Gnoll (kick-off 1pm).

“I was really pleased to hear that virtually all of the tickets in the Family Stand for Wales v Cook Islands have gone,” said Burke. “There’s nothing that rugby players like better than playing in front of a packed ground so I hope that this game is a sell-out.

“It’s great that the World Cup organisers are bringing the actual trophy to The Gnoll this Sunday for when we take on Gateshead Thunder. We’re going to be posing for a team photo with the trophy and I know that fans are able to have their photo taken with it too.”

This Sunday’s match is a must-win for the Scorpions if they are to keep up with the sides above them and make the play-offs and Burke hopes that the potentially large crowd will cheer them on.

“I know that having the World Cup trophy in Neath this Sunday has created a lot of interest,” Burke said. “All of our junior sides will be there to cheer us on too and I think that will lift us.

“We’ve had a good week in training with plenty of numbers and we all know that a win is vital.”

Photos with the World Cup trophy are free of charge and you can book your timeslot by going to and clicking on the match preview link for the Scorpions v Gateshead game. Tickets for Wales v Cook Islands can also be bought on the same site.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Bargoed finalise pre-season plans

Bargoed RFC have now finalised their pre-season games with friendlies scheduled against Newport, Cardiff and Bedwas, together with an internal trial match involving the 1st XV and development sides taking place on August 17.

The Blues will also be taking part in the inaugural National Fosters 7s to be held on the 25th August at the Cardiff Arms Park along with other Premiership Clubs, and will continue to appear in the Aberaeron 7s in West Wales on the same day, hoping to replicate the club's recent success.
Club Chairman Neil Carter said, "This is a very exciting period in the Club's development and in addition to the current senior, youth and junior teams, we will be launching a Women’s XV. They have commenced training and a full fixture list has been set up with participation in Division 3 West. Training for the women’s rugby is on Wednesday and Friday evenings, 6.30 to 8.00 pm., and all players - new and old - are welcome to attend under the guidance of WRU trained Coaches."
He continued, "Youth games and trial matches have been set up in August, while training is also under way for the current youth players in full flow, and we would welcome players interested in participating in either senior or youth rugby to attend training sessions on a Tuesday and Thursday night at The Park from 6.30 to 8.00 pm. Further details can be found on our website."

The Man who changed the face of Rugby

Biography of John Dawes and the legendary 1971 British Lions

This latest addition to the rugby-lover’s library was mainly written immediately after the victorious British Lions’ return from their tour of New Zealand, where they accomplished something achieved neither before nor since, a series victory. Coinciding with the latest series win by the Lions, this time in Australia, author Ross Rayburn has brought it up to date with a postscript detailing the Dawes legacy.

The claim made in the title is justified. Variously described as “a cutting-edge professor of the game” [Stephen Jones of the Sunday Times], “ a tactical genius” [Cliff Morgan] and “the greatest captain ever encountered” [Barry John], John Dawes made his initial impact when transforming London Welsh rfc into the most glamorous club in Britain, playing a brand of rugby football that put emphasis on fitness, on running rugby and on creation of overlaps to put width on the game in a way not seen before.

This refreshing approach was carried through to Welsh teams that Dawes captained and then into the Lions squads of 1971 and 1974. In New Zealand, he once witnessed a 12-year old boy being berated for selling a dummy and jinking past an opponent rather than performing the standard drill of running into contact and creating ball for the forwards. This was anathema to SJD but present-day watchers of the game will recognise this as something they are required to watch for many tedious hours, a sign that play has fallen back into bad habits since the Dawes era.

So huge does the author consider to be the contribution made by this man from Chapel of Ease in Gwent that he claims for him a more important place in historical terms than legends like Gareth Edwards, Barry John, Gerald Davies, JPR Williams and Mervyn Davies. In 1971, John Dawes led London Welsh to its best ever season, captained Wales to a grand slam and guided the Lions to their historic series win in NZ.

And who can forget his part in Edwards’ “try of the century” for the Barbarians against the All Blacks at Cardiff in 1973?

At international level, he had a chequered history and was dropped by the Welsh selectors a number of times during his career. As a coach and coaching organiser, his record was uneven. But as a captain he was peerless; he was the quiet man who got things done.

It is John Dawes [Syd to all those who played alongside him] who is given credit by the author as being responsible for the sea change in British rugby’s fortune in the early 1970’s. He was the man who made British rugby lose its inferiority complex.

His outstanding 1971 Lions’ tour is seen in this book as “a Messianic journey which preached the London Welsh gospel”. Although we are currently obtaining some pleasing results at international level, perhaps we are again in need of a new Messiah in Welsh rugby.

“John Dawes and the legendary British Lions” [written by Ross Reyburn] is published by Lolfa with ISBN no 978 184771 706 1


Secretary, Welsh Rugby Writers

Neath sign Scarlets back

Neath RFC have pulled off a coup for the 2013-14 season by signing Dale Ford from the Scarlets.

The 21-year old, who can play at wing, centre or full-back, has made a number of Pro-12 and Cup appearances for the West Wales region after making his full debut for them two years ago.

He has also turned out for their Academy side as well as the Scarlets’ primary feeder team in Llanelli RFC. His is also a Wales international at under 18 and 20 levels.

Neath coach Neil Edwards said: “We’re delighted to have secured Dale’s services for the next two years.

“He is a quality player who can turn out in a number of positions in the back-line which is very useful to us or any side.

“We’re pleased that now we have a number of quality young players from all round Wales wanting to join us, all having the same goal – to turn Neath into a top club once again.”

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Newport and Airbus claim pre -season wins

Newport County extended their unbeaten run of pre-season friendlies as they powered to a convincing 3-0 win at Conference South outfit Havant and Waterlooville.

Justin Edinburgh’s men were well on top from the start, but it was the Hawks that managed to work the first clear cut chance with Serge Makofo squandering a golden chance, missing an open goal when it was seemingly easier to score.
Newport’s pressure eventually told just after the half hour mark, with Lee Minshull heading home from ten yards out, after a delicious David Pipe cross to take the lead.
County doubled their advantage after the break thanks to a giant slice of luck, as Andy Sandell’s cross come shot was carried over the line by Havant keeper Scott Bevan.
In contrast, Newport’s third ten minutes from the end was the pick of the bunch and owed nothing to luck, as Pipe picked up the ball from 30 yards out before unleashing a blistering strike into the top corner.
The football league new boys' preparation for the forthcoming season will step up a notch on Tuesday night when they face Championship side Reading at Spytty Park.
In an all North Wales affair, Welsh Premier side Airbus did just enough to see off Wrexham 1-0 thanks to a second half strike from Steve Jones.
In a tight opening half, it was the Wingmakers side that had the first sight of goal with Wrexham stopper Andy Coughlin showing good reactions to deny Jones’ header at point blank range.
The Reds found their way in to the match with striker Brett Ormerod twice coming close to opening the scoring for the visitors, while young gun Bradley Reid’s shot after a dazzling run went agonizingly wide.
Andy Preece’s men started the better after the break, and were rewarded with the lead when winger Lewis Short neatly pulled the ball back into Jones’ path, and the veteran’s low shot found the bottom corner.
With Wrexham trailing, the cavalry were called in with the introduction of a brand new strikeforce in Andy Bishop, Andy Morrell and Adrian Cieslewicz.
And their introduction added some much needed impetus for the visitors, with Cieslewicz's  blistering pace causing Airbus problems at the back, while Morrell and Nick Rushton both had chances to level.
Airbus continued to be resolute in defence and the writing was on the wall for Wrexham when, late on, a delicious cross found Morrell in acres of space, but his free header drifted wide of the upright as the Welsh Premier hosts hung on for victory.
 Meanwhile, Rhyl’s poor pre-season form continued yesterday as they were beaten 3-1 by Evo-Stik League Northern Premier Division outfit Marine.
 It was Rhyl's third defeat in eight days and considering they ran away with the Huws Gray Alliance title last season, it surprised followers that they provided somewhat tame opposition.
 The Belle Vue side will have to up their game before they return to the Welsh Premier League next month.
 The mercurial Andy Fowler opened Marine's account in the 19th minute and then Jon Goulding made it 2-0 in the 41st minute.
 Rhyl struck back on the stroke of half-time when Ryan Astle's header found the net when he connected with a Paul McManus corner.
 It remained 2-1 to Marine until the deadly Dean Astbury got the visitors' third two minutes from time.
 Both sides were relieved to hear the final whistle as the humid conditions made it difficult to play open football. 
 Also going down to a comprehensive defeat was Huws Gray Alliance side Conwy Borough as they slipped to a 3-0 loss against Conference North side AFC Telford.
After a 15-minute delay to the start caused by traffic congestion as holidaymakers headed to the seaside, the visitors made a bright start and were soon in the ascendancy.
But it was not until three minutes after the interval that Matty McGinn gave them a well-deserved advantage.
 And before the break it became 2-0 as Alan Moogan netted with a stunning strike that gave Conwy keeper Huw Mackin no chance at all.
 Just before the final whistle, Conwy's disappointing afternoon was compounded as Adam Farrell pounced for a third goal in the dying moments to confirm the Midlanders superiority.
 Elsewhere, Bangor City drew 1-1 with Lancaster City, Aberystwyth Town clinched a 4-3 win at home to Barmouth & Dyffryn United and Flint Town claimed a 3-2 triumph over gap Connahs Quay.

South Wales Cricket Association Round Up

Pacemakers Neath maintained their formidable assault at the summit of Division One of the Thomas Carroll South Wales Cricket Association with a five wicket victory over relegation threatened Dafen.
 Dafen won the toss and elected to bat but were skittled for just 135, as spinner Joe Parkhouse weaved his magic to claim 5-21, while Nathan Aubrey took 3-34. Matthew Evans was the pick with the willow for the hosts knocking a half century (54), with Chris Rowlands contributing a solid 31.
Neath looked to be in trouble at one stage in reply as they found themselves on 44-4, but Parkhouse led the batting revival to finish unbeaten on 41 and help the leaders chase down the runs for the loss of five wickets. Keiran Bull (28n/o) and Gethin King (32) both produced at the crease as the Gnoll side notched up their tenth win in twelve starts.
Neath’s win sees them sit 39 points clear over their nearest rivals, Ynystawe, despite the high-fliers' five wicket win over Clydach with only a ball to spare.
 Clydach won the toss and elected to bat, and they posted 249-7 in the allotted overs. Jason Davies (60) and Nicky Fisher (65) both knocked half centuries while James Garland chipped in with 37. In attack, Alex Fletcher was once again amongst the wickets claiming 4-57, while captain Andrew Beasley picked up two wickets.
In reply, an excellent 94 from Brendan McKay helped Ynystawe on their way, with Beasley (32) and Rowan Evans (34) both contributing useful knocks, but it was Shaun Jenkins (26n/o) and 15 year old Tom Davies (15 n/o) that held their nerve to ensure Ynystawe came away with the victory.
Meanwhile, third placed Tata Steel bagged their seventh win of the season as they dismantled Carmarthen Wanderers by 60 runs at their Margam base.
The Port Talbot side won the toss and made 213-5, with Kelvin Bartle smashing a quick-fire unbeaten 118, in an innings that included nine-4’s and seven-6’s, while Rhys Owen chipped in with 38.
The Wanderers in reply were dismissed for 153, despite the best efforts of captain Leighton Walters who struck 40, and Rhys Thomas, who hit 37. Bartle rounded off a fine day’s work taking 2-28, while Mike and Matthew Jones snared three wickets apiece.
At the top of Division Two, Aberdare moved clear of long time leaders Skewen with a 127 run victory at Morriston, while Skewen went down to a five wicket defeat against Llandysul.
 The Cynon Valley side posted 245-6 in their allotted overs, with Michael Roberts (62) and Steve Manning (86) the stars with the willow.
The Swansea side in reply never came close to threatening the visitors' total as they were skittled for 128. Luke Garthwaite produced the goods in attack as he ripped apart the hosts' order to capture 6-24 in 11.2 overs, including four wickets in just 14 balls, while Roberts picked up 3-42.
Meanwhile, Skewen, who lost for the first time last week, looked out of sorts and could only muster 130, with Dean Kriescher (35) and Daniel Rees (33) the top scorers for the hosts. Ieaun Paske was destroyer in chief for the visitors claiming 4-30, while Rhodri Jones picked up 3-26.
Llandysul in reply reached the target in the 41st over, carding 131-5, with Llewellyn Hughes their star at the crease smashing 60 from 81 balls, including nine-4’s.
It remains nip and tuck at the summit of Division Three, with Porthcawl maintaining their single point advantage over rivals Maesteg after they both picked up impressive victories.
The Seasiders dispatched Briton Ferry Town by 147 runs, while Maesteg thumped Cimla by 124 runs.
Elsewhere, winless Dyffryn look doomed to relegation after they lost for the tenth time in twelve starts, going down to Landore by two wickets.
Finally, leaders Pwll continue to reign supreme at the top of Division Four after they bagged a seven wicket win over Llandeilo to open up a 33 point gap at the summit, while second place Llantwit Major Cavaliers kept up their push for promotion with an eight wicket win at Neath 3rds. Gareth Hughes was the star for the Cavaliers as he bagged 7-31, while Neath were skittled for 67.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

King claims South Wales crown

Newport’s Daniel King was crowned South Wales Boys Matchplay Champion, as he saw off fellow Gwent rising star Joshua Davies on the final green in the final.
The top 16 boys from the strokeplay event went through to the matchplay contest at Newport Links, which was contested over two days.
King made light-work of the opposition in the early rounds, dispatching Cardiff’s Alex Matthews 4&2, Royal Porthcawl’s Daniel Pickering 3&2 and Wrexham’s Thomas Williams 4&3 before edging past Celtic Manor’s Davies by 1 hole.
Davies, who narrowly missed out on a share of the Tucker Trophy last week, was also in fine form throughout the early rounds, eliminating Llandrindod Wells’ Charlie Spencer-White, Cottrell Park’s Kyle Harman and Cradoc’s Robert Evans before succumbing to King.
It was  a Gwent double as the Strokeplay Champion also came from the Gwent area, with Callam Morris from the Monmouthshire club claiming the title by one shot from Harman.
However, Morris failed to replicate the form that saw him clinch the strokeplay title, as he was booted out of the matchplay competition in the first round, losing out to North Walian David Ramsay, 5&3.

Neath aiming to be fittest side in the Premiership

Robin Sowden-Taylor, Neath RFC’s new strength and conditioning coach, believes that he can turn the Blacks into the fittest side in the Welsh Premiership before the season kicks off next month.

The former Wales international has been hired by the Gnoll club to do just that and he believes that the programmes he’s put the Neath players through in pre-season will turn them into a force to be reckoned with and will give them a big boost when they eventually take to the field.

“At the start we had a big squad – 40 odd players – and they varied in ability wise and certainly strength and conditioning, throughout the squad,” said Sowden-Taylor. “We’ve narrowed the squad down a bit so the standard has risen and I’ve been impressed.

“It was great that the WRU put on a national testing day for the Premiership teams so I’m waiting back for the results from that to see how we fare against others in the league.

“We’re hoping we’ll be towards the top in fitness and I genuinely believe we can be number one in the Welsh Premiership in regards to conditioning. The extra sessions we’ve done away from the pitch means that there’s no reason why we can’t be just that.

“It’s all about making sure the boys perform well on the pitch and what I do is specific to how they’ll play a game of rugby – that’s where the enjoyment comes into it, it’s different every session. They don’t know what to expect so they can push themselves. I’m looking forward to when the results come back from the WRU.”

In July, the Neath players have started their on-field training ready for their first pre-season friendly at The Gnoll against English Division One side Rosslyn Park on Saturday 17th August (kick-off 7.45pm).

“With us being a new squad with a few new faces, it was important that we started earlier than in recent years so we had to sort out our bases and what we needed to before they got onto the pitch,” said Sowden-Taylor.

“I’m looking to get more involved with the rugby side of things which I’m slowly doing. But obviously at this time of year there’s quite a heavy responsibility on strength and conditioning and getting the boys ready for the season so my time is very occupied by planning the fitness sessions.

“We’re doing quite a lot of off-site training too. In my business outside of rugby, I’m a gym up in Cardiff called Dragon Cross-Fit and I’ve a good relationship with Cross-Fit 365, a similar organisation in Neath.

“So the players who are based in Cardiff up to Aberdare come down to me at Dragon Cross-Fit and we do a couple of lifting sessions a week, with the Neath boys going to Gary McLean in Cross-Fit 365 – his assistance has been so important to us. This means that for the Strength and Conditioning, the boys don’t have to travel too much at this stage of the season and they’re getting top quality strength and conditioning facilities.

“This time of year is tough but we know we have to make it stimulating and enjoyable for the boys as well. All of it has been established to make them the fittest players in the league so they can last 80 minutes of rugby and come away with win after win. We’re looking forward to seeing how it all comes together when we have our first match.”

Friday, 12 July 2013

Andy Powell due to play for Scorpions on Sunday as they face Oldham challenge

South Wales Scorpions have confirmed that they have today signed the paperwork to bring Andy Powell to the Neath-based rugby league club on a dual registration basis.

The agreement, signed in time for this Sunday’s match at Oldham Roughyeds (kick-off 3pm) enables him to turn out for the Scorpions for the remainder of the season, subject to availability from his club Wigan Warriors.

Powell has played twice for Wigan this season, both times coming off the substitutes bench, but their coach Shaun Wane has said that he wants the 31-year old to have some more game-time under his belt.

He will go into a Scorpions side that know they will have to be at their best this Sunday away at the division's form side.

A win for Oldham will put them at the top of the table and will knock North Wales Crusaders off for the first time this season, but Crusaders, without a game again this weekend, will have two games in hand.

The Scorpions are determined to win to keep their play-off hunt on track, and do their Welsh rivals a favour at the same time, but coach Dave Clark knows that an increase in form is necessary following a home defeat to Gloucestershire All Golds last Sunday.

"Like every week we review the game and look at improvements," Clark said. "The boys came up with their own short term goals for the remaining five fixtures. We are still confident of making the play offs, we just need consistency in our game.

"We reviewed our options and realised that the opportunities we didn’t take last week either came from the wrong pass option or making errors in set plays.

"Defensively we were good, they scored jusr one try resulting of a set play AND we as a team defended the questions they asked in attack.

"This week at Oldham, we need to improve on our urgency to solve these actions."

Billy Sheen and Ben Moores are both available again after missing last week's match but Connor Farrer will miss the game due to injury. Phil Carleton is also unavailable.

Wales World Cup hopeful David James is still out with a back injury but is progressing slowly and should be returning to training next week.

Oldham are reporting to have a “very similar side to last week” where they beat Oxford at Iffley Road but Liam Gilchrist has a calf injury and is a doubt.
They currently have two prop forwards on loan who are due to make their home debuts – Oldham born Nathan Mason from Huddersfield Giants, and Matthew Haggerty from arrow Raiders. Both made their club debuts off bench last week.

Oldham coach Steve Naylor said: “As long as we keep winning, we’ll put North Wales under pressure. We’re on the run-in now and wins are what matter more than anything.”

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Incredible six months still to sink in says Howells

After enjoying a meteoric rise from age-grade rugby with the Eyasses to senior international rugby in Japan in just six months, 18-year old winger Dafydd Howells has revealed that he is still pinching himself to ensure that it’s really happened.

The Abercrave flier stepped up from the Ospreys U18s on Boxing Day to make his Principality Premiership bow for Neath in the derby clash with Aberavon while still only 17, following that up with his first taste of regional rugby in two LV= Cup clashes, against the Dragons and Harlequins just weeks later.

Within months he had captained Wales at U18 level and then become one of the youngest ever senior caps after making the starting XV for the first summer test in Osaka.

"It was an amazing experience" said Howells.

"From being called up to train, to being part of the travelling party and going out to Japan, and then playing in both games, it’s been an amazing couple of months.

"Since the start of the year it’s been an incredible time for me personally. It hasn’t all sunk in yet if I’m honest, how fast and how well the last six months have gone. It’s been absolutely phenomenal.

"Going somewhere like Japan was always going to be a fantastic experience even if I hadn’t been selected.

"It’s hard to explain the way the last few months have gone as a new boy, not only on the Wales trip, but with the Ospreys as well." 

Having travelled east expecting to be just making up the numbers, Howells found himself thrust into the spotlight after being named on the wing for the First Test, and he says hearing his name called out in the team meeting took him by surprise.

"I didn’t really know what to think to be honest" he continued.
"I’m still not 100 per cent certain what I’m feeling now. It’s strange when my parents say to me, ‘you’ve got a Welsh cap’, I have to step back and think, ‘yeah, I have’. It’s an absolutely amazing feeling. Go back to Christmas when I was making my Neath debut, if you’d told me everything that was going to happen, with my Ospreys debut, captaining Wales U18s and then Japan, I wouldn’t believe you.

"The team was announced to the players ahead of the game and it was difficult to keep it to myself. I couldn’t even tell my parents so my father did give me a bit of a row afterwards for not saying anything.

"The atmosphere walking out into the ground and singing the national anthem will always stay with me. I tried to remember every detail of the day as it was such a special occasion.

"The game was a shock to the system. It was exceptionally hot and the pace, the speed that Japan played at was exceptional."

Howells will go into the new season hoping to continue progressing along the development pathway and aiming to build on the undoubted progress of the last year, but he acknowledged that there’s still plenty of work to be done to establish himself as an up and coming Osprey:

"It’s every young boy’s dream to play for Wales and now that I’ve done it I want to do it again. I realise once everyone is back in contention I’m a long way down the line but I’ve got to keep working hard, do well for the Ospreys when I get my opportunity, and we’ll see where that takes me over the next few years."

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Welsh Rowers head to Lucerne

Welsh Rowers Chris Bartley and Victoria Thornley have been named as part of the GB Rowing Team for the third and final World Rowing Cup of the year in Lucerne but Wrexham’s Graeme Thomas has missed out because of injury.
The regatta from July 12-14 will provide the squad with one of their final chances to test themselves against world-class opposition ahead of next month’s World Championships in South Korea.
Wrexham-born Bartley will continue in the lightweight men’s four – the boat in which he won Olympic silver in London last year.
The 29-year-old, a former World champion in the discipline, has already appeared on the World Cup podium twice this year.
He picked up a bronze medal on his home waters of Eton Dorney last month, which followed a solid silver in Sydney at the start of the season.
The four-man crew will also include Adam Freeman-Pask, along with 2013 newcomers Will Fletcher and Jonno Clegg.

Victoria Thornley, meanwhile, who showed so well in the women’s single at Eton-Dorney (finishing fourth) remains in the same boat.

Britain did not field a single representative in the event at the London Olympics, so Thornley will be looking to make it her own as she continues the road to Rio 2016.

Thomas had been due to compete at Henley Royal Regatta last weekend and in Lucerne  in the men’s quadruple scull but is out with an injury.

Elsewhere, Vicky Meyer-Laker and Frances Houghton will race in the women’s double following their win at Dorney. The quad line-up is Kristina StillerMonica Relph and Rosamund Bradbury plus a soon to be named substitute for a poorly Caragh McMurtry.
Alex Gregory, Olympic men’s four champion, is back in action in the top-ranked British men’s eight crew having recovered from a virus. He will join his 2012 gold medal crew-mates Andrew Triggs Hodge and Pete Reed.
Olympic men’s pair bronze medallist George Nash also joins the crew, having returned to full-time training with the squad on Monday now that his University exams are over.
The combination minus Gregory and Nash won gold at Eton-Dorney in a nail-biting finish with Poland but all British crews know that the strength of the field could well be stronger in Switzerland.
James Foad, who has been coming back into full training from surgery since winning Olympic bronze in the eight at the Games, is named as a reserve.
Meanwhile, GB’s women will get to race an eight for the first time in the European phase of this year’s World Cup Series.
Coxed by Zoe de Toledo and stroked by Olivia Carnegie-Brown the eight missed out on Eton Dorney because of a dearth of entries.
Beth Rodford, a 2012 Olympic finalist said: "I'm really looking forward to racing in the eight at Lucerne. It's the last chance for us to get some international racing in the eight before the Worlds. There is a real sense of excitement and energy in the women's squad at the moment and we are all looking forward to some competitive racing to finish off the World Cup series".
Louisa Reeve, Katie Greves, Jess Eddie and Melanie Wilson are the other Olympians in the crew.
After competing at Eton-Dorney in front of the home crowd the second GB men’s eight is continuing as a development project with young, emerging rowers being given the opportunity to taste racing at the top level and gain from the experience.
This will be the first time since 2005 that GB has entered two men’s eights for Lucerne. Even then, the second British entry was in the lightweight event.
Behind the two eights GB has entered the same four that won silver at Dorney and the Stewrads’ Challenge Cup at Henley – Nathaniel Reilly O’Donnell, Alan SinclairScott Durantand Matt Tarrant.
Elsewhere Olympic champion Helen Glover and Polly Swann, the overall world cup leaders, will be in seek of a hat-trick of world cup wins on the renowned Rotsee but will also be conscious of the test posed by new crews appearing for the first time this season.
Britain’s male scullers will be led by Alan Campbell who took silver in the single at Dorney.
Bill Lucas and Matt Langridge are in the double and the men’s quad will seek to put Dorney disappointment behind them in what is a tough field likely to be led by Germany and Croatia who took gold and silver at London 2012 respectively.
Brothers Peter and Richard Chambers are selected into the lightweight men’s double once more. They held on, after sacrificing an early lead to Poland, to take silver at Dorney in one of the event’s more dramatic races.
Sam Scrimgeour and Mark Aldred get another tilt at top-level competition after making a winning world cup debut at Dorney as the GB lightweight men’s pair.
Kathryn Twyman and Imogen Walsh won silver at Dorney in the lightweight women’s double scull and said they were disappointed, showing their ambition to be one of the crews to watch in Lucerne.
Ruth Walczak, an agonizing fourth at Dorney, is named once more as the lightweight single sculler and Jamie Kirkwood has been chosen ahead of Chris Boddy for the equivalent men’s spot.
Racing at Lucerne starts with heats and some repechages on Friday 12th, with semi-finals and more repechages plus finals of the international class events on Saturday followed by a full programme of A & B finals on the Sunday.
The event will be televised in the UK by BBC TV Sport – live on the Red Button on Sunday 12th and a highlights programme on Monday 13th.