Thursday, 29 May 2014


Paul Mayo will go head to head with some of golf’s biggest names when he tees up in next week’s ISPA HANDA PGA Seniors Championship at Stoke by Nayland.

The former Newport head pro is one of 20 PGA pros who qualified for the £235,000 event via the recent Senior PGA Professional Championship at Foxhills, Surrey.
Other Welsh representatives include Glyn Davies from Celtic Manor Resort and Roy Williams of the North Wales Golf Club while Sam Torrance, Mark James and Des Smyth are among the best-known players in action with Torrance and Smyth set to carve out a new chapter in their Ryder Cup careers as vice captains to Paul McGinley at Gleneagles later in the year.
Mayo, a former British Amateur champion, is unlikely to be phased having enjoyed a number of career highlights including playing in the US Masters alongside Jack Nicklaus, teeing off in the Open with Fuzzy Zoeller, partnering Colin Montgomerie in the Walker Cup and rubbing shoulders with Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III on the US College circuit.
Williams, aged 54, meanwhile, a former Welsh badminton player, is relatively new to life as a PGA pro as he didn't turn pro until he was 46 having previously been a fitness instructor and coach to people with learning disabilities.
Paul Wesselingh, the reigning European Senior Tour No.1, is seeking a third straight triumph in the event which returns to Stoke by Nayland for a third time having previously hosted it in 2006 and 2007 when Sam Torrance and Carl Mason won respectively.
Previous champions include Open Championship winners Max Faulkner, Kel Nagle and Peter Thomson, while Christy O'Connor lifted the PGA Seniors trophy no less than six times.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Cefn Fforest claim Six South Central crown

Cefn Fforest RFC received the Division Six South Central trophy on Friday night after a hard-fought campaign, eventually pipping CIACS to the title.

“We’ve had a remarkable season and we were definitely the team to beat in our division,” stated Team Manger Mike Murphy, who has been involved with the club since 1997.
Cefn ended the season level on 68 points at the summit with CIACS, with the Gwent side having a better try count despite playing one less match. They won 14 of their 17 fixtures, losing just two matches and drawing another.
Unfortunately, Cefn were unable to complete their fixture list as opponents Blaengarw failed to field a side against the champions.
“It was a bit disappointing not to be able to play our final match but other sides were unable to complete their fixture lists for the same reason.”
Under the league restructure, the Gwent District side will find themselves in Division 3 East C and Murphy is excited by the challenge the new campaign will bring.
 “The club has been going well both on and off the field this season and we are all looking forward to the challenge that the new league will present. We have a number of youngsters that are coming on board and hopefully will keep us moving forward.”
Murphy was also keen to praise the work of a number of individuals that have contributed to the club’s success.
“I think I speak for everyone at the club when I say thanks to Coach Martin Lane and Carl Speicher for all their help, while long standing Secretary David Edwards has once again worked tirelessly for the club, and last but not least we have to thank our supporters who have been exceptional,” added Murphy.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Swansea RFC announce new-look coaching team

Swansea RFC have announced a new-look coaching team for next season, Richard Lancaster will assume control as Director of Rugby and will be assisted by a coaching team of Rhodri Jones, Chris Loader and Ben Lewis.

Level 4 coach Lancaster has worked previously alongside Steve Tandy as Bridgend Ravens assistant coach. He has also been Head Coach at Swansea University over the past 8 years through a period of 

extraordinary success, as well as leading the Ospreys Under 20s coaching team. Having already been involved at the club this season as Performance Manager, Richard now steps over the white line to direct coaching at Swansea RFC.

“Although the club is at its lowest ebb at the moment it is also an exciting time for all involved. We have a lot of hard work to do and nobody is underestimating the challenge that the Championship presents, that said it is our absolute aim to bring success back to this world famous club.” said Lancaster.

“Personally for me this is an incredible opportunity to coach the team that I grew up following every week. Swansea genuinely hold a very special place in my heart having supported the club since I can remember and playing for the club as a youngster. What has been so pleasing for me is that I’m certainly not alone in this as so many people are approaching the club, offering to help.”

Former Swansea RFC players Chris Loader and Rhodri Jones will assist Lancaster on the coaching team.
Chris joins Swansea after a highly successful stint coaching Ystalyfera, having led them to three trophies over a fantastic and unbeaten 2013/14 season. Chris started his playing career with the Whites before spells at Pontypridd, the Celtic Warriors and Bath. Loader's coaching career began at Trebanos before moving to Ebbw Vale and more recently Ystalyfera.

“I’m really looking forward to getting started with the season and working with the excellent crop of players and some very talented and exciting coaches. Ystalyfera have been fantastic over the last three years and I just want to thank them for their help and support especially this year winning but it was hard to resist accepting a challenge like this with the club that kicked off my rugby career” commented Chris on his return to Swansea RFC.

Rhodri Jones started his playing career at Neath before moving to Swansea to play with his brother Rob. Rhodri also represented the Dragons and the Scarlets before his retirement. As a coach Rhodri has worked his way through the system at Trebanos RFC, firstly with the youth, and then for 7 years with the senior team bringing them from Division 5 right up to play in Division 1 next season.

On his appointment to the Swansea RFC coaching staff, Rhodri remarked:

“I’m really excited to have the opportunity to go and coach a club so close to mine and my family’s heart. I’ve learnt so much from my time at Trebanos and I will miss the players and the staff there, but I am also privileged to be given the opportunity to coach at a world renowned club in the form of Swansea.”

The trio are joined by former Whites and Ospreys player, Ben Lewis. Ben having already worked in the position of skills coach at the club before taking leave to travel the world with his fiancée. The exciting return of Ben has been very well received by the players who look forward to working with him again.

The rugby management team at the club is completed by Team Manager Paul Whapham and Strength and Conditioning Coach, James Prosser.

Keith Colclough, who is also announced in a new position as Managing Director continuing his long affinity with the Whites, commented on the new set up:

“We have brought together a really young and exciting team who have a mass of experience between them. They all regard the club in a very special way and it was crucial for us when recruiting that we first and foremost had Swansea men. It is vital that we don’t let our own standards slip and we continue to move forward as a club despite the level we are playing at and I believe this coaching team will do just that. We would especially like to thank Trebanos and Ystalyfera for their understanding in losing two very prominent coaches.

“A lot of hard work has gone into the club over the past year and we have reignited the passion and enthusiasm of a lot of people who hold Swansea RFC close to their hearts. Change is always difficult and I feel we are turning the corner but at the same time have an incredible challenge ahead of us in the Welsh Championship."

Friday, 23 May 2014

Swalec Championship, a Season in Numbers

As the second season in the Swalec Championship comes to a finish, we take a look back at the Championship season in numbers. 
Where better a place to start than champions Ebbw Vale, who topped the table on 122 points with their only defeat coming on the final day of the season away at Narberth.
Despite the final day loss, the statistics prove the Steelmen were head and shoulders about the other teams in the league. The Steelmen scored over a thousand points, helped by their 151 try haul, making Jason Strange’s troops the most potent side in the league. The Eugene Cross Park outfit also had the meanest defence with just 20 tries conceded against them all season.
Meanwhile, impressive newcomers RGC 1404 were the only other team to cross for over 100 tries as they touched down 113 times throughout the course of the season, a tally that helped them secure third spot.
The Steelmen’s flanker Ronny Kynes took home the accolade of the division’s top try scorer, touching down 18 times in all. Kynes was also the only player to cross four times in a single match thanks to a four try haul against Blackwood.
Team mates Wes Cunliffe and Dai James were just behind Kynes with 15 tries to their name, while in testament to their strong pack they also notched up 13 penalty tries. Bargoed came next in the penalty try stakes as they were awarded eight, while Bonymaen were the only side not to be awarded a penalty try all season.
At the other end of the table Bonymaen managed to notch up just 294 points, with themselves and fellow relegated side Beddau having the leakiest defence in the league, conceding 103 tries apiece. However, Blackwood were the team that conceded the most number of points with 773 points scored against the Glan Yr Afon outfit.
In the battle for the top scores it was Narberth’s Ianto Griffiths who came out on top as the fly half amassed 304 points, meaning Griffiths scored more than the whole of the Bonymaen team all season. Griffiths was on target with an amazing 54 conversions, 37 penalties and also slotted seven drop goals as well as crossing the whitewash on three occasions.
Ebbw’s Iain Smerdon came runner up in the race for top points scorer as he notched up 229 points, including nine tries closely followed by Llanharan’s Codey Rees on 192 points. Altogether, eleven players crossed the 100 points barrier with Cardiff Met the only team to have two players to do so in centre Chris Lewis (164) and fly-half Mark Cooke (150).
Swalec Championship Top Scorers
1. I Griffiths 304 pts (Narberth); 2. I Smerdon 229 pts (Ebbw Vale); 3. C Rees 192 pts (Llanharan); 4. S Lewis 190 pts (Bridgend Athletic); 5. J Prosser 170 pts (Bargoed); 6. C Gullis 166 pts (Pontypool); 7. C Lewis 164 pts (Cardiff Met); 8. G Powell 160 pts (Tondu); 9. M Cooke 150 pts (Cardiff Met); 10. S Evans 134 pts (Tata Steel); 11. R Cunniffe 101 pts (Bonymaen)
Top Try Scorers
1. R Kynes 18 tries (Ebbw Vale); 2. N Brooks (Bonymaen), W Cunliffe and D James (Ebbw Vale) 15 tries; 3. T Dyer (Newbridge), H Evans (RGC 1404) and C Lewis (Cardiff Met) 13 tries.
*Figures taken from information received from clubs throughout the season 2013/14

Neath and Pontyclun set for Women's Super Cup showdown

The Women’s domestic season will reach its climax on Saturday May 31st with the Super Cup Finals held at Llandovery RFC. 

Eight teams have earned the right meet in four finals to decide the leading clubs in each tier of the women’s game.

The Vase Final will be contested between two new Clubs to the women’s game as Penybanc  and Haverfordwest  face each other. 

Both Scarlets teams began playing competitive rugby this season and have shown signs that they have potential to go a long way as Haverfordwest finished runners-up in Division Three and Penybanc topped their pool in the cup. 

They have already met three times this season with Haverfordwest gaining two decisive victories in the league, but Penybanc pulled one back with a 31-18 win in the pool stage.

Division Three winners Kidwelly will have a strong Maesteg Celtic side to face in the Bowl Final. Kidwelly have yet to lose a game this season and have beaten their opposition 21-0 in their pool encounter, but the Celtic have shown that they mean business as they knocked out Division Two champions Barry in the semi final. Both teams boast strong packs and dynamic backs so the Bowl will go to the Club that wants it the most.

Last year’s Plate winners Seven Sisters will have to overcome stiff competition from fellow Ospreys Club Pencoed. 

Seven Sisters will be playing in their fourth Plate final in five years and will have to be on top of their game if they want to retain their title as Pencoed have been showing signs of growth over the last few months. 

Pencoed will hope to use their busy back row and rapid wingers to overcome Seven’s dominant pack and strong midfield attack.

The Cup Final will see Neath Athletic attempt to retain their championship against Pontyclun. Premiership champions Neath Athletic had a shaky start to their campaign but found their form as they knocked out top seed Llandaff North in the semi finals. 

Pontyclun’s path to the final was also no easy feat as they came back from a half time deficit of 20-7 to beat Division One winners Whitland 34-20. It’s also worth noting the Pontyclun have lost just one match since October, which was against the Athletic.

This season has seen the Women’s game grow once again with an increase of matches of 22% over the previous season.  This brings the amount of games being played during the season up by over 140% from 4 years ago. The Women’s game is on the rise, so why not be a part of it and come to Llandovery RFC on May 31.

Vase Final – Penybanc v Haverfordwest – 12.00
Bowl Final – Kidwelly v Maesteg Celtic – 12.00
Plate Final – Seven Sisters v Pencoed – 2.00
Cup Final – Pontyclun v Neath Athletic – 4.00

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Rhiwbina lift Swalec Division Two East Trophy after a season of excitement

After narrowly missing out on the SWALEC Plate in a dramatic Finals Day clash with Merthyr RFC, Rhiwbina have lifted the Division 2 East trophy after a convincing win at home against Abercynon last night.

The 57 – 15 victory was a welcome return to winning form for the side. Just two weeks ago, the battle of the champions at the Millennium stadium was meant to be a procession for Merthyr who are a league above Rhiwbina, (nicknamed The Squirrels). Instead, the Squirrels put in a valiant effort and gave Merthyr a real scare before they were finally beaten, and the dramatic game ended with only 3 points between the rival teams (26-29).  
On Saturday, the Rhiwbina boys lost out again in a game of two halves at Llantrisant. Although Rhiwbina led 14-3 at the interval, Llantrisant mounted a magnificent second half fight back to secure the win (14-18).
Despite the recent losses, Rhiwbina have only suffered three defeats all season, and the experience of lifting the cup today is testament to their hard work and perseverance as a team.
Rhiwbina RFC Head Coach, Gareth Linten said: “Almost a year ago we started pre-season, and now here we are having won the league – it’s fantastic. In that time, we’ve also played at the Millennium Stadium at SWALEC Finals Day which was a really tough ask, but it was the highlight of the season for us. Should’ve won the game? Could’ve won the game? Who knows, but the atmosphere was amazing, and it’s something we’ve never previously done.”

Rhiwbina RFC Club Captain, Nick Howell (who was injured and could not play in yesterday’s game) said: “As a rugby team, this is why we play – it’s not for medals and trophies, it’s to win the league. We’ve held our own this season, and that game at the stadium against Merthyr just shows what we could be capable of. Hopefully next season we can push on and do ourselves justice.”

WRU representative Russell Howell added: “What Rhiwbina have done is fantastic. They’ve gone from being a small club to playing for the SWALEC Plate at the Millennium stadium – what an achievement. Congratulations to them for winning the league, they really deserve it.”

Monday, 12 May 2014

Llanhilleth Celebrate SWALEC Division Five East Title Win

The Blaenau Gwent side carried off the SWALEC Division 5 East title with a win of 13 – 0, triumphing in all but two of the 20 league games that they’ve played this season including today’s win over Brynithel RFC.

It’s been a nail-biting climax to a hard-fought title race. At the start of the match, Llanhilleth were second place to RTB Ebbw Vale – who had played all of their matches. Llanhilleth RFC would need nothing less than a win to celebrate with the trophy and champagne at the end of a season where promotion was the club’s main target.

Among the players in the title winning squad are Steve Faletau – the brother of Wales, British & Irish Lions and Dragons No 8 Toby Faletau – and former Cross Keys and Pontypool prop Darren Crimmins.

Llanhilleth RFC Club Captain Dan Brimble said: Winning the title today is testament to the hard work and dedication shown from the entire team throughout the season and to win against our closest rivals is something very special.  We started the season in July last year and have trained very hard as a team to get fitter and streamline our game.

Danny added, “I think the win will give us the motivation we need to carry on the success into next season.”

Head Coach Jonathan Way, who has been coaching the club for six years, said: “It is 20 years since the club won their league so winning today means a great deal to everyone at the club who have invested a lot of time and effort into training and practising throughout the season.”

“Having Mark Rossitter join the coaching staff at the start of the season has made a huge difference to the club. Not only has he provided all the players with a fresh outlook on the game and new skills, he gave them the enthusiasm and determination to succeed. The win this season is not only down to a change in coaching staff but also down to players like Captain Danny Brimble, Scrum Half Grant Harrington and winger Alex Davidson, all supported by a very strong team in general.”

WRU Board Member Ken Hewitt added: “It is a fantastic achievement for Llanhilleth RFC to win the league today. They have worked hard throughout the season and really deserve the take home the trophy today. I wish them all the best with forthcoming season and hope that they can carry on their success next year.”

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Llandudno win Division Two North Title

Two years after being relegated from the SWALEC Division 1 North, Llandudno RFC have bounced back clinching the SWALEC Division 2 North trophy. The squad were presented with their trophy at the club’s annual Welly Day – a Junior Rugby Tournament organised by the club – on Saturday 10th May 2014. 

What a difference a year makes for the club who were last season struggling to make an impact and finding their feet after being relegated from North Wales’ top division.

Since then with a new coaching staff and ethos, Llandudno RFC have won the league and reached the semi-final of the SWALEC Bowl before missing out on a place in the final at the Millennium Stadium to Clwb Rygbi Cymry Caerdydd. Llandudno RFC also beat Rhyl 32 – 7 to claim The Intermediate Cup.

Llandudno RFC Head Coach, Jason Roberts said: “Winning the title today is a fantastic achievement – we are a team of young lads with an average age of 24, and it is the first proper season for this squad. I am really proud. The training has really made a difference – there is a great team spirit, with the lads wanting to train and that has shown on the pitch and in the year-end results. We have loads of standout players, and a great spread of 25 players who have scored tries.

“We are producing a lot of good players who have been taken by Rygbi Gogledd Cymru (RGC), the regional side. It is fantastic for the club to be part of that, but it means we are always filling those gaps. Looking at next season, I am confident if the lads train that we will be a team that performs very, very well, and can certainly aim for a top six finish – it is up to the boys!”

Llandudno RFC Club Captain, Ian Williams added: “It is absolutely brilliant to win today – a great team effort. Everyone turned up to train, and the fantastic management and coaching has made a big difference. Rugby creates a great camaraderie, it brings everyone together, and we have a fantastic time both on and off the pitch. For next season, we will see what the competition brings, but we will be giving it 100%, so watch out!”

Saturday, 10 May 2014


Undefeated Hartridge RFC have lifted the SWALEC Division 6 South East trophy today (Saturday 10th May 2014), after winning their final game against St Julians on Tuesday 6th to secure the title.

Hartridge’s league win was sealed midweek in a hard-fought (10 - 38) victory over close neighbours St Julians, which saw them walk away with yet another bonus point. The side have scored a bonus point in every single game they have played this season.
There is much cause for celebration at the club, who have also recently started a youth side working with 14’s and under, in partnership with Llanwern High School.
Head Coach Mark Wheeler, said: "Winning the title means everything today.  With some of the boys having come back from other clubs; that's really made a difference for us and it shows in today's result. We're really pleased, and also very confident about continuing the success next season."
Rhys Yendle, top points scorer and Club Captain, said: "We just want to thank everyone for their support - everyone in the background who you don't necessarily see. It really has been a big community effort to get here and lift the trophy today. Massive thanks to everyone involved."
Sadly, top try scorer Kirk Lewis was on holiday at the time of the presentation but he will surely be celebrating with his team on his return.


Ystradgynlais RFC have secured the SWALEC Division Five South West trophy in what has been a thrilling culmination to the season in the division.

The Blues sealed their win in a nail-biting 12 – 18 away win against league runners up Birchgrove RFC with the winner of that match later being crowned champions. Ystradgynlais then extended their winning run with a 42 – 5 away win at Crynant RFC today (Saturday 10th May 2014). 
Swansea Valley side Ystradgynlais RFC were led to their league glory after the welcome return of former Ystradgynlais, Scarlets and Wales lock Vernon Cooper as Head Coach. Cooper retired from playing with the Scarlets in 2011 after featuring 369 times in a glittering club career.
The Blues, who have won their first league title since 1995, carried off the SWALEC Division 5 South West title by 5 points, winning all but two of the league games that they’ve played this season.
It’s also been a successful season for the youth side who have also won their league – the first time in the history of the club for both the youth and senior teams to have clinched their respective league titles. With 95% of the first team squad having come through the youth system at Ystradgynlais RFC, the Head Coach thinks the future’s looking bright.
Ystradgynlais RFC Head Coach Vernon Cooper, who won three caps for Wales, said: “The whole squad has been outstanding this season.
The highlights for me have been the way we have dug in and won tough away games that we wouldn’t have won in the past.”
He added: “We’ve got plenty of confidence looking towards next season and it is key for us that we keep hold of the quality players coming through from our youth team. If we do that and build on our success then hopefully the future is bright.”
Ystradgynlais RFC Club Captain Emyr Lawrence, said: “It means the world for us to win the league. The boys have put the effort in all season and it has paid dividends for us.
Vernon Cooper has made a big difference this season plus the effort and commitment of the players has changed. The whole squad has been outstanding.”
WRU Board Member Geraint Edwards, added: “Congratulations to Ystradgynlais RFC – it’s great that they have won their division. It’s the first league title they’ve won in a number of years, which is fantastic for the rugby club and for Ystradgynlais itself.”  

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Scarlets secure new assistant coach from New Zealand

The Scarlets have announced that Auckland Rugby's Head Coach Wayne Pivac will join as Assistant Coach at Parc y Scarlets next season to further strengthen the rugby set-up in West Wales.
Pivac who has been involved with Auckland Rugby for an impressive 15 years (since November 1998) also led Fiji as Director of Rugby for the national side from 2004-2006 coaching both the 15's and 7's including through a World Cup. During his time with Fiji, the Sevens team won the 2005 Rugby World Cup.

He was Head Coach of Northland Rugby Union earning them promotion in his first season at the helm in 1997. He won three provincial titles during his tenure with Auckland with back-to-back provincial titles in New Zealand in 2002 and 2003. He was named NZRU Coach of the Year in 2003.
Pivac has been Head Coach of all three provincial teams in the Blues region – Auckland, North Harbour and Northland, as well as his international head coaching post for Fiji.
In 2011, Pivac succeeded the now Ulster Head Coach Marc Anscombe, as Auckland Coach in the ITM Cup.
Scarlets Head Coach Simon Easterby said:  "We are delighted that Wayne Pivacis joining our set-up at Parc y Scarlets next season. His broad level of experience across national coaching, Sevens and expertise as a proven forwards coach, particularly in the breakdown area, will strengthen our coaching team here and give a wider dimension to our rugby group.
"His breath of experience across the game set him apart from others and we look forward to his input working alongside myself, Mark Jones, specialist scrum coach Danny Wilson and our kicking coach Mark Tainton.
"We took our time and looked carefully in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres for someone we believed would fit in well,compliment the skills and knowledge we already have and really add something new to Scarlets Rugby going forward next season.

Easterby, who flew out to New Zealand recently to finalise Pivac's move to West Wales added: "He comes highly recommended to us from the players and fellow coaches that we have spoken to and I was able to spend some time with him in New Zealand and his coaching credentials on paper matched up with what I saw in person.
"This is a very exciting appointment for the Scarlets, and for us as a coaching group - bringing in someone new to join us with fresh ideas, ambition and a wealth of experience. I am looking forward to working closely with Wayne and I am sure he will work well with our group of players and fit in quickly with life here at Parc y Scarlets.”

Scarlets Chief Executive Mark Davies said: "We have been building a stronger squad over the past three years with a more dominant pack as well as strengthening key positions in the backs. Equally we have invested in a creating a powerful blend of experience, passion for the Region, knowledge and ambition in our coaching group and this latest appointment represents serious investment in the skills we need to succeed.”
Pivac said of joining the Scarlets:  "I have been lucky to have been Head Coach of four very proud rugby unions during my career in New Zealand as well as the experience of being national coach for Fiji.
"I know that in joining the Scarlets I will be part of another very passionate rugby region, with demands and expectation of the team from all those who support the Scarlets and I look forward to working alongside what is clearly a very committed, able and driven coaching team at Parc y Scarlets.
"I hope I can bring something positive to the mix; the Region has a strong core oftalented and experienced international players as well as some impressive youngsters coming through in both the pack and the backs.
"I'm excited by the challenge and want to add to good work that Simon, Mark, Danny and the backroom team are already doing to help the players reach their maximum potential on the field and bring success to the Region as a whole - both on the big stage in Europe and in the domestic league.”

Giant Vosawai to join the Blues

Back row giant Manoa Vosawai is to add his considerable power to the pack at Cardiff Blues after the Italian international agreed a deal to move to the Arms Park.

Powerful Number Eight Vosawai has put pen to paper on a contract that will see him move to Blues from RaboDirect PRO12 rivals Benetton Treviso this summer.

The exciting Fijian-born back row, who has won 14 caps for Italy, becomes the latest recruit ahead of next season.

Blues have also signed New Zealand international lock forward Jarrad Hoeata, Exeter prop Craig Mitchell, Scarlets flanker Josh Turnbull, Gloucester scrum half Tavis Knoyle, Bristol wing George Watkins and Dragons back row Ieuan Jones.

Vosawai, who stands a menacing 6ft 2in and weighs 17st 5lbs, is a dynamic and destructive ball carrier and featured for Italy in the 6 Nations clash against Ireland at Lansdowne Road in March this year.

The 30-year-old made his Azzurri debut in the 2007 World Cup warm-up clash against Japan and later featured in three games in the showpiece tournament, starting the pool game with Portugal.

Vosawai said: "First of all I would like to thank God for my life and the many blessings in it. Secondly I would like to thank Benetton Treviso for the last four years of my career.

"Treviso have been there for me through thick and thin, and have nurtured me into the rugby player I am today. I will miss being part of the family in Treviso and Benetton rugby.

"Now there's a new page in my life and I am grateful that Richard Holland and his team has given me the opportunity to be part of the Cardiff Blues family.

"Cardiff are a top side with rich heritage and tradition in rugby and I know that they will bring out the best in me. It is an exciting time for me and I'm looking forward to putting on the Blues jersey next season at the Arms Park."

Chief Executive Richard Holland added: "We are delighted to be in a position to now confirm, after much speculation, that Manoa will join the Blues next season. He is the latest addition to the exciting squad we are building for next year and beyond.

"Manoa is keen to make a huge impression in Wales and we would like to thank the WRU for its support over this signing. We will now complete the visa process as we prepare to welcome Manoa to Blues in the coming months."

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Welsh Cup: Aberystwyth 2 TNS 3

A magnificent second half comeback led to Welsh cup heartbreak for Aberystywth as Saints showed their pedigree to land a league and cup double for the second time in three years.
But it was a desperately close call after the golden boot of Chris Venables threatened to end Saints’ double dreams and lift the cup for Aberystwyth for the first time in 114 years.
Venables struck an early double blow to put the Seasiders on the road to one of the biggest upsets in the 127 year history of the competition before Saints hit back in a thrilling finish to complete cup glory at Wrexham’s Racecourse ground.
After early Saints pressure, the Seasiders stole a 10th minute lead, Chris Venables smashing a right foot volley into the roof of the net after Antonio Corbisiero’s free kick into the box was deflected into the path of the Golden Boot winner.
Aber sensationally went two up a couple of minutes later when Sam Finley caught Mark Jones in the area to concede a penalty and Venables sent Paul Harrison the wrong way to give the underdogs a fairy tale start.
Those two shock early strikes blew the final wide open with Aber looking to use Geoff Kellaway’s pace down the right flank to cause Saints further problems.
Saints’ growing frustration was shown by Phil Baker who blasted a 40 yard shot high and wide of the target as Aber squeezed the space in front of Lewis to restrict Saints to long range attempts.
Finley did create a good chance from the edge of the area, only for Lewis to deny the youngster with a comfortable diving save to his left.
Leading 2-0 at the interval and with one hand on the trophy, the challenge for Ian Hughes’s side was to continue to keep Saints out of striking range and to keep their concentration.
Saints’ boss Craig Harrison made a half-time tactical change, bringing the more attacking Jamie Mullan off the bench for defender Baker in a bid to break their duck.
Although Saints succeeded gaining a stranglehold on possession and forced Aber to defend much deeper, they could not break the challengers’ defence as precious minutes ticked away.
In a last throw of the dice Harrison sent on the prolific Greg Draper and the substitutions played a key part in dragging Saints back into the final on 73 minutes as Draper scored from the penalty spot after Peter Hoy had handled Mullan’s cross from the left.
That set up an enthralling finale and with just over 11 remaining Draper met a drilled free kick from the right into the danger area with a point-blank header to net the equaliser.
It was a huge blow to the tiring Seasiders in the face of relentless second half pressure from the full-timers and Aber’s hopes were dealt a final blow three minutes from time when Michael Wilde was on hand to smash home the winner and to complete a famous fight back.

Risca RFC celebrate Swalec Division Three East Title

Champions Risca RFC have been presented with the SWALEC National League Division 3 East title in front of a large crowd at their final training session of the season.

The Cuckoos sealed their title triumph on the last day of the season at the end of a gripping battle for the top spot with rivals Blaenavon RFC in Division 3 East. It ended with only one point separating the two teams and Risca RFC took the spoils with 88 points.
Risca RFC continued their impressive run of late as they beat third-place Pontypool United 33 – 50 at Pontypool’s Memorial Ground in a hard fought contest.
According to joint club captains Tom Crandon and Owen Biddescombe, the team’s heroic efforts in that match was the stand-out performance of the season for the Cuckoos.
Team Captain Tom Crandon said: “I think Saturday’s match is the best we’ve played all season. Not many people can go to Pontypool United and get a bonus point win and in doing so winning the league. That definitely made it that bit more special. The crowd really spurred us on too. We knew it was going to be tough but the supporters gave us an extra percentage to push on for the points.”
Owen Biddescombe added: “It was quite emotional to be honest. We knew we had to win it but to get that bonus point aswell was a great achievement. That’s testament to the way we’ve been playing all season and scoring tries. The boys really fronted up and in the end we got the result.”
It’s been four years since Risca RFC were crowned SWALEC Division 4 East champions but both captains believe that a good team ethos is behind their success this year.
Tom Crandon said: “Everyone wants to play and work hard for each other and that’s what it has come down to this season. It’s been a long eight months but they boys have worked hard in training week in week out and put their bodies on the line every Saturday under the guidance of a great group of coaching staff in Tyrone Morris, Tim Edwards and Gareth Evans. We set a goal at the start of the season to gain promotion and we’ve achieved that.”
“The future’s looking bright for the club,” explained Owen Biddescombe. “There’s a good structure at Risca RFC with the mini and junior sections and our youth team pushing on to the Seconds – who have been phenomenal this year with an undefeated record. That’s ensured a higher level of intensity for the Firsts in training so that we can keep their success going – and keep our places! Looking ahead to next season, we’ll recruit some new players, promote several youth boys and build on our hard work so far.”
WRU Board Member Ken Hewitt said: “This was an exciting league with the victory only secured on the final day of the season for Risca RFC. For the neutral, it’s been thrilling to watch the tight contest develop between Risca and Blaenavon for the top spot. I’m pleased to present Risca with the SWALEC Division 3 East trophy at the end of an exciting season.”

Felinfoel defeat Kidwelly to clinch the Llanelli and District Challenge Cup

In what can only be described as an excellent advert for grass roots rugby, Felinfoel beat Kidwelly 21-17 at Burry Port Memorial Park on Friday night in the final of the Llanelli District Challenge Cup competition which is sponsored by the Llanelli & District Rugby Supporters Club.

 ‘Foel, who won the first ever final as far back as 1920 and who last won the Cup in 2008, were forced to dig deep late into the second half as Kidwelly fought back from 21-10 down to produce a try for fly-half Rhodri Jones, converted by centre Gareth Rees, that cut the deficit to within a touchdown as the game headed into injury time.

But the points scored earlier in the game by Felinfoel proved sufficient in the end to secure success and it was due in no small part to influential centre Jonathan Cronin whose impressive performance saw him leave the field with a haul of sixteen points after he converted his own try and landed three penalties.

And it was Cronin who opened the scoring with the first try of the game after slicing through the Kidwelly defence in midfield as ‘Foel benefitted from most of the possession and territory in the opening exchanges.

Kidwelly, who were looking for their third cup win in four seasons, bounced back from the restart and a powerful drive by their forwards led to a try by centre Keiran Rees, converted by fly-half Leighton Walters to level the scores.

 The action then swung in favour of Felinfoel and the pack was rewarded for its efforts when forward pressure on the Kidwelly line yielded a penalty that centre Cronin slotted between the posts to put ‘Foel 10-7 up at half-time.

There was more to come from the ‘Foel pack in the second half when prop Sen Lee powered his way over to make it 15-7 and though Cronin’s second penalty extended the lead to 18-7 Kidwelly refused to lie down. Continued pressure from a determined Kidwelly eight allowed centre Gareth Rees to make amends for an earlier penalty miss by sending his second strike between the uprights.

Five minutes later, Cronin again stepped up to the mark with his third penalty to keep Felinfoel in the driving seat at 21-10 but another late surge from the Kidwelly pack provided the platform for their second try by fly-half Jones to ensure a tense finish.

“It was a keenly contested final with great commitment from players on both sides who were not short of vocal support from the sizeable crowd on the touchline,” was the view of District secretary, Ellis Davies.

Referee boost for Auction Evening‏

A fund raising Auction Evening for the Gorslas Welfare Association has received a big boost after international rugby referee, Nigel Owens, donated a signed shirt to help raise funds.

“We are delighted the Nigel has supported the event by donating one of his jerseys. All the funds we raise will go towards the community activities in the village organised by the Welfare Association, which include the Carnival and Fair in September as well as the Christmas Light and Fireworks display,” explained Welfare Association chairman, Ellis Davies.
“The Welfare Association also supports the work of Gorslas Community Council which owns and maintains the facilities at the ever popular Gorslas Park.” .
The Auction Evening is being held at Tafarn y Phoenix, Gorslas on Friday, May 9 starting at 7pm.
Admission is by ticket only and there are only a few left for sale.
The tickets cost £10 and include live entertainment and food.
Tickets are available from Kate Thomas 07772 088 888 or Ellis Davies 07971 032 768
Other items up for auction include……….
1. British Lions rugby shirt signed by skipper Sam Warburton and Player of the Year, Lee Halfpenny,
2. Two tickets for Heineken Rugby Cup Final.
3. Football signed by the Welsh football team
4. Cricket ball and presentation box signed by Geraint Jones
5. VIP Hospitality box for 10 people at a Scarlets home match,
6. Sale Sharks rugby shirt signed by Dwayne Peel
7. Rugby shirt signed by Scarlets squad
8. Hospitality for 4 people at a home match at Swansea RFC
9. Rugby shirt signed by J J Williams
10. Golf Day at St Pierre, Chepstow
11. Tickets for 3 people at a Newport County Football home game
12. Mercedes McLaren Jacket
Anyone who is unable to attend but wishes to bid for any of the items can contact Ellis Davies 07971 032 768

Friday, 2 May 2014

Swalec Cup, Plate and Bowl Predictions

Swalec Cup
Pontypridd v Cross Keys 5.25 pm
Pontypridd will be hoping to retain the trophy they won 12 months ago and will undoubtedly start as favourites, but, just as in 2012, the Gwent opponents pose a very real threat. The sides are tied at one game all in the head to head in the league this year and I think it could go either way on Sunday.
Paul John’s side will be keen to get over the heartbreak of their agonising loss on try count to Leinster A last weekend and what better way than to claim the Swalec Cup?
Everyone has been talking about Ponty as potentially doing the double but if Keys can stun the defending Champions on Sunday their odds of themselves claiming a league and cup double will be slashed.
Both teams have formidable packs and although neither side have ended their league campaigns in less than sparkling form, there could be fireworks on Sunday.
Verdict-Pontypridd by 7 points
Swalec Plate final 3.15pm
Merthyr v Rhiwbina
Both teams are in the hunt for a double after securing their respective leagues in the last week. The Ironmen obliterated One West Champions Glynneath in the last round and you would have to be a brave person to bet against Lee Jarvis’ troops coming away with the title on Sunday.
However, Rhiwbina have shown they can live with first division sides having beaten several on the way to the final.
Merthyr have been running in the tries for fun of late but, in securing the One East crown last Saturday, looked a tad nervy as they edged past Bedlinog. The Squirrels had no such problem mid-week when they eased to the Two East title as they thumped Tredegar and I believe the distraction of that match will have helped the Cardiff side's preparation.
Ultimately, I can’t look beyond a Merthyr victory but I think it will be closer than a lot of people are predicting.
Verdict-Merthyr by 9 points
Swalec Bowl final
Clwb Rygbi Cymry Caerdydd v Llantwit Major 1.00pm
Clwb will start as slight favourites, having won the two league encounters this year, and after losing out to St Joseph's in the league, Gareth Williams’ troops will be eager to pick up some silverware.
Only a few seasons ago Clwb were still classed as a District side in Division Six South Central, along with the likes of Wattstown, whose winning performance from last season they will be hoping to replicate.
However, Major will be determined to stop them and commemorate their 125th Anniversary year in style. They have proved to be a great Cup side so far this season and they will be hoping for a bit more magic when they take to the field Sunday lunchtime.
Fairytale is banded about quite frequently in sport but, for either of these sides, a win on Sunday would be just that. I know Clwb have beaten Major twice already this season but I’m not sure it will count for much on Sunday.

 Verdict- Llantwit Major by 3 points