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Winter Nationals success for Pembrokeshire swimmers

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY SWIMMING (PCS) took away 13 medals from the Swim Wales Winter Nationals held at the Wales National Pool over the weekend of Friday (Dec 1) to Sunday (Dec 3).

The National championships were an opportunity for the countries best swimmers to post times as they aimed to achieve qualification for the Commonwealth Games next year on the Gold Coast, Australia.

The Pembrokeshire team, led by coach Craig Nelson and his Assistant Sam Jones returned with five gold, four silvers and four bronze medals, where Jones proudly commented: “Overall the Championships were another great display from the swimmers, as they developed our success from the Summer Open Meet in August.

“These results ensure we are now seen as a force to be reckoned with in Wales as we were competing against the best in Wales at all age groups and it was the first experience for our newest squad members to compete at this level.”

The Pembrokeshire coaches have also worked hard to build a team spirit off the pool deck, where the training sessions whilst being physically challenging are times when there is also an opportunity for some rest and recuperation.

“Sunday was Funday at the Championships” laughed Jones “and we were definitely one of the teams who entered into the Christmas spirit, where swimmers, coaches, parents and Swim Wales officials from the County dressed in their Christmas clobber.

“Such opportunities build the confidence and enjoyment of the whole squad and the hours of training the swimmers put in are rewarded in the window of opportunity when we can all enjoy the moment, before returning to the rigours of training and focusing again, even with Christmas approaching.”

Swim Wales Winter Welsh Meet 2017 Finals Results

Rory Andrews: (11-12) 50m Freestyle 7th; 200m Butterfly Silver medal; 200m Freestyle Silver medal;  100m Freestyle Bronze medal; 50m Freestyle 8th

Sean Barrett: (14-15) 50m Breast stroke Bronze medal; 200m Butterfly 4th; 100m Breast stroke Gold medal

Charlotte Whalley: (13-14) 200m Backstroke Silver medal; 200m Freestyle 8th; 50m Freestyle 7th; 100m Backstroke Gold medal; 50m Backstroke Gold medal

Arabella Haley: (15-16) 200m Backstroke Gold medal

Henry White: 200m Backstroke (13-14) 8th

Rhys Davies: 200m Backstroke (open) Gold; 100m Breaststroke 4th; 50m Backstroke 5th

Louisa Twigg: 200m Butterfly (15-16) Bronze Medal; 200m IM Silver medal; 200m Breast stroke Bronze medal

Josh McDowell: (11-12) 200m IM 7th; 100m Breast stroke 4th

Bethan Jones: (13-14) 50m Butterfly 8th

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Scarlets set up Toulon showdown

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S​CARLETS head coach Wayne Pivac, as an ex-policeman, orchestrated a crime of immense proportions at the Recreation Ground in Bath on Friday (Jan 12), when his Scarlet side won their must win European encounter 35-17.

Greeted onto the pitch by Greenhill School’s year 10 students as flag bearers, the game got off to an electric opening when Wales international centre Scott Williams caught the kick off and immediately referee Jerome Garcos awarded a penalty.

Outside half Dan Jones line kicks missed touch in the initial stages and his nervousness in such a titanic game was obvious.

Second row, Irish international Tadgh Beirne, rescued the situation by taking the line out ball against the throw, with the tackling strong from the visitors who were unable to recycle the ball as the game settled.

A blooded nose for skipper Ken Owen as ‘Bread of Heaven’ rang loudly from the Thatcher’s terrace, alongside sympathy for former outside half Rhys Priestland, whose birthday celebration were ruined when he limped off with a pulled hamstring to be replaced by Freddie Burns.

The Scarlets, now set and stable and got a nudge on at the scrum to establish the mantra for the evening with scrum half Gareth Davies darting clear on the blindside; England international full back Anthony Watson showed a clean pair of heels himself in response when running 40 metres from deep in his danger zone with flanker Sam Underhill in support.

A score was inevitable with such a frantic opening and it was the Scarlets who got the scoreboard rolling in a scintillating manner after nine minutes, starting from Beirne’s clawed line out ball.

Williams made the initial break, finding the support of second row David Bullring; centre Hadleigh Parkes took up the mantle finding Australian winger Paul Asquith, to flanker Aaron Shingler as they moved the ball with silky hands hitting gaps before it fell once again to the marauding Beirne.

From 15 metres out, he produced a Phil Bennett sidestep to screech in for a try converted by outside half Dan Jones.

Hymns and Arias was resounding into the cold air but the try was sweet, Neil Diamond’s appreciation of Caroline perhaps a better analogy for possibly the try of the season from the Land of my Fathers.

Freddie Burns pinged the Bath opening score after No. 8 John Barclay stopped their forward impetus and left the field for ten minutes on the French referee’s direction.

It was the Scarlets however who then dug deep, making ground and managing the game time superbly.
Shingler, running straight and with purpose made the gain line.

Full back Rhys Patchell and Parkes endeavour had the 13,822 crowd on the edge of their seats, which put Asquith in corner for a score despite being down to 14 men.

There was no stopping the red tide as five minutes later scrum half Davies rumbled 25 metres and found Welsh international Parkes on his shoulder and the centre crossed for his ninth try in 71 appearances, under duress, for a converted score and a 19-3 lead.

Williams was on fire, making another break to set up a scrum when the Scarlets were living in the moment; if he timed the pass his side were clear again for a score and perhaps on reflection needed just to consolidate their exuberance and make half time with their tail feathers unruffled may have suited.

A war of attrition with short passes and yardage in the tight areas wore down the clock and with it the Bath players and supporter’s hearts. The dominant scrum was verbalised loudly from prop Rob Evans and Jones slipped over the penalty for a half time lead of 22-3.

Bath as a city welcomes an array of nationalities but the atmosphere that trounced around the English fortress in January was full of ‘Heart and Soul’.

The Welsh contingent were delirious with their melody for a team of ‘Samson Lees’ eloquently reverberating around a city’s proclaimed architecture. Having been missing from the front row for many weeks before Christmas the prop was quite superb alongside fellow international Evans and his skipper, Ken Owens anchored between them.

Pivac has been coaching for 22 years since his first footstep on the rung in Northland, New Zealand but the victory in the back yard of the Aviva Premiership rugby giants was surely up with his best moments. Pro 12 champions last season having beaten Munster in Dublin to return a week later and rumble Leinster in the same venue included.

The ‘Rec’ was a cultural phenomenon, when Scarlets rugby once more came of age as they sat on the brink of a place in the European quarter final for the first time in 11 years. Bath rugby had lifted this trophy 20 years ago under the leadership of Scottish scrum half Andy Nicol’s but through their parade at half time, would have been in awe of the first half performance.

Music and Wales go hand in hand. Greenhill School, on tour at Backwell with the year ten students playing football, rugby and netball had the experience of a lifetime arranged through PE teacher Phil ‘Taffy’ Williams.
A school whose equally renowned musical talent under Samantha Hughes would have taken the Irish love ballad ‘Fields of Athenry’ to new heights given the opportunity.

Innate to the Irish famine of 1845 this anthem of the ‘underdog’ often resonating at Landsdowne Road or even Anfield a mercurial throw back to the task that sat before the visitors.

Top of Conference B the Scarlets took control early in the second half as they went in search of their bonus point try. The home eight were not match at the scrum set piece as Owens didn’t hesitate in choosing a rumble instead of taking a pot at goal.

Three times they drained the time and the Bath spirit, perilously close to crossing the try line through forward drives. Six minutes into the second half Patchell received the ball to deftly put a grubber kick through, allowing Williams to dab down wide out and Jones add the extras for 29-3.

The red tide were feeding the baying supporters cries for evangelical bread, where the ‘manna’ and intensity was unyielding. The team of Samson Lee lost their talisman on 55 minutes as his replacement Werner Kruger was rock sold as the choristers ‘Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’ resonated loudly and proudly.

Bath coaching guru Todd Blackadder needed his side to develop a pattern of play as they refused a kick at goal in search of a try, which came when winger Matt Banahan caught Burns kick in the corner allowing the outside half to convert with an hour played.

‘Long John’ Welsh second row Luke Charteris, a man with a biochemist degree and a fluent French speaker to boot took the hand-me-down inspirational singing to his hear. Not one for ‘losing my religion’ the boiler house man’s efforts allowed him a well earned rest at the same time as opposite number Bullring.

Over 150 years of rugby history in North Somerset has placed foundations from which the home side ran with their head of steam. Pivac manipulated his cast list with the game and full points in the bag, with Aled Davies arriving at inside half. Tried and trusted combinations saw Owens and Beirne orchastrting the line forcing Watson to desperately run from deep as the ‘big shift’ put in from down West was recognised.

Owens, Hong Kong born Barclay, and Evans were done but still the tide wouldn’t subside, drawn to their supporters in the Dyson stand as Pivac’s decision to play a six to two forward split off the bench drew a scrum penalty.

Jones added the points for a 32-10 and a fourscore lead with 12 minutes to play. The defensive patterns were as impressive as any offensive effort, Patchell making a last ditch cover tackle on Zach Mercer with five minutes to play typifying the ‘hywl’.

Top of the ball line out and replacement Josh Macloed madeground and play was outside the danger zone with Jones clearance. Back came Bath and No. 8 Zach Mercer couldn’t be denied in the opposite corner for a converted try after a cutting run from winger Aled Brew, skipper Matt Garvey and second row Paul Grant.

Williams and Prydie responded to gain a penalty for offside with ‘Sospan Fach’ finishing proceedings fittingly, with Jones boot, edging the score to 35-17.

The Bath faithful, forlorn and remorseful took an early bath wondering what had happened.

LTC Mobility sponsored Furnace rugby club members summed it up amidst their exuberant acclaims.

Centre and club vice captain Scott Davies hoarsely crooned: “It’s the best away trip I’ve experienced. Our 1800 strong choir left nothing in the changing room and it was certainly a factor in lifting the squad.”

On Saturday (Jan 20) another blockbuster awaits, when Toulon visit Parc Y Scarlets and the home side need a minimum of a bonus point to progress into the knockout stages.

Davies smiling face finished the evening with: “Let this be the springboard to the next level. This could be the year we lift the Heineken trophy and the whole of Europe will stand up for the champions.”

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Sport

KO Cup semi-finals drawn

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IN a repeat of last year’s final, Aberystwyth will face Tenby in the last four of this season’s KO Cup competition.

On that occasion, it was Tenby who came out on top in the game that was played in Crymych with a 21-17 victory.

The two will meet once more and will be battling it out for a place in the final which will take place on Friday, May 11.

When the teams met earlier this season it was Tenby who came out on top with a 33-7 victory but having been runners-up last year, Aber will keen to go one better this time around.

The other semi-final has pitted local rivals Pembroke Dock Quins and Pembroke against each other in what should be another exciting game.

Pembroke have already beaten the Quins twice this season but the appeal of a Cup final will add that little bit extra for both sides.

In both games Pembroke put over 40 points on their rivals but the Quins will be keen to get one back on their rivals with a shock victory.

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Health issues force Tasker out of Olympics

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TENBY’s Bruce Tasker has been forced to withdraw from the Olympic Winter Games in South Korea due to health reasons.

The 30-year-old, who has been a mainstay of the GB Bobsled squad since 2010, suffered a minor stroke a few days ago.

While Tasker is expected to make a full recovery and has targeted a return to top-level sport later in the year, the former Greenhill school pupil will not compete at next month’s Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Having been receiving scheduled treatment for groin and hip injuries at home in the UK while his team-mates were competing in Altenberg, Germany last week, Tasker was taken to Wexham Park Hospital last Thursday after experiencing dizziness and nausea.

Tasker was subsequently transferred to the Stroke Unit at High Wycombe Hospital on Saturday.

He returned home on Sunday and will have further medical assessments over the coming days.

“I’m gutted not to be able to conclude the four-year cycle by going to the Olympics but I’m very grateful that I’m still fit and healthy,” said Tasker, who was part of the GB 4-man team that is line for a potential retrospective bronze medal from the last Games in Sochi in 2014.

“I’m still sore but, otherwise, I feel fine. While I’m not training, I’m already resuming normal life and the dog hasn’t been missing out on her walks!

“I’ve been looked after incredibly well by everybody and I’d like to thank my partner Kat and her father (both trained doctors), in particular, for their support. The same goes to all the medical staff at Wexham and High Wycombe hospitals who looked after me – they were absolutely fantastic, as was Dr. George Bownes, (Chief Medical Officer for the British Bobsleigh & Skeleton Association) who has ensured I have received the best care and advice possible since my discharge from hospital.

“To me, this was a completely freak occurrence. I was unlucky to be in this situation, but I’m lucky to have come out of it unscathed.”

While medical advice will mean that Tasker won’t compete in Pyeongchang, he still hopes to continue his GB career next season.

GB Bobsleigh Performance Director, Chris Price said: “We are obviously bitterly disappointed for Bruce that he will not be able to fulfil his ambition of competing at his second Olympic Winter Games next month, especially given the dedication, commitment and excellence he has shown throughout the Olympic cycle, but his health is of paramount importance.

“The last few days have been worrying for all who know and care for Bruce but we are naturally delighted that he is on course to make a full recovery. We will now ensure Bruce and his family have all the necessary support in place to aid that process.”

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