Thursday, 23 October 2014

Carl Field's weekend predictions


Bedwas v Newport (Saturday, 2.30pm)

Bedwas return to action after three weeks off and are looking to pick up their first win at the Bridge Field this season having lost their first three home games. Although they will have been buoyed – by the performance at least – against Carmarthen Quins last time out, when they scored two tries inside the first three minutes, before eventually going down 44-29.

Newport have been in Premiership action in recent weeks and, although they’ve suffered defeats at Cardiff and then at home against Gwent rivals Ebbw Vale in the dying moments last week, they have been unlucky not to turn at least one of them into a win – and are due a bit of luck.

Prediction: Newport by 3 points


Pool One – Pontypridd v Bristol (Saturday, 2.30pm)

Premiership powerhouses Pontypridd go into Saturday’s match level on nine points with Bristol at the top of the pool – but with a superior points difference – having hit Connacht for six last weekend.

This match could go a long way to determining both clubs’ destinies in this season’s competition, with the hosts keen to avenge their defeat the last time these two sides met – a 36-25 loss in their B&I semi-final at Sardis Road back in 2010/11.

Prediction: Pontypridd by 7 points

Pool Two – Yorkshire Carnegie v Aberavon (Saturday, 2.30pm)

The Wizards came crashing back down to earth at Rotherham last Saturday having defeated Ulster Ravens the week before – and another tough afternoon is expected for Jason Hyatt’s side at Brantingham Park – home of Hull Ionians – on Saturday.

It’s the second successive season these two sides have been grouped together, with Josh Griffin the star of the show in the corresponding fixture last year as he grabbed a hat-trick in a thumping 72-0 win for Carnegie.

Both sides have four points going into this weekend’s round three fixture, with Carnegie full of confidence after their impressive 22-17 win at Ulster Ravens last time out.

Prediction: Yorkshire Carnegie by 15 points

Pool Four – Cornish Pirates v Cross Keys (Sunday, 3pm)

Cross Keys got their campaign back on track with a narrow 23-22 win at English Championship side Bedford Blues last week – snatching the game in the dying seconds having trailed 19-3 after 16 minutes.

However the group was blown wide open week with the news that Cornish Pirates, who had beaten Bedford 35-34 in their pool opener, had breached the rules related to uncontested scrums which means the result was overturned and a 34-28 victory was latterly handed to Bedford.

Pirates also lost 29-25 at pool leaders Doncaster last week so another win for the Gwent club could really make things interesting – particularly if Bedford also win at Doncaster.

Prediction: Cross Keys by 5 points

Pool Five – Carmarthen Quins v Leinster A (Saturday, 2.30pm)

A Scarlets development XV in everything but name, a composite Quins side ran out 29-16 winners over English Championship side Plymouth at Parc y Scarlets last Saturday and bouncing back having lost at Jersey the week before.

The reigning champions are in town this weekend – with the game being played at Carmarthen Park – and a third straight win for Leinster would see them open up a sizeable lead at the top of Pool 5.

Two hard-fought victories against Plymouth and Jersey puts Leinster on eight points after two rounds. Jersey are second on five, Quins have four and Plymouth two.

Prediction: Leinster A by 10 points

Match Report: Swansea University Women's RFC 32-5 Plymouth University Women's RFC

Swansea University Women’s recorded the first win of their BUCS Western 1A campaign with a comfortable home success over Plymouth at Sketty Lane.
The Green and Whites, who went down 14-0 at Bristol last week, had too much experience across the park for their opponents in what was at times a training game.
Despite dominating the first 40 minutes, Swansea were perhaps guilty of switching off after the break as the game's continuity was broke up by changes and injuries.
Swansea were cruising at the interval and were 25 points to the good, but the second half was a much closer fought affair with Plymouth frustrating their hosts for large periods.
Despite the disjointed nature of the match, a number of players stood out on both sides. For Swansea the half back combination of Rhian Perry and Meg Griffiths worked well, while the back row of Lydia Shelton, Kate Jones and Roz MacRow-Wood were dynamic in both the loose and at the breakdown. For Plymouth outside half Kat Smith and flanker Lucy Robinson were the catalyst for everything positive from the side.
A scrappy start saw both sides guilty of turning over quality possession but a quick tap penalty from scrum-half Perry got the hosts moving, with Griffiths making good yardage in support. After several phases the ball was recycled with centre Becca Cottam guilty of fumbling the ball with the line at her mercy.
The pressure was building on the visitors' line-Beth Sheen was scragged just short for Swansea and it was a case of when, not if, Swansea would score with Perry on hand to dart over.
The hosts' lead was soon doubled after the centre partnership of Cottam and Nicola Jones combined well with the latter touching down.
It was one way traffic now as Plymouth struggled to get out of their own 22 let alone their half and Swansea were soon adding to their tally first through Shelton and then prop Stephanie Evans.
With Plymouth unable to clear their lines, another Swansea score before the break was inevitable and came through Shelton as the flanker showed great strength to barge over from five yards out.
The second half began as the first had ended with Swansea well on top and when Griffiths converted her own score, the match was all but over as a contest.
With the match won Swansea’s structure began to fade and they failed to do the basics correctly with forced offloads, dropped passes and turnovers blighting their game.
The English outfit continued to battle hard-Robinson broke from 60 metres out and only a brilliant last ditch tackle from Griffiths was able to deny her.
Plymouth now had their tails up and began to press for a consolation - winger India Roberts was held up but the visitors eventually got their reward when Molly Humphries drove over the Swansea whitewash.
Swansea should have had the final say but were unable to find the final pass, with support play a real issue as players began to flag.
Despite the game fizzling out, prop Evans did produce one moment of magic with a hand off and step to elude a number of defenders before being tackled.
Swansea host Bristol University next Wednesday and with Welsh Varsity rivals Cardiff in the same league as the Green and Whites, this year all eyes will be on that derby on November 19.

Player of the Match: Lydia Shelton (Swansea University)

Thursday, 16 October 2014

British & Irish Cup Round 2 – Predictions

Pool 1 – Connacht v Pontypridd (Sunday, 2pm)

Pontypridd put last season's agonising semi-final defeat to Leinster A behind them with a win over London Scottish on the opening weekend. Connacht shipped a half-century of points away to Bristol. Connacht have beaten Welsh opposition twice in six attempts in the B&I Cup, with victories over Cross Keys and Llanelli in 2012 and 2013 respectively. They have never played Pontypridd before though.

Prediction: Pontypridd by 15 points

Pool 2 - Rotherham Titans v Aberavon (Saturday, 3pm)

Tries from Alex Rieder and Jack Preece saw Rotherham open this year's competition with a 20-3 win against Yorkshire Carnegie in Scarborough, while a brace of tries from Wales U20s No.8 Robert Dudley-Jones helped Aberavon pulled off a shock 18-14 win over Ulster's second string. Rotherham won both at home and away when they played Aberavon in the 2012/13 edition of the B&I Cup. After a narrow four-point victory in Port Talbot, the Titans turned on the style to win 49-7 in the return match at Clifton Lane.

Prediction: Rotherham by 10 points

Pool 4 – Bedford Blues v Cross Keys (Saturday, 3pm)

Both Bedford and Cross Keys, two former finalists, began their campaigns with defeats. Blues' on-loan fly half Steffan Jones will know all there is to know about Cross Keys having turned out for the Welsh Premiership side on a number of occasions in recent years. Jones arrived from Newport Gwent Dragons in the summer and wore the number 10 jersey in the opening round loss against the Pirates.

Prediction: Bedford Blues by 2 points

Pool 5 – Carmarthen Quins v Plymouth Albion (Saturday, 2.30pm)

Welsh Premiership high-flyers Carmarthen Quins suffered their first defeat of the season when they were beaten 37-17 by Jersey in Round 1. Quins trailed 17-0 at the break before restoring some pride with a strong second-half showing. Plymouth also showed real character in going down to a 31-24 home defeat to Leinster A, outscoring the defending champions four tries to three to take two bonus points from the game.

Prediction: Carmarthen Quins by 7 points

Quins rocked by double departure

CARMARTHEN QUINS remain united despite being rocked by the recent resignations of two club officials after a row over selection for the British & Irish Cup.

Chairman Dorian Taylor and club secretary Don Davies have both quit due to regional influence over the Quins’ campaign – with the Scarlets using the competition to field a largely development XV containing contracted regional and academy players.

Both felt that, having qualified for the group stages, it should in fact be the Premiership side representing the  region – with help from the Scarlets – as is the case with the other three Welsh sides in the competition.

Pontypridd, Aberavon and Cross Keys are also staging all their games on their own grounds, whereas only one of the Quins’ three group games will be played at Carmarthen Park – against holders Leinster A on October 25.

This weekend’s clash with Plymouth is being staged at Parc y Scarlets with the final group game against Jersey on December 13 taking place at Llandovery’s Church Bank.

Just four Carmarthen regulars started the 37-17 Pool Five defeat at Jersey last weekend, with nine players who normally represent Llanelli and two from Llandovery – making up the rest of the side.

However club official Alan Bowen says that, although the departure of two long-standing club stalwarts is regrettable, he feels the furore has been “blown out of all proportion.”

“It’s a pity that it has come to this,” said Bowen.

“We’ve had two serious committee meetings about the matter and the majority – 90 per cent – are in agreement with what the Scarlets are trying to do.

“But, unfortunately, some are not so have taken the decision to step down.

“We’ve got such a good relationship with the Scarlets and we thought it’s not worth jeopardising that for this competition.

“Everybody realises you have to have a parent club and, like everyone else in the division, the regions let us use some of their players. The whole division has prospered from it.

“We certainly wouldn’t be where were are now without the Scarlets and that’s why the system was introduced in the first place – with the talent developing through the academies to the Premiership and then on to the regions and it’s working well.”


A retired consulting engineer from Burry Port will be the elder statesman in the Golfplan Insurance PGA Pro-Captain Challenge final in Turkey.

PGA Professional Martin Stimson (right) and club captain Martin Hale (left). Picture courtesy of Scott Heavey at Getty Images

Ashburnham captain Martin Hale, 73, qualified to play in the showpiece after partnering his club’s PGA Professional Martin Stimson to victory in the regional qualifier at Bowood.

The life-long Scarlets fan nailed the decisive blow, hitting a nett eagle on the 16th hole to take the pair two shots clear of closest challengers Chris Gill and Brian Anderson from Newquay.

He and Stimson will now tee up for the Canopius-supported event, which will take place over the PGA Sultan Course at Antalya Golf Club on November 26-27 and carries a total prize fund of £25,000.

It will not be a first golfing appearance on foreign soil for the proud Welshman, who frequently travels to France to play golf with friends.

But he has never before played the game in Turkey, having previously visited the country’s Mediterranean coast once on holiday.

“I don’t know too much about the course, but I have done a bit of research on the internet since we qualified,” Hale, who plays off a handicap of 10, admitted.

“In the UK I tend to play mainly at Ashburnham, but I do enjoy going abroad to play.

“I like golf courses in France - we go over there quite a lot. There is something really nice about the French courses.

“I don’t think experiences like that necessarily give any advantages when it comes to going over to Turkey though.

“I never really feel too confident going into tournaments, but I’m sure Martin will have a good couple of days and we’ll be okay.”

PGA Professional Stimson has represented Ashburnham for the last seven years, having rejoined the club he completed his training with in the nineties.

He is the first pro in the club’s history to represent the Carmarthenshire venue in the Pro-Captain Challenge, and is relishing the opportunity.

“I’m definitely more of a club pro than a playing professional, and really enjoy spending my time here at Ashburnham,” he explained.

“I’ve been here a while now, I originally learned my trade at the Ash and I want to do well for the club out in Turkey.

“I’ll have a chat with Martin before we fly out but I know he’ll be great. We just need to repeat the kind of performance we put in at Bowood and we’ll have every chance.”

British & Irish Cup round 2 preview

Bristol Rugby set a new attendance record for a British & Irish Cup match with a crowd of 7,640 turning up at Ashton Gate on Sunday to see the Greene King IPA Championship pacesetters maintain their winning start to the season with a 50-34 victory against Connacht Eagles.

It was also a day for Olly Robinson to remember as he scored a hat-trick on his competitive debut for the West Country club.

Bristol feature in one of three all-Championship tie in Round 2 when they take on London Scottish at The Athletic Ground on Saturday afternoon. Elsewhere, Moseley host Nottingham and Doncaster Knights get an early chance to avenge their league loss to the Cornish Pirates earlier this month when they host the Duchy outfit at Castle Park for the second time in a fortnight.

Pontypridd and Aberavon, the two Welsh sides to enjoy winning starts, are both on their travels in Round 2 – to Connacht and Rotherham respectively. Cross Keys are on the road too, with a trip to Bedford, while Carmarthen Quins are at home to struggling Plymouth Albion.

Of the four Irish provinces only Munster A are drawn away in Round 2, Mick O'Driscoll's side facing a tough trip to Worcester. Connacht Eagles, Ulster Ravens and Leinster A all enjoy home advantage.

Connacht Eagles v Pontypridd, Sunday October 19, KO 14:30
Pontypridd put last season's agonising semi-final defeat to Leinster A behind them with a win over London Scottish on the opening weekend. Connacht shipped a half-century of points away to Bristol. Connacht have beaten Welsh opposition twice in six attempts in the B&I Cup, with victories over Cross Keys and Llanelli in 2012 and 2013 respectively. They have never played Pontypridd before though.

London Scottish v Bristol Rugby, Saturday October 18, KO 15:00
Bristol remain unbeaten this season after their clinical eight-try display against the Eagles in Round 1. Scottish claimed a losing bonus point away to Pontypridd for the second season running. All seven Championship meetings between these sides have gone the way of Bristol, the West Country side averaging 37 points per game during that period.

Bristol Rugby 50 Connacht Eagles 34
Pontypridd 23 London Scottish 17

Ulster Ravens v Yorkshire Carnegie, Saturday October 18, KO 14:00
Both the Ravens and Yorkshire Carnegie will be looking to set the record straight after beginning their B&I Cup campaigns with disappointing losses. Yorkshire Carnegie have yet to beat an Irish side in the B&I Cup, losing two and drawing one of their three fixtures against Leinster A. Carnegie's most recent trip to the Emerald Isle came in the final of last year's competition when they were beaten 44-17 by the Dublin-based province. In full-back David McIlwaine, Carnegie have a product of the Ulster academy in their ranks.

Rotherham Titans v Aberavon, Saturday October 18, KO 15:00
Tries from Alex Rieder and Jack Preece saw Rotherham open this year's competition with a 20-3 win against Yorkshire Carnegie in Scarborough, while a brace of tries from Wales U20s No.8 Robert Dudley-Jones helped Aberavon pulled off a shock 18-14 win over Ulster's second string. Rotherham won both at home and away when they played Aberavon in the 2012/13 edition of the B&I Cup. After a narrow four-point victory in Port Talbot, the Titans turned on the style to win 49-7 in the return match at Clifton Lane.

Aberavon 18 Ulster Ravens 14
Yorkshire Carnegie 3 Rotherham Titans 20

Moseley v Nottingham Rugby, Saturday October 18, KO 15:00
Moseley ended an 11-game losing streak at this level against Nottingham when they won 29-15 at Billesley Common in the Championship in November last year. Moseley have won exactly half of the 12 all-Championship ties they have featured in since the B&I Cup was launched. Moseley and Nottingham both picked up losing bonus points in Round 1.

Worcester Warriors v Munster A, Saturday October 18, KO 15:00
Two tries from Dean Hammond and 16 points from the boot of fly-half Tiff Eden got the Warriors get off to a winning start against Nottingham, while Mick O'Driscoll's Munster edged out Moseley 27-21 to share top spot in Pool 3. Worcester suffered a 38-23 defeat to Leinster A on the only other occasion they have faced Irish opposition in the B&I Cup.

Munster A 27 Moseley 21
Nottingham Rugby 19 Worcester 26

Doncaster Knights v Cornish Pirates, Saturday October 18, KO 14:30
Pirates won on Yorkshire soil for the first time in two-and-a-half years when they came away from their last visit to Castle Park, in Round 5 of the 2014/15 Greene King IPA Championship, with a 24-22 victory. Pirates head north with five points in the bag after a thrilling 35-34 victory against Bedford in Round 1. Doncaster turned in an impressive display too, collecting maximum points from their trip to Cross Keys.

Bedford Blues v Cross Keys, Saturday October 18, KO 15:00
Both Bedford and Cross Keys, two former finalists, began their campaigns with defeats. Blues' on-loan fly half Steffan Jones will know all there is to know about Cross Keys having turned out for the Welsh Premiership side on a number of occasions in recent years. Jones arrived from Newport Gwent Dragons in the summer and wore the number 10 jersey in the opening round loss against the Pirates.

Cornish Pirates 35 Bedford Blues 34
Cross Keys 32 Doncaster 37

Carmarthen Quins v Plymouth Albion, Saturday October 18, KO 14:30
Welsh Premiership high-flyers Carmarthen Quins suffered their first defeat of the season when they were beaten 37-17 by Jersey in Round 1. Quins trailed 17-0 at the break before restoring some pride with a strong second-half showing. Plymouth also showed real character in going down to a 31-24 home defeat to Leinster A, outscoring the defending champions four tries to three to take two bonus points from the game.

Leinster A v Jersey, Friday October 17, KO 19:30
Considering their poor overall record in the B&I Cup, Jersey are surprisingly good starters in the cross-border competition. Saturday's bonus-point win against Carmarthen Quins means they have not lost in the opening round since entering the fold in 2012/13. They drew with a strong Pontypridd outfit in their first year of competition and 12 months on beat Ayr 28-16. Friday night's trip to the two-time champions will provide a serious test of their mettle though.

Jersey 37 Carmarthen Quins 17
Plymouth Albion 24 Leinster A 31

Friday, 10 October 2014

Skipper Byrne returns to lead Dragons against Edinburgh

Newport Gwent Dragons captain Lee Byrne has returned to the Dragons starting XV for this weekend's clash against Edinburgh, Saturday October 11, KO 14:40.

The international fullback has returned to full fitness after suffering a back strain before the Welsh Derby, resulting in him not appearing for the Dragons against the Scarlets in Round 5.

Alongside Byrne, Lyn Jones has made seven changes to the team that faced the Scarlets last weekend.

The fullback is joined in the back three by Matthew Pewtner and Hallam Amos. The centre pairing takes on the form of Tom Prydie and Ashley Smith while both half-backs, Jason Tovey and Jonathan Evans, get the nod and retain their places.

One change has been made to the front row alongside Boris Stankovich and Dan Way, as Elliot Dee replaces hooker T. Rhys Thomas who moves to the bench. The second row also has one change as Andrew Coombs, who returns from a three week ban, replaces Ian Gough. The back row has one change and one positional change made to it as Lewis Evans and Nic Cudd pull on the flanker jerseys and Andy Powell is named as number 8.

Director of rugby Lyn Jones, has made three changes to the replacements bench as Hugh Gustasfon, Lloyd Fairbrother, James Thomas, Richie Rees and Angus O'Brien are joined by T. Rhys Thomas, Ian Gough, and Aled Brew.

Newport Gwent Dragons team to face Edinburgh

Lee Byrne (c), Matthew Pewtner, Tom Prydie, Ashley Smith, Hallam Amos, Jason Tovey, Jonathan Evans; Boris Stankovich, Elliot Dee, Dan Way, Andrew Coombs, Rynard Landman, Lewis Evans, Nic Cudd, Andy Powell.

T. Rhys Thomas, Hugh Gustafson, Lloyd Fairbrother, Ian Gough, James Thomas, Richie Rees, Angus O'Brien, Aled Brew.


CARL FIELD previews the weekend’s action as the British & Irish Cup gets going, while there is one Principality Premiership fixture.


Cardiff v Newport

With both these sides failing to make it to the B&I Cup group stages, the two face off in a league clash at the Arms Park.

Cardiff lost to Cross Keys on their last outing here – having won their first two games with a bonus-point – but bounced back with victory at Llandovery last weekend.

Newport, who have lost three from four so far, are currently ravaged by injury and unavailability and could be in for a difficult afternoon tomorrow.

Prediction: Cardiff by 15 points


Pool 1 – Pontypridd v London Scottish

After last year’s gut-wrenching exit to eventual winners Leinster A at the semi-final stage, Pontypridd will have targeted this competition as a priority.

There was only one score in it on both occasions these two sides clashed at the same stage last season and the visitors have a score of their own to settle, having missed out on qualification to Ponty on points difference.

Prediction: London Scottish by 3 points

Pool 2 – Aberavon v Ulster A

Aberavon have their work cut out if they are to qualify from their group which also includes English Championship sides Rotherham and Yorkshire Carnegie.

Ulster reached the semi-finals of this competition in 2010 and, although I don’t think they’ll qualify from the group, can see them heading home with the spoils this weekend.

Prediction: Ulster A by 7 points

Pool 4 – Cross Keys v Doncaster

Pandy Park hasn’t been a happy hunting ground so far this season for Cross Keys – losing both Principality Premiership home games on their own patch.

Doncaster are back in the competition after gaining promotion back to the English Championship and have won three of their five games so far – including two wins on the road.

Prediction: Doncaster by 7 points

Pool 5 – Jersey v Carmarthen Quins

Jersey have had an indifferent start in the English Championship, winning one and losing three of their first five games and are yet to win at home – although league form tends to go out of the window in cup competitions.

Conversely, Quins have made an excellent start to their league season and will need to get their B&I Cup campaign off to a flyer – in a group that also includes holders Leinster A – if they harbour any realistic hopes of reaching the knockout stages.

Prediction: Carmarthen Quins by 3 points

Match Report: Swansea Uni RFC 18-8 Cardiff Uni RFC

Swansea University have drawn first blood on the road to Welsh Varsity as the Green and Whites were good value for their BUCS Premier South A success over their bitter rivals Cardiff at Sketty Lane.
The hosts outscored the Red and Blacks two tries to one after the visitors were unable to make a strong wind advantage pay before the break, with all three touchdowns coming after the interval.
There were some impressive performances from players on both sides. Swansea’s prop pairing of Tom Cross and Sean McDonnell-Roberts got through a lot of work in the loose, while the centre partnership of Jedd Evans and Olly Jenner worked well in midfield. Flanker Chris Williams looked classy and was the Red and Blacks' standout player, while winger Tom O’Flaherty was also dangerous with the ball in hand.
The conditions hampered both teams as a swirling wind and torrential rain badly affected the opening half in particular, and it ended tied at 3-3 apiece with penalties from Swansea’s Spencer Cawley and Cardiff’s Sam Parsons cancelling each other out.
Despite the typical Sketty Lane conditions, both teams' intention to play rugby was evident as they each dominated for certain periods in the opening 40.
Swansea’s set piece was firing immediately with the hosts having a small advantage in this area all afternoon.
Despite a bright Swansea start, it was Louie Tonkin's troops that had the first chance of points. None materialised, however, as Parson’s long range effort drifted wide of the upright, while moments later the hosts'  Cawley made no mistake from 30 metres out.
The reigning Varsity Cup champions weren’t ahead for very long, however, with Parsons successful from the tee this time to level up proceedings.
Cardiff continued to grow into the match, with hooker Alun Evans’ rampaging run down the blindside only halted by a great Josh Guy tackle.
However, Cardiff were unable to make their possession and territory pay as the hosts finished the half the stronger - centre Evans’ clever angle off fly half Liam Crandon driving Swansea deep into their opposition 22. But the visitors' line was intact when referee Jason Bessant blew for half time with Cawley seeing an effort from the tee miss late on.
Now playing with the wind, Swansea upped the intensity in their bid to press home the advantage and they were soon in front, with Cawley firing over his second penalty.
Pressure was now beginning to mount on the Cardiff line - after several phases centre Evans created a hole in the Red and Black defence with prop McDonnell-Roberts getting his reward for an industrious afternoon, trundling over from 5 yards. Cawley added the extras.
Swansea’s tails were now up and looked threatening from all over the pitch and it wasn’t long till the home team were celebrating once more.
Full of confidence, the Swansea back line launched a devastating attack from their own half with winger Pete Moore finishing off the move in the corner.
In the ascendancy, Swansea were perhaps guilty of bringing on one too many replacements and when both teams were reduced to 14 men, with Cawley and Alun Evans each receiving a yellow card, the game became even for fragmented.
The hosts' once organised defensive line now looked in disarray and were caught a number of times far too narrow as Cardiff began to spread the ball.
O’Flaherty’s jinking hips and pace saw him clear the Swansea defence, with a superb tackle from full-back James Phillips required to stop the flyer - the line at his mercy.
However, O’Flaherty was not to be denied as the winger darted over out-wide for what turned out to be a consolation score as Swansea saw out the closing moments.

Next up for Swansea is a trip to early league leaders Exeter while Cardiff host Hartpury at Llanrumney. 

Star Man: Jedd Evans (Swansea University)

Thomond victory will be step in the right direction for Scarlets says Priestland

Scarlets outside half Rhys Priestland says it was bitterly disappointing to lose against Munster at Musgrave Park in the PRO12 last season and taking a victory over the Irish province at Thomond Park on Friday evening will be a step in the right direction for the Welsh region.

The clash away from home against Munster heralds a big month for the Scarlets that will see the West Wales region take on Munster and Toulon in consecutive weeks, who collectively have five Heineken Cup titles between them, before moving on to face Leicester Tigers at Parc y Scarlets in the second round of the European Champions Cup.
Talking earlier this week outside half Priestland, who has played a part in all of Scarlets' fixtures so far this season, said: "The next few weeks will be a big test for us and hopefully we can keep the squad as fit as possible and see how we go. If we play like we have done we're going to come unstuck.
"We've played some good stuff but we've been inconsistent and left a few opportunities on the field. Hopefully we can turn things around but it's going to be a tough few weeks. We want to become more consistent and hopefully we can sort that out this week.”
In what is the final Guinness PRO12 fixture of the opening block this season, as we head into the European campaign, Priestland is fully aware of the challenge that faces the Scarlets as they take on Munster at their Thomond Park home. Priestland went on to say: "They've been the top team consistently for so many years. They're probably a team that's been improving, they've got some very good players and will be ramping it up gearing towards Europe.
"I'm pretty sure we'll face a Munster team that played against Leinster last weekend not the team that played at the start of the season. We were bitterly disappointed to have lost out in Munster – hopefully it'll be a bit different this time!
"Our performances against them have improved. We know they're a dangerous team, they're playing a bit more of an expansive game and we've worked on our defence this week.”
With two win, two draws and a defeat in the Guinness PRO12 so far this season the Scarlets are keen to build on the winning momentum and keep climbing the table. Priestland went on to say: "We've been like a traditional French team so far this season, ok at home, very disappointing out in Leinster and we should have put the game to bed early doors in Edinburgh.
"We have to try and stop that trend of having one good performance and then a slump.  The season we got to the top four – we went to places and ground out ugly wins – they weren't glamorous games but we got the job done.
"It's a massive period for us at Scarlets – if we can get something out of this game away to Munster it'll be a big step in the right direction for us, especially the way we've been away from home at the start of the year. That will hopefully lead nicely into what is one of the biggest games in European rugby going out to Toulon.”
Tickets are on sale now for Scarlets' opening home European Champions Cup game against Leicester Tigers, Saturday 25th October kick-off 7.45pm.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Swalec League Weekend Review

Last season’s runners up Cardiff Met are starting to move through the gears after a slow start to their Swalec Championship campaign, and the Students clinched their third triumph as they dismissed new boys Merthyr 45-14.
Crymych wing Carwyn Phillips in action against Kidwelly
Connor Nicholls was at the double while James Beal, John Dawe, Charlie Hewitt and Emerson Beffell also crossed. Owen Thomas fired over three penalties and landed three conversions.
Meanwhile, it remains nip and tuck at the summit as both Bargoed and Swansea maintained their perfect record at the summit.
Bargoed currently head the table on 25 points as they picked up their fifth consecutive bonus point win with a 49-14 success at Tondu.
The brilliant Blues were in seventh heaven with touchdowns from Keiran Brown, Lee Meades, Ross Coombes, James Pizey, Darren Humphreys, Rhys Humphreys and Dai James, while Josh Prosser added 14 points from the tee.
For the Waterwheelers it was their fourth defeat on the bounce, with the hosts’ tries coming from Matthew Morgan and Hywel Davies
Swansea, meanwhile, were far too strong for Newbridge at St Helens as they cruised to a nine try 57-14 success.
Jon Fox and Tom Sloane both bagged braces for the All Whites while touchdowns from Aled Jenkins, Mike Sully, Joe Thomas, Jon Vaughan and Matthew Davies completed the rout. Liam Popham added the extras to six.
In the battle at the bottom, Blackwood grabbed their maiden win as they saw off fellow strugglers Llanharan 35-29 at Glan-yr-Afon.
Elsewhere, Narberth did just enough to see off the challenge of North Walian visitors RGC 1404 with a 24-22 victory at the Lewis Lloyd Ground, while Tata Steel claimed a bonus point 30-17 home win over Bridgend Athletic.
In the day’s other fixture, a late Josh Guy touchdown saw Pontypool grab a bonus point 29-13 success at Glynneath. 
COBRA were unable to keep up with the Joneses in One North as Nant Conwy swept to a 51-0 home win.
Aeron, Evan, Rhys and Grant Jones all went over as Nant crossed for nine tries in all, while Gwion Ellis-Jones landed three conversions.
In a tight derby encounter in One East it was Rhiwbina that took home the bragging rights as they edged past hosts Glamorgan Wanderers 18-13.
Rhiwbina's Tom Marley dives over against Glamorgan Wanderers
The Squirrels went over twice through Tom Marley and Matthew Hall, with Brett Chatwin slotting two penalties and a conversion from the tee. The visitors led 18-8 when they were reduced to 14 men as Dan Murphy saw red, but they held on to claim their fourth straight win.
The Wanderers had to settle for a losing bonus point with Ed Morris and Rhys Jenkins crossing for the them.
In One East Central, Ryan Howells was the star of the show for Ystrad Rhondda as the centre claimed four of his side’s eight tries as they demolished Gilfach Goch 56-18.
Meanwhile, Beddau made it four wins from four as they dismissed Treorchy 29-12.
The Green and Golds went over for five touchdowns through Christian Francis, Jordan Coombes, Glenn Slater, Tom Benjamin and Callum Wheeler.
Tenby United remain unbeaten at the summit of One West as they did just enough to see off Llangennech 29-27.
United crossed four times as they bagged maximum points with touchdowns from Toby Smith, Dan Colley, Jonathan Rogers and Luke Dedman, while Rogers also added nine points from the tee.
Adam Davies scored a scintillating try for Kidwelly in their 34-8 win over Crymych
Elsewhere, Crymych were no match for Kidwelly as the Black and Ambers cruised to a 34-8 away win.
The visitors outscored their rivals four tries to one with touchdowns from Steffan Marshall, Adam Davies, Berian Watkins and  Luke Marshal.
In a high scoring encounter in One West Central, Bonymaen racked up their third victory as they saw off Mumbles 39-34. Bony hit the visitors for six- John Hindman was at the double while Jacob Clement, Mark Simons, Rob Jones and James Bija.
The Black and Ambers Rich Rees worked tirelessly all afternoon 

Aberavon Green Stars racked up their third win in Two West Central as they comfortably dispatched Resolven 31-17.
Nathan Flynn bagged a try treble while Sam Owen was at the double. Sean Curran added the extras to two and Christian Roberts slotted one conversion.
In Three East Central B, Steve Barry stole the show for Treharris Phoenix as he crossed for a hat-trick as the hosts saw off Tylorstown 38-0.
Daniel Davies was at the double with Dale Evans also going over, while Ross Jones added the extras to four.
St David’s continue to struggle in Three West B as they were on the wrong end of another thumping, going down 76-10 at home to Fishguard. 


Haverfordwest's Becky Harries is looking forward to a winter of hard work building on her success winning the Golf Union of Wales Ping Order of Merit for the first time – after three years as runner-up.

It was fourth time lucky for Harries after finishing behind Amy Boulden for the last three years - but while Boulden is making her way onto the Ladies European Tour, 25-year-old Harries is in no rush to join her in the professional ranks with some more targets in the amateur game first.
Victories in the Tenby Scratch, the stroke play stages of the Welsh Amateur Championship and the West of England Ladies Open, along with a second place at the English Women's Open and runner-up in the Welsh Amateur.
“I have been close to winning the Order of Merit a few times and had some good years, so it is nice to do it this year,” said Harries, who works at Haverfordwest golf club.
“We have just come back from the Home Internationals where we did well until the final game against England, after beating Scotland and Ireland.
“I will have a bit of a break now, but keep practicing through the winter. I do not feel I am ready to turn professional yet.
“You have got to be really good and on top of your game to get somewhere in the professional ranks of women's golf.
“I enjoy what I am doing at the moment, I love playing for Wales and the team events are something special.
“Next year we have the Vagliano Trophy between Great Britain and Ireland and continental Europe, then in two years time there is the Curtis Cup so I have plenty of targets left in the amateur game.”
Harries and Boulden are the only two players to have topped 1,000 points in a season under the current Order of Merit scoring system, with Boulden just coming out on top two years ago.
The Haverfordwest player scored more than 700 points this time round to finish clear of Wrexham's Chloe Williams with Newport's Jess Evans in third.

British & Irish Cup Round 1 preview

Leinster 'A' begin their quest for a hat-trick of British & Irish Cup titles with a trip to Plymouth Albion on Saturday afternoon.

The Irish province became the only side in the five-year history of the competition to win the trophy more than once when they beat Leeds Carnegie in last season's one-sided final in Dublin. The previous year they were pushed to the limit by Newcastle before winning a thrilling final in extra-time.

For the first time, there will be no Scottish representation in the cross-border competition, with the 12 sides from Greene King IPA Championship competing against the A teams of the four Irish provinces and four Welsh Premiership sides, who have been selected on merit following the results of regional play-offs.

The quarter-finals will be made up of the five pool winners and the three best runners-up.

Pool 1
Pontypridd v London Scottish, Saturday 11 October, KO 14:30
These sides met as recently as last season when both ties went the way of the home side. Scottish did well to leave Sardis Road with a losing bonus point, going down to a 27-20 defeat after playing the last hour with 14 men due to Neil Best's red card. The Exiles got their revenge a week later when they beat the Welsh side, 26-21, in another tight game. Pontypridd have been Wales' most consistent performer in the B&I Cup with two semi-final and one quarter-final appearance. London Scottish have never made it past the pool stages in three attempts.

Bristol Rugby v Connacht Eagles, Sunday 12 October, KO 15:00
This will be the first-ever competitive meeting between 2011 B&I Cup winners Bristol and Connacht, although Bristol did win a pre-season friendly in Galway 33-24, on 8 August, 2002. Bristol have reached the knockout stages on three occasions while Connacht have fallen at the first hurdle in their two tournament appearances. Bristol have yet to lose at Ashton Gate.

Pool 2
Yorkshire Carnegie v Rotherham Titans, Friday 10 October, KO 20:00
Yorkshire Carnegie take their opening game of the B&I Cup to the seaside, with Scarborough RUFC's Silver Royd ground playing host to the fixture. These great Yorkshire rivals have met twice before in cup competition, with Carnegie winning on both occasions. The only B&I cup tie between the sides ended in a 17-3 home win for the Headingley-based outfit in September 2011. Both sides reached the knockout stages for the first time in 2013/14.

Aberavon v Ulster Ravens, Saturday 11 October, KO 14:30
Ulster put 62 points on Aberavon when they last met in the B&I Cup, in March 2010. The Ravens scored 31 unanswered points in each half and ran in 10 tries in total. Ulster have still to improve on their semi-final appearance at the inaugural tournament in 2009/10. Aberavon have played in all bar one of the five seasons of the B&I Cup but have never made it out of their pool.

Pool 3
Nottingham Rugby v Worcester Warriors, Sunday 12 October KO 15:00
Two weeks after being beaten 55-16 in the Championship, Nottingham get an early chance to turn the tables on Worcester in the first-ever B&I Cup tie between the sides. Competition ever-presents Nottingham have twice reached the quarter-finals while Worcester, in their one and only previous outing in 2010/11, made it to the last four before being beaten by Bedford.

Munster A v Moseley, Saturday 11 October, KO 15:00
Munster beat Moseley on their way to winning the B&I Cup in 2012, the Irish province coming away from Billesley Common with a 29-0 victory. Munster have only ever failed to make the knockout stages once, in 2010/11 – the same year that Moseley reached the quarter-finals for the only time in their history.

Pool 4
Cornish Pirates v Bedford Blues, Sunday 12 October KO 15:00
One of four all-Championship ties, Cornish Pirates v Bedford pits together two former B&I Cup finalists. Pirates became the inaugural winners when they beat Munster A in 2010, while the Blues lost narrowly to Bristol in the final a year later. The Blues' last win on Cornish soil came on 31 March 2013, when Myles Dorrian contributed 21 of their points in a 26-18 victory.

Cross Keys v Doncaster Knights, Saturday 11 October, KO 14:30
Doncaster travel to the Valleys looking to make it three away wins on the trot. While Doncaster have had strong ties with Wales in the past few years, with current Director of Rugby Clive Griffiths and his predecessors Lynn Howells and Kingsley Jones hailing from the country, this will be the club's first ever encounter with 2012 beaten finalists Cross Keys. The Knights' best showing in the B&I Cup came in 2009/10 when they reached the semi-finals.

Pool 5
Plymouth Albion v Leinster A, Saturday 11 October, KO 15:00
Plymouth made the quarter-finals for the first time in their history last season, a 41-21 defeat to Leeds Carnegie at Headingley ending their interest for another year. Albion could not have asked for a tougher start to the 2014/15 campaign than a visit from two-time winners Leinster. The sides have face each other in the pool stages twice before, Leinster winning both matches. They won 16-13 at Brickfields on 21 November, 2009 and 25-16 a year later in Dublin.

Jersey v Carmarthen Quins, Saturday 11 October, KO 15:00
Carmarthen Quins put up a good showing in their one and only appearance in the competition in 2012/13. The west Wales side won four out of their six pool fixtures that year and only missed out on a quarter-final place on points difference. Quins were runners-up in last year's Welsh Premiership and look set for another good season after kicking off with four straight wins to lie second in the table. Jersey have won three, drawn one and lost eight matches since being welcomed into the B&I Cup fold.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Principality Premiership weekend predictions

All Wales Sport’s CARL FIELD previews this weekend’s Principality Premiership fixtures.

Llanelli v Neath (Friday)

Llanelli will fancy their chances after pushing Carmarthen Quins all the way last weekend, while Neath need to make massive improvements in their scrum play if they are to get their first points on the board.

Prediction: Llanelli by 7 points

Aberavon v Pontypridd

Jason Hyatt’s side will be buoyed by picking up their first win of the season at Bedwas but I can’t see past yet another bonus point win for the champions – who will be determined not to produce a repeat of their lacklustre first half display against Bridgend last Saturday.

Prediction: Pontypridd by 15 points

Bedwas v Carmarthen Quins

Bedwas’ win at Cross Keys a fortnight ago proves they can mix with the best of them on their day, but I don’t expect a shock here against an in-form Carmarthen side, who have started with three wins from three.

Prediction: Carmarthen Quins by 10 points

Bridgend v Newport

The Ravens have struggled so far, although can take encouragement from their performance at Pontypridd, where they were unfortunate not to earn at least a losing bonus point. Conversely Newport kicked started their campaign with victory at Ebbw Vale last time out and I predict they’ll leave Brewery Field with the spoils tomorrow.

Prediction: Newport by 5 points

Cross Keys v Ebbw Vale

Cross Keys, who have recorded two wins on the road, will be keen to avoid a repeat of their shock home defeat against Bedwas a fortnight ago against the Premiership new boys – who tasted defeat for the first time since returning to the top flight against Newport last weekend.

Prediction: Cross Keys by 7 points

Llandovery v Cardiff

Early pace setters Cardiff suffered a setback against Cross Keys last Saturday and are on the road for the first time at the Drovers, who I’m backing to record their third straight win.

Prediction: Llandovery by 5 points

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Scorpions to move to Mountain Ash

South Wales Scorpions Rugby League Club will be moving to Parc Dyffryn Pennar, the home of Mountain Ash RFC for the start of the 2015 season.

The move has been made so that the club, who play in League One which is two divisions below Super League, can secure a base where the team can not only play home matches, but for the first time in the club’s history, they can train regularly on their home turf.

South Wales Scorpions played for four years in Neath before a temporary move to Maesteg this year. One game in 2015 will be played “on the road” in Maesteg to continue the link, one match will once again be played at Cardiff Arms Park with another at Stebonheath Park in Llanelli, the first Rugby League match in that code for 56 years.

The club held one match at Mountain Ash RFC last season and the Wales v England under 16 international was held there the week before, with almost 1,000 people collectively passing through the gates for these two games.
Scorpions’ 2015 campaign will start in March and will continue until early September avoiding a clash with most of the rugby union season.

Wales Rugby League’s chief operating officer, Chris Thair, said: “The move to Mountain Ash is a good fit for everyone and when the idea was being discussed, it has certainly generated a lot of excitement amongst the players and staff.

“Having signed up many of the squad and staff for next season we can move there with a lot of confidence that 2015 will be another step forward for the Scorpions.

“The Maesteg community stepped up 10 months ago and embraced the Scorpions in a real time of need. David Morgan, Stuart Hogg, Jeff Cole, Sandra Griffiths and many more from Maesteg have all being extremely supportive of the club’s efforts. After speaking to David, the chairman of Maesteg RFC, he is totally understanding of the new direction and is confident they can make the one game to be played at Maesteg in 2015 a big success.

“We’re delighted to announce that our ticket pricing for 2015 will be lower than ever before as reduced costs for 2015 and hopefully beyond means we can pass the savings onto you, the fans.”

Scorpions coach Mike Grady said: “I’m really pleased and excited about the move to Mountain Ash. It's massive for us as a club to have the playing and training base all at the same venue for the first time, and also somewhere to build relationships in the community going forward.

“The Hunslet game was a great success for me as was the under 16 international the week before. Everyone bought into the Rugby League, the community, Mountain Ash RFC and also the players. It was the second highest crowd of the season and a great day all round.

“It's on the doorstep to majority of the coaching and off field staff and for many of the squad, which means we will be getting into the local community and more importantly the local schools to make people aware of the Scorpions brand.

“I'd like to place on record our thanks to Maesteg RFC for having us there for the 2014 season, they have been fantastic hosts and nothing was too much trouble for them, It's been appreciated by everyone connected with the club.

“I would also like to thank the supporters for supporting us in 2014 and for those who attended the fans forum last month when this ground discussion was on the agenda.”

Mark Bennett, secretary of Mountain Ash RFC, said: “Mountain Ash RFC is delighted to become the new home for the South Wales Scorpions. Given the Club's Rugby League connections, particularly from an historical perspective, it would suggest somewhat an air of inevitability about this development.

“The Club's past is littered with players who excelled at both codes and, of course, one of its most illustrious sons of recent times, League legend Brian Juliff, still has very close connections with the club and the town itself. With Brian's current status as chairman of Wales Rugby League, it gives added resonance for his home town to become a custodian of Rugby League.

“We hope the people of Mountain Ash, and indeed the surrounding area, will embrace this new venture, and help to give the Scorpions a true sense of belonging in Mountain Ash.”

Juliff said: “South Wales Scorpions went through a number of important changes during 2014 which included a change of ownership. Throughout the season the team have been resolute and the spirit in the club is very strong. The support received from Maesteg RFC this year has helped us build a sustainable business and also helped Scorpions club officials understand what the important next steps are towards success.

“The key message is about putting down roots in a localised community with good road and rail links and is a place where the team can both play and train. Mountain Ash offers those facilities and of course with the ground next door to my old school it also gives me a real sense of achievement. I have never lost my contacts with my home town and feel very proud to work with the officials at the Old Firm to partner Rugby League with Rugby Union and to have the benefit of sharing good practice in terms of training and playing.

“This liaison offers a huge opportunity for both codes to establish strong school and youth development links in a solid partnership.”