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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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Wales thump Ireland to seal Grand Slam

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WALES secured a historic Grand Slam on Saturday (Mar 16), as they thumped Ireland 25-7 at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.

Going into the game they knew that a win would see them crowned Six Nations Champions and that anything but would have opened the door for the Irish or England to snatch the title.

However, Wales were in no mood to let their Grand Slam hopes fade away and scored with just over a minute on the clock gone, and they never looked back.

It was the perfect start for Warren Gatland’s men as Ken Owens’ throw found its way to Gareth Anscombe who beautifully chipped over for Hadleigh Parkes to catch and touch down. Anscombe then added the extras.

It meant that Jonathan Sexton’s first act of the game was to restart it but they very nearly scored moments after, only for an excellent tackle.

Jacob Stockdale picked the ball up and looked as if he would run to the try line but Parkes made a try-saving tackle and Wales were able to win the ball back.

Wales increased their lead with a penalty on 18 minutes with a 49-metre penalty from Anscombe and they continued to push forward, not wanting to sit on their lead.

Two minutes later they had a penalty advantage but when the ball was kicked ahead, Gareth Davies’ over-eagerness saw him tackle the Irish player after the whistle had gone, much to the displeasure of the four Irishmen around him. The penalty was reversed.

Irish errors continued to be punished though and with five minutes of the first half remaining, Anscombe sent another penalty through the posts to make it 13-0.

On the stroke of half time, Ireland were guilty of collapsing the scrum and Anscombe again scored a penalty to give Wales a 16-0 lead at the break.

The first score in the second half would prove crucial, a Wales score would deflate Ireland while an Ireland score would give them hope.

After both sides traded penalties it was the home team who got the first points as Anscombe again punished Ireland with a 33-metre penalty which sailed just inside the posts to make it 19-0.

The Grand Slam was within Wales’ grasp and when Sexton’s restart went out of play, you got the sense that an Irish comeback seemed unlikely.

Another penalty from Anscombe made it 22-0 with just under half an hour to play but Ireland came back looking for a way into the game. However, try as they might they passed the ball out of play.

Connor Murray then came close to scoring but was held up and some excellent defending saw Wales turn the ball over.

With just over ten minutes to go Anscombe scored his sixth penalty to continue his perfect record and it was only a matter of time before Wales were crowned champions.

There was still time for Ireland to attack though and came close as Wales were penalised for being offside on three occasions but a knock on allowed Wales to clear the ball.

As the clock ticked over the 80 minutes, Wales knew they had done enough to secure the Grand Slam and a fourteenth win in a row but Ireland were not going down without a fight.

Stockdale was again halted but the ball was recycled to Jordan Larmour who dived over for a consolation try. Jack Carty added the extras but the celebrations for Wales had already begun.

It was a third Six Nations title for Warren Gatland in his final tournament, his second Grand Slam, proving that Wales were the one team to beat.

They will now look forward to preparing for the World Cup in Japan which starts in September.

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Wales name unchanged team

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WALES have named an unchanged matchday squad for their final 2019 Guinness Six Nations encounter against Ireland in Cardiff on Saturday.

Warren Gatland will oversee his 50th Six Nations match for Wales this weekend and his side goes into the game as the only unbeaten team in the tournament with four victories to their name.

Captain Alun Wyn Jones will equal Welshman Gethin Jenkins’ total test appearance record as he moves to 134 test caps (125 Wales, 9 British & Irish Lions) and to joint fifth in the overall world test appearance list.

Jones again packs down with Adam Beard in the second-row, with Rob Evans, Ken Owens and Tomas Francis continuing together in the front-row. Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric and Ross Moriarty comprise the backrow.

Gareth Davies and Gareth Anscombe are named at half-backs with Hadleigh Parkes and Jonathan Davies in the centre.

Josh Adams, George North and Liam Williams once again comprise the back-three for Wales.

“We’ve named an unchanged squad and rewarded the players for the last couple of outings and the last couple of victories.

“These players are on a very good run, they are a hugely impressive group and they deserve to be going into the final weekend with everything to play for.

“It is a great reward for them for the hard work they have put in and we are all looking forward to what is going to be a huge game.

“For a number of us as coaches this is our last Six Nations game and the fact that it is in Cardiff is extra special. There is bound to be a bit of emotion on Saturday and that is something to embrace.”

Elliot Dee, Nicky Smith and Dillon Lewis provide the front row cover on the bench with Jake Ball and Aaron Wainwright completing the forward contingent. Aled Davies, Dan Biggar and Owen Watkin provide the backline cover.

Wales team to play Ireland (Saturday, March 16, KO 14.45 BBC & S4C)

15. Liam Williams (55 Caps)

14. George North (82 Caps)

13. Jonathan Davies (72 Caps)

12. Hadleigh Parkes (14 Caps)

11. Josh Adams (10 Caps)

10. Gareth Anscombe (25 Caps)

9. Gareth Davies (40 Caps)

1. Rob Evans (34 Caps)

2. Ken Owens (63 Caps)

3. Tomas Francis (39 aps)

4. Adam Beard (12 Caps)

5. Alun Wyn Jones (Capt) (124 Caps)

6. Josh Navidi (15 Caps)

7. Justin Tipuric (63 Caps)

8. Ross Moriarty (30 Caps)

REPLACEMENTS:

16. Elliot Dee (17 Caps)

17. Nicky Smith (27 Caps)

18. Dillon Lewis (11 Caps)

19. Jake Ball (31 Caps)

20. Aaron Wainwright (7 Caps)

21. Aled Davies (15 Caps)

22. Dan Biggar (69 Caps)

23. Owen Watkin (12 Caps)

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Phillips: We’ve got a big match in us

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WALES Women head coach Rowland Phillips believes his side can raise their game for their final Women’s Six Nations Test, against Ireland on Sunday (Cardiff Arms Park, 1.30).

Phillips has made two changes to the starting line-up with Elinor Snowsill starting at 10 and Alisha Butchers slotting back into the back row at blindside flanker.

Phillips said, “We want to capitalise on the confidence we’ve gained from the win over Scotland.

“We’ve shown a huge amount of character throughout this tournament – to hold Italy out at the end of that game and to come back from behind to win in Scotland showed remarkable attitude – and skill for such a young side.

“Despite that, I don’t feel we have shown how good a side we are and we’d like to do that on Sunday.

“Ireland are in a similar place as us. They played well against France last weekend. They have a strong back row and players who can make a difference. We certainly won’t be under-estimating them.

“However, we want to focus on ourselves, show what we can do with the ball and produce a better all-round performance. There’s a big game in us and hopefully we can showcase that on Sunday.”

Alisha Butchers, who earns her first start in the tournament since the opening round, is looking forward to some home comforts.

“Being at home lifts us girls massively. We’ve only had one home game this year and although England were tough opposition, we lifted our performance for our home support.

“Travelling away isn’t always accessible for our families so having them there boosts us. I love having my mum and dad and my brothers and sisters there, I can’t wait. There’s very much a family feel ethos and hopefully we can produce an entertaining game.”

“Last week’s game was really exciting and a good stepping stone for us. Moving forward I think we need to stick to our game plan, carry on working on our physicality and keep building as a team.

“Our performance was good last weekend but it can an still be better. We can use the confidence and momentum created by that victory to up our game and also spread the ball a bit more.”

Alisha is now working as a Hub Officer at Y Pant and Bryn Celynnog schools in the Pontypridd area, increasing the range of opportunities for girls to engage with rugby.

“I love it. I’ve already seen a huge increase in the number of girls playing the game and that inspires me – the thought that I’m having an impact on the next generation. They are both brilliant schools and we are getting 40 or more girls training now which is fantastic.

“Traditional 15 a side full-contact rugby isn’t for everyone so we make sure there are different formats and different opportunities all girls to enjoy taking part. A lot of them enjoyed the Rookie Rugby events we held recently, some play touch rugby, others enjoy crash mat rugby which is an introduction to contact or full contact rugby for the more established players who are keen.

“Hopefully a few of the girls – and boys – from the schools will come and support us on Sunday and bring their parents along to see what our game is all about. A few of the girls have role models within the squad, some are inspired by our captain Carys Phillips so I’ve promised they can have some photos after the match.”

Tickets available to print at home from www.cardiffblues.com/tickets and from 10am Sunday at the WRU shop, Westgate Street.

Wales Women V Ireland (Sunday, March 17, 1.30pm, Cardiff Arms Park):

Lauren Smyth (Ospreys); Jasmine Joyce (Scarlets), Hannah Jones (Scarlets), Lleucu George (Scarlets), Jess Kavanagh (RGC); Elinor Snowsill (Bristol Bears), Keira Bevan (Ospreys); Caryl Thomas (Dragons), Carys Phillips (capt, Ospreys), Amy Evans (Ospreys), Gwen Crabb (Ospreys), Mel Clay (Ospreys), Alisha Butchers (Scarlets), Bethan Lewis (Dragons) Siwan Lillicrap (Ospreys)

Replacements:

Kelsey Jones (Ospreys), Cara Hope (Ospreys), Cerys Hale (Dragons), Alex Callender (Scarlets), Manon Johnes (Cardiff Blues), Ffion Lewis (Scarlets), Robyn Wilkins (Blues), Lisa Neumann (RGC)

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