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2018 Cricket season preview

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THE Pembroke County Cricket Club season gets under way on Sunday (Apr 22) with a full programme of fixtures scheduled across the five divisions.

The season, set over eighteen fixtures, has several new rules invoked; the biggest innovation sees sides batting first possibly able to gain 29 points even if they don’t win the game. Pembrokeshire has traditionally rewarded winning sides with 30 points, 20 for winning and ten bonus points, five available, one for every two wickets taken and then up to five points for batting, in the top divisions at 40 runs and in the lower divisions 30 runs.

Current holders of the James Morris Memorial Cup as first division champions are Carew, who were controversially demoted following the end of the 2017 season shenanigans on the final day, which also saw skipper Brian Hall banned from the game for the 2018 season, half of which is suspended.

With the village sides absence from the top echelon, close neighbours Cresselly have moved swiftly to strengthen their side, the arrival of Johnston all-rounder Dan Sutton the key acquisition. Skipper Neilson Cole will have an array of batting talent to go alongside the George Cole Cup winner, who scored 936 runs last season for Johnston, 318 more than new team mate Iwan Izzard in second place.

Sutton should open the innings with Adam Chandler, who himself rattled 469 runs, the Doves filling their top order places with veterans Simon Cole, Phil Williams, former Glamorgan opening batsman Dan Cherry (319 runs from 6 innings), Alex Bayley and Matthew Morgan, returning home from London.

Their bowling options will utilise Sutton and last season’s opening pair of Neil Gregory (25 wickets) and Dan James (20 wickets) alongside Tom Arthur on a track prepared by groundsman Dick ‘The Dog’ Arthur. Cole will also have a spin from Simon Cole another veteran in Ryan Lewis (20 wickets) and Mike Shaw. Steffan ‘Boxer’ Jenkins leads the second XI in the division below, their first fixture an intriguing one as they travel down the hill to Carew, with his sister Megan Arthur leading the third team challenge from the picturesque Castle Ground.

Whitland skipper Iestyn Scourfield has also recruited well for the 2018 season as former players Steffan James and Owain Evans have returned to the fold from South Wales Premier League side Carmarthen Wanderers.

Whitland – Duggie Morris Cup winners 2017

James will become available on his return from University in Leeds by the end of May, with Evans slotting into the top order and doubling up as wicketkeeper for Scourfield, who took 26 wickets last season.  This will compensate for the loss of all-rounder Scott Newton, on a year sabbatical travelling around Australia.

Another all-rounder, Jonathan Thomas (356 runs) will be a rock around which their game plan is built once rugby commitments pass as the seasons overlap, alongside Matthew ‘Titch’ Davies who will be understudy to his skipper bringing experience with his medium pacers and batting.

Scourfield can also call upon other veterans Wayne Howells (389 runs), Wil Spreadbury (375 runs), Dylan Blain and Greg Sleep. Supporting Scourfield with the new ball maybe his cousin Gethin, after a successful season last year. Wayne Jones continues as skipper of the stiffs in the second division and veteran former Club Captain Mark Lee leads the third team in division five.

Neyland will be led once again by County skipper Sean Hannon from his wicket-keeping berth, with Patrick Bellerby (445 runs), Paul Murray (434 runs) and Ashley Sutton, when rugby commitments allow the key run gatherers, alongside youngsters Geraint Rees and all-rounder Scott Jones.

Nathan Banner will be an asset if he is available for all the games as Hannon will continue to have veteran Andrew Millers talents at his disposal, as he topped the bowling chart last season with 37 wickets with his canny off spin, supported by another key all-rounder Nick Koomen who took 19 wickets in 2017.

Seamer Henry Durrant should share the new ball with seventeen year old Jamie Smith, who burst onto the scene last season. Bellerby is also a top class fielder for the all whites who work hard and pride themselves on their high standards, as he snaffled six catches in the Harrison Allen Final victory last year.

Their 2nd XI will again be captained by Paul Miller and the third team by Sam Laugharne, grandson of first team scorer John. Another club stalwart Ian Milsom is lead groundsman at the Athletic Ground, son Ben Mathias-Milsom assisting and wicket preparation down to Rob Bellerby.

Haverfordwest, the oldest Club in Wales have batsman Dan Potter at the helm for the sixth season, with all-rounder Simon Holliday committing himself to the Club once more following much pre-season debate on his unhappiness with the wicket.

Former assistant groundsman Martin Thomas has returned to nurture the Racecourse grounds, as Wales XL (40 Club) skipper Holliday (453 runs and 23 wickets) will have another veteran in Ben Field at the top of the order alongside young all-rounder Kieron O’Connor.

The availability for a full season of Adam Raymond and Nigel Delaney is doubtful giving Sean Williams the opportunity to cement a place in the absence early season of teenager Nikhil Mathias and University student Dan Cole. The opening attack should feature Adam James after a curtailed 2017 through injury and left arm quickie Johnnie White, who took 25 wickets in his first season in the top echelon.

Adam James: Returning from injury for Haverfordwest

The opening bowlers’ brother, Ashley James is missing the start of the campaign due to work commitments so much of the workload will be borne by new Club Treasurer Chris Phillips and youngster Archie Thomas, as veteran all-rounder Nigel Morgan has been pencilled in to lead the second team. Paul Maggs will once again skipper the third team in Division three and Jason Phillips will be turning the spuds as skipper of the fourth team, where he hopes son William will become a regular, in division five.

Kilgetty have lost last season’s skipper Ian Poole on a regular basis, as he concentrates on his fitness for the forthcoming inaugural Over 50’s World Cup in Australia. New skipper will be Ross Hardy, who will open the innings and perform with the ball having taken 18 wickets last season.

Young all-rounder Kurtis Marsh became a key player at Kingsmoor on their return to Division 1, scoring 457 runs and taking 18 wickets with his off spin, which earnt him a deserved County call up and he will also be a key player if they wish to avoid the worries of last season.

Former Wales age group opening bowler Jack Parkinson, when rugby commitments allow and Kyle Marsh will be names on the team sheet, alongside new wicketkeeper Dafydd Bevan who has moved down A477 from Carew to take over from the gloves from Geoff Marsh. The Ground will again be manicured by Ian Poole, with all-rounder Andrew Evans leading the second team in Division 5.

Lawrenny will once again have opening batsman Brad McDermot-Jenkins as skipper hoping to build on his accumulation of 304 runs last season, alongside Joe Kidney, the left hander plundering 301 runs at the top of the order.

Simon Cole: In action for Lawrenny last season

The skippers dad Ian Jenkins will continue for another season alongside fellow veteran and former Wales opening bowler Rob Williams (18 wickets), Steve ‘Clew’ Lewis and wicketkeeper / batsman James Buckle. Simon ‘Chiefy’ Cole will be the heartbeat of the side alongside all-rounders Harry Thomas and teenager Ryan Morton, a name to watch as he establishes himself in the side, alongside Matthew Lewis. The second team, Alec Colley Cup winners last season will continue to be skippered by veteran wicketkeeper / batsman Huw Griffiths with the ground work undertaken by first team scorer Malcolm Thomas and Chris Jenkins.

St Ishmaels have a new skipper for the season, top order batsman Phil Cockburn (395 runs) taking over from Peter Bradshaw (376 runs), who will continue to open the batting for the peninsular village side. Veteran Andrew Williams will feature heavily with bat and ball for ‘Tish’ alongside Jonathan and Andrew Pawlett and Andrew Palmer who both took 29 wickets last season.

Daniel Flynn, third in the County bowling charts with 34 wickets will lead the spin attack alongside all-rounder Daniel Howells, stepping up as number two to Cockburn. Jordan Millich should make a mark as he has become accustomed to rigours of the first division and the arrival of talented twins Harry and Jack Nicholls from rivals Herbrandston will strengthen the side, Jack taking the gloves for the ensuing season. Veteran all-rounder Robbie Thomas leads the second team in division four, with Mel Williams the leading light on the Recreation ground alongside Kevin Bowen.

Johnston have lost Sutton to Cresselly and last season’s skipper Lee Summons (532 runs) has stood down from post but remains with the Club, alongside his father John. All-rounder Chris Fitzpatrick has taken the helm but will be without veteran bowler Richard James due to work commitments and possibly his son Gary will also miss the majority of the season.

Second team skipper and groundsman Steve James son Nathan will be thrust to the forefront of the side alongside youngster Lewis Boswell and his elder brother, wicketkeeper Liam, the team sheet also holding the names of brothers Ross and Daniel Dewstowe, both of whom could make an impact in the top division alongside Chris Goodridge.

Newly promoted sides Llangwm and Burton have stuck with the captains which led the promotion charge from last season. Burton will have Richard Jones chirping instructions from behind the wicket to cajole the best out of veteran opening bowler Jon Scale (22 wickets), with Luke Hayman also taking 22 wickets last season to go with his 347 runs.

Key all-rounder Morgan Scale’s off spinners took 23 wickets and he stroked 347 runs with the Davies brothers, James and Jon featuring in the attack for Jones. Top run gatherer Jonathan Venables (369 runs) alongside Hayman’s younger brother Toby on return from injury and opening batsman Martyn James (327 runs) will form the basis from which Burton can score heavily. Dan Griffiths will again skipper the second team in division four, with his grandad Brian ensuring the ground is in tip top condition alongside Dai Goodridge.

Dan Jones Cup winners Llangwm have bowler Ollie Davies (28 wickets) leading the side, with former skipper Joseph Kiff (414 runs) acting as his deputy. All-rounder Chris Inward is available all season after his foray to Carmarthen Wanderers last year as he, Mathew Kiff (33 wickets) and teenage all-rounder Noah Davies (29 wickets and 447 runs) will vie for the new ball.

Veteran wicketkeeper Wil Beresford (430 runs) will open the innings with Davies, as top order batsman James Venables returns to full fitness.  Richard Brock and his cousins Luke and Huw complete a potentially strong batting line up alongside all-rounder Phil Llewellyn (26 wickets).

Youngsters Toby Asson, when he returns from University and Ewan Griffiths should have a golden opportunity to perform as the Pill Parks side have veteran bowler Sean Thomas leading the second team in Division four after promotion last season. Ian Gow will continue as head groundsman assisted by Julian Platten, new club vice chairman Simon Richards, with Jeremy Brock.

County Club Chairman Paul Webb said: “We wish all as cricketers, umpires, scores and supporters the very best for the forthcoming season, where cricket will be the winner. I’m hoping we have competitive and spirited matches across all five divisions as we provide cricket for 49 teams.”

Paul Webb: Wished everyone well for 2018

Webb, in his second year as Chairman of the County Club, plies his trade with Cresselly and is also skipper of the Welsh Over 50’s team, will continue to attend as many matches and grounds as he did in 2017, hoping he and his wife Janice receive a friendly welcome.

He will also be a County Selector for the forthcoming season where Pembroke County have fixtures arranged starting on Sunday (May 13) when the Wales XL (40 Club) are welcomed to Kilgetty.

The week after the South Wales League come to Lawrenny with the return fixture at Llandysul on Sunday (June 10).

Pembroke Dock play host to Wales U17’s on Thursday (July 5), Glamorgan 2nds making the trip to Cresselly on Tuesday (Aug 7) and the MCC being entertained at Whitland on Wednesday (Aug 15).

The prestigious Harrison Allen Bowl Final will be held on Saturday (July 28) at Cresselly with the other major cup competition finals being the D R Morris Cup: Sunday (July 15) at Burton CC, Alec Coley Cup: Sunday (Aug 12) at Pembroke CC, Ormond Youth Cup: Sunday (Aug 26) at Carew CC and the Ormond Youth Plate: Friday (Aug 3), at Lawrenny CC.

The postponed 2017 Jubilee Cup final between Harrison Allen Bowl winners Neyland and Division one Winners Carew will take place at the Athletic Ground, Neyland on Sunday (June 17).

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Bluebirds awarded promotion to the Cymru Premier League

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Paul Davies MS and David Hughes during a visit to Haverfordwest County AFC before lockdown restrictions were introduced in Wales

HAVERFORDWEST COUNTY AFC have secured their promotion to the Cymru Premier League.

Following the Football Association of Wales (FAW) decision back in March to curtail all domestic football throughout Wales, many teams have waited in angst for clarification on how the promotion and relegation process would be decided.

The FAW, confirmed on Tuesday, June 16, using the ‘average points per game’ method that Haverfordwest County AFC had done enough to be promoted to the Cymru Premier for the upcoming 2020/2021 season.

Taking to their website to confirm the news, the club said “It is nothing less than Wayne, the coaching staff, players, board and volunteers deserve after a fantastic effort last season.

“It has been a long wait to learn our fate, but the club and its staff have worked tirelessly on and off the pitch to ensure we had as much in place as possible, and following the announcement we can now hit the ground running and prepare for next season.

“We cannot wait to welcome the best teams in Wales to The Bridge Meadow!”

Local Member of the Welsh Parliament Paul Davies has also added his congratulations to Haverfordwest County AFC on their promotion back to the JD Cymru Premier League.

Commenting on the achievement, Paul Davies said “It’s great that Haverfordwest County will once again compete in the Premier National League of Wales with the likes of The New Saints, Barry Town and newly crowned champions Connah’s Quay Nomads. The management and players have done a fantastic job in gaining promotion from the JD Cymru South League.”

“With the Conygar Bridge Meadow Stadium widely regarded as being one of the top grounds in Welsh non-league football, it’s only fitting that the Bluebirds will be back in the premier division.”

“I would also take the opportunity to thank David Hughes and Rob Davies for the work they have done as Chairman and Vice Chairman of the club respectively. I have known David for a number of years and he has worked tirelessly for the club. I’m delighted to learn that both David and Rob will stay on the Board as Robert Edwards takes over as Chairman. Their knowledge and experience will be vital moving forward into this exciting new era.”

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Nigel Owens hosts virtual rugby quiz for Pembroke Panthers

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PEMBROKE Panthers RFC enjoyed a rugby return during lockdown after winning a competition which saw international referee Nigel Owens host their own virtual clubhouse quiz, thanks to Principality Building Society.

The women’s squad at the Pembroke club beat more than 1000 entries to win Principality’s Clubhouse Quiz competition. With many clubs affected by widespread flooding at the start of this year and now closed indefinitely due to coronavirus, the building society is continually looking for ways to support grassroots rugby clubs in Wales.

Pembroke Panther Lucy Neale, 30, entered her team with the hope of bringing the players together online. She said: “We’d usually see each other up to five times a week between training sessions, matches and socials, so it’s been a really strange time. I thought I’d enter the club thinking it would be a nice pick-me-up for us all, but never actually expected to win so it was an amazing surprise.”

The team were tested on their rugby knowledge by world cup referee Nigel Owens over video conferencing platform Zoom, where players won tickets to Welsh internationals at Principality Stadium, signed rugby shirts and balls, and tickets for a tour around Principality Stadium. The quiz included a guest appearance from former Welsh international Tom Shanklin.

Lucy continued: “It was such a memorable and special evening for us all. We’re usually quite a lively bunch but we behaved well for Nigel. We’re so thankful to Principality for putting on the quiz and allowing us to enjoy this once in a lifetime experience as a team.”

As sponsors of Principality Stadium and the National Youth Leagues for grassroots clubs in Wales, Principality has a strong relationship with the Welsh Rugby Union and knows how much rugby means to communities across the country. With matches on hold currently, the building society wanted to be able to bring the buzz of the clubhouse to the home.

Clubhouse Quiz host, Nigel Owens, said: “Principality’s Clubhouse Quiz was a fantastic way to bring one team closer together and Pembroke Panthers really showed off their rugby knowledge. Rugby plays such an important role in Welsh communities and I know they’ll be missing the action on the field right now, so it was lovely to have been part of this experience to bring this team together. Thankfully, I didn’t have to sin bin any of them either.”

Julie-Ann Haines, Chief Customer Officer at Principality Building Society, said: “Many rugby clubs across Wales have had a really difficult year, with flood damage to pitches and clubhouses now followed by coronavirus. This was our chance to recreate the camaraderie of the clubhouse for one team and we hope that it brought plenty of laughs and memorable moments for Pembroke Panthers at this challenging time.”

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Wales v Scotland postponed

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WALES’ Six Nations match at home to Scotland on Saturday has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The two other Six Nation fixtures had already been postponed and no date has been confirmed to complete the 2020 Championship.

The Welsh Rugby Union had insisted earlier on Friday the game would “go ahead as planned”.

A WRU statement read: “The Welsh Rugby Union has maintained an open dialogue with, and continued to seek advice and direction from, the National Assembly for Wales and other stakeholders, including the Six Nations, on this fast-moving issue.

“Whilst medical advice remains consistent, we have decided that it is in the best interests of supporters, players and staff to fall in line with recent measures taken across the UK and global sports industries.

“The WRU would like to thank all parties for their counsel on the subject and will make further announcements with respect to rescheduling the fixture in the coming days.

“Every effort has been made to stage this game and we appreciate that individuals will have been inconvenienced. Given the fluid and unprecedented nature of this issue a postponement became the only viable option.”

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