A MONUMENTAL effort by the Fishguard forwards on the Moors in the several minutes of overtime on Saturday (Feb 17) failed to secure a bonus point for the home side as promotion chasing Pontarddulais took a maximum five points from their 28-20 victory.
The silver streaked No. 8 Simon James claimed a try, his second of the game as the Seagulls never say die attitude epitomised the battle scars of Luke Harding, whose life was remembered with an impeccable minute’s silence for ‘The Gambler’ before kick off.
Luke, since his diagnosis of lung cancer 16 months ago had fought on the coal face every step of the way, raising more than £30,000 for Withybush Hospital but succumbed when his skills were required elsewhere and he knew ‘when he didn’t have the aces’ needed to win the game.
Having secured their third try outside half Kial Keane was unable to convert for the bonus point and referee Darren Randell signalled the end of the Division 2 encounter.
Referee Rendell had irked both sets of supporters during the game, his empathy for the underfoot conditions and numerous marginal decisions on the gain line, perhaps not seen impartially.
The Llanelli butcher did well to keep thirty players on the field as the physical encounter saw several flare ups with handbags flying and his shrill whistle echoing around the Paraddog towards the Irish Sea.
Those final minutes saw Fishguard skipper Kevin Walsh elect for two scrums alongside some tap and goes as the visiting defence, so strong throughout the game overstepped the offside line to ignite the blue touch paper.
The opening score came from teenage Pontardullais scrum half Ethan Dunne who marked his senior debut with a try after nearly twenty minutes.
Fishguard had enjoyed possession and territory in the lead up to the try with scrum half Andrew Williams dynamic before full back Liam Lazarus picked up the loose ball inside his own half, kicked over the top from which Dunne won the foot chase with some neat dribbling skills to tumble across the line.
Lazarus converted as he did for all the visitors four tries, alongside a commanding performance in defence and with ball in hand, comfortable to back his own skills, pace and decision making.
Lazarus wasn’t the only player to show an aptitude for direct running, opposite number Mike Jenkins and winger Sam Kurtz were anything but conservative in their running angles and support play, the hosts having flankers Chris Sousha and Luke Freebury on hand to keep their momentum alive.
Keane landed a penalty for a 7-3 score line before the ‘Bont’ crossed for a second try, Lazurus converting his own touchdown after winger Jared Walters created the space.
Second row Jacob Miles began the second period in a marauding style finding centre Gareth Thomas and outside half George Mbjoma willing ally’s as the ‘Ambers’ took control of the game.
Despite calls for offside at a line out and for a knock on in midfield, Thomas was able to cross for a converted try with six minutes played to extend the lead to 21-3.
Some ferocious and uncompromising tackles in midfield from both sides saw the back rows exchanging pleasantries on the ground, the visitors Rhys Samuel and fellow flanker Dean Courtney on par with James et al.
Winger Thomas George rounded off some excellent team play to reduce the deficit with an unconverted try, where hooker Walsh and fellow front row men Ryan McVeigh and Andrew Morrilo found a second wind, allowing centre Ben John and Narberth’s Dan Birch, on permit for a return to action after a metatarsal injury on the opening day of the season some space to run, with Kurtz crabbing in the background to link the play.
Gethin Williams, Thomas and co centre Paul Geary also took the opportunity to take the game forward, their play creating the bonus point try for No 8. Craig Davies, with replacement prop Andrew Williams of Woodpecker Carpentry a splinter in the home defence with his tenacity.
Fishguard to their credit responded by keeping the ball alive despite the fact second rows Jac and Gwylim Evans had parity in the line out, both involved in the open play with Walsh in gaining hard yards.
James scored the first of his brace, which Keane converted to set up the grandstand overtime finish, where John and Jenkins, alongside McVeigh were in the thick of the action to set up the final try from James.
‘You got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em, know when to walk away and know when to run; no need to count the money’ at this time, more the blessings and the reflection post-match should be on the future and not the past.
Bill Shankley may not have been right with his ramblings and I’m sure Luke will now have told him, his legacy being one of having that final ace.
The Seagulls will carry that with them to Mumbles on Saturday (Mar 3), as they stand four points clear of relegation whilst Pontarddulais will be geared up for a top of the table encounter when Whitland arrive at Coedback Parc.
Cresselly knock out holders Neyland
THERE will be a new name on the Harrison Allen Trophy this year after holders Neyland were knocked out by Cresselly on Thursday night (Jun21).
Thursday’s game was a repeat of the 2017 final and Cresselly were keen to exact some revenge for that defeat.
However, such revenge seemed unlikely at the halfway stage as Cresselly were restricted to 112-8 from their 22 overs.
Dan Sutton and Alex Bayley made scores of 12 and 14 respectively before being bowled by Nathan Banner and Nick Koomen.
Iwan Izzard was caught of the bowling of Patrick Hannon and that left Cresselly on 37-3.
Adam Chandler and Phil Williams then shared 42 runs for the fourth wicket as they looked to get the home side going.
Chandler hit 26 for Cresselly but he gave his wicket away as he walked down the wicket to play a shot but he missed the ball and Sean Hannon had an easy stumping.
Ryan Lewis and Dan James were both out without scoring as Neyland continued to bowl well.
Phil Williams added 18 but he was one of three victims to Andrew Miller. Nathan Banner was the pick of the bowlers as he claimed four wickets while Nick Koomen also struck twice.
Neyland would have been confident of reaching their target but an equally as good performance in the field from Cresselly restricted their rivals to 107-7.
In their reply openers Paul Murray scored 12 and Patrick Bellerby added 10 as they shared 29 runs for the first wicket.
Murray was caught by Neilson Cole off the bowling of Mike Shaw and moments later Banner was heading back to the pavilion as he was run out by Ryan Lewis for a duck.
29-2 became 30-3 as Bellerby was caught by Sion Jenkins off the bowling of Lewis. He then claimed his second wicket as he broke a partnership of 15 between Nick Koomen and Gregg Miller with the latter caught behind by Cole.
Nick Koomen had made a patient 23 but was then bowled by Tom Arthur.
Henry Durrant and Scott Jones finished the innings not out on 21 and 23 respectively but it wasn’t enough to take Neyland over the line.
They needed 13 off the last over but were unable to knock off those runs as they finished six runs short of their target.
It means that Cresselly join Llangwm, Lawrenny and Narberth in the last four of the competition and the draw for the semi-finals will be made on Wednesday (Jun 27) at the County Cricket Club meeting.
Lawrenny and Narberth through to last four
LAWRENNY are through to the semi-finals of the Harrison Allen Bowl after they beat St Ishmaels in the quarter final on Tuesday (Jun 19).
Division 2 side Narberth also made it through after they beat Burton on with the last ball of the game. Burton had earlier posted 155-8 from their 22 overs.
Narberth were 85-3 at the halfway stage and scores of 42 from Kyle Quartermaine and 29 from Lewis Hough saw the home side through.
At St Ishmaels, it was the home side who batted first and they posted 157-9 in their 22 overs.
Peter Bradshaw and Jack Nicholas opened the batting with a 22 run partnership before Bradshaw was trapped leg before by Rob Williams.
Nicholas and Brennan Devonald then shared 50 runs for the second wicket as they looked to give their side a good platform to build on.
That partnership was broken when Nicholas was bowled by Brad-McDermott-Jenkins for a score of 34.
Tish then lost three more wickets in quick succession as Devonald was caught by Rob Williams off the bowling of McDermott-Jenkins for a score of 23.
Phil Cockburn was then caught by Ryan Morton off the bowling Jamie Lewis and Andrew Williams was then run out by a brilliant throw from Harry Thomas.
That left Tish on 83-5 but a partnership of 24 steadied the ship. Jon Pawlett was then bowled by Morton for a score of 10 but Danny Howells and Andrew Palmer shared another 22 runs for the seventh wicket.
Howells hit three fours and a six in his knock of 34 but was then caught by Joe Kidney off the bowling of McDermott-Jenkins .
He then went on to claim two more wickets of Danny Flynn and Andrew Pawlett, the first of which brought a spectacular catch from Thomas, to finish with excellent figures of 5-32.
Andrew Palmer finished not out on 28 as Tish reached 157-9.
Lawrenny lost Simon Cole early on in their reply as he was caught by Peter Bradshaw off the bowling of Jon Pawlett.
McDermott-Jenkins and Harry Thomas then shared 43 runs for the second wicket but that was brought to an end when the former was caught by Cockburn off the bowling of Andrew Palmer.
Thomas and James Phillips then shared another good partnership of 52 runs as they passed a hundred runs with only two wickets down.
Phillips hit four fours and three sixes in his knock of 42 but he was then caught by Devonald off the bowling of Andrew Pawlett.
Joe Kidney fell soon after when he was caught by Howells off the bowling of Palmer.
Thomas then shared 28 runs with Patrick Elliot who was then bowled by Andrew Pawlett for a score of 12.
Tish were unable to take any further wickets as Rob Williams finished not out on 9 and Thomas not out on 35 to see their side through to the semi-finals.
Wednesday’s semi-final sees Pembroke hosting Llangwm while on Thursday, Cresselly take on Neyland.
Town on top after beating Neyland
HAVERFORDWEST are the new leaders in Division 1 after they beat NEYLAND by seven wickets on Saturday (Jun 16).
Neyland batted first but were all out for 93 with Adam James taking four wickets for Town. Nick Koomen and Scott Jones both scored 16 but it wasn’t enough for the visitors.
Simon Holliday then finished not out on 39 while Ben Field also scored 39 as Town reached their target with seven wickets still in hand.
CRESSELLY slipped out of first place after they suffered a surprise defeat at the hands of LAWRENNY.
Lawrenny batted first and were all out for 184 with Harry Thomas top scoring on 59 and Simon Cole adding 27.
Phil Williams then top scored with 30 runs for Cresselly in their reply but four wickets from Brad McDermott-Jenkins saw Cresselly bowled out for 143.
WHITLAND moved up to third place in the table as they beat KILGETTY by seven wickets thanks to a half century from Dylan Blain.
Kilgetty batted first but were all out for 147 as Ben Harvey and Matthew Davies both took three wickets.
Liam Cullen scored 49 and Ross Hardy added 45 for Kilgetty while only one other batter made it into double figures.
Jonathan Strawbridge then scored 42 in reply for Whitland while Blain finished not out on 57 to guide his side to victory.
LLANGWM made light work of their game against bottom side JOHNSTON as they bowled them out for 75 with Steve James top scoring on 21.
Ollie Davies took five wickets for Llangwm who went on to reach their target inside 13 overs for the loss of just one wicket.
Noah Davies and Will Beresford shared 68 runs for the first wicket before Davies was out to the bowling of Nathan James for a score of 32.
Beresford finished not out on 41 as Llangwm sealed their fourth win of the season.
ST ISHMAELS picked up a welcome win as they beat BURTON by seven wickets to move out of the bottom two.
Burton reached 142-8 in their innings with Luke Hayman scoring 37 and Morgan Scale adding 28 late on.
Andrew Palmer took four wickets for Tish while Jonathan Pawlett also struck twice.
Tish then reached their target with Daniel Richard scoring 40 and Peter Bradshaw finishing not out on 70.
On Saturday, June 23, new leaders Haverfordwest will look to keep hold of top spot when they take on Burton.
Johnston face a strong Whitland side while Lawrenny are at home as they take on Kilgetty.
Cresselly will look to bounce back from Saturday’s defeat when they travel to Llangwm and Neyland will look to put an end to their recent losing streak as they host St Ishmaels.
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