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Cricket season gets underway

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CRICKET returns to South Wales today (Saturday, Apr 28) for both the South Wales Premier and South Wales Cricket Association leagues.

In Division 1, Ammanford will be captained for the ninth year by former Glamorgan batsman Alun Evans (426 runs; 26 wickets). Now a Residential Child Care Officer for Carmarthenshire, Evans has a fully fit squad to choose from, bowlers Tom Murphy and Sean Coaker having recovered from injury.

Daniel Roberts (494 runs) has arrived from Mumbles to play alongside brother Matthew as leading run gatherer Matthew Fisher (529) continues as vice-captain, crucial also to the Boars will be his bowling, where he took 30 wickets.

Ellis Richards will open the innings alongside Glamorgan’s Jack Murphy, who has spent the winter in Melbourne playing grade cricket for Hampton Cricket Club. Stalwart wicketkeeper Gareth Slade keeps the gloves, with second team leader Ben Ledger promoting youngsters Joseph Davies, Matthew Davies and fifteen year old Owain Davies into the first team squad.

Sponsored by Morganstone Ltd and Solid Fuels, the Park in Ammanford will be prepared for the opening fixture against Port Talbot Town again by Lyn ‘Tosh’ Davies with ‘Gary the Scorer’ continuing in the ‘Box’ for his twenty eighth year.  Assisting Evans on match day will be former Llanelli Knights U19s coach Iwan Richards, with Club stalwart Ian Rees continuing the important role of skippering the Clubs third eleven in Division 6 of the SWCA league.

Llanelli make a return to the Premier League as Dan Radcliff cup holders, ninety years after they first lifted the trophy in the SWCA’s third season. Skipper Marcus Leaf maintains the side which took the championship by 20 points where he plundered 570 runs as opening batsman, supported by Craig Howells (457).

Ioan Phillips will be given the opportunity to enhance his development, all-rounder Iwan Rees (438 runs; 26 wickets) will partner Leaf to open the innings.  Player of the year, leg spinner David Richards (32 wickets) will have another key part to play alongside Chairman Vaughan Thomas (23 wickets) who will take the new ball in his thirty third season with the Club. Sharing the new ball at Toppers sponsored Stradey Park for their opening day derby with Carmarthen Wanderers on a pitch prepared by Joe Wyatt, is another veteran, Steve Devonald (22 wickets and 378 runs).

The side also has a new wicketkeeper with Llanelli rugby player Ben Edwards taking over from the retired Mike Davies, with all-rounders Matthew Roberts, Alex Symmonds and Ryan Nicholls keen to make an impression in Karen Weeds scorebook.  Second team skipper Gareth James will develop Jack Rees, Tom Westcott and Wales Girls U15 leg spinner Sarah Phillips to step up when required.

Carmarthen Wanderers will hope for a stronger start to the campaign than last season which saw them anchored to the foot of the table until the mid-point of the season, all-rounder Leighton Walters (284 runs; 27 wickets) once again leading the side which has lost Steffan James and wicketkeeper Owain Evans to Whitland.

Gareth Thomas (804 runs; 28 wickets) form will be key, alongside attacking batsmen Stephen Mills (416) and Stephen Inward (408), where veteran spinner Ian Hughes (23 wickets), all-rounder Owain Binding (208 runs; 17 wickets) and youngsters Garmon Dyffri and Liam Rogers will look to make an impression, alongside Wales under 17s players Rhodri Crawford and Josh Thomas on the wicket prepared by Llandysul based Mike Turner.

Bronwydd, who celebrated their fortieth anniversary with a black tie dinner on Saturday (Apr 21) have wicketkeeper / batsman Oli Furneux (300 runs) at the helm once again as they begin their season at Cwnc Y Deri against newly promoted Swansea Civil Service. George Gleeson (386 runs; 13 wickets), Meirion Davies (369 runs; 12 wickets) and James Cale (329) are key alongside Gleeson’s brother Tom who took 41 wickets with the new ball alongside change bowler Pauluge Gihan Secstus Fernando (26 wickets).

Dafen Welfare welcome Cowbridge on the opening day of the season, with veteran Wales Senior international and club stalwart after 30 years’ service, Chris Hudson skippering the side for the second season. Sponsored by the Owens Group of Dafen, the Club also have the Marchant Company, Astley’s Estate Agents and Manhattan on board as keynote sponsors, with the grounds maintained by second team captain Chris Randall, Wayne Powell and Llanelli Rural Council.

Wicketkeeper Dai Williams has moved to Llangennech and quick bowler Scott Phillips to Ynysygerwn, meaning off spinner Hudson (23 wickets) and his Chairman of selectors Rob Green acquired seam bowler Rhys Marchant from Newport and all-rounder Andrew Rodgers from Skewen to support last season’s SWCA leading wicket taker David Dunfee (42 wickets).

He will share the new ball with Matthew Donoghue (17 wickets) and experienced all-rounders Matthew Evans (18 wickets; 400 runs) and Phil George (26 wickets) will have key roles to play if the Club wish to reach their goal of promotion to the SWPL.

The ability of Jeremy Dawes (479 runs), young player Jonny Randall (19 wickets) alongside Kai Rees bodes well for Consultant Physician Hudson’s hopes of turning the runners up place twice in the last three years, into top spot, requiring them to overcome the challenge of rivals Gorseinon.

Llangennech, established in 1881 have a new captain in batsman Matthew Jones for the trip to Maesteg Town in Division 2, both sides having recruited new players during the close season.

Arriving at the Argents Associates and Tafarn Morlais sponsored Club to strengthen the side are Scott Lloyd from Gorseinon, Dai Williams (404 runs) as a wicketkeeping all-rounder from Dafen and Ammanford all-rounder Hedd-Wyn Jones from SWPL Division 1 outfit Ammanford.

All three will supplement Jones, who took 26 wickets and scored 385 runs last season, 12 runs behind leading run scorer James Taube, who top scored for the Club with 126* in their victory over Pontyberem. His brother Johnny will also feature alongside opening bowler Simon Clement (22 wickets), Owain Phillips, spinner Bav Patel and sixteen year old Jack Williams.

Eric Lewis and Keith Thomas will share the scoring duties as former Llanelli groundsman Jim Wyatt oversees the grounds.  Alan Warner continues as second team captain with Geraint Lodwig stepping down a team to captain the third eleven for the first time.

Felinfoel start their second season in Division 2 under the captaincy of Rhys Harries, at home to last season’s Division 3 winners Briton Ferry Town, having recruited all-rounder Atif Hameed (20 wickets; 161 runs) from rivals Llangennach. Harries will be looking to Julian Griffiths to continue his form with the bat which saw him accrue 496 runs, supported by Andrew Thomas (391) and Craig Richards.

Anthony Mathias and Stuart Parmeneter with 22 wickets apiece alongside Richards (21) and Griffiths (19) will lead the way with the ball, with Scott Davies leading the second team in Division 5.

Drefach make an opening day trip to relegated Briton Ferry Steel with opening batsman Dafydd Humphrey again leading the side, which shows no changes from last season.  Adam Goodman has made good progress from injury which didn’t see him perform last season and he should make an appearance for the Gwendraeth Valley side, whose top order batting need to deliver if they are to avoid the trials and tribulations of another relegation threatened season.

Leading run gatherer was Owen Donovan with 285 runs, as only two other players, all-rounder Rob Seymour and groundsman Leigh Davies scored over 200 runs. Both Seymour and Davies spin bowling will be heavily relied on by their skipper who has faith in youngsters Harry McBryde and Elis Lewis stepping forward.

The Club have built a strong youth culture with the top end now moving into Under 19 cricket, making the transition to senior sides easier, which bodes well for the side who are keen to start the season well, in contrast to recent years.

Sponsored by RM&S Roofing Humphreys second stint as captain will see him focus on his own personal performance which will help the team as stalwart opening bowler Joe Evans has moved to skipper the second team.

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Cwm’s good run halted by leaders

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CWMAMMAN United saw their recent good run of form halted on Saturday (Mar 16) as they returned from the Kymco Stadium in Bridgend pointless after a battling display against unbeaten league leaders Penybont who came out 2-0 winners.

In strong wind and rain Cwmamman took time to settle to the 4G pitch and conceded an early goal after 5 minutes when a free header from a corner left Chris Curtis in goal with no chance.

With the wind against them Penybont were keeping the ball on the floor and were controlling possession while Cwm tried to soak up the pressure and catch them on the break through releasing their wingers Ashley Curtis and Ryan Hurlow.

It felt like a long day at the office as Cwm’s midfield fought hard to get a foothold with Ross Morgan, Ryan Thomas and Colin Harris battling hard as the pressure mounted.

On 27 Minutes Penybont were denied a second goal after the effort was ruled off side. Curtis was again called into action and produced a great low save after a snap shot. Cwmamman were slowly getting into the game and a great header on by Chris Allen freed Ashley Curtis but he fired over the bar.

Just before half time Penybont were awarded a controversial penalty but a great save by Curtis kept the score at 1-0 to the hosts at the break.

Cwmamman were now playing against a very strong wind in the second period and Gareth Howarth and Declan John at the centre of Cwm’s defence were required to be error free while Penybont’s wing backs were also putting a lot of pressure on Calem Rees and Ashley Johns at full back.

However, it was still only a one goal deficit and Cwm felt they were still in the game. On 55 minutes Cwmamman had their best chance when Ryan Hurlow found Ryan Thomas who’s shot went narrowly passed the post.

Penybont were then handed a second goal again from a corner when the assistant referee flagged to indicate that the ball had crossed the line much to the surprise of everyone on the ground, including the home fans.

This goal secured the game for the hosts and deflated Cwmamman United who had given their all.

Cwmamman kept plugging away though and nearly pulled a goal back late on through another Ryan Thomas effort.

Cwmamman United have no fixture on Saturday (Mar 23), whilst the reserves are away to FC Nedd.

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Tour of Britain nominated for top award

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THE OVO Energy Tour of Britain has been nominated for a prestigious Sporting Event of the Year award.

The hugely successful cycle race has been shortlisted as a finalist at the Event Production Awards 2019, which take place in London this month.

The Grand Depart took place at Pembrey Country Park on Sunday, September 2 with Stage One of the race travelling north through Carmarthenshire en-route to the stage finish in Newport.

The Tour of Britain is one of eight nominees in the Sporting Event of the Year category and the winner will be announced at an awards ceremony in Hammersmith on Thursday, March 14.

The awards recognise and celebrate the hard work and achievements of key contractors, agencies and production teams within the outdoor and live events industry.

Thousands of people lined the route through Carmarthenshire to cheer on the professional riders which included world-class cyclists Geraint Thomas – fresh from his epic Tour de France victory – and Chris Froome; and communities really got into the spirt of the race with various activities and events held and by creating impressive pieces of land art.

Live televised coverage, post-race highlights and national media coverage put Carmarthenshire in the spotlight as a world-class visitor destination and host of major sporting events.

It is estimated that in just that weekend alone, the county benefitted from an economic boost of £800,000 not to mention the long-term impact.

Executive Board Member for Culture, Sport and Tourism Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths said: “This nomination is testament to the hard work of all involved to put on what is the biggest cycling race in the UK calendar.

“I wish the OVO Energy Tour of Britain team the best of luck; this award reflects the tremendous success of the event and I would like to think that we in Carmarthenshire played a small part in that.

“It is our aspiration to become the Cycling Hub of Wales and I think we have certainly proven ourselves as a first-class venue for major events.”

Talks are ongoing to build on the success of the Tour of Britain and bring more elite events to the county in the future.

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Phillips: We’ve got a big match in us

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WALES Women head coach Rowland Phillips believes his side can raise their game for their final Women’s Six Nations Test, against Ireland on Sunday (Cardiff Arms Park, 1.30).

Phillips has made two changes to the starting line-up with Elinor Snowsill starting at 10 and Alisha Butchers slotting back into the back row at blindside flanker.

Phillips said, “We want to capitalise on the confidence we’ve gained from the win over Scotland.

“We’ve shown a huge amount of character throughout this tournament – to hold Italy out at the end of that game and to come back from behind to win in Scotland showed remarkable attitude – and skill for such a young side.

“Despite that, I don’t feel we have shown how good a side we are and we’d like to do that on Sunday.

“Ireland are in a similar place as us. They played well against France last weekend. They have a strong back row and players who can make a difference. We certainly won’t be under-estimating them.

“However, we want to focus on ourselves, show what we can do with the ball and produce a better all-round performance. There’s a big game in us and hopefully we can showcase that on Sunday.”

Alisha Butchers, who earns her first start in the tournament since the opening round, is looking forward to some home comforts.

“Being at home lifts us girls massively. We’ve only had one home game this year and although England were tough opposition, we lifted our performance for our home support.

“Travelling away isn’t always accessible for our families so having them there boosts us. I love having my mum and dad and my brothers and sisters there, I can’t wait. There’s very much a family feel ethos and hopefully we can produce an entertaining game.”

“Last week’s game was really exciting and a good stepping stone for us. Moving forward I think we need to stick to our game plan, carry on working on our physicality and keep building as a team.

“Our performance was good last weekend but it can an still be better. We can use the confidence and momentum created by that victory to up our game and also spread the ball a bit more.”

Alisha is now working as a Hub Officer at Y Pant and Bryn Celynnog schools in the Pontypridd area, increasing the range of opportunities for girls to engage with rugby.

“I love it. I’ve already seen a huge increase in the number of girls playing the game and that inspires me – the thought that I’m having an impact on the next generation. They are both brilliant schools and we are getting 40 or more girls training now which is fantastic.

“Traditional 15 a side full-contact rugby isn’t for everyone so we make sure there are different formats and different opportunities all girls to enjoy taking part. A lot of them enjoyed the Rookie Rugby events we held recently, some play touch rugby, others enjoy crash mat rugby which is an introduction to contact or full contact rugby for the more established players who are keen.

“Hopefully a few of the girls – and boys – from the schools will come and support us on Sunday and bring their parents along to see what our game is all about. A few of the girls have role models within the squad, some are inspired by our captain Carys Phillips so I’ve promised they can have some photos after the match.”

Tickets available to print at home from www.cardiffblues.com/tickets and from 10am Sunday at the WRU shop, Westgate Street.

Wales Women V Ireland (Sunday, March 17, 1.30pm, Cardiff Arms Park):

Lauren Smyth (Ospreys); Jasmine Joyce (Scarlets), Hannah Jones (Scarlets), Lleucu George (Scarlets), Jess Kavanagh (RGC); Elinor Snowsill (Bristol Bears), Keira Bevan (Ospreys); Caryl Thomas (Dragons), Carys Phillips (capt, Ospreys), Amy Evans (Ospreys), Gwen Crabb (Ospreys), Mel Clay (Ospreys), Alisha Butchers (Scarlets), Bethan Lewis (Dragons) Siwan Lillicrap (Ospreys)

Replacements:

Kelsey Jones (Ospreys), Cara Hope (Ospreys), Cerys Hale (Dragons), Alex Callender (Scarlets), Manon Johnes (Cardiff Blues), Ffion Lewis (Scarlets), Robyn Wilkins (Blues), Lisa Neumann (RGC)

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