CARMARTHEN continued their pre-season programme with this attractive fixture against Swansea City’s Under 23 team on Saturday (Jul 20).
They produced an impressive performance against the Championship club’s talented youngsters, having held the lead until just the closing seconds of the match.
Remarkably this was achieved with a relatively weakened squad since key experienced players Lee Idzi, Lewis Harling, Luke Bowen and Jordan Knott were all absent.
During the opening stages of this match that outcome seemed highly unlikely since City proceeded to monopolise possession and dominate the play as they launched a series of spirited attacks that kept the Town defence under notable pressure.
Even so, it was not until the 7th minute that the first significant scoring opportunity arose when Kieran Evans played the ball forward along the right flank to Liam Cullen who instantly crossed it into the penalty area where an unnamed trialist struck a fierce 15 yard drive that Jordan Vickers blocked in front of goal before the ball was cleared safely away.
Gradually the Old Gold began competing more effectively in midfield and showing some welcome signs of attacking intent – and on 9 minutes, with their first scoring effort, they went close to taking the lead.
Vickers made progress along the right-wing before sending a long pass through to Josh Bull near the corner of the penalty area – he slid the ball out to Chris Jones who hit a promising angled strike that ‘keeper Steven Benda palmed against the underside of the bar then recovered to claim the ball on the goal-line.
The visitors responded immediately – Evans, close to the by-line, played the ball back to Cullen who dispatched a rasping shot that Greg Walters, well placed near the post, guided to safety.
Shortly afterwards the industrious midfielder, once again very effectively deployed in a defensive role, was instrumental in Town’s next scoring effort on 17 minutes.
He fired a long free-kick to the far side of the penalty area to reach Jay Woodford who neatly set the ball up for Liam Thomas only for the all-time top goal-scorer to see his crisp 15 yard drive blocked on the goal-line.
City, however, continued to enjoy the greater share of possession and territorial advantage but without, by this stage, managing to seriously breach the home defence or stretch Carmarthen’s stand-in ‘keeper Josh Gould (curiously, ‘loaned’ from Swansea U23s for the first 60 minutes of the match!) – whenever called on, his handling and positioning was exemplary.
The Old Gold once more went close after 24 minutes when Jones, from the half-way line, produced a superb pass that set Thomas racing clear into the penalty area but he was denied when Benda came quickly out of his goal to smother the striker’s scoring effort.
However they were soon rewarded for their spirited recovery having withstood the visitors’ early domination.
On 28 minutes Elliott Scotcher, in the centre-circle, threaded a delightful pass through to Bull who burst free into the penalty area and, as Benda advanced from his goal, the lively striker calmly and confidently drove the ball past the stranded keeper and into the empty net.
A further spell of City pressure was successfully resisted by the home defence, well marshalled by the experienced central pairing of Lee Surman and Dave Vincent, before Town launched another promising attack in the closing moments of the first-half.
In the 42nd minute they fashioned a stunning five-man passing move, initiated by Ceri Morgan in the centre-circle and finishing with Woodford firing a right-wing cross deep into the penalty area where from 12 yards Bull headed the ball over Benda’s outstretched arms but saw the ball clip the bar and bounce safely behind.
After the interval the pattern of play developed in much the same way as in the first-half with the visitors methodically building pressure and probing the Carmarthen defence but with no tangible success.
The first notable threat arose on 64 minutes when Ollie Cooper sent a fine pass into the penalty area for Simon Paulet to pursue only to be denied by Town’s substitute ‘keeper Thomas Windsor who was quickly off his goal-line to claim the ball.
Moments later Cooper, on the edge of the penalty area, rolled the ball back to Jacob Jones who struck a promising curling shot which Windsor carefully watched fly narrowly outside the far post.
In the 73rd minute the Old Gold interrupted this early spell of City pressure when Scotcher, from just outside the penalty area, dispatched a stunning free-kick that cleared the defensive ‘wall’ but was turned against the post by substitute ‘keeper Josh Hutchings and bounced safely behind.
Shortly afterwards Vincent, with a smart pass, set Walters racing along the left-wing before sliding the ball across to Woodford who dispatched a fierce angled drive that Hutchings, with an impressive flying save, turned aside.
As the match went into the closing stages City pressed forward with even greater intent and were close to drawing level on 89 minutes when their trialist burst infield from the left-wing before hitting a crisp volley towards the goalmouth – Surman, in attempting to head the ball clear, managed only to divert on to the near post but thankfully it bounced safely away.
Cruelly the Old Gold were not so fortunate moments later – just 60 seconds from the final whistle they conceded an equaliser when Jacob Jones, on the left flank, fired the ball across the face of the goal and saw Cullen stab it home at the far post to the great dismay of the Town players and supporters.
However, despite that disappointment, on the overall balance of play a draw was certainly a fair result after this entertaining encounter.
Scarlets slay Dragons
Tries from man-of-the-match Sione Kalamafoni and replacement Sam Costelow, combined with the boot of Dan Jones ensured Glenn Delaney’s side made it a festive double to move them up to second in Conference B of the Guinness PRO14 standings.
The Scarlets weren’t at their free-flowing best and will be frustrated by the amount of handling errors and ill-discipline in their performance, but the winning run continues ahead of next week’s clash with Cardiff Blues in the Welsh capital.
Despite a rare dry night in Llanelli, the opening 40 minutes was littered with errors from both sides and it meant the game had little flow.
The Scarlets enjoyed plenty of possession and territory, but too often passes failed to go to hand.
It was the Dragons who were first on the scoreboard thanks to a penalty from the boot of ex-Scarlet Josh Lewis.
Wales lock Jake Ball limped off moments later with a knee injury to be replaced by Tevita Ratuva, while Wyn Jones, on his 100th appearance, also left the field for a head assessment.
The outstanding Kalamafoni made a powerful surge up the middle of the field to put the Scarlets on the offensive, but again a promising move broke down.
Dan Jones levelled matters on 29 minutes, then added another penalty on the stroke of half-time after a quick tap from Kieran Hardy.
The Scarlets continued to enjoy the better of play in the second period, but had to wait until 57 minutes for the game’s first try.
More pressure led to Gareth Davies being taken out off the ball and Dragons lock Matthew Screech being shown yellow by referee Nigel Owens.
Scarlets went for the corner instead of the shot at goal and a well-worked training move saw Kalamafoni charge across the whitewash for his first try in Scarlets colours, a score converted by Jones.
With former Scarlet Rhodri Williams adding a spark, Dragons looked for an immediate response, but a brilliant turnover from Ratuva snuffed out the threat.
Then in the final play, replacement Sam Costelow picked up a loose ball, sped through the gap and around the final defender for a superb solo score, with the Wales U20s fly-half adding the conversion for good measure.
After the hard-fought win, Scarlets coach Glenn Delaney said: “I suppose it was a compelling contest of a different nature. You saw a lot of kicking battles going on, neither team wanted to give the other counter-attacking opportunities.
“I thought defensively we were very resolute, I never felt we were in danger on our goal-line, it was a bit stop-start with a couple of drop balls, but I am delighted to get the win and we did create a bit more in the second half.
“With these derby games, I am learning every time we play one, they all seem to be pretty much like this and perhaps bring out the best and worst in us because of the individual competition and contest.
“We would have liked to have done a bit more with the ball and the attacking breakdown with us was poor, the Dragons turned over a bit of ball there so we need to be better in that area and make sure when we make the breaks we are able to capitalise.”
Scarlets’ late surge sees off Ospreys
Ospreys 14 – Scarlets 16
The Ospreys, playing as the official ‘home’ team at Parc y Scarlets, had led for the majority of a tense contest.
But with 71 minutes on the clock, a superb off-load from replacement Blade Thomson paved the way for full-back O’Brien to slice through and dive over for the crucial score.
Man of the match Dan Jones added the conversion to put the Scarlets in front for the first time and the West Walians were able to finish the match on the front foot to claim the annual festive bragging rights and a crucial win to keep them in the hunt in the Conference B standings.
O’Brien hadn’t been named in the original match-day 23, but was brought in at the 11th hour as a replacement for Johnny McNicholl.
In blustery conditions, Scarlets enjoyed the early pressure, but despite hammering away at the Ospreys line were unable to come away with any points.
Instead, it was the Ospreys who were first on the board after 14 minutes through the boot of fly-half Stephen Myler.
The opening quarter was proving a cagey affair with both sides unable to get any momentum going.
A moment of individual brilliance from scrum-half Reuben Morgan-Williams, who dummied and sprinted clear from 40 metres, extended the Ospreys’ lead on 22 minutes, but the Scarlets’ response was swift with Jones landing a penalty straight from the kick-off.
Jones hit the upright with another attempt, then a pin-point cross-field kick from Steff Hughes just evaded the grasp of wing Steff Evans with the line at his mercy.
A powerful scrum on the stroke of half-time led to a long-range penalty chance, but O’Brien’s strike drifted wide with the Ospreys going in ahead 8-3 at the break.
Myler extended his side’s lead early in the second half, but Jones kept Scarlets in it with his kicking out of hand and off the floor.
Two more penalties from the Carmarthen fly-half to one from Myler made it 14-9 going into the final 10 minutes.
Then the Scarlets struck.
With Thomson having a big impact off the bench, the back-rower plucked a ball out of the sky as the Scarlets surged forward. He was involved again soon after, producing a sublime pass to O’Brien who cut a great angle to the posts.
With only two points in it, the Scarlets showed their composure to make their way downfield and set up camp in ‘home’ territory for the final minutes, denying the Ospreys any chance to snatch the win.
Council plasterer becomes world champion darts player
A CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council plasterer has just become a world champion darts player.
Jonny Clayton, from Pontyberem, lifted the World Cup of Darts trophy on Sunday alongside fellow Welsh-man Gerwyn Price
The pair beat top-seeds England 3-0 in Salzburg, Austria, becoming the first ever Welsh winners of the championship.
When he’s away from the dart board, Jonny – ranked 16 in the world – spends his time plastering new and renovated homes and schools for Carmarthenshire County Council.
Council Leader Cllr Emlyn Dole said it’s an honour to have a world champion on the pay-roll.
“We are immensely proud of Jonny and all that he’s achieved,” he said. “What a fantastic achievement for him, a humble man from Pontyberem, to lift the trophy for his country in a sport that he loves.
“Jonny is a valued member of the Carmarthenshire County Council team, as talented at plastering as he is at darts. As with any member of staff representing their country in elite sports, we have given Jonny our full support to ensure he can work his day-job as well as having the time to train and compete.
“We’ll be proud to welcome him home to Carmarthenshire – and knowing Jonny, he’ll be back at work shortly having swapped his darts for his hock and trowel.”
The father of two – who earned his nickname The Ferret during his days as a scrum-half for Pontyberem RFC – spoke to media after his win describing himself as “the proudest man on the planet”.
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