Saturday, 13 December 2014

Amy Boulden wins Ladies European Tour’s OMEGA Rookie of the Year Prize

Amy Boulden capped her first season as a professional by winning the Ladies European Tour’s OMEGA Rookie of the Year prize.

The 21-year-old from Llandudno in Wales led the rookie rankings heading into the OMEGA Dubai Ladies Masters, the final tournament of the 2014. With her tied 24h place finish, she held off the challenge of her nearest rivals, Sally Watson of Scotland and Nicole Broch Larsen from Denmark, to earn a beautiful OMEGA Speedmaster chronograph with a white mother-of-pearl dial, a diamond-paved bezel and a white leather strap.  

“It’s been a really great first season on the Ladies European Tour,” said Boulden, who won the Association Suisse de Golf Ladies Open on the LET Access Series in May.

“It was one of my goals from when I turned pro, to win Rookie of the Year.  I thought it was going to be quite tough this year not having a full card.  I wasn't sure how many events I was going to be playing in but starting the year well has helped me a lot. It’s a real honour to win and join the prestigious list of former winners, including Laura Davies, Annika Sorenstam and Charley Hull.”

Boulden was one of the top performers in 2014 and recorded four top 10 finishes including a second place at the Lacoste Ladies Open de France.

She finished third at the Sberbank Golf Masters in the Czech Republic, fourth at the Ladies German Open presented by Marriott and 10th at the Tenerife Open de EspaƱa Femenino.

With season’s earnings of €83,982.17, she finished 18th on the 2014 Order of Merit, five places ahead of the second placed rookie Watson.

The Ladies European Tour congratulates Amy on a fantastic start to her professional career.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

weekend predictions

All Wales Sport previews the sixth and final round of the British & Irish Cup along with the only Principality Premiership game taking place this weekend.

Pool 1 – London Scottish v Pontypridd

Having snatched defeat from the jaws of victory at Bristol almost a fortnight ago, Ponty recovered from that confidence-crushing defeat with a bonus-point home win over Connacht last week that reignited their British & Irish Cup hopes.

Another five-point win guarantees qualification for the last eight as one of the three best runners-up – while four points will almost certainly do as well.

Standing before them are London Scottish, who although already out, have only been beaten once (by Bristol) on their own ground this season while Ponty also slipped up here 26-21 almost exactly a year ago.

The pressure is on Ponty for sure but, although a lot will depend on what side the English Championship side put out with nothing riding on it for them, I’m going for a Ponty win nonetheless.

Prediction: Pontypridd by 6 points

Pool 2 – Ulster Ravens v Aberavon

Aberavon's losing run was extended to eight games with last Saturday's 42-14 home defeat to Rotherham.

The Wizards also have not won in any competition since they beat Ulster 18-14 at The Talbot Athletic Ground in the reverse fixture on October 11.

Although they have at least salvaged some pride with some gutsy recent performances in defeat and I’m backing Jason Hyatt's side to complete the double over winless Ulster.

Prediction: Aberavon by 5 points

Pool 4 – Doncaster Knights v Cross Keys

Seven of the 10 matches played in Pool 4 have resulted in a winning margin of five points or less.

Cross Keys, while bottom of the pool, have more than held their own this season – although were taken apart at home by Bedford last weekend.

Their two previous away trips to English Championship clubs have ended in a one-point win (v Bedford) and a one-point loss (v Cornish Pirates).

Group winners Doncaster won 37-32 at Pandy Park in round one and I’ve got them down to finish the group with a 100 per cent record.

Prediction: Doncaster by 7 points

Pool 5 - Carmarthen Quins v Jersey

The winners of this tie – being played at Llandovery – can still go through as one of the best runners-up, if Munster A and Cornish Pirates are well beaten.

Jersey are on a four-game losing streak but won with a bonus point when the sides met back in October.

Although I think Carmarthen – a composite Scarlets A side in all but name – will win on Saturday and finish on a high, I fear it’s a big ask for all the results needs elsewhere to go their way.

Prediction: Carmarthen Quins by 10 points


Principality Premiership – Cardiff v Neath (2.30pm)

There is also one Principality Premiership clash taking place on Saturday and it’s at the Arms Park between Cardiff and Neath.

The Welsh All Blacks have undergone something of a transformation with three wins from their last four Premiership outings to revive their flagging fortunes after a tough start to the season that, for many, left them odds on for the drop.

Patrick Horgan’s re-introduction at the Gnoll has certainly helped turn things around and will hope to carry on from where they left off three weeks ago when they beat Newport at Rodney Parade – despite playing with 14 men for much of the game.

However it must also be said that, although Neath dug in, Newport were also particularly poor on the day and a better side would have capitalised on their numerical advantage.

Cardiff on their own ground will provide a much sterner test and will themselves will be looking forward to returning to action after many weeks of being stop-start, with the league taking a back seat for the British & Irish Cup.

The Blue and Blacks currently sit in fourth place in the table with five wins from seven games.

I expect a fiercely-contested battle between these two but back Cardiff to win and make it six from eight with the enforced three-week break also likely to have halted Neath’s new-found momentum just slightly.

Prediction: Cardiff by 11 points

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

PGA pros vital to clubs - GUW chief

A leading figure in Welsh golf believes PGA Professionals hold the key to the long term success of golf clubs in Wales.

John Jermine, chairman of the Golf Union of Wales (GUW), has backed the skill and expertise of PGA pros in helping clubs build and sustain strong memberships.

The former chartered accountant, who is one of Wales’ most successful amateur golfers, also insisted that clubs need a triumvirate of pro, club secretary and junior organiser working closely together.

John Jermine

“I am convinced that unless clubs grasp the nettle and put in a PGA qualified professional they will never get the club where they want it to be,” said Jermine.

“At the GUW, we have some great examples of dramatic improvements made to clubs with the help of a PGA Professional.

“The secret going forward for most clubs, and the lifeblood of the future of clubs, is bringing new people into the game and, therefore, we need PGA pros who can teach in primary and secondary schools, get out into the community and coach people of all ages, whether young or old.

“A big opportunity is to attract the older generations who tend to have more time and who might be looking for a new sport.

“We have discovered through our research that people who become reasonably competent, fairly quickly tend to keep playing golf.

“The biggest loss of members to clubs are those who have been playing for a couple of years but haven’t got much better and as a result lose momentum and interest.

“When you have a PGA pro at a club playing an active part that doesn’t happen because they are always there to help them improve, play better golf and enjoy the game more.”

It’s in the area of junior golf too that Jermine feels pros can have a particularly significant impact.

“We’ve also discovered that young girls need to start playing golf between the ages of seven to 10 so by the time they get to 13 and 14 they are playing well enough that they want to continue playing,” he added.

“If they don’t start playing until they are 13 or 14 they never get good enough to want to keep playing when other interests arrive, as they inevitably do.”

The PGA has been actively engaging with clubs throughout the UK to highlight the benefits PGA pros bring to facilities and that message was reinforced by Jermine.

“Why do people enjoy golf? Because it is a great sport, a place where they can meet friends, make new friends and enjoy the social side of the club.
It is also a sport we can play for life with every club in the local area delighted to see new faces.

“But they also enjoy playing the game as well as they can and that’s where you need the PGA Professional.

"To do that the Club Professional needs the active support of the club secretary and, similarly, a junior organiser. If you have all three elements, without exception, it works.”

British & Irish Cup round six preview

Bristol Rugby, Rotherham Titans, Worcester Warriors, Doncaster Knights and defending champions Leinster A have all qualified for the quarter-finals of the British & Irish Cup as winners of their respective pools with a round to spare.

The English Championship quartet are unbeaten after five rounds of action and are on course for a home draw in the quarter-finals while Leinster, who are bidding for a hat-trick of titles, are set to be on their travels in the last eight unless they can improve their position this weekend and qualify for the knockout stages as one of the top four seeds.

Eight sides still have a mathematical chance of grabbing one of the three quarter-final spots available to the best runners-up.

Yorkshire Carnegie are currently in the driving seat with 18 points, Pontypridd have 15 and Munster A and Cornish Pirates, who met in the inaugural B&I Cup final in 2009, are both on 14.

Bedford, Moseley, Carmarthen Quins and Jersey have slim mathematical chances of maintaining their interest beyond the weekend.


Connacht Eagles v Bristol Rugby

Top plays bottom as pool leaders Bristol go in search of the win they need to be certain of a home quarter-final. Bristol extended their winning run to 13 matches with a 22-14 victory over London Scottish in round five.

Bristol outscored Connacht eight tries to four in front of a record B&I Cup crowd when the sides met in round one. Olly Robinson, son of director of rugby Andy, scored a hat-trick on his competitive debut for the club.

London Scottish v Pontypridd

Pontypridd's destiny remains in their own hands with the Welsh Premiership side knowing that a bonus-point win at The Athletic Ground would guarantee them one of the best runners-up spots.

Welsh champions Ponty won the first match with London Scottish 23-17 at Sardis Road.


Rotherham Titans v Yorkshire Carnegie

Yorkshire Carnegie need two points from Saturday's trip to Clifton Lane to be mathematically certain of their place in the last eight as one of the three best runners-up.

If Carnegie head back up the M1 empty-handed they will have to hope that at least one of their main rivals, Pontypridd, Munster and Cornish Pirates fails to win.

Titans kept Carnegie try less in both previous meetings this season: 6-0 at Headingley in the Championship and 20-3 at Silver Royd, Scarborough RUFC in the B&I Cup.

Ulster Ravens v Aberavon

Aberavon's losing run was extended to eight games with Saturday's 42-14 home defeat to Rotherham.

The Wizards have not win in any competition since they beat Ulster 18-14 at The Talbot Athletic Ground on October 11. Ulster are winless and will exit the competition at the end of the pool stages for the third year in a row.


Moseley v Munster A

A first bonus-point win of the season would guarantee Munster a place in the last eight regardless of how Cornish Pirates fare at Bedford.

Tries have been hard to come by for Munster to date with just 10 in five matches. They beat Moseley 27-21 at Clonmel in round one.

Worcester Warriors v Nottingham Rugby

Worcester are certain of a home tie in the knockout stages if they beat Nottingham for the third time this season.

The Warriors won 55-16 when the sides met in the league at Sixways at the end of September and they prevailed 26-19 in the cup three weeks later at Meadow Lane.


Bedford Blues v Cornish Pirates

Last Saturday's agonising 31-30 defeat at home to Doncaster has left Cornish Pirates' hopes of making it out of Pool 4 hanging by a thread.

Realistically the Pirates need to win at Bedford for the first time since March 2011 – and hope Munster and Pontypridd fail to beat Moseley and London Scottish respectively – to qualify for the last eight for the fifth time in their history.

The first B&I Cup tie at the Mennaye Field was a real humdinger with Pirates winning 35-34.

However the B&I Cup Organising Committee overturned the result after Pirates wrongly introduced an additional player to the fray when the game had already gone to uncontested scrums.

Doncaster Knights v Cross Keys

Seven of the 10 matches played in Pool 4 have resulted in a winning margin of five points or less, and Cross Keys, while bottom of the pool, have more than held their own this season.

Their two previous away trips to Championship clubs have ended in a one-point win (v Bedford) and a one-point loss (v Cornish Pirates). Doncaster won 37-32 at Pandy Park in round one.


Carmarthen Quins v Jersey

The winners of this tie can still go through as one of the best runners-up if Munster A and Cornish Pirates are well beaten. Jersey are on a four-game losing streak but won with a bonus point when the sides met back in October.

Leinster A v Plymouth Albion

To qualify as one of the top four seeds Leinster A need to pick up maximum points against Plymouth and hope that Bristol and Worcester fail to make it six wins on the spin. Leinster prevailed 31-24 when the sides met at Brickfields in round one/

All round six matches kick off at 2pm on Saturday, December 13.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Unbeaten Squirrels are building for the future

SUCCESS is something that has become customary at Rhiwbina in recent years and the forward-thinking club have outlined their vision to ensure that trend continues.

Rhiwbina 1st XV 2014/15
The Squirrels have started the current campaign in some style – winning their first seven games in Division One East – which follows on from three promotions in four seasons, while they also reached a Millennium Stadium final in the Swalec Plate last season.

But, despite that success, they aren’t resting on their laurels and intend to build on their achievements – both on and off the field – by implementing a new five-year plan.

The club’s long-serving chairman, Paul Maddocks, explained: “We want to build on our success of previous years to make sure the club is going to be sustainable in the future.

“There are four aspects to our five-year plan – legal, administration, social and playing.

“We’ve done a SWOT analysis of each of those aspects and identified around 30 actions that we want to build into the plan across those four areas.”

An integral part of that plan is the club’s continued development to developing their own talent – with a thriving minis section (aged 7-12), junior sides between ages 13-16 and youth rugby at U18.

Maddocks continued: “We want to ensure that we attract players to our junior sections as well and, in our role as a community club, also working closely with Rhiwbina Primary and other local schools. 

“An illustration of that success is that our under 10s are now back playing on the Rhiwbina Primary School field.

“They’ve got a squad of 25 players – coached by Jason Gibson and Robert Morgan – and played Llandaff North recently on the school field and won three and drew one of the four games that they played.

“That emphasises our links with the community, our commitment to our junior sections as we realise the importance of our junior sections in terms of our future.”

One player to pass through the club’s youth system is a certain Sam Warburton who, whilst going on play at the highest level for Wales and the British & Irish Lions, still maintains strong links with the north Cardiff club.

“He gives of his time quite freely in terms of presentations and charity events and that is what our youngsters can aspire to,” added Maddocks.

Captain Brett Chatwin scores against Quins

Those youth sides feed into the club's three senior sides, with Rhiwbina also running successful second and third teams in the Premiere and Division Two respectively of the Cardiff & District League, with both still undefeated and flying high. 

The club also say that, although they don’t run a women’s side at present, they are trying to encourage girls at U12 level.

After winning Two East last season, things could not have started much better this term for the first team, who are coached by Gareth Lintern and Jared Lougher – in their fifth season with the club – and are skippered by Brett Chatwin.

They trail rivals Penallta – who have also made a 100 per cent start - by just two points at the top of One East.

The two clubs clash at Cae Delyn in the league on December 20, but have also been paired together in the third round of the Plate and face off at Penallta seven days earlier for a place in the last 16.

Penallta won the Plate in 2012 while the Squirrels are attempting to reach back-to-back finals having lost out 29-26 to Merthyr last season.

“The trip to Rumney on Saturday followed by the two games against Penallta really does make it a season-defining three weeks coming up for us,” said club official John Humphreys.

“We’ve been able to maintain the momentum from last year with a young team against tougher opposition.

“Our aim this season was to maintain our status as a Division One club and push for the top three and we’re on the way to achieving that.”