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Swans have the scent for survival

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By Jonathan Twigg

SATURDAY (Feb 10) saw the Liberty Stadium in Swansea witness a ‘turf war’, won by the commemorative, Chinese New Year shirt wearing home side 1-0.

Visitors Burnley continued their miserable winless run which started on December 12, whilst Carlos Carvalhal’s side are now nine games unbeaten, lifting themselves clear of the relegation zone.

“You don’t have to see it; you smell it” can be attributed to an egocentric player who patrolled the left wing for both clubs four decades, Leighton James.

Saturday’s contest was fractious with neither side gaining ascendency, requiring the input of a mercurial talent like James, winner of 54 Welsh caps after his international in October 1971 against Czechoslovakia in Prague.

How former Swan, Jack Cork would have liked a smudging of the influence imposed by James in scoring 124 goals from 645 games to rub off on him, whilst the home faithful welcomed Andre Ayew to the bench, following his £16 million return from West Ham.

Brother Jordan was leading the line and loan signing Andy King also warming the splinters because the Premier Leagues newest ‘Tinkerman’ has taken his side from the depths of the Ocean to now have their heads above water.

This Portuguese man of war is wary of the sharks around him but can see the coastline of the promised land and knows how to get there, with James’ analogy from bygone years, ringing true.

James made his league debut for the Turf Moor outfit in November 1970 against Nottingham Forest, returning twice to the North West in a career which saw him transfer for a mammoth £310,000 to Derby in 1975.

He left Burnley for a second time in 1978 when they were relegated to the third division and signed for Swansea City helping them from the third division to the first division in the heady days of the John Toshack era. He had spells with Sunderland, Bury and Newport County before he retired in 1989 when at Burnley, to explore more avenues.

James, in his punditry role would have vilified Olsson for diving which brought a yellow card before half time, alongside Ayew, Clucas and Ki Sung Yeung’s efforts to hit the target.

They needed to watch the matchday mascot in the half time break as Neyland Pirate Ethan Blockwell gave goalkeeper ‘Cyril the Swan’ a lesson in finishing.

The East stand corner were drumming the beat as everything remained black and white; Johann Gudmundsson forcing a save from Lucas Fabianski, before Andre Ayew made his entrance to replace Olsson after Jeff Hendrick snagged a yellow card for stopping brother Jordan’s charge.

The side needed new life; brothers in arms, possibly ‘Kolo or Yaya’ were joined by Tammy Abraham, the Tinkerman’s batteries now recharged with a ‘Triple A’ strike force taking the game to Burnley.

Referee Marriner received queries over his parentage as Pope made a wonder save to deny Abraham, Jordan Ayew and Kyle Naughton smashed shots goalward, before the breakthrough came with six minutes remaining.

Ki hammered home the winner from the edge of the box after Naughton and Jordan Ayew’s silky build up play invoked the loudest rendition of ‘Land of my Fathers’ west of Twickenham.

Ethan Blockwell: The Neyland Pirate was a match day mascot as Swansea beat Burnley 1-0

Sean Dyche’s side were reduced to humping long balls which drew no change from Alfie Mawson and skipper Frederico Fernandez and when the new King ‘of Wales’ came across the drawbridge for his debut to replace ‘Prince Jordan’, a crescendo of choral voices greeted the signal of four additional minutes without fear.

James tried his hand at management in the League of Wales with Llanelli, taking in spells also at Garden Village and Haverfordwest but he didn’t enjoy the success Carvalhal has kindled way down by the sea.

An echo from the beach portrays the words of Martha and the Muffins from 1979, James surely remembering the wish for the sun not to go down. He didn’t need to see the ball; he could smell it and Carvalhal has the scent of survival from the sea as he approaches a return to his previous Club Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday (Feb 17).

The Swans travel to Hillsborough in search of a place in the FA Cup quarter final for the first time since 1964, where they eventually lost to Preston North End 2-1 in the semi-final at Villa Park, with the backing of the Jack Army who are enjoying the fruits of the BBQ served by Carvalhal.

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Felinfoel edged out in first leg

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FELINFOEL fought back in the first leg of their WRU Championship play off with Maesteg Quins but were narrowly beaten 28-27 on Tuesday (May 22).

It was an entertaining match played in glorious conditions and well contested throughout.

Maesteg Quins, League 1 West Central champions, started the game well as they scored three tries, two of which were converted, and three penalties.

That gave the Quins a 28-10 lead early in the second half but Felinfoel fought back well with four tries, two of which were converted, and one penalty.

Felinfoel’s try scorers were Joe Hutchings, Owain Davies, Rhys Evans and Leon Randell while Aled Roberts kicked the other points.

The match ended 28-27 to the Quins which now sets up an exciting second leg in Felinfoel, on Friday, May 25, kick off 6:45pm.

A large crowd is expected so supporters are advised to arrive at the ground as early as possible.

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South Wales Premier Cricket round up

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AMMANFORD were dished out a comprehensive hammering at newly promoted St Fagans on Saturday (May 12) in Division 1 of the South Wales Premier League.

An opening half century stand from ex-Glamorgan player Gareth Rees and current Glamorgan Jeremy Lawlor got St Fagans up and running.

When Rees (23) departed, Matt Thompson joined Lawlor and these two took the score to 190 before Lawlor (112) was superbly caught by Rhodri Davies off Dan Roberts’s bowling.

Thompson (59) soon followed, but Ollie Kolk (20) and Andrew Leering (20) maintained the scoring pace and St Fagans reached an impressive 261 for 4 after 50 overs.

Dan Roberts took 2 for 42, Matthew Fisher 1 for 41 and Matthew Warnes 1 for 24.

With draws having been abolished from this competition, Ammanford had to pursue the runs from the start, but both openers had already disappeared with the total still in single figures.

Matthew Fisher (12) and Dan Roberts (34) looked good for their partnership of 30, but with their departure wickets fell steadily and there was little resistance to the St Fagans bowling as Ammanford were dismissed for 105.

On Saturday (May 19), Ammanford face a tough test when they welcome Newport to the Park.

Llanelli seal first win

LLANELLI earned their first win in Division 2 on Saturday (May 12), as they beat Newport Fugitives by 23 runs.

They were bowled out for 135 but an equally good bowling effort meant they bowled the Fugitives out for 112 to earn the victory.

Marcus Leaf and Iwan Rees got Llanelli going with an opening partnership of 32 before Leaf was bowled by James Didcote for a score of 12. Craig Howells was then trapped leg before by Didcote for a duck as Llanelli slipped to 34-2.

Iwan Rees and Matthew Roberts shared 36 runs for the fourth wicket before Rees was stumped by Robert Williams off the bowling of Roy Emmott for a score of 54 which included three fours.

Photos by Darren Harries

Didcote took over as he bowled Ryan Nicholas for 11 and had Benjamin Edwards and Aled Gilley caught. He also trapped Vaughan Thomas leg before while Dave Richards was run out.

Newport lost Jack Thorpe-Yon early in their reply when he was bowled by Vaughan Thomas and Robert Williams was caught leg before by Alex Symmons.

Alec Holdaway was bowled by Aled Gilley and Nathan Millichip was caught off the bowling of Symmons who also then bowled Richard Jones to leave the Fugitives on 46-5.

James Didcote and Roy Emmott did their best to take Newport towards their target with scores of 27 and 15 respectively.

However, Rees returned to have Didcote caught by Symmons and Emmott was then trapped leg before by David Richards.

Rees then cleared up the tail as he had Ross Madden caught by Matthew Roberts and the Fugitives were all out for 112.

Wanderers slip to defeat

CARMARTHEN Wanderers suffered their first defeat of the 2018 season as they were beaten by 87 runs by Penarth.

Penarth posted 213-8 from their fifty overs but had it not been for the hitting of Scott Matthews and Richard Skone, their score could have been a lot less.

The home side lost Ryan Sylvester and Tom Sidford early on in their reply as they slipped to 9-2 and Nick Morgan also fell as that score became 17-3. All three wickets fell to the bowling of Owain Binding.

However, a stand of 175 from Matthews and Skone put Penarth back in control of the game as they took their team towards 200 runs.

That partnership was eventually broken when Skone was run out by Owain Davies on a score of 72 which included six fours and a six.

Matthews had made his way to an excellent century scoring 11 fours and a six in his knock of 100 before he was caught and bowled by Hughes and Penarth limped to 213-8.

Carmarthen’s reply did not get off to the best of starts as Josh Thomas was trapped leg before wicket by Ryan Sylvester for a golden duck and Owain Davies was bowled by Nathan Piddock.

Owain Binding was also bowled by Piddock and Gareth Thomas was next to go when he was caught by Scott Matthews off the bowling of Richard Skone.

Stephen Inward had made a patient 20 but he was bowled by Will Skone and that left Carmarthen on 83-6.

Leighton Walters scored 19 before being bowled by Morgan Humphreys who then had Liam Rogers caught and bowled for a score of 10.

Humphreys also had Nathan Burrell caught by Matthews and the innings came to a close when Garmon Dyfri was trapped lbw by Sylvester for a score of 7, leaving the Wanderers all out on 126.

On Saturday (May 19), Carmarthen Wanderers are at home as they take on Ynystawe while Llanelli travel to Malpas.

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Principality renews Premiership sponsorship

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PRINCIPALITY Building Society has extended its title sponsorship of the Welsh Premiership and the WRU National Youth Leagues for the 2018/2019 season.

The member-owned organisation first lent its Welsh brand to the domestic league’s top division in 2005, and is now set to complete 14-seasons directly supporting the national game’s semi-professional league, before standing down as title sponsor of the competition.

In addition, Principality will also retain title sponsorship of the WRU National Youth Leagues for 2018/19 – to be known as the Principality Youth Leagues.

Julie-Ann Haines, Chief Customer Officer at the Principality Building Society, said: “We are delighted to extend our successful sponsorship of the WRU Premiership for one more season. The Premiership is something that is very close to our hearts as an organisation and we know how much local rugby means to our Members and the communities they live in.

“We wanted to make sure all the clubs had our total support in the final year of the current format of the league.  It is fantastic news for the clubs, the WRU and ourselves as proud sponsors of a league that means so much to us and our Members.

“As sponsors we are fully supportive of the great work the WRU are doing to try and make club rugby as competitive as possible together with the new format for 2019/2020, which will find the best club side in Wales.

“Our sponsorship next season will also mean we will support the National Youth Leagues for one more season. We’ve had a great reaction from the local clubs for the support we have given them this year and it has been a pleasure to bring their rugby communities together. We’ve travelled to clubs across the whole of Wales to meet the youth teams and via social media have helped raise the profile of the teams and their communities.”

WRU chief executive Martyn Phillips said: “Principality Building Society’s continued commitment is welcomed by all in Welsh rugby.

“The Principality Premiership is entering the third and final season of ring-fencing and from 2019/2020 will be reduced to 12 (from 16) teams.

“This gives a final year of absolute stability for all of the Principality Premiership clubs next season, which will prepare the way for the jeopardy of promotion and relegation the year after and Principality’s support increases that stability.

“Our long term partnership with Principality, which includes support for Principality Stadium, plays a vital role in helping us safeguard the future of our national game.

“And their direct involvement in the grass roots and community end of the game, alongside their continued sponsorship of the Principality Youth Leagues, means their overall contribution to Welsh rugby is a hugely significant.”

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