Saturday, 26 April 2014

WHIRLWIND YEAR ENDS WITH UNDEFEATED IRONSIDES SWALEC TITLE WIN

What a difference a year makes on the rugby field. At the end of last season, Tredegar Ironsides were relegated from Division 3 East to the bottom Division 6 East.

One year on, the Ironsides have clinched the SWALEC Division 6 East trophy (Saturday 26th April 2014), with a 10 -19 away win over Hollybush RFC to also continue their undefeated season in the league.
Tredegar Ironsides RFC carried off the SWALEC Division 6 East title by 9 points, winning all the league games that they’ve played this season. The club are already planning for life in their new division with preparations already well under way. A brand new gym facility is near completion and there will be a “revolutionary training strategy in place” according to the Blaenau Gwent club.
Tredegar Ironsides RFC Club Captain Craig Monaghan said:”Winning the league is a really big achievement for us. We had a goal at the beginning of the season to win it undefeated, and it feels great to say now that we’ve done it. The team have really stuck together this season, and captured the spirit of what playing for Ironsides is all about.”
 Head Coaches Nigel Quirke and Lewis Protheroe said:”Congratulations to Hollybush, they made us work hard and we had to get very focused and just stick as one today, it was a difficult game. After the trials and tribulations last year, winning the title is everything to the club at the moment. We’re so pleased for the supporters, the club and the players.”
Top try scorer Jason Jones, who plays number 8 for the club, couldn’t continue his scoring ways due to injury but joined the supporters who had travelled to the Aberbargoed club.
WRU representative Ken Hewitt added: “A good performance from both teams, but well done to the Tredegar Ironsides. It was a tough game and they played well to secure the win.”

Merthyr RFC win SWALEC Division One East trophy‏

A year after narrowly avoiding relegation, Merthyr RFC have clinched the SWALEC Division 1 East trophy today (Saturday, April 26, 2014.)



The Ironmen carried off the SWALEC Division 1 East title, winning all but two of the league games that they’ve played this season.


Following a wet and windy game, their 22-12 home win over Bedlinog RFC not only continued their undefeated season in the league but also earned them the title.


What a difference a year makes for the club who last season narrowly avoided relegation from Division 1 East.


Since then, former Wales international Lee Jarvis has taken the reigns alongside assistant coach Gary Horrigan and transformed the mentality and style of play at Merthyr RFC to promotion.


Lee Jarvis, who has enjoyed a tremendous first season as Merthyr RFC Head Coach, said: "We were in a bit of a mess last year, but we've had a superb year. To win the title is huge. We've worked hard all season and there's no magic potion. Bedlinog are our local rivals and we all dug deep to beat them, despite the conditions not allowing us to play great rugby."


Assistant coach, Gary Horrigan, added: "We're very confident going into the new season and we have momentum ahead of next week's big game. Merthyr RFC was the sleeping giant, but it's woken up."

Merthyr RFC Club Captain and fly-half Steve Lang praised wing man Owain Morgan, who scored a hat trick of tries against their rivals. "It's been a tough season and last year we were in the doldrums of Division One,” he said.

“The massive transformation is down to Gary, Lee, the committee and the team. The boys have stuck together through some tough times and we've come under criticism from other teams but we've come through it stronger."

WRU Board Member, Ray Wilton, said: “It was a physically tough game and Merthyr came out on top and are on course for an excellent season.”


Merthyr RFC will look to cap off a successful season for the club and bring even more silverware back to The Wern this season as they compete in the SWALEC Plate final against Rhiwbina RFC at the Millennium Stadium on Sunday 4th May.


Seven coaches full of supporters are expected to head down the A470 towards the Cardiff’s main sporting arena.

Merthyr RFC and Rhiwbina RFC will battle during SWALEC Finals Day, which sees six clubs competing in the Cup, Plate and Bowl competitions.

Glynneath celebrate claiming the Swalec One West trophy

Glynneath RFC have won the SWALEC Division 1 West trophy today (Saturday 26th April 2014) with a 41-12 win against Llangennech RFC at the end of their 125th anniversary season.


Glynneath carried off the SWALEC Division 1 West title after winning all but one of the 20 league games that they’ve played this season including today’s home win over Llangennech RFC running in an impressive six tries. Their unblemished record was only scuppered by a 10 – 10 draw against Crymych RFC at the start of the season.
This win emphasises the rise in fortunes for the club who were playing in the Division 4 South West league at the beginning of the 2007 season.
One who is thrilled with the team’s progress is its well-known Club President.
 Max Boyce said: “It’s been a remarkable season and we couldn’t have celebrated our 125 years in a better way. This has been arguably our greatest season since the Halcyon days of the 1961-62 Invincibles. It has been heart-warming to see the whole town get behind the team at home and away matches. I don’t think I’ve been prouder of our team than I am today.”
 Glynneath RFC Club Captain Craig Moses added: “This is a huge achievement for the club and for all involved. On a personal note it’s an incredible honour during my first season as club captain having been involved with Glynneath RFC for most of my life. We’ve got an exciting group of players developing and a lot of our younger players have made an impression with the Ospreys Academy so the future’s looking good.”
 Mike Lewis, who coaches the title-winning side alongside David Puckett, said: “It’s been a tough league and every side have given us a challenge. Perhaps what has given us that extra push is the belief of the players, the belief to want to play at a higher level and a belief in our abilities. We’ve trained hard all year and our sessions have been good. I think we’ve progressed and got better as the season has gone on. Next season will be a massive challenge for a village like Glynneath but with the attitude of these young boys and a bit of luck hopefully we can push forward.”
 WRU Board Member Geraint Edwards said: “To go through the season unbeaten in what is a very tough league is an incredible achievement. Glynneath are a young side and a good footballing side which makes it undoubtedly hard for the opposition. They’ve invested in youth and mostly home-grown players and they’ve been rewarded.”
SWALEC is the national community partner of the Welsh Rugby Union and sponsors both the SWALEC Leagues and SWALEC Cup, Plate and Bowl competitions.  SWALEC Finals Day, which sees six clubs battle it out in the Cup, Plate and Bowl competitions, will take place on Sunday 4th May at the Millennium Stadium.
Jonny Petrie, head of sponsorship strategy at SWALEC, added: “Our strong partnership with the WRU and its clubs goes back a number of years and we’re very pleased to be doing more for grassroots rugby in Wales through our sponsorship of the SWALEC Leagues. It has been another strong season for Welsh rugby as a whole and we have seen some impressive performances at club level. Many congratulations to Glynneath RFC on claiming the title.”

BACK-TO-BACK TITLES for ST JOSEPH’S RFC as they win SWALEC DIVISION 4 SOUTH EAST

St Joseph’s RFC have secured the SWALEC Division 4 South East trophy with an away win over Bryncethin RFC today (Saturday 26th April 2014). 

The Cardiff based side carried off the SWALEC Division 4 South East title after beating Bryncethin 46-10 points, winning all but two of the league games that they’ve played this season.
It’s been a family affair at the club this season with four sets of brothers in their squad. Player Coach Grant Harrington and his brother Mark join the Rowlands, Matthews and Egan brothers on the squad list. Most of whom have developed from the strong youth side of two seasons ago. St Joseph’s have managed to keep a strong core of players from that youth side and have seen the benefits on the field with two promotions in two seasons.
St Joseph’s RFC Club Captain Luke Egan said: “Winning the SWALEC Division 4 South East league trophy today makes me feel very proud to be part of St Joseph's RFC.  We are currently in the highest division we have been in years which is a fantastic achievement for everyone involved in the club from coaches and players to our supporters and family members. We have worked very hard to get where we are today so I just hope we can continue the success into next season.”
Head Coach and the team’s second-row Grant Harrington said: “Having received a promotion up to Division 4 last season we didn’t have high expectations for this season. We knew we were playing new teams so we really focused our minds on training hard and working together as a time - which has definitely paid off. The mature approach to training and the professionalism shown by all the players this season has also been a key contributing factor to our success this season.  After a very promising start we were pleased to see our winning steak continue through the league enabling us to win the title today.”
Grant continued, "The mixture of new youth players as well as experienced senior players has been instrumental to the success of the team as it has provided us with a great combination of skills and talent. Players such as Luke and James Egan, Freddie Rowlands, Leon Casoria and Lewys Helyar have been particularly strong this season and all played a key role in securing the title.”
“Following our unbeaten run, I think we are feeling pretty confident that we can continue our success into next season.”
 WRU Board Member Roy Giddings added: “St Josephs have experienced a tremendous season this year, winning all but two of their games. I am delighted to present them with the SWALEC Division 4 South East league trophy today and I wish them all the best for next season.”
SWALEC is the national community partner of the Welsh Rugby Union and sponsors both the SWALEC Leagues and SWALEC Cup, Plate and Bowl competitions.  SWALEC Finals Day, which sees six clubs battle it out in the Cup, Plate and Bowl competitions, will take place on Sunday 4th May at the Millennium Stadium.
Jonny Petrie, head of sponsorship strategy at SWALEC, added: “Our strong partnership with the WRU and its clubs goes back a number of years and we’re very pleased to be doing more for grassroots rugby in Wales through our sponsorship of the SWALEC Leagues. It has been another strong season for Welsh rugby as a whole and we have seen some impressive performances at club level. Many congratulations to St Joseph’s RFC on claiming the title.”

New Dock Stars win Swalec Division Five West Title

New Dock Stars RFC have secured the SWALEC Division 5 West trophy with a 32-8 home win over Cefneithin RFC today (Saturday 26th April 2014).





The Llanelli-based side carried off the SWALEC Division 5 West title by reaching an unbeatable 89 points, winning all but one of the league games that they’ve played this season and with three games still remaining.


It’s been 32 years since the last silverware at New Dock Stars and the Division 5 West title win is the crowning of three seasons of hard work and dedication.


The nucleus of the team has remained consistent over the past three years – with some of the youth squad promoted to the senior squad this year - and the team has been rewarded having led their league opponents for most of the season.


New Dock Stars RFC Club Captain Jordan Evans said:


“I am absolutely ecstatic. This has been more than two years in the making. It’s been hard work but everyone is over the moon.

“Today, is the best feeling I’ve ever had on a rugby pitch.

“During the year, we’ve had a couple of lows, but we have bounced back from them. This, today, is obviously the highlight of the season.

“It’s unfair to single anyone out as it has been a team effort. The front row, the second, row, the backs, everyone has been magnificent.

“Looking to next season, I think we should stay up. We should cope well in Division 4 West.”

Coach Hywel Jones, one of three senior coaches at the club, said:

“This championship has put New Dock Stars back on the rugby map because this has been a long time coming.

“We have always been there or thereabouts, but this year the players have been outstanding. I can’t thank them enough.

“It’s been 32 years since we last won a trophy. The boys are chuffed and I couldn’t have asked for more from them.

“Every weekend has been a highlight and getting on the road to keep the winning form going to win this championship has been vital.

“The boys have worked hard for it and they thoroughly deserve it.

“I don’t think we will have a problem in Division 4 West.”


WRU Board Member Anthony John added:

“I congratulate New Dock Stars on their victory today and judging by the mood in the clubhouse this afternoon the celebrations should go on long into the night.

“As a club, they have been waiting a long time to get some silverware, but they have stuck at it and their perseverance has brought its rewards.”


SWALEC is the national community partner of the Welsh Rugby Union and sponsors both the SWALEC Leagues and SWALEC Cup, Plate and Bowl competitions. SWALEC Finals Day, which sees six clubs battle it out in the Cup, Plate and Bowl competitions, will take place on Sunday 4th May at the Millennium Stadium.

Jonny Petrie, head of sponsorship strategy at SWALEC, added: “Our strong partnership with the WRU and its clubs goes back a number of years and we’re very pleased to be doing more for grassroots rugby in Wales through our sponsorship of the SWALEC Leagues. It has been another strong season for Welsh rugby as a whole and we have seen some impressive performances at club level. Many congratulations to New Dock Stars RFC on claiming the title.”

Monday, 14 April 2014

11 Year Old Ffion wins in U16 Scottish Championships

11 Year Old Golf Sensation Ffion Tynan got her season off to the perfect start by winning the Murray Donald & Caithness NETT Cup at the Scottish Girls Under 16 Championships, which was held at Strathmore Golf Club in Blairgowrie in Perth.

Fearless Ffion carded a fantastic eight under par 136 over the two rounds where she took on a 90 strong field featuring some of the best young Girls Golfers from all over Europe.
 After a nervy start to the first round, Ffion quickly found her form and picked up a Birdie on her fourth hole which boosted her confidence, and that continued with some great play around the greens and nailing some crucial putts.
 The highlight of the tournament came in her second round where the 11 year old managed to come up with an astonishing final four holes. On Hole 15 she pulled out a great approach shot to make par, while on 16, after over shooting the green on her second shot, she managed to chip within inches to save par.
Tynan, then, after seeing her playing partner hit her tee shot within a foot on the par three, 189 yards, stepped up and matched the shot to make Birdie.
On the long Par five 18th, Ffion needed a Birdie to break 80 for the first time and she did not disappoint. With a great approach shot, her third shot left her with a 15 foot putt which she duly knocked down to take the Trophy.
Her victory was not only the good news she had, her fantastic scores helped her drop her handicap from 13 down to single figures to eight, a fantastic achievement for an 11 year old.
 Coached by National Men’s Coach Neil Matthews, Ffion has just started her third full season playing golf having already won over 38 trophies and becoming the current European Girls Champion in the Aged 10 category. She will travel again to Scotland in May looking to defend her European Crown.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Rhiwbina to meet Merthyr in Plate final

Merthyr are firm favourites to complete a league and cup double, as the Ironmen emphatically booked their place in the Swalec Plate final with a 66-10 demolition of One West leaders Glynneath at Mountain Ash.

The Ironmen proved that west was not best in this case as they inflicted Glynneath’s first defeat in all competitions this season.

With both teams top of their respective divisions, a close game was anticipated, but the Ironmen proved their mettle as they thrashed the Neath Valley outfit.

Flying wing Aaron Howard stole the plaudits with five tries as Lee Jarvis’ troops crossed ten times in all in a completely one-sided display.

The writing was on the wall by half time for David Puckett’s outfit as Merthyr raced into a 27-3 lead.

The Neath Valley side did pull a try back early in the second half through Jonathan Griffiths, but any comeback for the 2011 runners up was quickly snuffed out.

Tries from Martin Luckwell, Cameron Gardner, Lewis Jones, Chris Davies and Craig Evans completed their ten try haul, while captain Steve Lang added five conversions and two penalties from the tee.

Meanwhile, in the all Division Two East semi-final at Taff's Well it was league leaders Rhiwbina who came out on top, defeating Llantwit Fardre 16-6 to clinch a place in the showpiece event.

Rhiwbina’s Gareth McCarthy makes a break against Fardre in the Plate semi final

 The first half was a very closely fought and tense affair, Fardre’s Jason Pocock breaking the deadlock with a penalty after ten minutes.

 However, the Rhiwbina backs always looked dangerous, and a break by outside half Josh Davies led to the Squirrels’ first try. Gareth McCarthy was pulled down just short of the line, but his offload found Sion Summers who stretched over to score in the corner.

 McCarthy increased Rhiwbina’s lead with a penalty, only for Pocock to fire his second of the day over just before the break.

 Try as they could, Fardre could not breach the Rhiwbina defence, while the Squirrels' attack always looked dangerous with the ball in hand.

 And the Cardiff side's blistering backs saw them wrap up the contest late on. Alex Kerr made the initial break before McCarthy found skipper Harry Trelawney in space, and the scrum-half raced up the blind side to cross and secure their trip to the Millennium Stadium.

 Rhiwbina Chairman Paul Maddocks said, “We’re delighted to be in the Plate final and the lads put in a tremendous performance against determined opponents. The league title is still there to be won and we have two further cup semi-finals to play this month, so it could be a memorable season for us.”


One West Weekend Review

Second place Kidwelly capitalised on leaders Glynneath’s involvement in the Plate to reduce the pacemakers' lead to 17 points at the top of One West, thanks to a 34-7 home win over Kenfig Hill.
The Ambers crossed five times through Luke Marshall (2), Ceiron John, Andrew Francis and Luke Thomas.
Meanwhile, Waunarlwydd heaped more woe on strugglers Ammanford with a 50-19 triumph over the basement boys.
Fly-half Josh Hammett notched up 17 of his side’s points through a touchdown and six conversions, while Andrew Rees-Spowart, Dai Evans, Keiron Jones, Dan Fox, Dan Joseph and Alan Pope also went over for Waun.
In a battle at the bottom, it was Loughor that gave themselves some breathing space from the drop zone as they saw off relegation rivals Crymych 22-18.
The Blues' tries came courtesy of Tim Butler, Greg Jervis and Jonathan Phillips, while Andrew Williams added two conversions and a penalty from the tee.
In a Carmarthenshire derby there was nothing to choose between Llangennech and Whitland with the scores tied 22-22 at the final whistle.
Llangennech outscored their visitors three tries to two with touchdowns from Dylan Watts, Tom Barnes and Gareth George, while James Herbert slotted a solitary penalty and two conversions.
James Stephenson bagged all of the points for Borderers through a brace and four penalties.
Elsewhere, Builth Wells recorded their eighth win of the season as they saw off Carmarthen Athletic 29-10 at the Groe, in an ill tempered match that saw both teams have a player see red.
The Bulls crossed three times through Gethin Davies, Ben Price and Jeff Turner-Evans, while Rob Lloyd notched up 14 points from the tee through four penalties and a conversion.
Mike Sauro got Athletic’s only touchdown while Jack Maynard added the extras and a penalty.
Finally, in the only One North scheduled fixture Caernarfon inflicted leaders Bala’s third defeat of the season with an 18-14 showing, a result that sees Bala remain three points clear at the summit with two matches remaining. 

One East Weekend Review

Ystrad Rhondda’s One East title aspirations suffered a critical blow as they slipped to their 13th loss of the season, going down 17-11 at Ynysybwl.
With league leaders Merthyr in Plate action, it was the perfect opportunity for Ystrad to close the gap at the top of the leader board but Ynysybwl hadn’t read the script.
Jonathan Gough was the stand-out player for Bwl with the centre scything through the Rhondda side’s defence twice, while Nathan Ellis added the extras to both and a penalty.
All Ystrad could manage was a losing bonus point thanks to a Liam Davies try and six points from the boot of Rhys Truelove. The result sees them six points behind pacemakers Merthyr having played a game more.
Meanwhile, Heol y Cyw returned to winning ways with a six try 35-23 triumph over Rhydyfelin.
Ryan Griffiths was at the double for the Cockerels while Curtis Williams, Aled Jones, Craig Leyshon and Chris Howe completed the home side's scoring.
In a try-fest at the Oval, Rumney ran out 42-29 winners to move up into fourth place in the table.
The Cardiff side outscored their Rhondda rivals six tries to five with touchdowns from Luke Fear (2), John Leadbeater, Loren Quick, Michael Young and Lee Bendon. Fly-half Danny Clark was on target with three conversions and two penalties.
Trystan Lazarus notched up a hat-trick for the Zebras, while Peter Hutchings and Liam Stacey also touched down for the hosts, but it was not enough, however, to revive their hopes.
Elsewhere, Bedlinog climbed out of the relegation zone thanks to a try bonus 35-17 home success over Glamorgan Wanderers.
Geraint Cutlan clinched a hat-trick for the Foxes with Barry Morgan claiming their other touchdown, while Bleddyn Corns added 15 points from the tee.
Finally, in Friday night's encounter Penallta picked up the ninth win of their campaign as they dispatched Gilfach Goch 33-3.
Tries from the Pitmen came through Aeron Bidgood (2), Andre Soroko, Andrew Jenkins and Lee Rowalnds. Soroko also added the extras to four.

UNBEATEN YSTALYFERA WIN SWALEC DIVISION 3 SOUTH WEST TITL

Undefeated Ystalyfera RFC have lifted the SWALEC Division 3 South West trophy, securing their promotion.




 Ystalyfera RFC’s championship win was sealed last weekend in a hard-fought away 16- 20 victory against closest rivals Brynamman RFC. The club carried off the title with 89 points, winning all of the 19 league games played so far this season.
 The squad have consistently finished near the summit of the league since 2009. This victory is even more special, according to the club captain, as most of the squad were raised or still live in the area and have a rich mix of experienced players with emerging youth talent in the squad.
 Paul Davies, Ystalyfera RFC Club Captain, said: “We have come close to promotion for a number of seasons and it’s a great reward for everyone involved with the club after playing consistently well over the course of the season. We’re a relatively young side. We all know each other well – we train, play and a lot of us work together so there’s a real camaraderie within the club and the village.”
 Head Coach Gareth James, who is also the club’s top scorer this season, added: “I think the difference for us this year is that the work rate was higher. We got the team in for pre-season training earlier to improve fitness within the squad and it’s been vital in games throughout the year. Teams have come close against us but our fitness let us push harder in the final ten minutes of games. It’s great for the village – the last time we won promotion was 1997 - and hopefully we’ll get even more support down at the Ynysydarren Ground next season.”
 Former Wales prop turned Ystalyfera RFC forwards coach Christian Loader is thrilled to see his side climb up the league after such an impressive season on the field.
 Christian Loader, who won nineteen caps for Wales between 1995 and 1997, said: “We’ve got a cracking set of youngsters who are starting to come through and a great under 16s team who have reached the final of the cup. Having a good group of players developing at the club bodes well for the future. We’re looking forward to working with them in two years. ”
 This isn’t the first piece of silverware for Ystalyfera to claim this season. They have already won the South West Championship and will compete in the finals of the West Wales Bowl and Swansea Valley Cup against Penclawdd and Abercrave respectfully.
 WRU Board Member Geraint Edwards said: “This is a tough league and it is a tremendous achievement to go unbeaten throughout the season. Ystalyfera RFC have consistently played good rugby against tough opposition and their victory is well deserved.”
 SWALEC is the national community partner of the Welsh Rugby Union and sponsors both the SWALEC Leagues and SWALEC Cup, Plate and Bowl competitions.  SWALEC Finals Day, which sees six clubs battle it out in the Cup, Plate and Bowl competitions, will take place on Saturday 3rd May at the Millennium Stadium.
Jonny Petrie, head of sponsorship strategy at SWALEC, added: “Our strong partnership with the WRU and its clubs goes back a number of years and we’re very pleased to be doing more for grassroots rugby in Wales through our sponsorship of the SWALEC Leagues. It has been another strong season for Welsh rugby as a whole and we have seen some impressive performances at club level. Many congratulations to Ystalyfera RFC on claiming the title.”

Friday, 11 April 2014

Swalec Plate Semi-Final Predictions

Rhiwbina v Llantwit Fardre at Taffs Well RFC 
Two East side’s Rhiwbina and Llantwit Fardre will battle it out in the last four of the Swalec Plate this weekend.
With a spot at Swalec finals day at stake, league leaders Rhiwbina will start as slight favourites, though both teams have proved formidable opponents in the Plate so far.
Rhiwbina's Dave Smith in Swalec Plate action against Nant Conwy
Rhiwbina club official John Humphreys said, “The whole club is really looking forward to one of the biggest games in our history. Llantwit Fardre and ourselves are the two in-form teams in Division Two East and we will be preparing for a tremendous challenge.
“Like us, I expect Fardre were pleased to be avoiding the two Division One big guns, but I can assure you we won’t have any sense of complacency as Fardre come into this game on a lengthy unbeaten run.
“Both clubs have beaten Division One opponents to get this far, so it should be an even contest in front of a great crowd.”
The Squirrels should be well rested for the match after having their league game at Tredegar called off, and Humphreys admits the fixture backlog for the capital side is starting to mount up as they fight for silverware on several fronts.
 “We face a fixture back-log going into the final weeks of the season, not helped by Tredegar cancelling our game there last Saturday as they only had a handful of players available.
“However, it does mean we go into the Fardre clash at full strength and without any injuries, with the exception of skipper Nick Howell who sustained a punctured lung in the victory over Garndiffaith.”
We’re also in the East District Cup and Silver Ball semi finals on consecutive nights later this month, but with success comes challenges and none could be bigger than the Swalec Plate semi on Saturday, given that the prize is an appearance at the Millennium Stadium.”
Despite starting as slight second favourites on the day, Fardre have proven to be great cup competitors this season and have dispatched three Division One outfits on the way to the semis, including a defeat of last season’s winners Heol y Cyw.
Player/Coach Jason Pocock has been instrumental for Fardre at fly half, while their powerful forwards have outmuscled the packs of Llangennech, Glamorgan Wanderers and Heol y Cyw.
However, I feel that Rhiwbina will have the edge behind the scrum. The only meeting between the sides so far this season went narrowly to the Squirrels and I expect a similar outcome tomorrow.
 Verdict- Rhiwbina by 5 points

Merthyr v Glynneath at Mountain Ash RFC 
The other semi-final pits the One East leaders Merthyr against One West pacemakers Glynneath in a mouth-watering clash at Mountain Ash.
Methyr's Martin Luckwell touches down against Glamorgan Wanderers
If winning is a habit, both these sides are definite addicts but tomorrow there can only be one winner.
Merthyr warmed up for the match with a convincing 59-5 demolition over Glamorgan Wanderers, a win that saw them open up a seven point lead at the summit.
“We are expecting a difficult challenge on Saturday. We are not taking anything for granted--Glynneath are not top of their league for no reason and it will definitely be an intriguing clash,” stated Team Manger Paul Lewis.
Lewis believes the team are in confident mood and will be at full strength ahead of the clash.
“Our Coaches really have a selection headache on their hands with a number of players really putting their hands up in the past few games, but obviously being able to name seven replacements means we can hopefully utilise this to our advantage.”
Glynneath go into the match high in confidence having beaten One East’s Ystrad Rhondda on Wednesday evening in the semi-final of the Silver Ball.
The Neath Valley side will once again be putting their season's undefeated record on the line and are still in the hunt for four pieces of silverware.
I think this will be a really close contest- both sides have huge momentum moving into the clash but I think this might be one match too far for Glynneath.
Verdict- Merthyr by 1 point

Scarlets field experienced side to take on Zebre at the Parc

British & Irish Lion Jonathan Davies will lead an experienced Scarlets side sprinkled with international talent on Saturday evening, 12th April kick-off 6.30pm, as they take on Italian side Zebre Rugby at Parc y Scarlets.
 
Having won the last four games at Parc y Scarlets the West Wales region will be looking to go one further than the 16-all draw game against Zebre at the Stadio XXV Aprile back in October 2013.
 
Scarlets Head Coach Simon Easterby has made six changes, one positional, to his starting line-up for Saturday's clash against Italian side Zebre from the side that secured an all important victory over Connacht just under a fortnight ago.
 
International scrum half Rhodri Williams is the only change amongst the backline, replacing injured Gareth Davies (dead leg), with Aled Davies deputising on the replacements bench.
 
Rhys Priestland will take charge at outside half, former England international Olly Barkley partners Davies in the centre whilst Jordan Williams, Kristian Phillips and Liam Williams cover the back three.
 
It's a welcome return to action for fellow Welsh international Aaron Shingler. The Scarlets flanker makes his first regional start since the side's defeat to Harlequins at Parc y Scarlets in the Heineken Cup in January. Josh Turnbull moves to the right flank with Tongan international Sione Timani packing down at number 8.
 
South African lock George Earle also makes a return from injury and will partner international lock Jake Ball in the second row.
 
A new-look front row sees loose head prop Rob Evans and hooker Emyr Phillips pack down alongside Welsh tighthead prop Rhodri Jones.
 
Scarlets only defeat to an Italian opponent was at home to Treviso in round 22 last season and won two and drawn one against Zebre on three previous occasions.
 
Whilst Aaron Shingler makes a return to the starting line-up, younger brother Steven will be hoping to make his first regional appearance since the victory over Ulster at the Parc in November from the replacements bench as he makes a return from a long-term shoulder injury.
 
Scarlets Head Coach Simon Easterby: "I think we only have to look back to the end of October when we travelled away to Zebre, we were lucky to come away with a draw on that day.
 
"Our driver from here on in is our own performance. Results more often than not fall in after that. If we get the performance right then that's the most important thing. We missed out on a top four spot because of our early season form and losing games we should have won. The most important thing now is that we finish strongly; we have to get as many points in the bag as we can and finish as high as we can.

"I think if we play similarly to what we did with ball in hand against Connacht then we'll be difficult to beat but we're not taking Zebre's challenge lightly.”

Scarlets team v Zebre at Parc y Scarlets, Saturday 12th April kick-off 6.30pm:

15 Liam Williams, 14 Kristian Phillips, 13 Jonathan Davies ©, 12 Olly Barkley, 11 Jordan Williams, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Rhodri Williams, 1 Rob Evans, 2 Emyr Phillips, 3 Rhodri Jones, 4 Jake Ball, 5 George Earle, 6 Aaron Shingler, 7 Josh Tunrbull, 8 Sione Timani
 
Replacements: Ken Owens, Phil John, Samson Lee, Johan Snyman, Richard Kelly, Aled Davies, Steven Shingler, Gareth Maule
 

Donaldson named European Tour Golfer of the Month for March

Jamie Donaldson’s rise to Number One in The 2014 Race to Dubai entering this week’s Masters Tournament has earned him The Race to Dubai European Tour Golfer of the Month award for March.

Donaldson, who receives an engraved alms dish and a Jeroboam of Moët & Chandon champagne, launched his 2014 campaign by finishing tied second in the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa, then rose to the top of The Race to Dubai with an outstanding performance in the WGC-Cadillac Championship in the second week of March.

The 38 year old Welshman, winner of the 2012 Irish Open and the 2013 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship on The European Tour International Schedule, produced rounds of 74-70-71 and 70 at Doral Golf Resort & Spa, Florida, to tie with Bubba Watson for the runner-up spot one shot behind Patrick Reed.

Donaldson, who has earned €1,087,034 so far this season and currently heads Thomas Björn and Sergio Garcia in the race for Number One honours, said: “It’s always nice to receive an award like this from The European Tour, it definitely put a smile on my face when I found out this morning.

“It’s a reward for how well I’ve been playing lately. Obviously I had a great week at Doral, and then just carried it on from there really.

“I feel like my game’s been steadily progressing over the last few years, but like everybody else I’m always looking to improve in certain areas. I’m still learning and still working hard, especially on my short game, so it’s nice to see that hard work paying off. Hopefully it’s not the last award I win this year.”

The European Tour Golfer of the Month Panel, comprising members of the Association of Golf Writers as well as commentators from television and radio, focused their attention on winning and exceptional performances in The Race to Dubai on The European Tour International Schedule – Spain’s Alejandro Cañizares captured the Trophée Hassan II in March – while also taking into account events worldwide.

Renton Laidlaw, President of the Association of Golfer Writers and a Presenter for The Golf Channel, said: “The panel was unanimous in giving this prestigious award to Jamie Donaldson following a magnificent challenge for a World Golf Championship title which maintained his wonderful form and enhanced his prospects of a Ryder Cup debut for Europe against the United States in September.

“The panel also highly praised Alejandro Cañizares for his excellent wire-to-wire victory in Agadir and also congratulated Captains Miguel Angel Jiménez and Thongchai Jaidee for the way they superbly led Europe and Asia to a thrilling tie in the inaugural EurAsia Cup in Kuala Lumpur.”

Jiménez, Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher and Frenchman Victor Dubuisson, winners of the December, January and February awards respectively, will all be considered together with Donaldson for The 2014 European Tour Golfer of the Year Award, which was won in 2013 by Sweden’s Henrik Stenson following his triumph in the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai which secured the Number One spot in The Race to Dubai.

 

South African lock joins Newport Gwent Dragons

Super Rugby player Rynard Landman has signed a three year deal with the men of Gwent.
 
Better known as 'Ligtoring' to his teammates, the 27-year-old lock will join up with the Dragons squad in the summer to bolster Lyn Jones' options in the tight five.
 
The second row who can also pack down as flanker played youth and senior rugby with the Leopards. He then moved onto the Boland Cavaliers in 2011 before making the change to play for Griquas in the 2012 Currie Cup.
 
Strong performances for the Griquas gave Landman the chance to showcase himself at Super Rugby level with the Cheetas in 2013 where he made 14 appearances in the 2013 super rugby season forming a strong partnership in the second row in the Cheetahs run to the play-offs.
 
The South African is a strong ball carrier, good lineout operator and is mobile throughout the game. On signing the Landman, Lyn Jones commented, "I am delighted that we have recruited Rynard. Its another piece of the jigsaw and an important signing in the development of the region.
 
"He will offer size, strength and experience to the second row and will act as a catalyst in the growth of our current crop of young Welsh locks.
 
"Not only will Rynard will be a real physical presence in the pack but he will help to bring along Matthew Screech, Cory Hill and Joe Davies."
 
Landman becomes the regions seventh recruit for next season following the signings of props Boris Stankovich and David Young, hooker Rhys Buckley, lock Ian Gough, wing Aled Brew and full-back Lee Byrne.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Silver Ball SF: Glynneath 18-17 Ystrad Rhondda

Glynneath remain on course to claim the Silver Ball for a record fifth time, after the One West leaders produced a dominant second half to end Ystrad Rhondda’s Cup bid, at Aberavon’s Talbot Athletic Ground.

Ystrad led 17-13 at the interval, but a second half touchdown from Stuart Leach ensured Glynneath were celebrating at the final whistle.

With Glynneath facing One East pacemakers Merthyr on Saturday, in the Swalec Plate semi-final Coach David Puckett rotated his squad, but the backs still oozed quality even if their scrum creaked at times.

There were standout performances on both sides with forwards Leach and David Jones working tirelessly in the loose for Glynneath, while replacement scrum-half Rhodri Cole added some nous to their game. For Ystrad, centre Dano Roberts was dynamic in attack, while back row Liam Davies was a handful.

On a beautiful spring evening both sets of players embraced the perfect conditions as they looked to run the ball from deep.

Ystrad’s full back Dai Gratton booted his side into an early lead but Glynneath hit back with 13 unanswered points.

Two penalties from Corey Jenkins nudged the One West outfit ahead. The first try came shortly after-  pressure from a line-out five metres out saw the ball recycled, with wing Ryan Llewellyn latching onto Jenkins’ dink pass in mid field to scythe through the opposition defence. Jenkins added the simple extras for a 13-3 advantage.

Glynneath’s lead didn’t last long though, as Ystrad produced the move of the match to cut their deficit. Pinball centre Roberts started the move with a great break, his pass finding Alex Webber before the Wales 7s star offloaded to Ryan Howells on his inside with the centre finishing well.

Momentum was now most definitely with the Gelligaled outfit- Roberts was a constant threat while the Ystrad forwards began to turn the screw at the scrum.

Five minutes before the interval Ystrad hit the front- a powerful run up the guts of the Glynneath defence from Liam Davies saw the No 8 drive into the opposition 22.

With the Glynneath defence in disarray, the ball was shipped wide with Gratton sending Roberts over. Rhys Truelove once again slotted the extras as they took a 17-13 advantage into the break.

After the interval, Glynneath returned rejuvenated but they struggled to break down a resilient Ystrad defence.

Referee Wayne Davies was called into action to diffuse the situation several times, as a few less than legal tackles began to slip into the game.

As play approached the hour mark, David Puckett’s troops were inching closer to making the breakthrough, with scrum-half Ben Jones and Leach both held up just short.

However, after several intense minutes of pressure the whitewash was finally breached with Leach burrowing over. Jenkins missed the conversion as Glynneath took the slenderest of advantages into the final ten minutes.

It was now the Neath Valley side's turn to come under some pressure but they snuffed out a number of Ystrad attacks. The introduction of Cole at scrum-half also saw Glynneath produce some intelligent play with a few delightful chips to the corner saw Ystrad pinned into their own half.

The best Ystrad chances came through crossfield kicks, on two occasions Truelove spotted space on the openside but the bounce on each occasion evaded the desperate Gwerwyn Davies as Glynneath’s Dan Brynley welcomingly mopped up.

The final few minutes of the match were intelligently played out by Glynneath, as the forwards kept it tight deep in the Ystrad half with Cole kicking the ball dead as Davies’ final whistle was drowned out by the jubilant Glynneath faifthful.

For Glynneath the dream of going a whole season undefeated lives on for another 80 minutes and they will run out at the Brewery Field on May 17 against either Ystalyfera or Rhiwbina, with the second semi-final due to be played on April 23 at Mountain Ash.

Meanwhile, Ystrad return to league action this weekend when they travel to face fellow highfliers Ynysybwl.

Ton up Jenkins leads Blues at Edinburgh

Prop Gethin Jenkins will bring up a century of games in the RaboDirect PRO12 as Cardiff Blues travel to Meggetland to face Edinburgh Rugby on Friday evening (kick-off 7.45pm).

Jenkins – the most-capped player ever for Wales – brings up another milestone in his career with his 100th game as he captains Blues as they head north looking to keep up the winning habit.

The coaching team of Paul John and Dale McIntosh retain exactly the same starting line-up that defeated Ulster Rugby in the last game at the Arms Park last month.

However, Wales lock Bradley Davies makes his long-awaited comeback with a place on the bench after five months out injured and there is also a return for Dafydd Hewitt among the replacements.

"Edinburgh had a good win at Dragons last time out, have international players back and play a good brand of rugby,” said coach Paul John.

"It's a difficult game for us in new surroundings, but all we can do is concentrate on ourselves.

"We will look at the threat they pose, but first and foremost we have to make sure we maintain our performance and produce again.

"The boys have trained well these last two weeks and have worked hard. We now need to get that consistency in these last four games of the season. It's a challenge, but one we are all looking forward to as we look to believe in ourselves and express ourselves.”

Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Cory Allen, 12 Isaia Tuifua, 11 Chris Czekaj, 10 Gareth Davies, 9 Lewis Jones; 1 Gethin Jenkins (c), 2 Kristian Dacey, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 4 Lou Reed, 5 Filo Paulo, 6 Macauley Cook, 7 Josh Navidi, 8 Robin Copeland

Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Thomas Davies, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Bradley Davies, 20 Ellis Jenkins, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Simon Humberstone, 23 Dafydd Hewitt

Competition for places at Scarlets is healthy says Jones

Scarlets prop Rhodri Jones, who is fresh from a successful Six Nations campaign on a personal level, says that competition for the tighthead berth at the Scarlets is benefiting the players.
 

Jones, who will feature for the Scarlets on Saturday in the must win clash over Italian side Zebre Rugby kick-off 6.30pm, has made 72 appearances for the Scarlets and has tough competition at the region with fellow international prop Samson Lee, Jacobie Adriaanse and Horatiu Pungea also fighting for the front row place. Deacon Manu has missed most of the season through injury.
 
With Lee missing the region's crunch match against Connacht at Parc y Scarlets a fortnight ago through injury Aberystwyth born Rhodri Jones made his first RaboDirect PRO12 start of the 2013-14 season; "I was very happy with how it went against Connacht last weekend. Connacht are one of the best scrums we've probably come against recently and I thought we scrummaged really well against them.”
 
With only eight regional appearances for the Scarlets in 2013-14 Jones is looking forward to making the most of the end of season opportunity; "I want to be playing at the Scarlets, getting in the squad and playing well for the region."
 
"It's great that there's a lot of competition for places. We have four good tight heads here and you've got to be doing well in training and games to get picked otherwise you won't be playing."
 
"That's what you need, you need competition - you need people pushing each other and it's a good environment to be in.”
 
On the challenge of Zebre this Saturday at the Parc Jones added; "Zebre are going to be a tough challenge. We have to play our game, if we're clinical and effective hopefully it'll work out in our favour.”
 
Scarlets v Zebre, Saturday 12th April, kick-off 6.30pm