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Old Gold boost survival hopes

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CARMARTHEN continued their promising opening to their Welsh Premier League second-phase programme with a valuable 3-2 victory over Newtown on Saturday (Feb 10) in a match that genuinely was the proverbial ‘game of two halves’.

With the accumulation of League points an essential requirement at this stage of the season the Old Gold, under the guidance of new interim Manager Neil Smothers for the first time, made a positive start with several incisive attacks that tested the visitors’ defence.

The only notable scoring chance in a fairly uneventful opening spell arose at the other end of the pitch – on 9 minutes, following a Ryan Kershaw free-kick, the ball rebounded off Town’s defensive ‘wall’ and fell nicely for Alex Fletcher who struck a 25 yard effort just wide of the far post.

However that heralded a thrilling and productive period of attacking football from the Old Gold which, as in last week’s Prestatyn match, heavily featured their recently-assembled triple strike-force.

In the 16th minute Luke Cummings, from the right flank, delivered a searching cross into the crowded goalmouth where Mark Jones set up the chance for Town’s all-time top goalscorer Liam Thomas to fire the ball home from close-range.

Then on 23 minutes a Cummings’ corner-kick was claimed by Jones who released a crisp drive that was blocked by ‘keeper Jack Perry – the loose ball was quickly played back to Aidan O’Kelly who from 20 yards struck a stunning volley that flew through a pack of defenders and into the back of the net.

Moments later, following a swift break out of defence the ball was sent upfield to Jones who took it forward to the edge of the penalty area then released a fierce drive that went just narrowly wide of the post.

During this spell Newtown had their fair share of possession but, with the Old Gold defence performing soundly, they were unable to create any serious goal threat from open play – their best opportunity arose after 33 minutes when Jay Denny hit a 30 yard free-kick that ‘keeper Lewis Thomas was forced to block before the ball was cleared safely away.

Then in the 39th minute Carmarthen’s refreshing attacking play was further rewarded – Cummings sent a fine pass through to Luke Bowen who, from close to the by-line, sent an inviting cross into the goalmouth where Liam Thomas, rising high above his marker, produced a firm header that went beyond  Perry’s reach and into the roof of the net.

This concluded what had undoubtedly been Town’s best 45 minutes of football this season.

After the interval Newtown, unsurprisingly, were straightaway totally committed to attack as they monopolised possession and kept the home defence under sustained pressure. As before, the Old Gold were defending with composure and discipline and it was not until the 61st minute that any meaningful scoring opportunity arose – Kershaw moved forward to the edge of the penalty area before releasing a fierce strike that Lewis Thomas denied, turning the ball aside with an impressive full-length save.

Shortly afterwards Kershaw again suffered as he watched his long-range drive defeated by another spectacular flying save from Town’s on-loan ‘keeper.

Eventually on 68 minutes Carmarthen’s resistance was broken when Ethan Jones broke into the penalty area and fired a sharp cross into the goalmouth where Nick Rushton stabbed the ball home from close-range.

This inspired the visitors to swarm forward with even greater intensity and after 79 minutes Rushton, from the by-line, fired a dangerous in-swinging free-kick into the goalmouth where Thomas, surrounded by a number of players, managed to punch the ball safely away.

That was just one of several instances, with the Old Gold under serious pressure in their own penalty area, where the young ‘keeper bravely dived down amongst opponents’ feet to claim or clear the ball.

Ahead of him Town were fully committed to defending their lead, often with only Jones operating upfield as an isolated attacking force – and they were successful up until the 90th minute when Kieran Mills-Evans, with a close-range header, converted Rushton’s right-wing cross.

Even more anxious moments followed for Carmarthen supporters as they endured several minutes of added time before the referee blew the final whistle to confirm that three precious League points were secure and another step towards WPL survival had been achieved.

The Old Gold must now make the long journey up to Llandudno for their next League fixture on Saturday, February 17, (k/o 2.30pm).

With the Seasiders having gained just two points from their last four matches, Town have reason to hope that another decent performance will further boost those survival prospects.

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Sport

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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