Saturday, 31 August 2013


Wales under 16s were heartbroken yet again against England after losing to a try in the last five minutes.

Just like in the first test in Neath in April, the Welsh gave their rivals too much of a head start but once again they fought back to level.

But it was a late Aaron Smith try that was the only real difference between the two sides in the end.

Despite the defeat a massive credit must be given to the Welsh youngsters. The majority of their side came from the South Wales Scorpions Academy, yet all the England line-up were top Super League junior players.

With two very close games this year, England won the first 22-18, Wales coach Dave Clark was proud of his side.

“I’m not disappointed one bit,” he said. “The boys have worked really hard all year. We’ve had a great two-day camp and prepared well for this contest. We were disappointed with the first half where we only completed six from 14 sets and we knew that if we did better in the second half then we scored tries. We saw signs of that in the second half when we challenged them and asked them questions on their line.

“I’m so proud to be Welsh and I’m so proud of these players. The desire for the boys to come out and win the second half comfortably was a real pleasure to see. I just hope that some Super League clubs pick some of our players up. If they don’t then we have to work hard to keep them in the game.”

England took the lead after just five minutes when Ryan Ince got onto the end of a fine passing move involving Morgan Smith and Harry Tyson-Wilson. Smith missed the kick.

A half length of the field run from Harvey Livett quickly doubled the scores and this time Smith converted to give the visitors a 10-0 lead.

England’s third came on 20 minutes after Ince broke through again. Smith missed the conversion again.

But Wales struck back straight away when Ben Jones scored in the corner, missing the kick making the score 14-4.

Livett added his second try and England’s fourth just before the interval to put England 18-4 up at half-time.

Brad Harrison was close to getting a fifth for the visitors fairly soon into the second half but was penalised for a knock-on.

But it was Wales who struck first in the second half when following an England knock-on, the ball worked its way over to Lloyd Bodman who forced his way over. Jones converted.

Wales scored again straight away. Luke Williams in the corner and Jones converted well to put them within two points of the English.

England had the chance to extend their lead but their passing started to go awry and a massive chance for a try, with a ball intending for the in-space Isaac Noi, instead reached touch.

Noi had another opportunity after being fed by Ince but Wales’ Morgan Knowles was up to the challenge and forced him off the field.

At the other end Wales were denied when Regan Grace looked to have touched down in the corner after good work from Ben Jones but pressure from the England defence forced him to knock-on.

However the Welsh levelled with ten minutes to go with Jones kicked a penalty from in front of the sticks.

But it was left to Aaron Smith who grounded under the sticks to seal the narrow England win. Morgan Smith converted and Harry Tyson Wilson added a drop goal for good measure to wrap it up and keep up England’s 100% winning record against the Welsh.

Victorious England coach Stuart Barrow said: “I said to our players at half-time that if we go away from what we’re trying to do then we’d be challenged and that’s exactly what happened and it turned it into a good game.

“It’s the first time we’ve been together as a team since the first game against Wales in April and we’ve prepared well this week. It’s a learning curve for them and I was proud of how they hung in there and got the win at the end.

“The improvement in Wales over the years has been significant. It’s been a close two games and Wales could have won each, especially in the first. A real credit to them today, they hung in there and pushed us all the way. If I was at a Super League club now I’d be looking at this video and seeing who I could pick up from here in South Wales as they thoroughly deserve it.”

By Ian Golden at Taff’s Well RFC

1 Ben Jones (South Wales Scorpions)
2 Regan Grace (South Wales Scorpions)
3 Luke Williams (South Wales Scorpions)
4 Matt Owen (London Broncos)
5 Zak Williams (South Wales Scorpions)
6 Morgan Knowles (St Helens)
7 Curtis Davies (South Wales Scorpions)
8 Kerian Hughes (South Wales Scorpions)
9 Alex King (South Wales Scorpions)
10 Sion Jones (South Wales Scorpions)
11 Jordon Liney (South Wales Scorpions)
12 Morgan Jefferies (South Wales Scorpions)
13 Connor Davies (Captain) (South Wales Scorpions)
14 Lewis Alexander (South Wales Scorpions)
15 Rhys Brownsell (South Wales Scorpions)
16 Lloyd Bodman (South Wales Scorpions)
17 Geraint Lawrence (Warrington Wolves)
18 Morgan Nicholas (Warrington Wolves)
19 Nathan Ainsworth (Warrington Wolves)

Tries: Jones (23), Bodman (47), L Williams (50)
Goals: Jones 3/4

1. Charlie Phythian (Warrington Wolves, Latchford Albion)     
2. Ryan Ince (Widnes Vikings, Widnes Moorfield)
3. Kameron Pearce Paul (London Broncos, Croydon Hurricanes)
4. Harvey Livett (Warrington Wolves, Rylands Sharks)         
5. Roshane Johnson (London Broncos, Medway Dragons)
6. Harry Tyson Wilson (Hull FC, West Hull)     
7. Morgan Smith  (Leeds Rhinos, Stanningley Rangers)
8. Sam Hallas (Leeds Rhinos, Stanningley) (C)
9. Aaron Smith (St Helens, Blackbrook)
10. Jordan Crowther (Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, Westgate Wolves)
11. Jake Moore (Wigan Warriors, Wath Brow Hornets)
12. Brad Harrison  (Hull FC, Skirlaugh Bulls)
13. Jordan Lane (Hull FC, West Hull)
14. Reece Brunt (Warrington Wolves, Latchford Albion)
15. Jake Campbell (St Helens, Blackbrook)
16. Frazer Morris (Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, St Joseph’s Sharks)    
17. Isaac Noi  (Wigan Warriors, Ince Rose Bridge)
18. Will Gledhill (Huddersfield Giants, Wakefield Westgate)

Tries: Ince (5, 20), Livett (9, 34), A Smith (67)
Goals: M Smith 3/5
Field-goal: Tyson-Wilson

Half-time: 4-18
Referee: P Graham

Neath 15-17 Bridgend

Bridgend provided a late comeback to stun hosts Neath to progress through the first round of qualifying for the British and Irish Cup in the Ospreys region, and will now face either Aberavon or Swansea next weekend.

Deep in injury time, Ravens captain Ashley James capitalised on some poor Neath play to dive over, with fly half James Dixon holding his nerve to add the extras and seal the win.

It was the old cliché of a game of two halves with Neath completely dominating the opening 40 minutes but were unable to kill off the visitors, as Ben Rose’s men gradually came back into the match.
Neath were ahead as early as the second minute with Dai Langdon landing an early penalty before Dixon levelled matters three minutes later after a scrappy start to the game.
However, the rest of the first half belonged to the home side as they asserted their dominance at the breakdown and at the scrum, with the latter resulting in a penalty try. Neath got the shunt on 5 metres out and with the scrum only going one way, the Bridgend pack disintegrated under the pressure and referee Gwyn Morris went beneath the posts, Langdon knocking over the easiest of conversions.
Although Neath continued to have all the territory and possession, they were guilty of spurning a number of good chances, with scrum-half Josh Davies looking particularly lively around the fringes. Langdon also missed two shots at goal as the score remained 10-3 heading into the interval.
Both sides started the second half with more endeavour and Neath’s second try came after a mazy 60 metre jaunt from wing Bowdy Davies. Davies picked up the ball in his own half before bobbing and weaving his way into the Ravens 22. With the Bridgend defence in disarray, the ball was recycled and after four phases of play the ball was swept out to fullback Dale Ford, who darted over out-wide. Langdon once again failed to hit the mark from the tee.
One would have been forgiven for thinking that the result was now a foregone conclusion but sloppy play from the hosts from the restart gifted Bridgend field position, and almost out of nothing Dixon hacked through to re-gather and touchdown, with the ex-Carmarthen Quins man adding the extras.
Shortly after, Bridgend’s Sam Treharne required lengthy treatment before being carried from the field for a leg injury.
The match continued in the stop start vein with a number of injuries halting proceedings, before Bridgend replacement Owain Lloyd was sent to the bin 20 minutes from the end. The Gnoll faithful were reinvigorated but a lacklustre passage of play saw the hosts unable to capitalise on their extra man.
It was all Bridgend now, with Neath having to fend off wave after wave of attack as the hosts' Garyn Daniel fell foul of a yellow card from Morris.
After a number of attacking five metre scrums for the visitors, Neath looked to have come out the other side as the Ravens knocked on with the line at their mercy, but Neath once again failed to clear their lines with the ball squirting loose over their try line and hooker James was first to react to draw the sides level.
Dixon then stepped up and slotted the winning conversion with 90 minutes up on the clock. However, there was time for one last Neath attack as they desperately tried to force matters, but it wasn't to be,with their final assault resulting in a Bridgend penalty.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Wales v England under 16 international in Taff's Well on Friday

Wales Rugby League host England at under 16 level at Taff’s Well RFC on Friday (kick-off 6.30pm) hoping for a first ever win against the old enemy.

It’s the second test of the year against England in tenth anniversary year of clashes between the two nations at this level, and Wales are hoping the equal the series at 1-1 after only losing on conversions in April, the final score being 22-18 with the sides locked at four tries each.

Last weekend, the Welsh played a warm up match and were beaten 28-14 by BARLA under 17s in Wigan with the home side scoring five tries to Wales’ three.

The Welsh, dominated by players from the South Wales Scorpions Academy, had the arduous task of travelling up from the valleys during the day, and gave their all in a mighty clash between the packs and in attack showed some glimpses of their flair none more so than a length of the field effort from Regan Grace (South Wales Academy) which at that stage gave his side a 6-4 lead. Jake Carroll and Lewis Willacott scored the other Welsh tries.

Despite this loss, head coach Dave Clark was pleased with the challenge against an older age-group and says that his side can’t wait to face England again on Friday.

“I thought it was really good for us,” he said. “It was important for us to go against a side like BARLA Under 17s as I wanted to get our boys defensive wise defending against big physical bodies running hard at them, as we will need that mentality in the Test against England on Friday.

“We will have to run hard and tackle hard and I think last week we handled the big body good and I think that will show us in good stead.

“Our boys learned a lot from last week’s game and we now can’t wait to take on England on Friday. All of our players have taken on and beaten Super League opposition this season, they’ve shown they can perform well of the big stage. They’ve all trained hard and we’re confident that we can give England a good game.”

The Welsh 22-man squad contains a mammoth 17 South Wales-based players. Warrington Wolves provide a further three with London Broncos and St Helens have one each.

England have named a 20-man squad which features 11 members of the squad that defeated Wales in April and England Youth coach Stuart Barrow will be hoping his side can make it two from two against Welsh opposition.

Hull FC have the largest contingent of players in the squad, with four Arlie Birds in the 20-strong squad while Leeds Rhinos and Warrington Wolves both have three representatives.

Huddersfield Giants, London Broncos, St Helens and Wigan Warriors all have two players in the squad while sole representatives from Widnes Vikings and Wakefield Trinity Wildcats complete the squad.

WALES from (South Wales Scorpions Academy unless stated): Alex King,  Ben Jones,  Connor Davies,  Curtis Davies,  Geraint Lawrence (Warrington Wolves),  Jake Carroll,  Jordon Liney,  Keiran Hughes,  Lewis Alexander,  Lewis Willacott,  Lloyd Bodman,  Luke Williams,  Matthew Owen (London Broncos),  Morgan Jeffries,  Morgan Knowles (St Helens),  Morgan Nicholas (Warrington Wolves),  Nathan Ainsworth (Warrington Wolves),  Regan Grace,  Rhys Brownsell,  Shane Lee,  Sion Jones,  Zak Williams.

ENGLAND (from): Brad Harrison  (Hull FC, Skirlaugh Bulls), Brad Parker (Hull FC, East Hull), Charlie Phythian (Warrington Wolves, Latchford Albion), Frazer Morris (Huddersfield Giants, St Joseph’s Sharks), Harry Tyson Wilson (Hull FC, West Hull), Harvey Livett (Warrington Wolves, Rylands Sharks), Isaac Noi  (Wigan Warriors, Ince Rose Bridge), Jacob Ware (Leeds Rhinos, Westgate Wolves), Jake Campbell (St Helens, Blackbrook), Jake Moore (Wigan Warriors, Wath Brow Hornets), Jordan Crowther (Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, Westgate Wolves), Jordan Lane (Hull FC, West Hull), Kameron Pearce Paul (London Broncos, Croydon Hurricanes), Lewis Fairhurst (St Helens, Hindley), Morgan Smith  (Leeds Rhinos, Stanningley Rangers), Reece Brunt (Warrington Wolves, Latchford Albion), Roshane Johnson (London Broncos, Medway Dragons), Ryan Ince (Widnes Vikings, Widnes Moorfield), Sam Hallas (Leeds Rhinos, Stanningley), Will Gledhill (Huddersfield Giants, Wakefield Westgate).

David Thomas – Ryder Cup Golfer and Renowned Golf Course Designer: 1934 - 2013

Dave Thomas, who has died, aged 79, was a four-time Ryder Cup golfer who followed an illustrious playing career in which he twice finished runner-up in The Open Championship by becoming a renowned designer of more than 100 courses.

European Tour Chief Executive George O’Grady, who presented Thomas with Honorary Life Membership of The European Tour earlier this year, led the tributes: “Dave became a household name in the 1950s and 1960s when he helped to build the game in Britain and all over the world. He was a larger than life character, a truly great guy, and our condolences are with his partner Carol and Dave’s sons Michael and Paul.

“Wherever The Tour has travelled from Britain to the Continent to the Rest of the World we have played on courses designed by Dave and both as a player and an architect he leaves a lasting legacy to the game he truly loved.”

Sandy Jones, Chief Executive of the Professional Golfers’ Association, said: “I am very sad to learn of the passing of Dave Thomas. He was the proud Captain of The PGA in our Centenary Year of 2001 and everyone would agree he was a legend of the professional game. He was always great company and a kind and gentle man.

“I feel a great privilege to have shared many enjoyable times in his company when he would enthral me with great stories from his life in golf as we enjoyed a glass of red. He will be very sadly missed by me and all who knew him.”

Thomas, born and raised in Newcastle, turned professional in 1949 when he watched some of the game’s great champions including Fred Daly, Max Faulkner and the legendary Sam Snead competing in The Ryder Cup at Ganton in Yorkshire, England, which left such a lasting impression that he was determined as a player to aspire to the same standards.

Ten years later Thomas made his Ryder Cup debut at Eldorado Country Club in California against Cary Middlecoff, three times a Major Champion, and Snead himself and with Harry Weetman halved their foursomes.

He would play in three more Ryder Cups with the last in 1967 at the Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas, where he partnered a young Tony Jacklin in all four fourballs and foursomes, earning 2 ½ points, before halving his match with Gene Littler in the singles.

Thomas, who was elected to The Welsh Sports Hall of Fame (WSHF) in 2002, represented Wales 11 times in the World Cup of Golf between 1957 and 1970 and, following his win in the 1955 British Assistants, he captured more than 20 titles including the Belgian Open (1955), the Dutch Open (1958), the French Open (1959) and the PGA Match Play (1963).

In 1958 Thomas tied the Australian Peter Thomson for The Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes, losing the 36-hole play-off, and in 1966 at Muirfield he finished tied second with Doug Sanders one stroke behind Jack Nicklaus.

Thomas was recognised throughout his career for his long, straight driving – in 1967 during a practice round for The Open Championship at Hoylake he hit a drive onto the green at the 420 yards second hole.

After arthritis brought a premature end to his playing career, Thomas immersed himself in his other great passion of golf course designing. Together with Peter Alliss, he designed The Belfry’s famous Brabazon Course on which The Ryder Cup was played in 1985, 1989, 1993 and 2002.

His CV also includes De Vere Slaley Hall in Northumberland where GB and Ireland will play the United States in the PGA Cup in September,  St Leon Rot, a European Tour Destination Course in Germany, where Europe will defend the Solheim Cup in 2015, the Roxburgh in Scotland, San Roque in Spain, Cannes Mougins, La Baule and Terre Blanche in France and courses in Africa, China, Japan, South America and Taiwan.

Alliss said: “The death of David Thomas saw the closing of a major chapter of my life, both on and off the golf course.

“We met in the mid 1950s and remained friends until his passing.  We played hundreds of rounds together in exhibition matches and tournaments throughout the length and breadth of the world.  We travelled together.  Dare I say, we knew each other’s innermost secrets.  We designed over 50 golf courses together, though perhaps our partnership was rather forgotten over the latter years.

“He was good company and over indulged, certainly on good food and good wine.   How he lived to be 79 is a miracle of the human spirit.

“My thoughts are with Carol and boys at this sad time.   He leaves behind a big footprint which I’ve always been delighted to walk alongside.

“Rest easy old friend.”

Brian Huggett, who partnered Thomas in representing Wales in the World Cup of Golf on three occasions and played on two Ryder Cup teams together, said: “He was a great friend and a lovely man. I remember playing with him in the World Cup in 1969 in Singapore and we came to 250 yard par three where he was the only player in the field who could reach. There was a hole-in-one prize of two first class tickets round the world and some spending money and sure enough he holed his tee shot. On the flight home he simply asked if I minded if he kept the two tickets but would give me £1,000. There was never any discussion about splitting the prize, and I hadn’t even considered it but just shows the generosity of the man.

“He really was a fantastic player – one of the longest hitters and there was nothing like watching his drives soaring way in his heyday. He was also one of the first pros to become a first class course designer around the world and he was very proud of that. Everyone who knew him will miss him.”

Former Ryder Cup golfer John O’Leary, Ambassador of Buckinghamshire Golf Club and a lifetime friend of Thomas, said: “I first met David at Little Island Golf Club in Cork in 1969 and from that day until this I, along with so many other people, received his wonderful generosity of spirit towards life. David’s passing is a huge loss to everyone around the world who knew, loved and respected him. The legacy that David leaves is immense.”

Ken Schofield, Executive Director of The European Tour from 1975 to 2004, said: “The legacy of David Thomas is unique in that of the modern British professionals he has twinned championship play with a quantity and quality of golf course designs that will endure as long as the game is played. David was the ultimate gentle giant.”

Thomas is survived by his partner, Carol and two sons, Michael and Paul. His wife, Robbie, and another son, Philip, predeceased him.

A funeral service will be held at the Manilva Crematorium on Monday, September 2, at 1.30pm and afterwards at the San Roque Club, Sotogrande, Spain. No Flowers. Donations to the PGA Benevolent Fund c/o David Wright, The PGA, Centenary House, The Belfry, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands B76 9PT

Thursday, 15 August 2013

South Wales RL Finals Day

Wales Rugby League hold their South Wales’ Grand Finals day this Sunday at Taff’s Well RFC.

It’s the longest club finals day they’ve ever held, with five matches culminating in the senior final between Valley Cougars of Nelson and Torfaen Tigers (kick-off 5pm).

The Cougars, who finished top of the table in the regular season, are looking to take their third title, having last won the crown in 2010, while the Tigers, appearing in the first Final in eight years, are aiming to lift the trophy for the first time.

The day is being made extra special as, at around 1.25pm, there is a presentation by Cardiff Spartans who have been collecting rugby kit for the Sierra Leone Kit Fund. This is a follow up to an appeal made by Wales Rugby League’s Mark Jones back in April when he visited the West African country alongside the Rugby League European Federation to investigate opportunities to introduce Rugby League into their country.

The first game is at 11.30am when Spartans’ under 13s side take on favourites Neath and District Scorpions in the under 13s final.

Senghenydd’s Aber Valley Wolves then feature in both the under 14s and under 15s finals.

They are looking to go one better than last year at under 14 level when they take on Penallta Storm in that Final at 12.30pm and an hour later the older group take on Bridgend Blue Bulls.

And in the under 16s final at 2.45pm, the Storm, last year’s under 15 champions, look to win another title as they face South Gower Rebels.

Admission for adults is £3 and children and concessions just £1. The WRL have asked that if anyone has any old playing kit or equipment for the Sierra Leone Fund then please bring it to Taff’s Well RFC on the day.

Mark Jones, WRL National Development Manager, said: “Rugby league in Wales is still growing at a rapid rate.  The demand this year has seen new community clubs being established throughout  Wales. These include Whitehead Warriors (Newport), Borderer Boars (Monmouth), Western Warriors (Tenby) and Gwendraeth Raiders (Mynydd). This season WRL have added one new age grade in under 16s and a Senior Merit Table for developing teams.

“We’re delighted that we have five finals this Sunday representing many of these groups and I would like to thank Taff’s Well RFC and their staff for hosting the day and supporting the development of Rugby League in Wales.

10.30 – Gates Opening
11.30 – U13s Final – Cardiff Spartans v Neath and District Scorpions
12.30 – U14s Final – Aber Valley Wolves v Penallta Storm
13.30 – U15s Final – Aber Valley Wolves v Bridgend Blue Bulls
14.45 – U16s Final – South Gower Rebels v Penallta Storm
17.00 – Conference Premier Final – Valley Cougars v Torfaen Tigers

Friday, 9 August 2013

Barry win their Biggest Battle

Welsh soccer bosses were left red-faced after a High Court judge ruled that they had made an unlawful decision in rejecting Barry Town United’s bid for full membership of the Football Association of Wales and a place in the Welsh League this coming season.
Barry one of the biggest names in Welsh non-league football over the years- they once beat Porto in European competition- were pulled out of the Welsh League by their maverick owner and secretary Stuart Lovering just three days before the end of last season.
Supporters rallied around to re-form – and they then applied to the authorities for Welsh League entry which was refused – a member of the FAW Council Andrew Edwards quit in protest at the way the matter was handled.
But Barry’s committee vowed to fight on and took the FAW to the High Court.
And in the High Court in Cardiff the Judge Mr.Justice Seys Llewellyn ruled that the FAW had acted unlawfully and gave Barry two-thirds of their costs.
Barry had been represented by sports barrister Jonathan Crystal,a former Director of both Cardiff City and Tottenham Hotspur .
Now the FAW are expected to formally accept Barry’s entry into the Welsh League third division after their next meeting on Wednesday.
“We are absolutely elated. It is justice. All we were after was a bit of justice and that is what we have got,”said secretary David Cole.
Throughout the past week Barry have received tremendous support on social network sites from around the country.

Boulden creates history

Amy Boulden was celebrating last night after creating history by becoming the first Welsh winner of the English Women's Open stroke-play championship.
In clinching the title at Mannings Heath in West Sussex, the Conwy-based Curtis Cup star completed an amazing double having won the Welsh Open stroke-play crown in May.
On Twitter, Boulden said of her win- “That was a long tough battle out there today! But so happy to have won! English open amateur champion sounds nice!”
Boulden, who celebrated her 20th Birthday earlier in the week, finished the 72-holes with an aggregate of three under par, 285, after rounds of 72,69,72 and 72, the same as Singapore-based Charlotte Thomas.
The Welsh star, who had started the last round one adrift and was then two behind with six holes remaining, won the title in a play-off against Thomas, birdying the opening hole in the sudden death play-off. 

Port Talbot face Merthyr in final pre-season test

Martin Rose (in blue) is expected to return in Saturday's match against Merthyr.
Port Talbot Town will undergo their final preparations for the new season this Saturday, when Merthyr Town visit the GenQuip Stadium (3pm).

The Steelmen will sign off an encouraging pre-season campaign in front of a home crowd against the Martyrs.

“I expect it’ll very similar to last week [against Biggleswade], it’ll be a good test,” commented Scott Young, who takes his side to Welsh Premier League champions TNS on the opening day of the new season in two weeks’ time.

“Merthyr are a good side and it’ll be our final game before the start the season so we’ll go right at it, as if it were a competitive match where we need to do things right.”

“We’ll prepare for it as if we are preparing for TNS and after that, we will have five or six training sessions to put on the finishing touches.”

Rhys Griffiths is expected to feature after returning to the side in last weekend’s 3-3 draw with Biggleswade, along with fellow striker Martin Rose, who has returned from holiday.

Chad Bond is definitely ruled out after undergoing surgery this week, whilst Carl Payne and David Brooks are thought to be doubtful.

Admission for the game is £5 adults, £3 concessions and £1 for children.

Scarlets join up with Royal Air Force for summer training camp

A full 46-man Scarlets squad has been tested physically and mentally as part of an intense three-day training camp at MOD St Athan this week.

The training exercises at the MOD base form part of the Scarlets pre-season training and preparations ahead of their first non-competitive rugby fixtures of the summer kicking off with English Premiership side Exeter Chiefs at Parc y Scarlets next Saturday August 17th (kick off 3pm).

With a strong focus on leadership, decision-making skills and the ability to react and communicate under pressure, the group has been put through their paces mentally and physically by RAF Outreach teams with a series of group training exercises at the Vale of Glamorgan base.

Activities have ranged from assault course training, parachute drills, activities with special forces combat trainers, planning exercises, leadership and team building.

The training camp included a full back-room staff and the entire Scarlets playing contingent coming together as a group at the MOD base, including returning British and Irish Lion Jonathan Davies who had given up time on leave to join his Scarlets colleagues; plus internationals Rhys Priestland, Scott Williams, Josh Turnbull and Ken Owens as they come back into full fitness ahead of the new season.

Scarlets Head Coach Simon Easterby said the programmes had been a valuable way to take the players away from the conventional training field and test them with a series of unique situations and exercises.

He said: “It’s been excellent throughout. The players got a bit of a shock on the first morning with a 5.15am wake-up call and straight into some very physical activities before breakfast that set the tone for the training camp. They performed very well from the outset and really bought into the whole experience individually and collectively as a group: as a coaching group it’s been really beneficial to see how the players react to different situations they are not expecting.

“The players have worked very hard throughout and been really committed; I have been really impressed how all of them have taken to the challenges put in front of them and it will be interesting to see how much they take out of their time here as we approach the new season.

“We’ve tested problem solving, leadership, decision making under fatigue, reaction under pressure and how players process information and communicate with each other to complete varied tasks.”

Easterby said he has been very pleased with how the Scarlets pre-season training has come together over the past eight weeks and that the group were focused and looking forward to their three pre-season fixtures against Exeter Chiefs (Parc y Scarlets, August 17th at 3pm), London Welsh (25th August, 2pm, Kassam Stadium) and Gloucester Rugby (Kingsholm, August 30th, 7.30pm).

The first game of the season sees the Scarlets welcome PRO12 champions Leinster onFriday 6th September with three Saturday evening games against Benetton Treviso, Glasgow and Ulster before Christmas and the traditional Ospreys Boxing Day derby returning to Parc y Scarlets this year.

Easterby said the pre-season was all about building momentum and belief in the group ahead of a huge opening game for the Scarlets in the Celtic league.

He said: “The players will have learnt a lot about themselves the last few days as well as giving the coaches insight into the qualities and dynamics in groups of players that can only come out in through out of the ordinary training and situations we wouldn’t cover on the training field during the season.

“It’s not just been about physical exertion either and pushing the boys to their endurance limits, it’s been about bringing out their leadership skills, decision-making under pressure and communication skills as a group.

“A lot of planning went into the days at the RAF St Athan and we are grateful to everyone at the base and the RAF Outreach workers and all those involved for supporting what has been a very beneficial and inspiring few days for the Scarlets squad and all the back-room staff.”

St Athan opened on 1st September 1938 for the RAF, and was reputedly the largest station of the forces. In recent years the station was used mainly for aircraft repairs, becoming home to the Defence Aircraft Repair Agency.

As well as the RAF, the site also housed other forces, and in 2006 it officially became an MOD base and has a large army presence; the repair functions under DARA are gradually being wound down. It currently houses a British Army special forces support group, RAF Squadron Air Training Corps, and MOD specialist technical training school.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Welsh Rowers Korea-bound for World Championships

Welsh Rowers Chris Bartley and Vicky Thornley have both been selected as part of the GB Rowing Team for the World Championships in Chungju, Korea later this month.

The eight-day regatta takes place from 25 August to 1 September.

Bartley is picked once again to race in the lightweight men’s four alongside Adam Freeman-Pask, William Fletcher and Jonathan Clegg.

Since winning Olympic silver at London 2012, the 29-year-old has twice returned to the podium during this year’s series of world cup regattas.

He followed up a silver medal won in Sydney at the start of the season with a bronze on his return to Eton Dorney lake in June.

Meanwhile, Wrexham’s Vicky Thornley has been selected for the women’s single scull having made great progress in the event this year – the highlight being a fourth place finish at Eton Dorney.

Elsewhere, Andrew Triggs Hodge, Peter Reed and Alex Gregory, the three returning 2012 gold medallists from the men’s four, will race in the men’s eight.

Predictably after their hat-trick of 2013 World Cup gold medals Olympic Champion Helen Glover and Polly Swann are named in the women’s pair slot.

Brothers Peter and Richard Chambers race the lightweight men’s double scull once more and Olympic bronze medallist Alan Campbell, from the Coleraine-connected trio in the GB squad, is the selected men’s open weight single sculler.

Agecroft RC’s Graeme Thomas, who turned from rugby to rowing and joined the GB Rowing Team Start programme just a few short years ago, is fit once more and rejoins the men’s quadruple scull with Charles Cousins, Sam Townsend and Peter Lambert.

The quartet, minus Thomas but with sculling reserve Jonathan Walton on board, came close to a medal in Lucerne as did Frances Houghton and Vicky Meyer-Laker who are named today in the women’s double scull after winning medals in two of the 2013 world cups.

There are no changes in the men’s double, four and lightweight men’s single, nor in the lightweight women’s single or double.  

Mark Aldred and Sam Scrimegour, gold winners in Eton Dorney and Lucerne have been named in the lightweight men’s pair ahead of the GB U23 world champion duo.

GB will field the same women’s eight that came fourth in the record-breaking final in Lucerne, during which the USA set a new world-best time. Beth Rodford, Louisa Reeve, Jess Eddie and Katie Greves are the experienced Olympians in the line-up.

Since a somewhat disappointing final world cup in Lucerne – at which the team won two golds and a bronze – all of the senior squad have been away at their traditional, annual altitude camps before returning to finish off their preparations this week at the GB Rowing Team lottery-funded national training centre near Reading.

“Lucerne was useful in that it gave us a baseline from which to move forward”, said GB Rowing Team Performance Director, Sir David Tanner.  “This year has all been about giving new, young rowers their chance at the top alongside our more experienced names. So we should not expect big fireworks in Korea but this team still has the talent to sparkle”.

GB has also named its para-rowing squad for Chungju today.  Tom Aggar has been named in the arms-shoulders men’s single scull and the leg-trunks-arms mixed coxed four will be Pamela Relph, Naomi Riches, James Fox, Oliver Hester and cox Oliver James.

Both GB crews won world cup gold at Eton Dorney in June but know that the field will strengthen for the World Championships.  Relph, Riches and Aggar are the only returning 2012 Paralympians.  

Relph’s selection today means a second set of siblings in the squad for Korea. Her sister Monica races in the women’s quad in Chungju – a first time selection for both at a senior World Championships.

The team leaves for Korea next week.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Trio of Welsh courses to host 2014 Senior Open Qualifying

Three of Wales’ leading links courses - Ashburnham Golf Club, Pyle & Kenfig Golf Club and Southerndown Golf Club – have been announced as host venues for the Monday Qualifying event prior to The 2014 Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex, which takes place at Royal Porthcawl from July 24-27.

After a record number of entrants in 2013, it is expected that more than 300 golfers will participate in the qualifying event on Monday July 21, 2014, hoping to earn a place in Wales’ first Major Championship.

They will be vying for approximately 30 spots in the field for The Senior Open Championship and the chance to play alongside some of the game’s all-time greats, such as 2012 champion Fred Couples, Bernhard Langer and home favourite Ian Woosnam. 

Ashburnham Golf Club celebrated its centenary in 1994 by hosting the Amateur Home Internationals. Previously it hosted the PGA Championship in 1959, won by Dai Rees, and again ten years later when Bernard Gallacher triumphed.

Another Ryder Cup Captain, Sam Torrance, also won the Martini Open at the venue in 1976, capturing his second European Tour title after a maiden victory earlier that year in the Piccadilly Medal.

Pyle & Kenfig Golf Club hosted the Senior Ladies British Open Amateur Championship in 2009 and has twice assisted with the stroke play rounds of The Amateur Championship.

Southerndown Golf Club, another superb Welsh links course, was created by a number of leading architects since 1905, including Willie Fernie, Herbert Fowler, Willie Park, Harry Colt and Donald Steel.
It hosted the Martini International  in 1968, won by home favourite Brian Huggett, as well as the Piccadilly Medal in 1970 and 1971.

Johnnie Cole-Hamilton, Executive Director – Championships, at The R&A, said on behalf of the Championship: “Next year’s Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex will be the first time the Championship has been played in Wales. We are delighted that these three superb links courses, Ashburnham Golf Club, Pyle & Kenfig Golf Club and Southerndown Golf Club, will all be involved, alongside host venue Royal Porthcawl.

“The Monday qualifying event has become an integral part of The Senior Open Championship, bringing a positive economic impact to the local economy, so we look forward to these three venues playing an important role in the 2014 Championship.”

Wales’ First Minister, Carwyn Jones said: “We have already proven that we can host top quality, international golf events here in Wales and continue to work tirelessly to capitalise on the profile we have gained from this. The fact that these three links courses will host the qualifying events shows our reputation as a golfing nation continues to go from strength to strength.” 

Advance tickets for The 2014 Senior Open Championship at Royal Porthcawl can now be purchased, with special pre-Christmas discounts available.
Season tickets bought before December 31 cost just £60 – a 25 per cent saving on the gate price of £80.

One day tickets purchased before December 31 cost £20, a saving of £10 on the gate price, while Wednesday practice day tickets are also available at the reduced price of £10, a saving of £5 on the gate price. Under16s are admitted for free when accompanied by an adult and parking is also free.

Tickets can be bought online via or by calling +44 (0)800 0232557, with details of hospitality packages also available.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Neath take another step towards SWCA title

Pacemakers Neath took another step towards the Thomas Carroll Division One South Wales Cricket Association crown, with a clinical eight wicket win over strugglers Llangennech.

The basement boys lost the toss and were put in, but could only muster 78 as they were skittled by the trailblazers in the 46th over. Keiron Bull was once again destroyer in chief claiming 4-27, while Joe Parkhouse captured 3-12 and Tom Jones snared 2-5.
Neath needed just 19 overs to chase down the target as they posted 79-2, with Keiran Thomas hitting an unbeaten 36, while Ashley Colston knocked 33.
With just four weeks of the cricket season left, the Gnoll side remain in a commanding position of 46 points clear of second place, but with matches against Tata Steel and Ynystawe still to come, the leaders would be foolish to think the title race is over.
Meanwhile, there were convincing wins for both Tata Steel and Ynystawe. The Port Talbot side saw off Gowerton by 53 runs, while Ynystawe dispatched Cowbridge by ten wickets.
At the other end of the table, Maesteg Celtic have given themselves a mountain to climb if they are to avoid the drop after losing out to relegation rivals Dafen by seven wickets.
Celtic were put in and carded 143-8 in their allotted overs, Phil Poole was the best with the bat knocking a half century (59). Phil George 3-37 and Chris Hudson 4-50 were the most potent with the ball in hand.
The Llanelli outfit in reply chased down the runs required for the loss of just three wickets, smacking 144-3. Dafydd Nicholas was their star with the willow smashing an unbeaten 67, while Nicky Davies chipped in with a solid 39.
Elsewhere, Clydach bagged a winning draw at home to Carmarthen Wanderers.
Just eight points now separates the top three teams in Division Two, after leaders Aberdare succumbed to their first defeat of the season as they were thumped by title rivals Briton Ferry Steel by 174 runs.
Steel batted first and posted a thumping 269-8, Craig Evans causing most of the damage at the crease smashing a century (125), while Jason Hughes knocked 35 and Steve Devonald chipped in with 29. In reply, the Cynon Valley side had no answers and were dismissed for just 95.
Meanwhile, third placed Skewen returned to winning ways after losing three matches on the bounce as they narrowly saw off Pontardawe by 11 runs.
It remains excruciatingly close at the top of Division Three, with leaders Porthcawl maintaining their slender advantage over title rivals Maesteg thanks to a 25 run win at Pontyberem.
The Seasiders batted first and posted 120, Brett Davies (33) and Nick Lyddon (28) were the best with the bat for the visitors.
In reply, Pontyberem fell short on 95 as Tom Davies ripped apart the hosts' batting order, taking 6-27.
Meanwhile, Maesteg remain within touching distance of the leaders after they dispatched Briton Ferry Town by seven wickets.
Finally, Pwll maintained their sizeable advantage at the summit of Division Four with a comfortable nine wicket victory over strugglers Llandarcy.
The only fixture in Pembroke saw Division One leaders Neyland secure the second part of the coveted treble, as they dispatched Llangwm by six wickets to take home the Harrison Allen Bowl.
Neyland, who have already notched up the DR Morris Cup, were too strong for the league strugglers, with Ashley Sutton starring with the willow for the in-form side.

Welsh Football Friendlies Round Up

Colwyn Bay left it late to shoot down Welsh Premier Champions TNS 2-1 in an enthralling pre-season friendly at Llanelian Road.

The Saints stunned the home faithful early on with full back Simon Spender finishing off a weaving run to score with a good shot after just two minutes.
The lively visitors dominated and ‘keeper Josh Ollerenshaw had to be at his best to keep the Seagulls in contention with a fine reflex save to deny Greg Draper.
Seagulls Manager Frank Sinclair called on the cavalry at half time, making seven changes, which proved to be a game-changer as Steve Connor and Jamie Ellison were denied in quick succession.
With just ten minutes remaining, Louis Moss set up John McKenna who equalised from the edge of the area and just two minutes from the end, Cameron Darkwah won possession in the TNS half to send Ellison clear and lob the advancing ‘keeper to net the winner.
Meanwhile, newly formed Penybont played out a highly entertaining 3-3 draw with Merthyr Town at Bryntirion Park.
The Division One Welsh league side Penybont, who formed this summer with the merger of Bridgend Town and Bryntirion Athletic, looked more assured on the ball in the early stages, and the hosts took a deserved 2-0 lead into the interval after a brace from ace marksman Robbie Walters.
The Martyrs' Ryan Prosser halved the deficit five minutes after the interval, stepping up to convert from 12 yards after he was felled in the area, as Garry Shephard’s men grew in confidence.
However, against the run of play, Bont restored their two goal cushion with Walters once again at the centre of the attack as the striker ran at the Martyrs' defence before sliding a neat ball through to Jack Delve, who coolly converted.
However, the Evo Stik Southern Division One side would not go away and continued to bombard the hosts, and with five minutes remaining, Alex Long headed in at the back post to reduce the deficit.
The once assured Penybont defence now looked in disarray and with pressure mounting, referee Colin Jones once again pointed to the spot for an infringement in the hosts' box, and replacement Ryan Newman stepped up to clinch a well-earned draw. 
There was also late drama at Park Avenue where Aberystwyth were held to a 1-1 draw by Haverfordwest.
Both sides fielded a hatful of trialists seeking to impress and it led to a midfield stalemate with chances at a premium.
And fans had to wait until eight minutes from time for the first goal when Aber’s Sion James found the net with a close range shot following a corner from Antonio Corbisiero.
Corbisiero set up another chance which Rhydian Davies failed to convert, and the visitors snatched a late equaliser through Dale Griffiths to earn the Welsh League side a share of the spoils.
Meanwhile, Newtown surrendered a two-goal lead as they lost 3-2 at another Alliance club, Guilsfield, Welsh Premier new boys Rhyl knocked four past Conwy Borough, while Port Talbot Town made the long trip to Bedfordshire and returned from Biggleswade with a 3-3 draw.
Elsewhere, Jordan Follows scored a late consolation goal for Carmarthen Town in a 3-1 defeat at Bath City, David Pratt bagging a brace, while Karl Murray was on target as Prestatyn Town drew 1-1 at Vauxhall Motors.
Finally, Bangor City completed a miserable week as they crashed 4-0 at Nantporth to Burscough, managed by ex-City defender Derek Goulding.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Bush clinches Welsh Amateur Crown

Morlais Castle’s Jack Bush produced some exquisite golf to clinch the Welsh Amateur Championship at Ashburnham, thrashing Southerndown’s Mike Hearne 9&8.

In the 36 hole final Bush, who plays off a handicap of plus two, was always in control of proceedings and a three under opening round saw him take a four hole lead over 22 year old Hearne into the day’s second round.

The Merthyr man continued to have the Midas touch in the afternoon session, taming the wild Asburnham course on a hot but blustery day. Bush won holes 2, 5, 7, 9 and 10, as he claimed victory on the 28th hole of the contest to record the biggest winning margin since 1980.

“I came here as an outsider, a complete underdog but I started the week well and to win the Welsh Amateur is a complete dream come true”, said Bush.

“I was down in both the quarter-final and semifinal but dug in and fought back to win, and thankfully I got a good start and played one of the games of my life today. I have holed a lot of good putts this tournament and there’s no doubt that that’s what has won me the title.”

Bush, who works for his Grandfather’s paint selling business in Merthyr, was overwhelmed by the support he has had from family and friends this week.

“I had so much support out there today, the ‘Merthyr Mafia’ have come down to see me play and to produce the goods and win the title in front of my friends and family is truly amazing”, beamed Bush.

Bush and Hearne will now team up as part of the Welsh Men’s Team at the Home Internationals at Ganton later this month.

“I’m really excited about winning my first senior cap. I’ve played for Wales at junior level but this will be a step up, though hopefully I can keep my form from this week going”, added Bush.