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Thrilling finale sees Clarby through to Final

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CLARBESTON Road are the first team into the Senior Cup final after they knocked out holders Merlins Bridge on Wednesday night (Feb 21), thanks to a last minute deflected strike from Ieuan Cooke.

The Bridge, who had a man sent off with twenty minutes to go, had thought they forced the game into extra time when Chris Ormond headed in but it wasn’t to be as Cooke’s winner sent the Clarby players and fans into delirium.

The game was a repeat of last season’s Final which the Wizards won and both sides were clearly determined to reach the Final once more.

It was a quiet first half with Merlins Bridge shading the possession and having the better of the chances.

Will Haworth came close for the Wizards but his shot was pushed wide by Clarby keeper Lee Scott.

Adam Hawkins also tried his luck but his shot was tame and was easily saved by Scott.

On the half hour mark, Clarby’s Jason Griffiths tried a long shot but Bridge keeper Gary Thomas was equal to it.

A minute later, Griffiths flashed a ball across the face of goal but nobody was able to get on the end of it.

Joey George then sent an inviting cross to the back post for Hawkins but as the Clarby players appealed for offside, he could only send his effort into the side netting.

Matthew D’Ivry then played Hawkins in once more but he dragged his shot well wide of the posts.

Then on the stroke of half time Clarby got the all-important breakthrough as Tom Reubens beat the defender before sending a shot towards goal which was deflected in by the Wizards’ Richard Hughes.

There was still time for Merlins Bridge to come back and from the kick off a long ball was missed by the Clarby defence allowing Will Haworth in but his shot was saved at the near post.

The half time whistle went with Clarby leading by a goal to nil but the game was still up for grabs.

The Wizards started well in the second half and Luke Hayward saw his effort pushed wide by Scott and from the resulting corner, Hawkins saw his volleyed effort also saved.

Mike Turpin then sent a cross into the box which had to be tipped over by Bridge keeper Thomas with players lurking.

Bridge top scorer Nathan Greene was introduced to the action and he almost made an immediate impact when he turned and shot towards goal but Scott got down well to save it.

Then came a few moments of madness from Bridge defender Richard Hughes as he was booked and then brought down Clarby’s Matthew Davies and after waving play on, referee Sean O’Connor waited for play to end before producing a second yellow card for Hughes.

Despite being down to ten men the Wizards still had chances and Hawkins saw a shot saved before Greene saw an effort cannon back off the crossbar.

With three minutes to go the Wizards were awarded a free kick which D’Ivry delivered and Chris Ormond rose highest to head the ball into the net despite the best efforts of the Clarby keeper to save it.

That got their tails up and moments later Greene headed over from a corner as the Bridge pushed for a winner.

Then, deep into injury time, a ball into the box fell to Ieuan Cooke and his effort looked as if it would be saved by Thomas but a Bridge defender stuck an unfortunate leg out and the ball bounced off him and into the net.

Nathan Greene heads over from a corner

That sent the Clarby players and coaches wild and they held on to reach the final for the second year in a row.

They will now play the winners of the second semi-final between Carew and Hakin United which takes place next Wednesday (Feb 28).

Speaking after the match, Clarbeston Road coach Matthew Ellis said: “Everyone gave 110% as we knew we would have a tough night ahead of us. They started at a high pace and were on top until we changed formation slightly and this slowly got us into the game.

“The goal came at the perfect time and gave us a massive boost going into half time knowing they would have to break us down and would leave gaps at the back. Tom Reubens has been excellent this season and showed his power and pace to create the goal.

“The sending off didn’t really affect the game as we kept the same shape and allowed them to have the ball in their half as we tried to conserve energy for the final onslaught.

“It was a big blow when they scored when they did, I gave away the free kick which led to the goal so when Cookie got the goal in injury time I was ecstatic as none of us wanted extra time.

“It is a massive achievement for the team and the whole club as it is so well run behind the scenes. This is a reward for both us and them.

“Two senior cup finals in two seasons is outstanding, let’s hope this season we will be the winning side!”

Sport

Walking rugby is a game for all ages and abilities

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WALKING RUGBY has taken off throughout Wales in the last 12 months and is benefitting participants in more ways than one.

The participants – male and female of all ages and abilities including one man who lost his sight 13 years ago – talk of clear benefits to their physical health and crucially, their mental health through being involved in the groups.

The number of Walking Rugby groups in Wales grew organically from two in December 2018 to 16 just twelve months later and new groups are starting up all the time.

A range of organisations from rugby clubs to charities, Health Boards and third sector bodies are seeing the benefit of the inclusive rugby format and engaging more than 300 participants on a weekly basis.
The Aneurin Bevan Mental Health unit has worked with the Dragons Community team to set up a team of their own, training weekly at Rodney Parade.

Kevin Hale, Community Support Worker for the Aneurin Bevan Health Board Forensic Psychiatry Service, who set up the Dragons NHS Walking Rugby team said, “From a mental health point of view it’s been priceless, the social benefits, in particular, are tremendous. Many of the players were very shy at the start and quite withdrawn but confidence levels and communication skills have grown massively and they have told us Walking Rugby has helped them in other areas of their lives.

“It started off as a means to get some of our service users active and also to have some social time afterwards to discuss any issues they’re having. It’s gone from strength to strength and we’ve opened up the opportunity so that anyone can join us at Rodney Parade on a Tuesday afternoon.

Christian Hyde now plays for the Dragons NHS team despite having lost his sight through diabetes.
“I played rugby from the age of 8 to 26. After losing my sight, I had to stop playing – and refereeing. You really miss being part of a rugby environment so being back involved in the game is huge for me and something I never thought I’d do.

“I’m already involved with the visually impaired rugby at Cardiff Blues but being a Dragons supporter, I’m thrilled to be able to train at Rodney Parade and to be involved in matches again like the recent festival. To have ten teams turn up shows the enjoyment we’re all having.”

Anne Jackson plays for Pontyclun Walking Rugby. She said “I’m the only woman at the club at the moment and we could do with more. It really is for everyone. It’s wonderful. It keeps you active – I’ve got fitter since playing Walking Rugby. We train twice a week on a Monday evening and Wednesday morning. We laugh most of the time, we all get on very well.”

Former Wales full-back and Cross Keys coach Morgan Stoddart coaches the Cambrian Walking Rugby group in the Rhondda. He said, “We regularly get 15 or 16 players at our twice-weekly training sessions, we had 12 teams at recent Walking Rugby festivals in Treorchy and Cambrian so it’s gaining popularity all the time.

“Quite a few of the players played rugby in their youth and others haven’t played much sport at all throughout their lives. One lady, Frances Jones, is a regular player and still going strong at 84!

“They enjoy the exercise and also the friendship and camaraderie they gain from it. I enjoy it too, it’s a real change from competitive league rugby as it’s so open to male and female players of all ages and abilities.”
While the format is fully inclusive to all ages, genders and abilities, its main appeal is to Wales’ older and socially isolated population. With more than 877 000 people over 60 in Wales (just under 30% of the population), and that figure set to rise to over one million by 2030*, social isolation and mental health issues are a real issue.

The Welsh Government Strategy for Older People in Wales (2013-2023): Living Longer, Ageing Well, states that loneliness is a real health risk – ‘the same as smoking and twice that of obesity.. that staying physically active protects mental and physical health and that older people say that if they are able to participate in social and leisure activities, they are more likely to say they feel well.’

Based on this evidence, it is no surprise that some GPs are now referring patients to Walking Rugby for the physical and social benefits it brings.

Greg Woods, WRU Enterprise Manager said: “Anyone can play Walking Rugby, whether you’re a lapsed rugby player or new to the game. It’s a social, enjoyable activity with obvious physical and mental health benefits. There is clearly a growing demand for more Walking Rugby opportunities around Wales and we are working with the current groups and a wide range of other partners to not only cater for that demand but provide support to the volunteers running the clubs and work with others to set up new outlets.”

WRU Community Director Geraint John added: “It’s exciting to see the growth of Walking Rugby and to think of its future benefits to the health and well-being of the people of Wales – both the current or recent rugby-playing population and those who could join the rugby family through the Walking Rugby format”.

If you want to start a walking rugby club, get in touch for advice and support participation@wru.wales

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Sport

Rally Sweden joy for Evans

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Elfyn Evans leads the 2020 FIA World Rally Championship after rewriting the sporting history books with an outstanding victory on this weekend’s Rally Sweden (13-16 February).

The Welshman not only becomes the first-ever British driver to win the wintry Scandinavian classic but also is the first Briton to top the WRC points table since the heady days of Colin McRae and Richard Burns nearly 20 years ago at the start of the century.

On only his second outing for the Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team, Evans overcame the odds to lead the notorious tricky winter fixture from start to finish, winning five of the nine stages to beat Hyundai’s defending champion Ott Tänak by 12.7 seconds.

The victory elevates Evans to jointly lead the championship, tied on 42 points with last month’s Monte Carlo winner Thierry Neuville, but ahead of the Belgian on countback.

“It was a great weekend and I feel really good to have my first win with Toyota in just our second event together,” enthused a delighted Evans. “Big effort trying to settle into a new team but the guys have made the job very, very easy and given us everything we could have wanted. They’ve given me great support and a great car that is ging me great confidence. In the changeable conditions we had in Sweden, that’s really worth a lot. Hopefully, we can carry this form onto the gravel in the events to come.”

Adding to the celebrations, it was a first WRC win (on his 132nd start) for Scott Martin, Evans’ experienced co-driver who joined forces with the Welshman at the start of last season.

The pair’s dominant performance was all the more impressive as it came in ultra-challenging conditions with the unseasonal weather serving up a treacherous mix of snow, slush, ice and gravel in the usually frozen forests. Moreover, several stages had to be cancelled to protect the roads, thus turning the event into a shortened, high-speed sprint format and heaping extra pressures onto all the competing crews.

Though eclipsed by the masterful Evans, Tänak bounced back after his terrifying crash on the Monte Carlo Rally to ignite his title defence with a strong second place, while teenage sensation Kalle Rovanperrä took third in the second of the Toyota Yaris WRCs. The 19-year-old Finn outgunned team-mate, and six-time world champion, Sébastien Ogier in a final test shootout to claim his first WRC podium on just his second appearance at the top level.
From the European winter, the 13-round FIA World Rally Championship now heads for the heat and dust of Mexico. Thereafter showdowns in Argentina, Kenya, New Zealand and throughout Europe follow before the teams head to the UK in late October for this season’s penultimate encounter. Thereafter the season finale is staged in Japan.

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Sport

WALES TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT

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Wales have made one change to their starting XV to face Ireland this weekend with Nick Tompkins, who made a try scoring debut in round one, coming into the side.
Tompkins will line-up at outside centre with George North moving to the wing for the clash in Dublin.
North will line-up in an experienced back-three alongside Josh Adams and Leigh Halfpenny whilst Tompkins will partner Hadleigh Parkes in the midfield. Tomos Williams and Dan Biggar continue their partnership at half-back.
Wales have named an unchanged pack with Wyn Jones, Ken Owens and Dillon Lewis in the front-row and Jake Ball lining up alongside captain Alun Wyn Jones.
Aaron Wainwright, Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau feature in the back-row.
“We’ve made just one change after a winning start last weekend,” said Wales head coach Wayne Pivac.
“Nick comes into the side, I thought he played exceptionally well when he came on last week so he deserves the start. George, who played really well last weekend at centre, moves back out to the wing.
“On the bench we have a few players back available, Rhys Carre impressed at the RWC and he comes back in. Adam Beard comes in for Cory Hill who picked up a leg injury earlier this week, Gareth (Davies) is fully fit and Owen Williams comes onto the bench and gives us a bit more cover.
“Momentum is important in the Championship, it was nice to get a good winning start under our belts and hopefully we can build on that through the tournament.”
On the bench Rhys Carre joins Ryan Elias and Leon Brown as the front-row replacements with Adam Beard and Ross Moriarty completing the forward contingent. Gareth Davies, Owen Williams and Johnny McNicholl provide the back-line cover.

WALES TEAM TO PLAY IRELAND (Saturday February 8 KO14.15 ITV & S4C)
15. Leigh Halfpenny (86 Caps)
14. George North (92 Caps)
13. Nick Tompkins (1 Cap)
12. Hadleigh Parkes (26 Caps)
11. Josh Adams (22 Caps)
10. Dan Biggar (80 Caps)
9. Tomos Williams (17 Caps)
1. Wyn Jones (23 Caps)
2. Ken Owens (74 Caps)
3. Dillon Lewis (23 Caps)
4. Jake Ball (43 Caps)
5. Alun Wyn Jones (C) (135 Caps)
6. Aaron Wainwright (19 Caps)
7. Justin Tipuric (73 Caps)
8. Taulupe Faletau (73 Caps)

Replacements:
16. Ryan Elias (10 Caps)
17. Rhys Carre (6 Caps)
18. Leon Brown (7 Caps)
19. Adam Beard (20 Caps)
20. Ross Moriarty (42 Caps)
21. Gareth Davies (51 Caps)
22. Owen Williams (3 Caps)
23. Johnny McNicholl (1 Cap)

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