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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).

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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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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