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Otters continue winning run

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AFTER a week of wet and stormy days, and a wet start last Saturday (Dec 8), it was surprising that the game at Newbridge was still on and was one of only two games played in the Championship due to the state of the grounds.

Newbridge kicked off with the strong wind blowing diagonally across the pitch, for the first five minutes both teams persisted with a kicking dual before the Otters set up a promising movement passing the ball wide only to end with a forward pass.

After six minutes the Otters won a penalty, Nick Gale came forward to attempt a 40 metre kick which was just off target.

Initially, the Otters appeared to be penalised frequently at the breakdowns giving Newbridge opportunities to attack. From their line out Bridge moved the ball smartly with centre Mathew McGovern making a diagonal break only to be stopped in his tracks by the strong Otters defence.

At the breakdown Bridge offended enabling Jonathan Rogers to gain touch on the halfway line. From the lineout the ball moved across the threes to Ianto Griffiths who kicked for the corner only for the wind to hold it up and for Newbridge to call a mark. Their kick was gathered and returned, Newbridge again kicked and the Otters receiving the ball attacked but were stopped and at the breakdown the referee awarded the Otters a penalty just outside the 22 line.

Again Nick Gale came forward and at the last moment the wind moved the ball to the right of the posts. Newbridge kicked out, Ryan Bean gathered and made ground with Jack Price alongside, the ball was moved away from the stand side only for the slippery ball to be knocked on.

It became clear that the Otters pack had control of the tight with Newbridge being penalised and Jonathan Rogers attempting to find touch, Newbridge returned the kick, Ianto Griffiths gathered and raced forward, at the breakdown, the Otters retrieved the ball and moving right towards the stand passed to Nick Gale who raced forward and when tackled passed to Ryan Bean, he moved left and unfortunately the ball was adjudged to have been passed forward.

At the scrum Newbridge heeled and kicked the ball into touch. At this point Tom Kaijack had to leave the field, Bradley Davies came off the bench which resulted in Dan Jacobs moving over to tight head prop.

The game continued to see both teams attempting to gain ground, with both defences strong and when the movements made ground the slippery ball made handling more difficult and errors occurred. Penalties were occurring against both teams as the rucks became more intense.

Then on the half hour, Newbridge were again penalised enabling Jonathan Rogers to place the ball into touch on the stand side. At the lineout, Andrew Cooke caught the ball at the end of the lineout, feeding Rhys Lane who passed out only for Newbridge to halt the move and get penalised at the breakdown.

Again Nick Gale failed to find the target with his penalty kick. Conditions worsened as a very heavy shower descended on the proceedings. The Otters continued to attempt to make progress before the referee blew for half time with the game tied at 0 – 0.

Fly half Jonathan Rogers restarted the second half and immediately the Otters gained possession and advanced close to the line before Newbridge offend at the ruck. This time with a penalty kick in front of the posts Nick Gale easily kicked the ball through for a 0-3 lead.

Newbridge kicked off, again the Otters attacked but at the breakdowns the game was becoming a muddy scramble. This led to a further kicking dual which failed to create an opportunity for either side. Newbridge began to see a little more of the ball but were being repelled by the Otters.

On 60 minutes the Otters withdrew Andrew Cooke from the back row to be replaced by Steffan Phillps. At the lineout Alex Jenkins again proved his worth gaining good possession and occasionally winning the ball on the Newbridge throw.

The first scrum after the change in the back row saw the Otters push Newbridge back some 10 metres with the referee awarding them a penalty. From this kick, Jonathan Rogers put the Otters to within 5 metres of the try line. For an offence at the lineout Christian Francis the Newbridge number 8 received a yellow card and sent to the sin bin. The resultant penalty saw Jonathan Rogers place the ball into touch on the 5 metre line.

Alex Jenkins made a clean jump and take and immediately formed a maul which despite Newbridge efforts enabled the pack to cross the try line for Rhodri Owen to touch down. Nick Gale safely converted to give the Otters a 10-0 lead.

Sam Withers restarted the game and quickly gained possession. As they attacked the Otters were penalised for standing offside in defence. Withers kicked the penalty into touch on the far side near the 5 metre line.

From the lineout they set up a rolling maul, as the Otters attempted to hold the move, Newbridge threw in a few threequarters and crossed the line for centre Mathew McGovern to score, Sam Withers converted to bring the score to 7-10.

From the restart the Otters attacked in midfield only for Newbridge to wrench the ball as the players were going to ground and passed to McGovern who made an effective break only for the ball to end in touch. Newbridge showed determination to get ahead and the contact between players became quite intense with play just outside the Otters 22.

Newbridge’s yellow card returned,  but at a scrum, the Otters  heeled and on receiving the ball Jonathan Rogers made ground with his kick out of hand downfield. Newbridge offended and a scrum reset before the referee awarded the Otters a penalty as they over powered the Newbridge eight.

This time Nick Gale was successful with his penalty kick bringing the score to 7-13 on 75 minutes. Following this, Newbridge changed their front row and as a result the scrums became uncontested.

However the Otters controlled most of the remaining minutes of the game, playing safe and using Alex Jenkin superiority at the lineout. There was relief all round when the referee blew for full time.

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Division 3: Three-horse race

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THE Division 3 title race and promotion will be decided on Saturday (Aug 24) with three teams all still in the hunt.

Last week, Llanrhian, who had been top prior to their game, saw their match at Llangwm Seconds called off after they claimed their pitch was wet.

Herbrandston then beat Lamphey to move top of Division 3 while the Stags picked up enough points to knock Llanrhian down to third.

Going into the final round of games, Herbrandston are 19 points ahead of Lamphey and 22 points above Llanrhian.

Herbie face a trip to Narberth Seconds knowing a win will see them crowned Champions while a draw would also be enough.

A defeat could allow Lamphey in to be crowned Champions but that would also rely on Herbie not picking up more than 11 points.

Lamphey face fourth placed Laugharne in what is likely to be a tough game for both sides.

Llanrhian still have an outside chance of claiming the title but they would need to rely on Herbie and Lamphey losing their games.

Llanrhian will look to put last week’s disappointment behind them as they host Stackpole.

A win for Llanrhian coupled with a Lamphey defeat or draw could still see them promoted.

Elsewhere, the bottom four sides play each other with one final relegation place to be decided.

Whitland seconds currently sit second from bottom and they travel to fourth from bottom Haverfordwest thirds.

A win for Whitland could move them above Town and if Llangwm also won that could see Town drop down a Division.

Llangwm seconds take on already relegated Lawrenny seconds. Llangwm sit eight points above Whitland and know anything other than a win could let Whitland go above them.

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Division 2: Narberth and Llechryd face off for title

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LLECHRYD will host Narberth on Saturday (Aug 24) with the winners being crowned champions of Division 2.

Both will be playing their cricket in Division 1 next season but the destination of the title will be decided on Saturday.

Going into the game, Llechryd sit top of the Division, 17 points ahead of Narberth. A home win will see Llechryd crowned champions but should Narberth take the win it will be they who go up as champions.

When the two teams met earlier in the season it was Narberth who came out on top with a seven wicket win.

With promotion and relegation decided there is little for the others to play for but some can still improve their final positions.

Pembroke sit third and on Saturday they are away to Kilgetty knowing if they slip up, Hook could claim third place if they beat Carew Seconds.

Relegated sides Johnston and Cresselly seconds will play each other at Glebelands with the winners earning their second win of the season.

Pembroke Dock also take on Haverfordwest seconds and a win for Town in that game will see them jump above the Dock.

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New Solva kit to continue Luke’s Stand Up To Cancer message

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THE family of inspirational cancer fundraising campaigner Luke Harding has donated a new kit to Solva AFC in his memory, which features four words that perfectly sum up the way he battled the illness – Stand Up To Cancer.

Luke, who played for Solva for around a decade, raised more than £30,000 for Withybush Hospital’s Ward 10 and local charities following his diagnosis with stage four lung cancer in 2016.

Medi George, Secretary of Solva AFC said: “Luke played football with the same dedication and energy with which he battled cancer and it is an honour for our club to be able to continue his message in this way.

“We are extremely grateful to Alex, Peter and the Harding family for this kind gesture and it is fitting that our players were able to wear the kit for the first time in the final of the first annual Luke Harding Memorial Cup.”

The kit was unveiled at Fishguard Sports’ ground before the final of the competition, with Goodwick United 2nds running out eventual 3-1 winners against Solva 2nds. The tournament also included Fishguard Sports and Letterston, which Luke also represented.

Ruth Amies, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Wales, said: “We are extremely grateful to Luke’s family and to Solva AFC for supporting Stand Up To Cancer which funds life-saving research in Wales and across the UK. The new kit is a wonderful tribute to Luke who fundraised tirelessly throughout his diagnosis and we are thrilled the players wore the new kit for the first time this week.”

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