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Honours even in Amman valley derby

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AMMANFORD and Cwmamman United were made to share the spoils in front of over 300 people in the second Amman Valley derby of the season on Saturday (Jan 5).

In a hotly contested fixture, both sides were reduced to ten men early in the second half as both Dale Jones and Brieg Matthews were given their marching orders.

Ryan Hurlow gave Cwmamman the lead, and the away side missed a golden opportunity when Morris saved their spot kick. Before, Ammanford secured an equaliser late on through winger Liam Samuel, as both sides had to settle for a draw.

It was the hosts who dominated the early proceedings and set the tone for the second local derby of the season.

On the back of an impressive November, Ammanford were confident of usurping their local neighbours who had enjoyed six wins to begin the season.

Richie Lewis appeared to be the focal attacking outlet of Ammanford’s attacking plan, as the former Llanelli man was pushed forward to accommodate captain Rhys Fisher back into the line-up.

However, the wide men saw his early tame effort saved with ease.

The first half was dominated by the focus on the midfield battle, and Dale Jones’ presence at the base of Ammanford’s midfield proved pivotal in hindering the Cwmamman attack.

Both Liam Samuel and Enoch had opportunities but provided little threat to Chris Curtis in the visitors’ goal.

However, the away side did carve out a great opportunity half an hour in, as pacey wide-man Hurlow darted through on goal, but right-back Nich Arnold made an expertly timed last ditch tackle to halt the attacker as he was about to test Morris with an effort on goal.

Liam Samuel attempted to set up Alfie Stottor, when he delicately chipped a ball into space for the former Haverfordwest man to fire an effort in on goal, but Stottor, who has found the back of the net seven times already in the league this season, couldn’t get a clean strike away.

Five minutes before the interval, Cwmamman target man Christian Allen was given a half chance when he brought the free kick down with his chest before volleying wide of the mark, and he again tested Morris with a diving header, but Morris held on.

The second period saw the tables turned as Cwmamman dominated the play, and the away side were given a boost when tenacious midfielder Jones was given his second yellow for a late challenge.

In the aftermath of the dismissal, Brieg Matthews was given a straight red card that saw both sides reduced to ten men each, mirroring the matchup between the two sides at Grenig Park earlier this season.

A tactical switch at halftime saw Hurlow switch sides, which provided already cautioned defender Rhys Fisher with a difficult task in the second half, and it proved the case as Hurlow darted through on goal on 57 minutes but fired just passed the post.

But Hurlow remained a menace going forward and eventually his persistence up top paid off, as he put Morris under pressure as the goalkeeper hesitated to collect a ball and the attacked pounced to tap home and send the away side ahead.

Matthew Jones was brought on to replace Fisher to try and plug the hole, but with 74 minutes gone Nick Glendon handed Cwmamman a penalty after a clumsy challenge inside the area.

However, Morris dived low to his left to turn away Ashley John’s spot kick.

The save handed Ammanford a lifeline, as Harrison rung the changes and added tireless winger Ricky Martin to press Cwmamman’s defensive line.

The pressure eventually took its toll, as a mix up at the bag allowed Mathew Fisher and Craig Frater in on goal. However, Frater fired straight at Curtis, but Liam Samuel was on hand to fire home the rebound.

The goal provided Ammanford a morale boost, as the crowd roared the home side on to chase the winner. Craig Frater had an opportunity late on, but from the edge of the area he placed his effort just passed Curtis’ right hand post.

The referee drew to a close an intense and passionate Amman Valley derby, celebrated in the honour of supporting Paul’s Pledge, in a game which both sides felt they should have won, but a game in which a draw was probably deserved.

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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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