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Borderers win top two battle

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By Jonathan Twigg

AS top of the table clashes go the GD Harries sponsored Whitland’s 17-6 victory to step over Hendy and top of Division 2 West, at Parc Llwn Ty Gwyn on Saturday (October 14) was one where both sides were unable to execute their skills to dominate a fixture and the reverse game at the end of January may well decide where the Division 2 title rests come the end of the season.

Whitland scored the only try of the game as winger Sean Coles finished off a move where he was put into space by Johnnie Thomas after the Whitland back line capitalised on second half possession to take the game away from the visitors.

Full back Scott Newton, outside half Nico Setaro alongside Thomas triangulated superbly to put Coles and fellow winger Liam Price into space when they could and allow 18 year old debutant, Scarlets Academy and Welsh international Scott Lloyd opportunities to show his talent, nurtured from its infancy through the junior borderers set up.

Lloyd is a player who exudes confidence, not only in his undoubted ability but also in the philosophy that coaches Gareth Bennett and Dan Mason have instilled.

He has vision, pace and swift hands which bodes well for the future and he will be a welcome addition to the ‘green machine’ if his commitments elsewhere allow.  He was never isolated as a ball carrier where the experienced home pack of forwards ensuring his efforts secured the ball for other phases of play to materialise.

Centre Frame sponsored Hendy came onto the park with intent from the first kick off and were a side which looked well coached and drilled, which was unsurprising considering Aaron Shingler [Scarlets], Stephen Shingler [Blues] and Dorian Jenkins are assisting Chris Morgan.

Their defence line, based from full back Robbie Davies who used the outside post as his starting line, looked comfortable all afternoon, not only with his tacking but hands in fielding the hosts kicks and when running directly to gain yards.

Visiting kicker Josh Batcup opened the scoring when the Whitland forwards were penalised for killing the ball with a penalty from in front of the posts after fifteen minutes which was a just reward for his sides efforts.

Second row Ashley Banfield secured line out ball and the back row of Richard Kinnear, Matthew Wotherspoon and number 8 Gareth Thomas were on top in the lose play for Hendy although Batcup had missed a penalty in the third minute from the 10m line.

Hard working Whitland forwards: Skipper Marc Jones & Number 8 Jack Mason

Both sides looked to utilise a driving maul and handling errors occurred both in close contact and when the ball was given out to the back division as the competitiveness of a top of the table clash came to the fore.

Referee Jason Summers again allowed the players the opportunity to make the most of possession as neither captains, Marc Jones [Whitland] or Chris Bowen [Hendy] had sustained success when hitting their targets in line outs.

Perhaps more to do with the support the jumpers received in the line, both hookers were also at the forefront of an abrasive scrum set piece which secured an equalising penalty for outside half Nico Setaro after 20 minutes.

Until this point Hendy had the upper hand at the scrum and having established a base from which to work the ‘green machine’ saw number 8 Jack Mason alongside Jones mobilise the more experienced pack to then win the battle on the ground. Setaro, a gifted playmaker is also a decision maker he nudged his side forward to maintain both momentum and motivation.

The first half lacked periods of true quality and neither side managed to work their game plans to exploit opportunities, as both played close to the fringes and the offside line, giving little in terms of time or space.

Visiting flanker Mark Wotherspoon received a yellow card four minutes into the second half for a deliberate knock on after Lloyd and flanker Ben Kirk had combined in midfield, for Setaro put his side ahead 6-3.

Whitland sensed their ascendency with Setaro and Lloyd making half breaks to gain yardage allowing Thomas to put Coles in space with ground to run at in front of him, followed by another move where Mason, Newton and Price combined to make a telling insertion of over 40m.

From the resultant restart Mason set up second phase ball for scrum half Adam Davies to release the back line once more where some smooth handling allowed centre Thomas to draw the last defender and Coles made no mistake wide out for Whitland to lead 11-3.

Whitland had capitalised on their opponent’s reduction in numbers to good effect and when their own flanker Kirk was yellow carded after 58 minutes for entering a ruck from the side, Batcup reduced the deficit to 11-6.

Setaro dictated a slower pace to the game with Kirk off the field. Mason, Jones and the vastly experienced second rows Dai Ebsworth and Raff Williams were content to pick up and drive, which meant Hendy were starved of possession.

Setaro missed a straight forward kick when they were returned to a full playing compliment before striking another attempt cleanly through the posts after 65 minutes to extend the lead to 14-6.

Like opposite number Davies, Newton was strong as the last line of defence all afternoon for Whitland, a key fielder of the ball from clearance kicks and set pieces and he was also influential at key times also to allow the extra player in midfield to create the opportunities for Price and Coles.

Hendy centre Kieran Ace also worked space for Dyfan Williams to have a run at the Whitland try line as hi side attempted to secure a footing in the game.

Price was equal to that challenge before Lloyd took the ball off Setaro with five minutes remaining to set up his side in the opposition 22. Mason was again dominant on the ground from the ensuing ruck and his work resulted in another penalty, for Setaro to step up and end the scoring on 17-6.

Hendy had no complaints from the result and coach Chris Morgan ‘praised the efforts of his side but reflected that a more experienced home side had deserved victory.

He said: “We have a lot of positives to build on from today and will look to take these into the game at Hendy Park against St Clears, but in truth we tried to play too much rugby in the wrong areas.”

Assistant coach Dan Mason was delighted to get the win saying: “We had to do the hard work to wear them down.  It was a dogged performance and we had to ensure we held possession when we had it and ensure we had the play in their territory. We have a back line this season which is confident in their own ability but today we needed players to stand up in the rough and tumble upfront, which we did.”

Whitland, top of the table make the trip to Parc Mynydd Mawr, Tumble, tomorrow (Oct 21), to play a side anchored the basement of the Division after their loss to Fishguard last week.

A point clear of Carmarthen Athletic the ‘Green Machine’ have a game in hand over them and Hendy but the next visitors to Parc Llwn Ty Gwyn will be another unbeaten side Pontardulais on the first Saturday in November, the visitors having two games in hand and lying four points off the top.

Both Clubs have established strong links in their communities, boasting a junior set up catering for age group rugby, capped off with resurgent youth sides.

Whitland youth, coached by Dominic Setaro and Phil Morgan and their counterparts from Hendy, under the guidance of Dai Davies and Carl Rees believe in the youngsters as the corner stone for their club.

With such strong foundations it is of little surprise they both also incorporate women’s rugby sides and girls under 15 sides, where the players then affiliated to the academies at the Scarlets and Ospreys.

Ultimately, debutants like 18 year old Lloyd will be one of many coming from these flourishing lower league clubs in the future.

Sport

Division 3: Three-horse race

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THE Division 3 title race and promotion will be decided on Saturday (Aug 24) with three teams all still in the hunt.

Last week, Llanrhian, who had been top prior to their game, saw their match at Llangwm Seconds called off after they claimed their pitch was wet.

Herbrandston then beat Lamphey to move top of Division 3 while the Stags picked up enough points to knock Llanrhian down to third.

Going into the final round of games, Herbrandston are 19 points ahead of Lamphey and 22 points above Llanrhian.

Herbie face a trip to Narberth Seconds knowing a win will see them crowned Champions while a draw would also be enough.

A defeat could allow Lamphey in to be crowned Champions but that would also rely on Herbie not picking up more than 11 points.

Lamphey face fourth placed Laugharne in what is likely to be a tough game for both sides.

Llanrhian still have an outside chance of claiming the title but they would need to rely on Herbie and Lamphey losing their games.

Llanrhian will look to put last week’s disappointment behind them as they host Stackpole.

A win for Llanrhian coupled with a Lamphey defeat or draw could still see them promoted.

Elsewhere, the bottom four sides play each other with one final relegation place to be decided.

Whitland seconds currently sit second from bottom and they travel to fourth from bottom Haverfordwest thirds.

A win for Whitland could move them above Town and if Llangwm also won that could see Town drop down a Division.

Llangwm seconds take on already relegated Lawrenny seconds. Llangwm sit eight points above Whitland and know anything other than a win could let Whitland go above them.

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Sport

Division 2: Narberth and Llechryd face off for title

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LLECHRYD will host Narberth on Saturday (Aug 24) with the winners being crowned champions of Division 2.

Both will be playing their cricket in Division 1 next season but the destination of the title will be decided on Saturday.

Going into the game, Llechryd sit top of the Division, 17 points ahead of Narberth. A home win will see Llechryd crowned champions but should Narberth take the win it will be they who go up as champions.

When the two teams met earlier in the season it was Narberth who came out on top with a seven wicket win.

With promotion and relegation decided there is little for the others to play for but some can still improve their final positions.

Pembroke sit third and on Saturday they are away to Kilgetty knowing if they slip up, Hook could claim third place if they beat Carew Seconds.

Relegated sides Johnston and Cresselly seconds will play each other at Glebelands with the winners earning their second win of the season.

Pembroke Dock also take on Haverfordwest seconds and a win for Town in that game will see them jump above the Dock.

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Sport

New Solva kit to continue Luke’s Stand Up To Cancer message

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THE family of inspirational cancer fundraising campaigner Luke Harding has donated a new kit to Solva AFC in his memory, which features four words that perfectly sum up the way he battled the illness – Stand Up To Cancer.

Luke, who played for Solva for around a decade, raised more than £30,000 for Withybush Hospital’s Ward 10 and local charities following his diagnosis with stage four lung cancer in 2016.

Medi George, Secretary of Solva AFC said: “Luke played football with the same dedication and energy with which he battled cancer and it is an honour for our club to be able to continue his message in this way.

“We are extremely grateful to Alex, Peter and the Harding family for this kind gesture and it is fitting that our players were able to wear the kit for the first time in the final of the first annual Luke Harding Memorial Cup.”

The kit was unveiled at Fishguard Sports’ ground before the final of the competition, with Goodwick United 2nds running out eventual 3-1 winners against Solva 2nds. The tournament also included Fishguard Sports and Letterston, which Luke also represented.

Ruth Amies, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Wales, said: “We are extremely grateful to Luke’s family and to Solva AFC for supporting Stand Up To Cancer which funds life-saving research in Wales and across the UK. The new kit is a wonderful tribute to Luke who fundraised tirelessly throughout his diagnosis and we are thrilled the players wore the new kit for the first time this week.”

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