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We take life too lightly and sport too seriously

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By Jonathan Twigg

DEBATE rages in Wales at present, where rugby has infiltrated the summer domain of cricket, which has held unparalleled dominance of the summer sunshine.

There has been a culture change, whereby summer tours and early season fixtures of the traditional winter sports means earlier starts.

Look no further than next seasons football league championship season for Swansea City, starting on Saturday (Aug 5) until Sunday (May 26) 2019.

The outcry from the boundary ropes comes more about how mini ruby has become a summer sport, bulldozered through, as opposed to negotiated.

WRU figurehead in this Ryan Jones, former Wales captain and British Lion parading the paraphernalia, Cricket Wales Development Officer Keri Chahal, having face to face meetings to form common ground.

The winner, undoubtedly now rugby as their mini game is happening in front of our eyes, but has cricket lost?

Jason Roy: In action for England against Australia

Not looking at the participation statistics in the new ‘All Stars’ programme, where children bestowed in blue attire are bouncing around cricket fields in the sunshine, the magic there to entice the next generation.

What sells it to parents, who undoubtedly influence their siblings?  The paradox of ‘I played the game, so you must do also’ may live in both sports, but it’s more than that.

Attendances at international matches, in cricket’s case by supporting England, well the England and Wales Cricket Board side, the pathway? Saturday (Jun 16) saw them rock up in Cardiff, rugby capital of Wales, the Swalec Stadium to be precise, skirting the River Taff through Bute Park, the hosts leading a five match series against Australia 1-0.

Sell out you would think? Far from it; the Principality Stadium, bestowed with a retractable roof, unequivocally is, if Australia are the visitors, the Swalec attracted around 13,000, a fifth of their rugby rivals capacity.

Does cricket lack that panache to attract the floating spectator, often then with the family in tow?  The game has stand out stars, opening batsman Jason Roy pulverising the Aussie attack, the Richardson’s, Jhye and Kane, of no blood synchronisation, a rarity in this sport for two with the same name to be sharing the new ball. Root 66, the featured face of the cricketing market, Joe, England Captain present, alongside former Glamorgan opening bowler Alex Wharf, making his ODI debut, as an umpire.

Coloured clothing, blue against yellow for the 11am start, the Aussie public back home having a choice of watching cricket, World Cup football against France, or rugby as the Wallabies welcomed Ireland to Melbourne.

Cricket is sensational down under, the viewing figures from Saturday would make an interesting comparative, lifting some of the ‘doom and gloom’ emanating from our ‘middle England’ type dulcet tones of the cricketing ‘I know best brigade’.

Food for thought, or is it time for the Blazers and prawn sandwiches to be confined to the attic, relics of periods passed? 100 ball ‘City’ cricket is another gurus dream, not welcomed by the current ‘Blazers’, where Saturday’s game produced 102 runs for one wicket, from just a third of the games total deliveries.

Believe me, there was a following of supporters, some perhaps beer monsters, in fancy dress but the majority of paying punters here, at £65 were from a generation brought up on John Arlott, a commentator remembered with fondness, his soupy‑thick Hampshire vowels drawling “we take life too lightly and sport too seriously.”

‘Wise up or weep’ is the cry for cricket, as this game on paper had everything, including the proverbial rain, which has so impacted the winter sports programme to influence the thinking of the WRU game management board.

England’s batsman rattled up for the first time in history five consecutive 50 plus run partnerships with stand in skipper Josh Butler ‘ramping’ sixes over the wicket keepers head; text book they are not but part of the modern game as he brought up his own 50 in the forty first over, with 17 runs in five balls!

What are the indicators for success? Tactical understanding from a blooded skipper Tim Paine, Jason Roy 120, Josh Butler 91 not out and Johnny Bairstow 42, in England’s highest ever ODI total of 342-8, where the expectation nowadays is 300 plus. Certainly, making sunshine on a rainy day sings Zoe, although those in the know were drumming Mambo number 5 with a cucumber sandwich during the interval.

Australia, looking to save some grace on a day when their rugby and football comrades were dispensed made a fist of it, Maxwell striking 31 alongside Glamorgan star Shaun Marsh.

Marsh handled the pressure but the crowd sensed the game slipping into the memory bank, in the lowering sunlight, buoyed by the beach ball antics of amongst others, Baywatch, tennis players and the Smurfs who embraced the evening’s ambiance, before the jobsworth lumbered in.

Marsh passed 2000 white ball runs on his way to 131, the end coming through Roy’s match winning catch to secure the star player award as over 600 runs were chalked in the scorebook. Something was missing, no pyrotechnics from which to salivate. Down to the pitch maybe, a slow burner typifying middle England in the centre of Wales, or is the product label just too predictable.  Maybe a famous son of Yorkshire can answer that, after all he was called upon to ring the five minute ‘bell’ to signal the start of play.

That Yorkshireman; Neil Warnock; the irony, Manager of the newest Premier League football team, Cardiff City, promoted last season from the Championship, brought in for ‘iconic value’. Can the traditional sports share the space before time is called one wonders, with no frills, no fuss, depicted serenely by Arlott.

That memory is worth a toast, of his favourite Beaujolais tipple, for this is cricket as we know it, but for how much longer?

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All Blacks earn third straight win

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NEYLAND sealed their third League win in a row on Saturday (Sept 22) as they beat Llanybydder 22-16 at the Athletic Ground.

It was a closely fought match and the blustery rain and strong wind made conditions difficult for both teams in their attempts to play open rugby.

The home side started well and were rewarded when lively right wing Patrick Bellerby made a strong midfield run to cross for the opening try, converted by fly-half Mark Riley.

Llanybydder then settled, and a good run by centre Arwel Thomas took play deep into the home 22.

Further pressure by the visitors led to two penalties for centre Steff Richards to give a score of 7-6 at the interval.

Neyland controlled possession and territory for most of the second period, with forwards and backs combining well.

Llyr James reaches over to score the last try of the game. Pic. Herald

They were rewarded with two tries for Number 8 Ben Williams and another for replacement hooker Richard Jones as they claimed a bonus point.

However, the visitors, missing a few regulars, responded with a late try for scrum half Llyr James, with an excellent conversion by Richards securing the losing bonus point.

On Saturday (Sept 29), Neyland will look to keep their winning run going when they travel to Cardigan. Llanybydder return to South Pembrokeshire to visit Pembroke Dock Harlequins.

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Super Solva sink Neyland

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SOLVA pulled off one of the shocks of the Senior Cup first round as they beat Division 1 Neyland 4-2 at the Athletic Ground on Saturday (Sept 22).

The game got underway despite persistent rain and it was the hosts who took the lead.

Solva equalised before Neyland took the lead once more, Ben Fairburn and Mike Chandler scoring for the home side.

Shortly before half time Solva equalised to make it 2-2 and it was all to play for in the second half.

Leon Dinmore scored twice while Gonzalez Rocha and Josh Bland also scored as Solva went ahead in the second half.

Neyland looked to hit back but were unable to find a way past the Solva keeper as a couple of long range efforts flew over in the closing stages.

Solva hung on for a deserved win and will now look forward to their second round game away to Pendine.

Neyland return to Division 1 action on Saturday (Sept 29) as they take on Narberth. Solva will look to build on their Cup win as they host Camrose in Division 2.

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Senior Cup first round preview

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THE first round of the Senior Cup gets underway on Saturday (Sept 22) as the road to the Bridge Meadow begins.

The standout tie of the round sees Cup holders Hakin United taking on Clarbeston Road in a repeat of last season’s final.

Hakin won the final 7-1 and they will be keen to get their defence of the Cup up and running. Clarby have reached the final for the last two seasons and they will also be looking to get through to the next round.

There is a local derby on offer in Fishguard as they welcome former Senior Cup winners Goodwick United.

Both teams have made excellent starts to their respective seasons and something will have to give for one of these teams to go through.

Keegan Summers and Steve Lewis have both scored seven times for Fishguard and Goodwick will have to keep these two quiet. Jordan Griffiths has also started the season in fine form with eight goals and he will provide the main threat to their rivals.

Division 5 newcomers Newport Tigers will have their first taste of Senior Cup football on Saturday as they travel to Division 1 side Narberth.

Narberth have not won in their opening five games and will be looking to kick start their season with a cup win.

Newport have played three times so far winning just once but they will be keen to cause an upset.

Another side that has had a tough start in Division 1 is Lamphey and they host Division 2 side Letterston who have also made a slow start with just one win from their first five games.

Action from the Senior Cup game between Merlins Bridge and Solva last season

Merlins Bridge have made an unbeaten start to the season with three wins and a draw in their first four games and they will be looking to avoid an upset against Division 4 leaders Cosheston.

Cosheston are also unbeaten and have scored over three goals in each of their three games so far and the Wizards will need to be wary of the threat posed by their opponents.

Division 2 leaders Johnston are at home as they welcome Carew in what should be an excellent game.

Johnston’s Scott Crawford and Ryan Doyle, with nine and seven goals respectively, have started the season in excellent form and they will be hoping they can cause an upset.

Carew had been unbeaten until their loss to St Clears last Saturday and they will be keen to bounce back from that result with a win in the cup.

Neyland earned their first win of the season on Saturday as they beat Milford and they will be looking to back that up as they take on Division 2 Solva.

Solva have made a steady start to their season with two wins and a draw from their opening five games but they also won in their last game on Saturday as they beat Lawrenny 3-2.

Milford v Saundersfoot from last season

Milford United are away to fellow Division 1 side Saundersfoot Sports in a repeat of last season’s first round game which the Sports won at Marble Hall.

Hundleton beat Monkton Swifts in the first round last year and they have a home game against Milford Athletic.

Both sides have made a slow start to the season and will be eager to get their season up and running with a cup win.

Camrose are at home as they take on Pembroke Boro who are yet to lose in Division 3 so far this season.

Llangwm/H’west CC take on Herbrandston while Pendine are at home to Prendergast Villa.

St Clears host Kilgetty and St Ishmaels are at home as they take on Monkton Swifts. James Russell and Dylan Davies have started the season on fire scoring 19 goals between them and Tish will do well to stop them.

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