Friday, 22 August 2014

Weekend cricket preview

The penultimate weekend of the South Wales Cricket Association Division One season sees leaders Ammanford away to Gowerton, WRITES LISA STENSTROM.

Ammanford remain undefeated this season while Gowerton’s victory over Dafen last week should give them heart.

But, against the formidable bowling of the two Matthews – Fisher and Roberts, who have taken nearly 100 wickets between them plus the leagues’ leading batsman, Alun Evans, the odds of them turning over the champions-elect must remain slim.

Up north - in the Romida Premier Division, Menai Bridge will travel to strugglers Mold and are surely favourites to continue their relentless march towards the title and prising – finally - the Championship from Llandudno’s vice like grip.  

The Seasiders themselves will hope to ‘do the double’ over their opponents when they travel to an in-form Mochdre who, after a slow start to the season, have bounded up the table over the last few weeks and currently sit in second place, they remain the only team to lower Menai Bridge’s colours this season.

Out west - the Pembrokeshire Leagues final round of matches are put on to the back burner this weekend as the Harrison Allen Bowl Final takes centre stage.  

The final, to be played over two innings will be staged at Cresselly and brings together the First Division’s second and third placed teams – Haverfordwest verses host team Cresselly.

This could be a tight one to call as their league encounters suggest - Cresselly gaining the bragging rights in their first meeting of the season whilst their second engagement ended in a draw.

Something tells me Haverfordwest will come out on top.

All the above is, of course, subject to the Welsh weather behaving itself!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Welsh Premier League preview

A mouth-watering clash between reigning champions The New Saints and Europa League play-off winners Bangor City kicks off the new Welsh Premier League season tomorrow night, WRITES CARL FIELD.

Saints, who won a record eighth league title last season, are looking to make it four wins in a row and a fifth crown in six years, while Bangor – in 2011 – are the only other club to lift the trophy during that period.

Despite seeing their UEFA Champions League adventure ended at the first hurdle, the current Premier League and Welsh Cup double winners are 2/5 on to bag domestic honours once again.

Manager Craig Harrison boasts the only full-time squad in the division – put together on what is comfortably the biggest budget – and it will take a brave punter to bet against them romping to the title once again.

That squad has been bolstered further with the arrival of former Wrexham winger Adrian Cieslewicz.

Newly-promoted Cefn Druids – last season’s Huws Gray Alliance winners – also get their campaign under way on Friday night as they host beaten Welsh Cup finalists Aberystwyth Town.

There have been wholesale changes at the Rock during the close season, with management duo Huw Griffiths and Terry Ingham departing along with all but two of last season’s squad.

Gavin Cadwallader and Adam Hesp remain at the club but a tough first season is expected for new manager John Keegan’s side.

Prestatyn Town verses Gap Connah’s Quay is the other Friday night fixture, in a battle of the two sides who finished 11th and 10th respectively last season.

Despite finishing in the bottom two, Prestatyn escaped relegation, thanks to Haverfordwest – the only Welsh League Division One club who applied for promotion – finishing outside the top two.

Airbus UK Broughton, runners up for the past two seasons, will be hoping to push The New Saints closer this season as they begin at home against Port Talbot Town on Saturday.

There are also two other fixtures on Saturday, as Word Cup holders Carmarthen Town entertain Rhyl – who were defeated 2-0 by Bangor in last season’s Europa League play-off.

Elsewhere, last season’s defeated Word Cup finalists Bala Town visit Newtown.

Fri 22 Aug: Cefn Druids v Aberystwyth Town (19:30); Prestatyn Town v Gap Connah's Quay (19:30); The New Saints v Bangor City (19:45).

Sat 23 Aug (all 14:30): Airbus UK Broughton v Port Talbot Town; Carmarthen Town v Rhyl; Newtown v Bala Town.

RUGBY LEAGUE: Wales ready for Ireland challenge in Celtic Nations Cup

Wales Dragonhearts will need to beat Ireland Wolfhounds by 19 points at Parc Eirias in Colwyn Bay on Saturday (kick-off 1pm) to take the first Celtic Nations Cup.

Should Wales fail to do this then Ireland will take the title.

Ireland were the only team never to have won the old Conference Four Nations title that ran for 12 years between 2002 and 2013. Wales won this trophy eight times, England three and Scotland once.

Wales lost their first game 18-16 away to Scotland two weeks ago while last Saturday the Irish hammed the Scots 44-10 in Dublin.

Players are selected from the country’s domestic leagues.

North Wales are represented by Aled Davies and John Ketland who play for Flintshire Falcons, while Callum Bennett and Anthony Tilley come from the Prestatyn & Rhyl Panthers club.

The remainder of the players originate from South Wales.

Wales coach Mike Grady said: “Ireland beating Scotland was the result we wanted that keeps the competition open but we know how tough it will be to get a four try win in Colwyn Bay.

“However our side are up for the challenge and hopefully we can do enough to take the first Celtic Nations Cup title.

“It looks to be a great day whatever the result so we hope to see lots of North Wales based fans at the game.”

Admission is just £3 for adults, £2 concessions and free for under 16s.

WALES (from): Bobby Andrews, Geraint Clarke, Bradley Hill (Aber Valley Wolves), Lee Harben Jones, Nathan Hawkins, Tylan Mafi (Bridgend Blue Bulls), Dan Henderson, Chris True (Cardiff Demons), Aled Davies, John Ketland (Flintshire Falcons), Callum Bennett, Anthony Tilley (Prestatyn & Rhyl Panthers), Ryan Bates (Torfaen Tigers), Scott Britton, Danyl Davies, Daryl Carter, Lee Goddard, Mike Hurley, Gareth Way (all Valley Cougars).

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Scarlets name Owens as new skipper

Ken Owens says it will be an ‘honour’ to lead the Scarlets after being named captain of the Pro12 side for next season.

The 27-year-old hooker, who has made 158 appearances for the West Wales region, will lead the side while centre Scott Williams has been named vice-captain.  

Owens takes over the reins from back row forward Rob McCusker and British & Irish Lion Jonathan Davies – who has joined French giants Clermont Auvergne.

"It's a huge honour, especially considering the people who've captained the region,” said Owens.
“I've played under some great leaders like Simon Easterby, Stephen Jones, Matthew Rees, Mark Jones – and obviously Rob McCusker and Jon Davies over the last couple of seasons.

"It's a massive opportunity for me and one I'm looking forward to. It's going to be a tough challenge but hopefully can move the region forward and get some success.”

On his leadership style, Owens added: “Every captain is different, I think I'll have to see how it unfolds.
“I will try and lead from the front which is something I've always tried to do as a player.”

Meanwhile fellow Wales international Williams, 23, who is the new vice-captain, also spoke of his delight, although admits the call took him by surprise.

He said: “It's a massive honour to be named vice captain – even though a little bit unexpected – but I'll grab the opportunity with both hands.

"We have a young squad, especially in the backline. It doesn't feel like that long ago that I was in the same shoes as those boys coming through from the Academy.

“I've got a lot of time in terms of helping them if they need anything. I don't feel 23 in terms of experience and I feel like I've had quite a lot in my short career so far.

“Hopefully I can bring that experience and pass it down to the other boys.”

Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac is confident that pair will be popular choices as captain and vice-captain respectively.

He said: “Both Ken and Scott will play a vitally important role within the squad and both, I feel, epitomise Scarlets rugby and our region – our people.

“We are a part of a passionate and loyal rugby community where rugby is everything. I am a great believer in locals taking the team forward.

“Both of these young men come from within the heart of this region and will die for the jersey and lead by example.”

National rugby sevens preview

The National Sevens once again takes centre stage at Cardiff Arms Park on Sunday, WRITES CARL FIELD.

Sixteen sides will contest eight first round matches, with holders Pontypridd kicking off the defence of their crown with a clash against local rivals Cross Keys at 10.20am.

Last year’s losing finalists Llandovery will also be hoping to go one better this year, and they kick off their campaign against hosts Cardiff at 12.40pm.

The eight losers in round one will then contest the Plate competition, with the final at 6.10pm, before the Cup final showpiece, which is scheduled for 6.40pm.

The squads are set to be announced tomorrow (Thursday).

A host of Wales internationals will take to the field during the lunchtime interval, in aid of Velindre Cancer Centre.

Matthew Watkins, who is currently undergoing treatment for cancer at the centre, has organised a game of touch rugby to raise funds and awareness and many players have pledged their support.

Watkins and Dafydd James will captain the sides, while Tom Shanklin, Nathan Brew, Nathan Thomas, Gavin Thomas and Rhodri Gomer-Davies are among those who will feature.

Many others, including Matthew Rees who recently overcame testicular cancer, will be supporting from the stand.

Also doubling up as a family fun day, there is a beach-themed fancy dress competition, with the best dressed invited to take part in a kicking contest to win tickets for Wales v Australia on November 8.

Tickets for the day are just £10 for adults, £5 for Under 16s and £20 for a family ticket (2 adults, 2 children) and are available now via, with a print at home option and by calling 0844 847 1881 (Ticketmaster) or 02920 230130 (Ticketline). 

On event day (Sunday), tickets are available from the Cardiff Arms Park ticket office.

Full first round draw:

10.20 Pontypridd v Cross Keys
10.40 Cardiff Met v Ebbw Vale
11.00 Bridgend v Swansea
11.20 Llanelli v RGC 1404
11.40 Aberavon v Newport
12.00 Welsh Students v Bedwas
12.20 Neath v Carmarthen
12.40 Cardiff v Llandovery

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Cardiff Blues sign prop Adam Jones


Pro12 side Cardiff Blues have announced the signing of Wales and British & Irish Lions prop Adam Jones.

Front row Jones, who has made 95 appearances for Wales and toured twice with the Lions, has put pen to paper on a deal to play his rugby at Cardiff Arms Park this season.

“This is about a new challenge for me.” said Jones.

“At this stage in my career I want a new environment and to really push myself.

“I've been really impressed by the set-up at Blues and the desire to achieve in the coming years under the leadership of Mark Hammett.

“It is that ambition and potential for the future that excites me about this move.”

Destructive prop Jones has been a cornerstone of the Welsh pack for the last decade, making his debut against England in 2003 and scoring on his first Six Nations appearance against Scotland the following year.

The Abercrave–born ace won the Grand Slam with Wales in 2005, 2008 and 2012 and has featured in the last three Rugby World Cups, making a total of 12 appearances.

The 33-year-old was also an integral member of the triumphant British & Irish Lions side that beat the Wallabies in 2013, adding three more caps to the two he won in South Africa in 2009.

Jones began his career with Neath in 1998 before switching to the Ospreys in 2003.

He made more than 150 appearances and won the Celtic League with Ospreys on four occasions in 2004/05, 2006/07, 2009/10 and 2011/12.

On leaving the Ospreys, Jones said: “Obviously I would like to thank everyone at the Ospreys – from the players and coaches to the wonderful supporters – who have been absolutely fantastic with me.

“I wish the region every success for the future.”

Mark Hammett, director of rugby at Cardiff Blues, said: “Adam has joined the Blues determined to achieve something special with us.

“He is as hungry as ever for success and a very driven man. Adam wants to make a difference and that is exactly why we want him here.

“He will be great for the younger players to learn off and is a world class tight-head prop who will add considerably to the squad we are assembling.

“He will improve what we are doing and I'm thrilled he is now a Blue for this season.”

Chairman Peter Thomas also spoke of his delight, saying: “We are delighted to recruit Adam and reunite the British & Irish Lions front row, alongside Matthew Rees and Gethin Jenkins.

“He is one of the very best props in Europe and, when it became clear he was available, we acted quickly, in conjunction with our director of rugby, to secure his services over the last 48 hours.

"We hope this signing excites our fans and they see this as fantastic news.”

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Welsh rugby friendly round up

Rugby clubs across the country continue to gear up for the new campaign and there was no shortage of friendly action over the weekend, WRITES CARL FIELD.

There were impressive wins in particular for Principality Premiership sides Llandovery, Averavon, Bridgend and Cardiff.

Llandovery recorded a fine 34-15 win at Church Bank over Pontypridd – Premiership and Swalec Cup double winners for the past two seasons.

Tries from Shaun Mills, Rhys Williams, Sam Saul – plus a second half brace from Richard Williams – secured the win for Llandovery, who themselves narrowly missed out on the Premiership play-offs at the end of last season.

Meanwhile, there was a memorable Aberavon debut for teenage outside half Josh Williams, who scored 20 points – two tries and five conversions - in his side’s 45-5 defeat of Tata Steel at the Talbot Athletic Ground.

Bridgend were 25-5 winners at English National League One outfit Cinderford, where Adam Williams bagged a brace, while Cardiff ran home four tries as they beat another NL1 side Coventry 30-25 at Cardiff Arms Park.

James Loxton, Joe Griffin, Shaun Powell and Matt Marley all went over the whitewash.

Meanwhile it wasn’t such a good day for Swansea – relegated from the Premiership last year – as they were on the wrong end of a 76-5 hammering at English Championship side Doncaster.

Elsewhere, Neath went down to a 34-7 defeat against Plymouth Albion in the late game at the Knoll, while Llangennech scored six tries in their 36-10 friendly win at Bonymaen.

Chris Moore (2), Dan Roberts, Josh Sheldon, Rhys Davies and Tom Barnes were their try scorers.

Follow Carl Field on Twitter: @mrcarlfield

Wales and Lions legend Quinnell to visit Machen RFC

Wales and Lions legend Scott Quinnell will be a special guest at Machen Rugby Club later this month.

The club has been named the overall winner of the NatWest RugbyForce Win a Pitch Makeover competition, after receiving more than 35 per cent of the public vote.

As a reward, they will receive a brand new pitch kit, a set of Under Armour training tops – as well as a visit from Quinnell, on Sunday, August 31.

The NatWest RugbyForce weekend is designed to encourage club players, coaches, supporters and volunteers to get together to help make valuable improvements to their club.

Of the 91 Welsh rugby clubs that registered for the programme, 30 were successful in earning £500 to help them complete projects and give their clubhouse and grounds a facelift on the last weekend of August.

Five of the 30 clubs – Cardigan RFC, Machynlleth RFC, Baglan RFC, Pontyclun RFC and Machen RFC were then shortlisted to go into a public vote to receive the overall NatWest Win a Pitch Makeover prize.

Each club filmed a video explaining why they believed they were the most worthy winners, with the public voting for their favourite.

After two weeks of intense competition, Machen RFC came out as worthy winners with a total of 2,929 votes, over 800 more than their nearest rivals.

Machen chairman Paul Crowley said: “We are grateful to all those who voted for Machen RFC.

“We are very much looking forward to the NatWest RugbyForce weekend and all getting together to help turn our dream into a reality. 

“The generous grant from NatWest means we will be able to create a safe area behind the club for our large junior section to play and be part of the club.

“It will also mean we can improve our disabled access as we want to be truly inclusive and welcome all members of the community to our rugby club, for a variety of uses.

“We are asking everyone involved with the club to come down and be part of the NatWest RugbyForce weekend on Sunday, August 31 from 11am.

“It will be a case of all hands on deck with the improvements but there will also be a barbecue taking place during the day and with Scott Quinnell coming down there is sure to be a lot of fun and a party atmosphere too.”  

Friday, 15 August 2014

Welsh Football League preview

Reigning Welsh League champions Monmouth Town begin the defence of their Division One title with a home clash against newly promoted Cardiff Met University tomorrow, WRITES CARL FIELD.

It is also the start of a new era for Town, who are now based at Pen-y-Pound Stadium in Abergavenny, with manager Andrew Smith beginning his second spell in charge of the Kingfishers.

He took over following Steve Jenkins’ departure to Merthyr Town, while Adam Davies, Corey Jenkins and prolific marksman Dan MacDonald have all followed Jenkins to Penydarren Park.

One team who will be looking to wrestle the title away from Monmouth this season are Goytre United who, despite finishing ninth last season, have set out their intention to challenge at the top end of the table this term.

United open their campaign at home against last season’s seventh-place finishers Caerau (Ely).

Goytre, meanwhile, will hope to put the disappointment of narrowly missing out on the top three last season behind them when they kick off their season at AFC Porth.

All eyes will also be on Afan Lido – relegated from the Welsh Premier League – as they begin life in Division One of the Welsh League with a home fixture against Ton Pentre.

However director of football Mark Robinson has stated this week that the club’s aim is to consolidate - rather than going all out for an immediate return to the Welsh Premier.

Other Promoted sides Garden Village and Briton Ferry Llansawel both begin their campaigns on the road at Aberdare Town and Taffs Well respectively, while Penybont start at home against Haverfordwest County.

The first Division One fixture of the season is this evening, with Cambrian & Clydach hosting last season’s League Cup finalists Pontardawe Town.

In Division Two tomorrow, all three of the clubs relegated from Division One last season are all on the road.

Tata Steel visit Chepstow Town, West End are at Ely Rangers while Aberbargoed Buds make the trip to Undy Athletic.

Division Three champions Barry Town United open their Division Two campaign against Dinas Powys.

Follow Carl Field on Twitter: @mrcarlfield

Edwards to make senior bow

Aberdare born Paul Edwards will become the latest South Wales Rugby League Academy player to make his senior debut when he walks out for the South Wales Scorpions first team against Gateshead Thunder on Sunday.

The 18-year old is being given his chance following excellent performances for both the South Wales under 19 Academy side and the Wales under 19 side who won bronze in the recent Rugby League Commonwealth Championships held in Glasgow as a nine a side exhibition sport before the Commonwealth Games.

The centre is new to the 13 man game, having played just four full games of Rugby League, all for South Wales 19s but three of them were wins, including the 38-32 win over Gloucestershire All Golds last Saturday where he scored a hat-trick of tries.

Brought up in rugby union, Edwards came though Rhigos’ youth teams and made appearances in the first team for Glynneath in the Welsh League Division Three last season as well as playing a full season for Neath Port Talbot College in the WRU College league.

Edwards said: “I am very honoured to be given the chance to play for the Scorpions first team in my first year of playing Rugby League. I am looking forward for the test on Sunday against Gateshead Thunder and to the experience it will bring.”

Scorpions coach Mike Grady said: “I’m really pleased to be giving Paul his first team debut on Sunday.

“Every time I’ve seen him play he’s impressed and he scored an excellent hat-trick of tries against a tough side last Saturday.

“He’s one of a number of the under 19s we have in our system here in South Wales who I know are worthy of a first team debut and I know he’ll grab this opportunity with both hands.”

Thursday, 14 August 2014

St Mellons golfer wins West Region PGA Assistants title

Toby Hunt (St Mellons) has become the West Region PGA Assistants’ Champion after winning a play-off against Joe Ferguson (Celtic Manor) in the Marston’s West Region PGA Championship at The Players Club, near Bristol.

The 21-year-old Cardiff player made a par three on the first extra hole while Ferguson’s tee-shot ended in the trees and he could only make four.
Both players carded one-under-par 143 after identical rounds of 73 and 70. This left Cennydd Mills (Pyle and Kenfig) one shot behind as he took par 72s both days.
Hunt, who won the Junior Wales Open at Celtic Manor during his final year as an amateur to claim the prize of a year’s free membership of the 2010 course, has just completed his first year of PGA training under Barry Thomas at St Mellons.
He said: “I have had a couple of top tens this year but this was a really good result for me. I was solid over the two days.”
Kelvin Aitken (Chippenham Golf Centre) followed 79 with a perfect 70 to beat Newport’s Welsh legend Paul Mayo by two shots and take the Seniors’ title. Mayo followed 77 with 74.
In the main event, won by former European Tour winner David Dixon (Enmore Park) by one shot over Order of Merit winner Michael Watson (Wessex Golf Centre, Weymouth).
The pair will be joined in Turkey by Richard Dinsdale (Parc Golf Academy) who claimed third spot despite finishing a disappointing 27th.
James Lee (Caerphilly, 73 68), Sion Bebb (Morlais Castle, 73 68), Matt Dearden (Llantrisant & Pontyclun, 73 68) were the leading Welsh players on 141, sharing eighth place.

Former Wales international Hayward joins Scarlets coaching team

The Scarlets have announced that Byron Hayward will join the new-look coaching team as Defence Coach.

The former Llanelli and Wales international will take up his new role, working with new Head Coach Wayne Pivac and the coaching team at Parc y Scarlets in time for the start of the season.

Hayward, 45, has a wealth of coaching experience having coached Ebbw Vale, Sale Sharks, Dragons regional age grade sides and most recently Wales Under 20 as he took over the reins from Scarlets Scrum Coach Danny Wilson. He has joined the Scarlets from the Welsh Rugby Union where his role was National Academy Skills Coach, developing players both technically and tactically.

An accomplished player at fly half, Hayward represented Wales on two occasions and won the league with Llanelli in 1999. On retiring he had scored a then joint record 2535 league points.

Blaina boy Hayward said: "It's nice to be back at the top end of rugby and back into week to week intense high level rugby. When you come into the professional game it's relentless and quite challenging at times as I found out in the Premiership with Sale but that's what I'm looking forward to.

"It's also great to be back here with the Scarlets. I was fortunate enough to play under Gareth (Jenkins) and played alongside Simon (Easterby) and Mark (Jones). I enjoyed every minute I had when I was here as a player and I'm sure it'll be the same when I'm coaching.

"I've been really encouraged from what I've seen from the players already, they are hard-working and it's evident they play for each other. I'll be looking to build on the good work that Simon has done to strengthen the mind set on our game without the ball and be a top quality defensive side.

"Llanelli and Scarlets rugby is known throughout the world. When I played here people here treated me really well and were very receptive. Those things and those memories are still fresh in my mind and they had a massive impact on my decision to come here and be a part of the coaching team.

"People here are so passionate about rugby and Scarlets rugby and I'm excited to be a part of a determined and passionate coaching group. We (Llanelli) managed to win the league in 1999; those things, as a player, stick in your mind forever and I want to do the same thing and win things as a coach here.”

Hayward added; "As a new coaching team we're not expecting success overnight, we have to put building blocks in place but we'll work hard over time to make an impact and we want to play against the best and beat the best.”