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‘Dancing in the rain’ which the Gale brings

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By Jonathan Twigg

SINCE the turn of the new Millennium, Narberth RFC has been one of the premier club sides in South West Wales.

They currently sit in second place behind Pontypool in the WRU Championship table, a division in which they have remained since the WRU national leagues inception in the mid 1990’s.

The coaching guru in charge of the current Otters side is Sean Gale, a former Scarlet’s player whose commitment is recognised by all associated to the Pembrokeshire club. Commitment is part of Sean’s DNA, where any former work colleagues at the West Wales Fire Brigade testify.

The Fire Brigade have a long association to rugby in the West Wales area, with many players with Scarlet’s and its predecessor Llanelli RFC finding themselves on a career pathway with the ‘Brigade’.  Gale served for 32 years in the noble profession after Ronnie King opened the door of opportunity and is unsurprising that the ‘vow of allegiance’ he showed to his career, has been visible at the Lewis Lloyd Ground for a decade.

A man of few words whose compassionate tone rings clearly and when heard instantly captures the attention of those present. Never a raised intonation and the positives not the negatives proffered; a blueprint which fellow coaches Liam Gadd and Lloyd Phillips follow.

Sean was a graduate from Graig comprehensive school in the heart of Llanelli and had an instantly recognisable name to live up to. His dad Norman, revered in the Town as a front row hard man, captain of both his home town club and Country where he won 25 caps in a period when Wales were a team to mix it with the best.

Sean has recently crept quietly beyond the half century in terms of age, still living in Llanelli and committing to travelling three times a week to Narberth for training and games from his home in Swiss Valley. Married to Elizabeth for over 25 years he recognized her unstinting support of his rugby journey, alongside his mother Ann. Norman passed away in 2005 and it’s now his son Nick who shares his dad’s rugby memories alongside daughter Hannah.

Returning to the squad after a six month injury Nick plays under his dad’s stewardship, being a strike runner from the back three as opposed to his dad’s likeness for packing down in the front three.

“Living and breathing rugby is something I’m used to” Nick warmly stated with a beaming smile.  “Dad, never had a hair out of place and no stone unturned. He wants the best for me as a son and as a player with Narberth. I’ve come to understand when I need to listen and occasionally speak on a rugby matters! Dad cares; about his family, friends and colleagues, including the players in the squad and this is repaid tenfold from those of us lucky enough to be in the inner sanctum.”

The front row is not a place for the faint hearted where camaraderie exists well beyond the 80 minutes of battle. “I enjoyed my tussles with Mike Griffiths immensely” chuckled Sean.

Mike, the Cardiff prop, formally with Bridgend won 35 Welsh caps but Sean added: “I had the utmost respect for him. He was a tough person to scrummage against, but he did it fairly and without prejudice. I also played alongside the icons of Welsh rugby, current National assistant coach Rob Howley and British Lion winger Ieuan Evans before I hung up my boots for the final time in Llanelli colours in1999. That final game was against Romania, twelve years after my debut against Pontardulais.”

Memories are important and Sean recounted with pride when he played against the All Blacks in 1997, a game lost by over 80 points; he narrated his efforts of scoring two tries against Namibia highlighting such achievements come only from hard work. Sean was always seen as a good trainer, where his rugged stature came to the fore in games as a strong ball carrying prop; a try scorer!

“I managed 10 tries in one season for Bridgend which is a record for a prop” and one which he still shares with Whitland born prop Meredydd James.

Sean won seven secondary schools caps as a second row, with a stand out victory in 1985 when an unbeaten All Blacks schools side toured the Principality under Graham Henry.

He also played for the Wales Under 20’s and Under 21’s and made the ‘A’ team squad but never had the opportunity to run out on the pitch.

He clocked up 209 appearances for Llanelli with the final three years as a professional player whilst maintaining his service record with the Brigade, before chalking up 90 games in Bridgend colours and enjoying a ‘final season’ at Heywood Lane, playing for Tenby United in 2002-03.

Sean has qualities which any respected person, let alone a coach would hope to have associated to him.

He is honest and hardworking whilst continuing to maintain a drive to achieve more.  His family heritage is a cornerstone of his life and this shines through in his commitment to rugby.

Now a level 3 coach he worked with the Scarlet’s Academy for three seasons after starting out with Tumble where he was a player/coach before becoming forwards coach with Llanelli, Swalec champions in 2005.

He joined Narberth in 2006 following an invitation from then Director of Rugby Jonathan Dodds after they worked together at the Scarlets Academy and with the Wales amateur side.

Coaching was always something he strove to do following a lifetimes involvement nurtured in the early days from the family pub, a stone’s throw from Stradey Park. Frequenting the hostelry on a regular basis were Llanelli greats like Stuart Gallacher and Ray Gravell.

“Dad coached the Scarlets, so it was a natural progression for me to stay in the game as a coach once I finished playing because it means so much to me; it’s in my heart and soul” said Nick.

Sean’s mantra as a coach is to build his teams around a strong forward platform, never taking a backward step to an opponent, before then trying to play an expansive style.

He remains ambitious for Narberth as he fondly recounts: “I was impressed by the warmth of the welcome I received; it’s a very friendly club but importantly for me one which remains driven to be successful.”

He is focused in his approach and philosophy, determined to keep Narberth in the top two of the National Championship.

Doing so will be no mean feat as it is increasingly difficult with Premiership clubs able to cherry pick the best players, which is part of the player pathway in the Scarlet’s region.

Sean said he would be interested in developing his coaching career and with a raised eyebrow and a killer grin Sean recalled the time he was ‘hoodwinked’ into believing the then Llanelli maestro Gareth Jenkins was offering him a role back with the Scarlets. “I enjoyed setting the training programme after that faux pas by Adrian Killa”, he said.

Sean remains committed to Narberth as he explained his eagerness for the national leagues to remain as the current structure is under review by the WRU.

“One thing that frustrates me as a coach is the imposed Autumn break which happens for the international period in November.

“I find this hard because we go a month without competitive fixtures to keep my players at their top of the game. I have had memories which are significant in my life story and I hope those under my wing today build their own storyboard, which they can do if we all work together to get the right environment.”

Narberth as a club are equally as ambitious and are watching the debate on the restructuring of the national leagues with the same interest as Sean.

“We want to finish as high as possible every season; the result in every game is important, but not as important as the enjoyment the game brings” pointed out Rob ‘Basher’ Lewis, the clubs hardworking administrator. “Narberth have the right man in Sean at present and we can see the professionalism and passion he brings being embedded in the Club.”

Narberth hope the winds of change doesn’t occur, yet Sean’s strengths include his man-management of players and the rapport he has with the committee and supporters.

“He is currently irreplaceable as that skill set is difficult to replicate. As a club we need a figurehead to ensure our development plan is delivered” said Rob. Narberth have the foresight to hopefully enhance the playing facilities with a 4G surface and build on the senior team’s success so it emanates through the youth and junior sections.

They have a trademark association with brand names in the County and are in discussions with new partners to help them build their dreams.

Clearly Narberth can manage the ‘here and now’ as they have a structure off the field to accommodate a match day experience to rival a professional club.

There are no Otters burying their heads underground as they strive to improve each year, sharpening their teeth ready for the next challenge whilst, fully embracing the ‘gale’ in which they find themselves.

“We are not waiting for the gale to pass us by” said Basher “but we are dancing in the rain he brings.”

Sport

Town back on top as Neyland beat Cresselly

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THE top three in Division 1 are now separated by just four points following Saturday’s (Jul 14) results.

Haverfordwest moved back to the top of the table with a ten wicket win at home to Johnston while Neyland beat Cresselly to bring themselves back into the title race.

Johnston batted first and had it not been for a score of 65 from Hafiz Farooq, their score could have been a lot less than the 148 they posted.

Simon Holliday took four wickets for Town who then had Dai Davies and Ben Field finish unbeaten as they comfortably secured the win.

Cresselly batted first against Neyland but they were restricted to 170-9 with Simon Cole top scoring on 77.

There were three wickets for Henry Durrant who later finished not out on 20 see Neyland to victory. Andrew Miller scored 37 and Paul Murray scored 29 earlier in Neyland’s run chase.

It is the second time this season that Cresselly have been top going into the weekend’s fixtures only to find themselves knocked off top spot following a defeat.

Elsewhere, there were three centuries in the game between Llangwm and Kilgetty in a thrilling encounter at Pill Parks.

Matthew Kiff scored 105 for Llangwm in their total of 297-5 but it wasn’t enough as Ross Hardy scored 106 and Kurtis Marsh finished unbeaten on 113 to see Kilgetty to victory.

Whitland remain in fourth place after they beat St Ishmaels by 114 runs.

It was a day for the batsman as Matthew Davies finished not out on 101 while Jack Bowen added 58 runs.

That saw Whitland to an excellent total of 310-7 but Tish were unable to replicate that score. Daniel Howells did score 73 for the home side but they were eventually all out for 196.

Lawrenny earned an eighth win of the season on Saturday as they beat Burton by two wickets.

Burton batted first but were all out for 142 as Brad McDermott-Jenkins took three wickets for the visitors. Richard Jones was Burton’s top scorer with 40 runs.

Lawrenny had scores of 71 from Steve Lewis and 44 from Steve Campbell as they reached their target despite three wickets apiece from Jack Davies and Johnnie Scale.

Those results mean Haverfordwest are top of the table by a point from second placed Cresselly and by four points from Neyland.

Whitland are sixteen points behind Town in fourth place and cannot be counted out of the title race just yet.

At the other end, Johnston’s defeat means they are now 120 points from safety and with only 150 points left to play for, it seems they are destined for Division 2 cricket next season.

On Saturday (July 21), new leaders Haverfordwest are away as they take on Kilgetty. Neyland are also away as they take on Johnston while Cresselly visit St Ishmaels.

Whitland are at home to Burton and Lawrenny host Llangwm.

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Sport

Neyland hold off Kilgetty to win Duggie Morris

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NEYLAND won the Duggie Morris Cup for the fifth time in six years on Sunday (Jul 15), as they beat Kilgetty by 66 runs in an entertaining final.

Kilgetty had been set a target of 154 to win the match but some excellent bowling from Neyland saw them finish short on 87-9.

Earlier, it was Kilgetty who won the toss and chose to bowl first, giving their opponents the chance to set the first score.

The game was played at the home of Burton Cricket Club with excellent weather conditions and a good crowd was also in attendance.

However, Kilgetty soon had the upper hand as Kurtis Marsh caught Ashley Sutton on a score of 10 to give Jack Parkinson his first wicket.

Paul Murray only scored 13 for Neyland before being trapped leg before by Kurtis Marsh and he then bowled Andrew Miller for a score of 8.

Nick Koomen scored 12 before being caught by Richard Cope off the bowling of Toby Poole and Jack Parkinson claimed his second wicket when he had Patrick Bellerby caught by Poole for a score of 17.

Neyland were struggling to find the runs as Scott Jones only scored 6 before he was caught by Marsh for Parkinson’s third.

Henry Durrant offered some resistance with a score of 24 that included a big six but he was then bowled by Marsh.

Kyle Marsh then had Sean Hannon caught by Parkinson for a score of 13 and George Evans was caught by Tom Lewis off the bowling of Richard Cope.

Geraint Rees finished not out on 10 for Neyland as they limped to a total of 124-9 from their opening twenty overs.

Parkinson finished with excellent figures of 3-25, Kurtis Marsh with 2-10 and Kyle Marsh with 3-23 from his two overs.

Kilgetty then made a blistering start to their innings as they smashed their way to 73-0 off the first seven overs.

Their momentum was checked however as Hardy was caught by Sean Hannon off the bowling of Nick Koomen for a score of 39.

Toby Poole was out for a score of 1 to the bowling of Andrew Miller and Koomen then had Kurtis Marsh trapped leg before for a fine knock of 37.

Richard Cope was bowled by Miller for a duck as the run rate slipped. Liam Cullen scored 18 but he was then caught by George Evans off the bowling of Henry Durrant.

Geraint Rees also had Dafydd Bevan caught by George Evans and Patrick Hannon had bowled Kyle Marsh for a score of 6.

Rees then bowled Josh Gorman before Hannon had Jack Parkinson caught by George Evans.

Neyland’s brilliant performance in the field meant that Kilgetty’s lead was just 11 runs at the halfway stage.

Patrick Hannon (2-35), Geraint Rees (2-32), Nick Koomen (2-17) and Andrew Miller (2-11) all bowled well as they kept Kilgetty’s lead down.

Neyland were determined to get rid of that deficit as quickly as possible and although they lost Patrick Bellerby for a score of 11, caught by Poole off the bowling of Parkinson, and Ashley Sutton for a score of 1, brilliantly stumped by Poole off the bowling of Cope, Paul Murray and Nick Koomen set the All White on their way.

Murray top scored with 56 runs and he shared 55 runs with Nick Koomen who went on to score 47.

Koomen was then bowled by Toby Poole while Murray was caught by Gorman off the bowling of Kyle Marsh.

Henry Durrant then scored 17 before he was run out and Scott Jones scored nine before being bowled by Hardy.

Sean Hannon also fell to the bowling of Hardy as Kilgetty hit back as they themselves looked to keep Neyland’s lead down.

Neyland finished their second innings on 164-7 meaning Kilgetty would need 154 to win the final.

Kilgetty’s reply did not get off to the best of starts as Kurtis Marsh was caught by sub fielder Steve Murray off the bowling of Patrick Hannon for a duck.

Ross Hardy made a score of 15 but was then bowled by Andrew Miller who also had Liam Cullen stumped by Sean Hannon.

Toby Poole batted well for a score of 31 but he was again stumped by Hannon off the bowling of Andrew Miller.

Dafydd Bevan also played well for a score of 29 but Geraint Rees forced him down the track leaving Hannon to claim a third stumping.

Kilgetty’s chase then faltered as no other batsman made it into double figures as Kyle Marsh was caught by Steve Murray off the bowling of Henry Durrant for a score of 1 and he then had Richard Cope superbly stumped by Hannon for a duck.

Rees picked up another wicket as he had Tom Lewis caught by Sean Hannon who then claimed a fifth stumping of the innings as he sent Josh Gorman back to the pavilion with a score of 4 to give Rees his third wicket.

Unfortunately for Kilgetty Ian Poole picked up an injury earlier in the day meaning he was unable to bat and their innings came to a close on 87-9.

That gave Neyland victory and they celebrated winning the Duggie Morris for the fifth time in six years.

Nick Koomen was awarded the Man of the Match trophy and winning captain Sean Hannon was presented with the Duggie Morris trophy.

 

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Kilgetty face Neyland in Duggie Morris Final

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KILGETTY and Neyland are set to face each other in the final of this year’s Duggie Morris tournament on Sunday (Jul 15).

The final will be played at Oatfield Park, home of Burton Cricket Club, and is set to start at 12pm.

Neyland have had a close affinity with the tournament in recent years, winning it four years in a row between 2013 and 2016.

Their 2017 run was only halted by defeat in the semi-finals to holders Whitland but they will be keen to get their hands back on the trophy.

Kilgetty have not been in the final of the tournament since 1997, the last time they picked up the trophy, having also won it the previous year.

Now in their first final for 21 years, they will certainly want to show that they are not just there to make up the numbers.

The two teams have also met in the final once before, way back in 1972, and on that occasion it was Kilgetty who came out on top.

Route to the final

Neyland made it through to the semi-finals as they beat Cresselly by five wickets thanks to an excellent century from Paul Murray.

Cresselly batted first and made a good total of 161-4 from their innings.

Although the home side took five wickets they were unable to stop Murray who finished not out on 100 to see Neyland through.

In the semis they met Haverfordwest and came out on top with a four wicket win. Town batted first but could only reach a total of 100-9.

Andrew Miller took four wickets for Neyland and he then scored 20 in their reply before being run out while Paul Murray scored 21.

Ashley Sutton then finished not out on 15 to see Neyland into the final.

Kilgetty began their route to the final with an excellent win over Hook in the first round after they smashed 227-4 from their 20 overs.

Hook were unable to match that total as they fell short on 116-8.

Kilgetty made it through to the last four as they beat Lawrenny by 18 runs and, batting first, they scored 125-7 with Kurtis Marsh top scoring on 66.

Lawrenny’s Harry Thomas took two wickets and Brad McDermott-Jenkins finished with figures of 2-16.

Thomas then scored 26 in Lawrenny’s reply but some excellent bowling restricted them well as they finished short of their target.

Marsh took three wickets for the loss of 18 runs while Toby Poole claimed two wickets for the home side.

They met holders Whitland in the semi-final and it was an excellent game. Whitland scored 181-3 in their innings only for Kilgetty to surpass that total.

They had scores of 46 from Kyle Marsh, 35 from Ross Hardy and 36 from Dafydd Bevan as they made it through to their first final since 1997.

Sunday’s final will be contested over two twenty over innings for each side and it will be important for both teams to hold an advantage at the halfway stage.

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