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Bowen double sinks Reds

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WHAT a difference a New Year makes – after Carmarthen’s deeply disappointing performance at Llanelli on Boxing Day, for this festive holiday reverse fixture (Jan 1) they thrilled their supporters by producing a brand of possession football laced with exhilarating fast attacking play that has rarely been seen in recent seasons.

The Old Gold took the initiative from the start with a series of rapid penetrating bursts from midfield that seriously tested the visitors’ defence. After 3 minutes a sequence of crisp passes across the field finished with Sean Hanbury firing a searching left-wing cross into the goalmouth where Greg Walters’ close-range shot was blocked in front of the goal before the ball was cleared safely away.

Then following a further spell of sustained pressure Town took the lead in the 8th minute with a well-executed set-piece finish – Hanbury delivered a fine corner-kick into the crowded penalty area and saw Luke Bowen, arriving with perfect timing to direct a delightful glancing header into the bottom corner of the net.

Carmarthen continued to dominate the play and remarkably it was only after the 19th minute that ‘keeper Lee Idzi was first called into any meaningful action when he comfortably claimed an over-hit cross.

Photo by Darren Harries

However his opposite number, Llanelli’s Oliver Davies, was far busier as the Old Gold poured forward relentlessly. On 22 minutes industrious midfielder Ceri Morgan won the ball off a defender near the corner of the penalty area then slid it forward to Walters – he instantly played it across to Bowen who from 15 yards struck a fierce angled drive that Davies resisted with a superb reflex save.

Moments later Luke Cummings, from the corner of the penalty area, curled a dangerous free-kick towards the far corner of the goal only for Davies to claw the ball away just as Dave Vincent seemed likely to tap it into the net.

With the significant business of the match being largely conducted in the visitors’ half, it was not until the 35th minute that they managed to get a shot on target – a cross from Chris Jones into the penalty area was cleared but the ball fell nicely for Jamie Owen who wasted the opportunity by directing a weak 20 yard effort straight at Idzi which he comfortably saved.

Shortly afterwards they forced Idzi into further action.  Jordan Follows sent a fine pass through to Michael George who raced free into the penalty area only for Town’s experienced ‘keeper to come quickly out of his goal and clear the danger.

The final notable action of the first-half arose at the other end of the pitch. On 44 minutes Bowen, on the right flank, neatly slid the ball across the edge of the penalty area where Walters dispatched a crisp angled strike that flew beyond Davies’ reach but slid narrowly wide of the far post.

After the interval the Old Gold again took the early initiative and went close to extending their lead on 52 minutes when a slick exchange of passes ended with Hanbury firing a cross into the goalmouth – while the ball was cleared by a defender, it was claimed by Walters who instantly released a stunning drive that defeated Davies only to fly marginally outside the post.

However moments later Town deservedly found success – from close to the half-way line Walters, an increasing influential presence in midfield, produced a remarkable long pass that set Bowen racing clear of defenders and into the penalty area where he cleverly “walked” the ball around the advancing Davies and fired it into the empty net.

Then after 68 minutes Mael Davies robbed a defender of the ball on the corner of the penalty area and swiftly fired it across the goalmouth to find Liam Thomas who struck a sharp close-range volley that drew an excellent point-blank save from Oliver Davies to turn the ball around the post.

On 74 minutes the Old Gold continued their dominance of the proceedings when Vincent, on the half-way line, began a delightful six-man passing move that carved open the visitors’ defence and finished with Mael Davies crossing the ball into the goalmouth only for Thomas, arriving at speed, to narrowly fail to reach it for a simple tap-in chance.

By now, however, Town seemed content to simply keep possession and slow down the pace of the game.  Yet in the 82nd minute veteran central defender Lee Surman made a rare excursion upfield in open play when he took the ball forward from the half-way line then played it across to Walters who released a stunning 25 yard strike that drew another excellent flying save from Oliver Davies.

Soon afterwards Aidan O’Kelly, making a welcome return after four months out with a serious injury sustained in only the second match of the season, moved down the left wing then slipped the ball across to Mael Davies who struck a rasping 30 yard drive that Llanelli’s overworked ‘keeper claimed at the foot of the post.

This welcome result not only lifts the Old Gold nine points clear of the relegation places, but also takes them up to eighth position in the Welsh Premier League.

This was a refreshing and thoroughly entertaining performance from the Old Gold – one which hopefully will be often repeated over the rest of this season.

Town’s next fixture is on Saturday, January 5, (k/o 2.30pm) when they travel to Caernarfon for what will undoubtedly be a stern challenge – but they now go there with increased hope.

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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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