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Borderers seal derby success

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By Jonathan Twigg

WHITLAND emerged from their local derby with a 23-17 victory over Carmarthen Athletic at Park Llwyn Ty Gwyn on Saturday (Jan 6), in a game which saw the sides share five tries whilst both had a player yellow carded by Trimsaran referee Alan Emmanual.

On a pitch, described as spongy at best to a quagmire in places and where a biting Northerly wind made handling errors more pronounced, the game was won in the last ten minutes when Whitland capitalised on outside half Nico Setaro’s rebounded penalty attempt from the upright.

Having just conceded a converted try to lead 17-16 the green machine showed true character to take play deep into their visitor’s territory and glean a penalty when down to 14 men after winger Liam Price was side lined for being off side at the ruck.

Setaro’s kick from in front of the stand fell nicely into the hands of flanker Ryan Morgan following up the kick. He set up a ruck situation which allowed the ball to be recycled by replacement scrum half aaron Ebsworth to Setaro who put his skipper Marc Jones on a straight angle in space.

As he was tackled the ball was popped up to supporting second row Micaiah Jones who crashed over wide out, capping a fine all round performance from the youngster alongside his boiler house partner Raff Williams.

Promotion chasing Whitland had led throughout the game after Setaro had opened the scoring just after a quarter of an hour when hi slotted over his second penalty attempt after good work by scrum half Adam Davies had made ground down the blindside with his winger Liam Price before the penalty for offside was awarded.

The referee’s whistle was a predominant feature of the opening period with the black and red shirts running a close line on infringements which Setaro had decided to nurture into touch until he was comfortably within his kicking range.

The plethora of home penalties’ had come as the outside half  ran an array offensive of lines, incorporating inside centre Josh Thomas on the heavy ball down the middle interlinked with missed passes from which Price and fellow winger Scott Candler benefitted from.

Number 8 Jack Mason, like his opposite number Richard Bloomfield was excellent carrying from the base of the scrum, setting up second phase from which Davies and Setaro could stream quick ball.

The opening try came after a free kick for delaying the scrum was kept alive by prop Aaron Mayne taking a quick tap penalty; Davies and Setaro found their skipper Jones in midfield and the hooker made ground with Kirk who put centre Johnny Thomas in the clear to score in the corner.

Whitland had the upper hand, having more than parity in the scrum set piece but for all their game time dominance they weren’t clinical in turning the possession into points.

Prop Dafydd Bowen scored an excellent try for the Athletic after second row Williams caught the ball in an offside position as they got a foothold in the game.

Centre Gethin Francis had put in a thumping tackle on Thomas in midfield, as young skipper Dan Evans and second row Llyr Owen came to the fore alongside Bloomfield.

From the penalty given for Williams offside the visitors set up a line out, won by James Williams and his pack got a head of steam in the maul to destroy the home defence, with Owen touching down for an unconverted try.

The first half ended 8-5 with the visitors reduced to 14 men after hooker Paul Gravell took a yellow card after Emmanuel’s tolerance gave way, but it was a catalyst for the Athletic to start the second half with tenacity and spirit. Full back Robbie Davies was adventurous when running the Setaro line kicks back upfield linking well with his back row and scrum half Nick Rees.

Mason, for the green machine and his backrow colleague Ryan Morgan were doing a lot of unsung work on the floor and Mason set up the second try as the hour mark approached.

He won the wrestle for the ball as it went to ground, allowing Setaro to free Johnny Thomas and Price to make haste down the field. Young centre Josh Thomas had held pace with the fast moving break up field to arrive on a definitive angle where his strength carried him over by the posts for a converted try and a 15-5 lead.

Whitland were off colour with their finishing, perhaps the upshot of playing back to back derby games had clouded their focus as they lacked a spark and fizz from their back division.

Carmarthen were back in the game thanks to the opportunism of winger Josh Watson, after the flyer received the ball from Bloomfield.

Whitland Flanker: Ryan Morgan

Prop Carwyn Francis and Evans created the platform before Watson saw a half gap appear and he didn’t need a second invitation to put on the afterburners to leave his opponents failing in his wake, for Tom Gravell to convert.

Setaro extended the lead to 18-10 thanks to another penalty but the Athletic had an attacking axis as Carwyn Evans and Chris Howells set up a line out deep in the Whitland 22 metre area.

The catching line out had been an attacking platform all game and the visitors from up the A40 saw this as their D day.

Formed as a Club on June 6, 1944 they went through over a dozen phases of play where the forwards made small and direct gains, with Bloomfield the centre of the cyclone. Liam Price was dismissed and with a man advantage at the scrum the no 8 and Evans set up an opportunity for fellow back row man Rhydian Walters to score and Gravell convert.

Credit to Whitland who knuckled down to win the game when perhaps in seasons past the opportunity would have passed them by.

“We maintained our belief and mental toughness despite facing a storm in the final onslaught” said a delighted home coach Gareth Bennett.

“We showed tremendous character to come away with a victory and the players heads are down as they felt it should have been more comfortable than what it was in the end.  We play with a smile on our faces and will work on the learning points in training this week.”

Whitland head to bottom of the table Llanybydder on Saturday (Jan 13) welcoming Loughor in a needle encounter the week after before heading to Hendy at the end of the month.

“One game at a time” chortled Bennett.  “Let’s enjoy today’s result but both Dan (Mason) and I know where we have to improve and will be nurturing the players along this week towards our goal, promotion back to Division 1 West.”

Carmarthen Athletic next welcome St Clears to Trinity Fields with the confidence shown by their young side allowing them to fear no opponents in the Division.

Sometimes the difference between winning and losing is miniscule or on the ball falling kindly.

If the Setaro penalty hadn’t fallen back into a team mates hands the Athletic boys may have been waking up ‘Early in the morning’ and looking back on a win as opposed to just the losing bonus point they achieved in the Swansea Building Society sponsored match.

Sport

Swans still sweet on Premier League survival

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By Jonathan Twigg

SWANSEA’s clamber through the trials and tribulations of the Premier League can be compared to that of a child running amok in a sweet shop, so many tantalising favourites to devour, with the occasional reminder that not all sweets are sweet.

A retro walk down the Bridge Meadow Lane would have taken a child past the shop run by Connie Clarke, renowned for her welcome on the bell clanging. Supporters of Haverfordwest County and their opponents on match day, welcomed with few words but with the knowledge her confectionary delights never failed to deliver.

Following Saturday’s (Apr 14) 1-1 draw with Everton, who arrived without former Swans stars Ashley Williams and Gylfi Sigurdsson in their line-up, supporters left knowing the sweet taste of success held by the Premier League is still within their grasp.

With two of the bottom three to visit the Liberty in the final week of the season this point is one gained in search of extending their Premier League status to an eighth season, although manager Carlos Carvalhal nearly led his side to five consecutive home wins, something no other manager has done since the heady days of John Toshack in 1981.

Swansea welcomed Jordan Ayew back from a three game suspension to partner elder brother Andre as Bolton based referee Lee Mason began the game in front of 20,933, the returning brother setting the tone alongside Andy King at a sun drenched Liberty Stadium.

Carvalhal has worked some magic since his arrival on the cusp of Christmas, tactically leaving opposite number former England supremo Sam Allerdyce to venture to the touchline with his pocket ball side kick Sammy Lee to stem the tide; the blues were overrun in midfield, Jordan Ayew having a wonderful chance cleared off the line as was captain Frederico Fernadez header from the resultant corner, before Andre’s sight of goal was saved by England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

Alfie Mawson has grown to be imperial at the back for the Swans, attracting the interest of Manchester United, one of those mints that the longer you savour, the better it lingers. Luciano Narsingh however can be likened more to a quickly dissolving peppermint cream, releasing the taste with speed, rousing the Jack Army with an immediate hit, succulent whilst it lasts, inspiring the Swans to drive forward.

Former England captain Wayne Rooney had one of those games, like an aniseed ball, many unable to relish his taste as he left his mark, literally with some raking tackles; his class, undoubted, when it finally came to the fore.

An opening goal came with the aid of goal line technology, just before half time, Lucas Fabianski brilliantly making a double save from Bolasie, before a ricochet off Kyle Naughton and a half time lead, Fabianski thankfully however saving from Cenk Tosun a minute later.

Jordan became the first recipient of a yellow card in the second half, substitute Nathan Dyer creating a stir as the game went up by a level with a sugar surge, the vocal chords tingled with honey from a locket, in the form of striker Tammy Abraham’s arrival.

Full backs McNaughton and Martin Olsson created chances, Tom Carroll serving buckets of sweet balls, to no avail; Dyer driving forward over from twenty yards, Abraham and the Ayews creating half chances, Mawson’s header cleared off the line before the full quarter was served, Jordan levelling the game with a right foot half volley.

The final fifteen minutes rocked the stadium once more, after dinner mints were all Swansea’s, although Seamus Coleman thundered a shot against the woodwork, Abraham missed a gilt edged opportunity at the other end, whilst a tall and well positioned defensive wall directed Rooney’s set piece opportunity over the bar.

Extra strong mints were needed, alas unavailable as the toffees held firm, not fudging their lines with Beni Baningime taking a yellow card for the team, the games conclusion seeing a share of the spoils.

Carvalhal’s magic stars will have to be at their best to out fox and unwrap three points on Sunday (Apr 22) when opponents Manchester City will have champagne liquor chocolates on hand, having been crowned Premier League champions.

Swansea then have the opportunity to welcome Chelsea to ‘fortress’ Liberty the week after; wispa it quietly, as many have their eyes on the final weeks’ trio of games, starting with a trip to the South Coast in search of the bounty available at Dean Park, Bournemouth, before a starburst performance at home to Southampton on the Tuesday and Stoke City for a final day picnic. There can be no wine gums on show, just the everlasting gobstopper which is Premier League football.

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Sport

Super Reds reach Cup final

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Report by Alan Evans

LLANELLI Town have their sights firmly fixed on another double to emulate the achievement of last season, as they currently top the league table and look favourites for the title, while they are also through to the Welsh League Cup final, a trophy they won in 2016/17, after comfortably seeing off Cwmbran Celtic at Afan Lido’s Marston’s Stadium in the semi-final on Tuesday (Apr 10).

A dire first half seemed to consist solely of how far downfield either team could send the ball, although the Reds looked the more likely to score in the few chances which were created.

When Chris Jones swung a corner into the goalmouth, Ryan Fleming in the Celtic goal punched it clear where it rebounded off Joe Clarke and then another Reds player before ending in a harmless goal kick.

Chris Thomas brought off a saving tackle on Josh Bull when the Celtic striker threatened to break up the middle, before Kurtis March glanced a header wide from close in from another Jones delivery.

When a loose pass by Jones intended for Antonio Facciuto was instead intercepted by Callum Wakeham, he made ground into the Reds` box, but some good defending snuffed out the danger.

Celtic then suffered a blow when Bull was forced off injured on 38 minutes to be replaced by Lloyd Kinsella, and when Simon Prangley picked out Iolo Jones wide on the Celtic left, he whipped a ball across the face of the goal before it was gathered safely by Craig Morris.

The second half had to be an improvement on the first, and so it turned out with the Reds, at least, displaying some modicum of a passing game, with Lee Trundle accepting a ball from Jones only to see his finish cleared off the line.

James Loveridge, with a surging run, forced Luke Jones to concede a corner taken by Trundle, whose delivery to the far post was met by Lee Bevan who powered his header past Fleming on 56 minutes to put the Reds ahead.

Ten minutes later, March played a pass into the feet of Trundle whose instant reaction to meet it left the Celtic keeper helpless as it nestled in the bottom corner.

Now totally in control, the Reds were looking capable of adding to their lead, with Loveridge forcing Fleming to turn his well struck shot around the post, before the tie was finally wrapped up six minutes from time when Trundle got his brace, picking up a long clearance from Morris before making room and firing into the net.

There was still time for Loveridge to see his finish pushed over by the Celtic keeper, but the Reds ran out worthy winners and now face either Pontypridd Town or Trefelin BGC in the final on Friday, May 18, at a venue still to be decided.

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Laugharne too good for Quins

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LAUGHARNE now sit third in League 3 West A after they beat Pembroke Dock Quins 55-10 on Saturday (Mar 31), before beating St Davids 10-49 on Easter Monday (Apr 2).

Saturday’s game was well orchestrated by Outside Half Stefan Evans and it was he who opened up the scoring for the afternoon after 10 minutes when he cut through the Quins defence to score close to the Posts. He then converted himself to put his side 7 points up.

The Quins at this stage were matching their bigger and more experienced opponents with the whole pack especially showing full commitment. It was the Quins who were next on the scoresheet with a well worked try for No 8 Harry Owen, as he showed some neat footwork before scoring halfway out, Full Back Lewis Davies pushed his conversion narrowly wide.

Laugharne soon responded with two quick fire tries from Full Back Thomas Davies, Stefan Evans converted both and for good measure kicked a penalty with the last kick of the half to send his side in with a 5-24 lead.

The Quins were under more pressure as the second half started as they were finding it more and more difficult to handle Stefan Evans as they attacked at every opportunity.

On 55 minutes Scrum Half Gethin Jones scored the all-important Bonus Point try which was converted by Stefan Evans. No 8 Mike Williams soon followed with a fine try in the corner which was converted by Stefan Evans with a magnificent kick.

Right Wing Gareth Spiers and Gethin Jones soon added two more tries with the latter being converted by Stefan Evans.

Tom Davies rounded off his sides’ scoring by completing his hat trick for the afternoon, Stefan Evans stroked over his seventh conversion of the afternoon to end with a match haul of 22 Points.

Young Left Winger Will Nicot finished off the Quins’ best move of the Match with a fine unconverted try in the corner with just five minutes left.

The Quins ended the game on the attack and were unlucky not to grab a third try, which spoke volumes for the effort and spirit that the Quins’ young side put in.

Laugharne will look to keep their good run of form going as they travel back to Pembrokeshire on Saturday (Apr 7), to take on a Neyland side buoyed by their last gasp win over Cardigan last weekend.

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