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Whitland remain unbeaten

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By Jonathan Twigg

“A HAPPY camp is a winning camp” according to Coach Gareth Bennett and the GD Harries sponsored ‘Green Machine’ of Whitland were in buoyant mood on Saturday (Nov 4) after they kept their unbeaten start to the season in tact after against previously unbeaten visitors Pontarddulais.

The Borders are committed to play a style of rugby where they are willing to play the situation which falls before them, where a precarious 9-7 lead at half time in the face of a swirling wind could have led to them wilting in the face of a side intent on leaving Parc Llwyn Ty Gwyn with something to show for their efforts.

They scored the only try of the game two minutes before the break when winger Gethin Williams crossed wide out for fellow winger Paul Geary to add a majestic conversion to put the ‘Ambers’ 7-6 ahead, but had to settle for a losing bonus point as the home sides outside half Nico Setaro kicked them to victory with five penalties.

Setaro took a while to settle into the flow of the game as he was guilty of some poor tactical kicking as his side were second best in the early exchanges in all aspects.

The scrum found itself disrupted from the start, as skipper Marc Thomas lost one against the head and throughout the first half they continually failed to secure line out ball which would have allowed them a platform from which to play on the front foot.

Setaro missed an effort from just beyond the 22m line after six minutes before ‘The Bont’ lost influential Loose Head prop Andrew Williams two minutes later as he found himself exposed to some rough treatment on the floor and the ebb of the game swung in Whitland’s favour.

Hooker Thomas was tenacious in his tackling and driving play supported by the ‘boiler house’ veterans Raff Williams and 47 year old Dai Ebsworth.

Ebsworth experience of playing for three decades, including at Narberth was evident both on and off the ball as he became a go to man in the line out which led to a second penalty failed penalty attempt for Setaro after winger Liam Price had run over 25m with the ball in hand.

Fellow winger Sean Coles also combined in a sweeping 50m run with Price and the home pressure finally paid dividends midway through the half when Setaro’s penalty was successful after Pontyates referee Justin Thomas marched forward for ten metres after some dissent.

The visitors were penalised eight times in the first half, mainly for not releasing the player in the tackle as they slowed the game down with many on field injury assessments.

The tactics galvanised Thomas, Ebsworth, Number 8 Jack Mason and flanker Benji Kirk to put in the hard yards for their side and a second Setaro penalty after 32 minutes extended the lead.  Williams try came about thanks to second row Jordan Daniels and flanker Dean Courtney setting a platform for the winger to cross.

In time added on at the end of the first half a counter attack from their own half saw Setaro’s angled kick fielded by full back Aled Stone, a product of the Clubs junior and youth set up.  Instead of putting the ball out of play to end the half he tried to run from within touching distance of his own posts to be caught by the marauding home back row and the resultant penalty from wide out for not releasing allowed Setaro to lead his side from the field with a 9-7 cushion.

Centre Josh Thomas entered the fray after half time for Whitland as ball player Johnnie Thomas moved to the wing to replace Sean Coles, victim of a dead leg.

The second half game management from the home side saw them stifle any effort by Pontardullais to get ahead with some excellent handling and miss moves shipped the ball wide to winger Thomas and Price ensuring the game was played deep in the visitors territory.

Setaro and full back Scott Newton are composite ball handlers and kickers from hand, alongside Thomas and Price as they dictated both the tempo and tactical play which saw them combine and travel at times over sixty metres with ball in hand.

Coach Dan Mason was complimentary of this play as ‘the players are encouraged to express their ability at all times’.

He added: “There may have been a hangover from our last game at Tumble alongside nerves due to the ‘magnitude of the game’ at the start of the afternoon but we are all confident in our own and our team mates skills.  Bennett, added ‘there is no better feeling for a front five forward to get up from the battle on the floor to see the ball 40m downfield and it keeps a spring in our step and a smile on our faces.”

Replacement Thomas also added a new dimension to the play after the break by taking and carrying the ball to the first defender with fellow centre Alun Davies enjoying the freedom created to ensure Setaro and the back three could perform.

Flanker Ryan Michael was instrumental in leading a high defence line alongside scrum half Adam Davies who edged out his more experienced counterpart Adrian Killa or the visitors as the game wore on, which restricted the ability for Stone et al to run back from deep, resulting into the kicks into the hands of Newton, Setaro and Thomas.

Setaro landed two more penalties as the graft of his forwards put their side 15-7 ahead with ten minutes remaining although it could have been different had Geary not slipped when attempting a straight forward penalty attempt a minute later; he made amends with five minutes left after work from Daniels drew Michael offside as his side felt the loss just when his side most needed him most of Number 8 Jacob Miles, an attacking dynamo alongside his scrum half Killa all afternoon.

A vociferous visiting contingent in the stands became frustrated as the play couldn’t transfer to give their idols an opportunity to win the game where a Club spokesman at the end of the game praised ‘Whitland’s second half performance, which ended our unbeaten league start, although the losing bonus point may prove crucial as the season draws to its climax.”

The final word on an absorbing Whitland Ladies sponsored top of table encounter was left to Bennett. “As coaches it’s a case of osmosis as these players just want to take everything we are giving them onto the pitch.  We have no expectations beyond our next game and we are able to use players out of position when the need arises; our philosophy of trying to play rugby beyond our outside centre will remain.”

Next week Pontarddulais entertain St Clears whilst the unbeaten Green Machine travel to Mumbles to take on a side which were unable to field a team last weekend.

Sport

Millers hold their nerve to send Neyland through

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HARRISON ALLEN Bowl Champions Neyland made it through to the quarter finals of the competition after they beat Haverfordwest with only two balls to spare on Thursday night (May 24).

Haverfordwest batted first but they were restricted to a total of 100-8 on an overcast evening.

Karl Rhead and Lee Summons both scored 1 before they departed early; Rhead caught by Andrew Miller off the bowling of Nathan Banner and Summons stumped by Sean Hannon off the bowling of brother Patrick.

That left Town on 9-2 but Simon Holliday and Danny Potter shared 27 runs for the third wicket partnership.

Holliday made 14 before he was superbly run out by Patrick Hannon and soon after Ben Field departed when he was caught by Gregg Miller off Patrick’s bowling.

Potter had made a score of 31 with four fours and a six but he was also run out, this time by Ashley Sutton, and Town had slipped to 56-5.

Jake Merry was then caught by Banner off the bowling of Henry Durrant for a score of 5 while Adam James smashed a six in his score of 11 before he was caught by Durrant off the bowling of Andrew Miller.

Archie Thomas did likewise in his score of 11 from eight balls but he was then bowled by Durrant.

That saw Town fall to 80-8 but Kieran O’Connor and Huw Scriven shared 20 runs to take Town to their total.

O’Connor finished unbeaten on 9 while Scriven smashed a six off the last ball to finish not out on 11 and take Town to three figures.

Neyland lost Paul Murray early in their reply when he was caught by Merry off the bowling of Adam James for a score of 6.

Nick Koomen and Ashley Sutton then shared a partnership of 20 before Sutton was bowled by James.

Koomen and Banner then shared 19 runs but that partnership came to an end when Banner was stumped by Scriven off the bowling of O’Connor for a score of 8.

Soon after Koomen, who had hit three fours and a six in a knock of 31, fell in the same manner as Banner and Neyland were left on 60-4.

Henry Durrant and Patrick Bellerby then swung the game back in Neyland’s favour with a good partnership of 25.

That came to an end when Bellerby was caught by Rhead off the bowling of Holliday for a score of 21 from 12 balls which included a four and two sixes.

Scriven then picked up his third stumping as he removed Durrant for a score of 11 to the bowling of Holliday.

That was the end of the wickets however as Gregg and Andrew Miller saw Neyland home, finishing not out on 6 and 7 respectively, with only two balls to spare.

The draw for the quarter finals will be made on Wednesday, May 30, at the next meeting of the County Cricket Club.

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Grandstand finish sees Croft take Silver

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A GRANDSTAND finish by Cardigan boxer Ioan Croft came just too late to capture the gold medal at the Three Nations tournament at Motherwell’s huge Ravenscraig Sports Centre at the weekend.

The 16-year-old from Crymych had been bidding to secure a second Three Nations crown to emulate his success of 2015.

And the fact that Croft beat Scotsman Nicholas Devlin in the semi-finals – the opponent he had defeated en route to Three Nations glory three years previously – appeared to be a good omen.

However, pitted against England’s Joe Tyres in the final, southpaw Croft appeared to pay the price for an over-cautious start.

With the English boy seemingly taking the first round, Croft started getting into his stride in the second.

The Welsh teenager appeared to gain the upper hand in the third and final session, catching Tyres with a variety of good clean shots.

Yet it was not quite enough to make up for his slow start and a crestfallen Croft dropped a 4-1 split decision.

“It was very disappointing,” the boxer’s dad, Cardigan ABC head coach Guy Croft, said afterwards. “I thought he’d just done enough to win.”

Although Croft had struggled to make the 56kg limit, his father refused to cite that as an excuse. “I’m not sure weight is all to blame,” he said.

“Ioan’s been finishing strong at the end of every round and his third round is always his best.

“He just takes a little while to get the measure of his opponent, which isn’t such a bad thing, although on this occasion it probably cost him the fight.

“Joe has had something like 75 bouts, only lost 12, and was 13 months older. Ioan’s had 62 and lost 10 so it was a good match.”

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Young Otters secure Griffiths Cup win

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NARBERTH were victorious in the Griffiths Cup on Tuesday night (May 22), as they beat Crymych 26-24 in a thrilling game that neither side deserved to lose.

The game was played at Neyland’s Athletic Ground and a good crowd was in attendance to watch rugby’s future stars.

The young Otters took the lead early on in the first half as Dylan Walsh went over for the opening try of the game and Lewis Hough’s conversion was successful.

Crymych then levelled matters as Rhodri George went over for the try before Harri Williams added the extra two points.

Kieran Allen then put Narberth back ahead with another try but the conversion was missed and the Otters held a 12-7 lead.

Shortly before half time, Crymych took the lead for the first time as Dafydd Griffiths went over for the try and Harri Williams added the extras.

It meant Crymych held a 14-12 lead at the break but the game was still there for the taking.

In the second half, Narberth re-took the lead as Kieran Allen scored his second try of the game and Llew Jones added the conversion.

Crymych came back to within two points of their opponents as Harri Williams landed a penalty to make it 19-17.

The Otters then extended their lead as they came forward and the ball was offloaded for Griff Evans who dived in under the posts for an excellent try. Llew Jones then added the conversion to make it 26-17 to the Otters.

Crymych responded well and put pressure on the Otters. That pressure eventually told as they worked the ball out to the right for Illan Phillips who burst through the tackles to touch the ball down. Harri Williams added the extras from just inside the half to make it 26-24.

It was Narberth who finished strongly but a penalty went wide and they then came close to scoring a try which would have sealed the game but a knock on 5 metres out halted their attack.

Crymych looked for a late score but Narberth kept them out well and when they turned the ball over with the eighty minutes up, they kicked the ball out to spark wild celebrations amongst the players and coaches.

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