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Otters give Pooler a fright

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NARBERTH gave everything they had on Saturday (Jan 19), but it wasn’t enough to earn victory against Pontypool at the Lewis Lloyd Ground.

Pontypool, unbeaten in 49 games, arrived with an army of loyal supporters to add to a large crowd eager to witness the clash. They were not disappointed for the Otters had no intention of giving way to the league leaders.

The Otters kicked off and for the next few minutes attacked Pooler in their half and on the halfway line. A scrum was called and the ball was served and in seconds the ball came out on the tight head. Pooler winger Lloyd Lewis gathered the ball and seeing his way to the line clear, raced up the far touchline for him to score an unconverted try.

The Otters restarted and it seemed a kicking duel was likely until Pontypool put the ball in touch. From the Otters lineout the ball was moved  from left to right with hooker Rhodri Owens breaking forward, Pooler brought him down but the Otters rucked well, Ryan Lane fed the ball to Jonathan Rogers who repeated the previous weeks drop goal with ease, bringing the score to 3-5.

There was then another kicking duel with Pooler chasing every kick while the Otters played for safety and kicked into touch. Pooler then set up a rolling maul before releasing fly half Mathew Lewis to place the ball into touch on the Otters 22.

Pooler continued to put the pressure on but the Otters stood up to it well. The visitors forced the Otters back into their 22, gaining a penalty at the breakdown and Mathew Lewis put the ball into touch on the 5 metre line by the clubhouse.

From the lineout they set up a rolling maul but the Otters pack were equal to the technique and thwarted Pooler and managed to get the ball to Jack Price who kicked down field before full back Geraint Walsh moved the ball to the opposite side of the field before the Otters closed him down.

Pooler were penalised for offside enabling Jonathan Rogers to kick into the Pooler 22. The Otters gaining the ball moved across from the stand side but the move broke down when the passed ball was dropped.

The Otters regained possession and Jack Price made a powerful break and although tackled he managed to forced his way through before slipping to the ground. At the ruck the Otters were again penalised.

Then on 27 minutes with Pooler in attack in the Otters half the ball broke loose and reacting quickly Nick Gale kicked the ball down field, the Pontypool winger was unable to control the ball enabling Nick to kick forward again and easily win the sprint to the touch down. He followed this with an excellent conversion to make it 10-5 to the Otters.

Pooler responded aggressively to finding themselves behind but the Otters defended with good organisation and equal aggression stopping every attempt to break through even at the scrum 10 metres from the Otters line, when Rhys Lane was able to put in a relieving kick into touch on his 22.

The Otters pack put pressure on Pooler enabling wing Will Lewis to kick ahead and break forward. He gathered the ball making many metres before being tackled.

Pooler were making much use of their heavier pack but a stout defence held them back. Close to half time Mathew Lewis kicked Pooler to the Otters corner. At the lineout a maul was formed but held back only for the Otters to be penalised and for Richard Rees to be sent to the sin bin.

The referee eventually blew for half time after playing six minutes injury time with the Otters 10-5 ahead.

The second half started with both full backs attempting a kicking duel before Ianto Griffiths put the ball into touch on halfway.

The difference between the two scrum halves beside age is that Lewys has a longer pass enabling Jonathan Rogers to position himself further back away from the Pooler back row. However, five minutes into the second half, Pooler levelled the score with an unconverted try by flanker Mikey Herbert who broke through the Otters defence to cross the line and touch down.

For the next 10 minutes Pooler stepped up their pressure in an aggressive manner with both defences putting in some brutal tackles. The Otters were awarded a penalty for Nick Gale to step up and successfully kick the Otters into a 3 point lead at 13-10.

A few minutes later, the Otters were defending another forceful Pooler attack when on their 22, there was an unfortunate injury affecting flanker Steffan Phillips. His cries of agony were heard around the ground and play stopped for 10 minutes while he received attention. A huge round of applause occurred when Steffan rose and was able, with assistance, to walk off the field with his right arm supported.

A scrum restarted the game, Pooler were awarded a penalty with which Mathew Lewis levelled the score at 13-13.

This was followed a few minutes later with the Otters regaining the lead with another Nick Gale penalty.

The Otters continued their attempts to break through the Pooler defence and a diagonal break by Keiron Jones saw him tackled 5 metres from the try line. A successful ruck saw Jonathan Rogers throw a long pass which reached Nick Gale who raced towards the line before being pulled down, via the ruck the ball was moved quickly towards the clubhouse when Pooler were penalised for lying offside.

The Otters kicked to the corner at the lineout forming a maul but the possession was lost enabling Pooler to force their way downfield. On 76 minutes they were awarded a penalty, Mathew Lewis kicked to touch into the Otters 22.

At the lineout they formed a maul before quickly releasing the ball with Mathew Lewis managing to break the defensive wall and score an unconverted try. The score was now 16-18.

Unfortunately the Otters kick out on the half way line went directly into touch. Thus enabling Pooler to scrummage and retain the ball.

Otters defence coach Jon Dodd commented: “It was a very hard game, very physical. We probably gave Pontypool the hardest game of the season, we are disappointed we lost. Everything went to the game plan. There was more kicking and chasing than we normally do but that was because of the quality of Pontypool.

“Defensively we were very good but we spent long periods of time without the ball and it took its toll. We took our breakaway try very well but there were other chances we might have taken. We played excellently and for the spectator it was a good game to watch. The team from 1 to 15 put in a very good performance today. Nick Gale with his place kicking was excellent and kept us going. So with those thoughts in mind we can go forward in the remaining games and win them all.”

Sport

Leahy’s stunning double wins Senior Cup for Wizards

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MERLINS Bridge’s Joe Leahy scored a stunning double late on to help his side to come from behind to beat Carew in the final of the Senior Cup on Saturday (Apr 20).

Another large crowd were in attendance at the Bridge Meadow in Haverfordwest on a glorious day and the game was an excellent advert for Pembrokeshire football.

Carew started the game well and had a couple of chances to go ahead with Sam Christopher nearly going through on goal.

Shaun Whitfield then sent a cross into the box but Jack Christopher headed wide of Gary Thomas’ goal.

The Bridge then threatened as Leahy sent a free kick towards goal but Carew were able to head the ball away.

Sam Christopher then came close as the ball bounced back to him off a Bridge defender but his effort was saved by Thomas.

Laurie Haworth then crossed into the box for Nathan Greene but he again missed the target with his header.

Midway through the first half, Iwan Izzard found Alex Bayley who then played in Sam Christopher who fired into the roof of the net to give Carew the lead.

He nearly then grabbed a second but he saw his header saved by Thomas.

The Bridge nearly got themselves level when Haworth was played in by Ashley Beck but his effort was saved by the legs of Carew keeper Tom Davies.

Half time came with the Rooks still ahead but whilst the game was still only 1-0 the Wizards still had a chance of getting back into it.

They started the second half well with Leahy shooting just wide while Nathan Greene saw a shot blocked on the line by Scott Richards.

Sam Christopher scores for Carew

Leahy had another chance to score but he sent his free kick under the wall and just wide of the goal.

The Bridge brought on Will Haworth and he looked dangerous as he sent a cross into the box that had to be cleared by the Carew defenders.

With four minutes to go the ball fell kindly for Leahy and he fired in an unstoppable shot from 30 yards that went in off the post.

It looked as if extra time would be needed to separate the sides but Leahy had other ideas.

With the clock having just ticked past ninety minutes, Greene headed on for Leahy and he fired in from the edge of the box to put the Bridge ahead.

That sparked wild celebrations amongst the Bridge players but there was still time for Carew to get back level.

Jack Christopher saw a shot saved and he then also headed over as Carew’s time began to run out.

The Bridge looked to keep the ball in the corner and moments later, referee Tom Bevan blew for full time and the Bridge celebrated regaining the Senior Cup, having last won it in 2017.

After the game, Bridge player/manager Matthew Divry said: “I’m delighted, it’s my first season as manager so I’m delighted to have won it.

“We showed great character because our performance didn’t match what we’re capable of but to win it late on with two quality goals shows what this team is about.

“Both sides made it a very good game of football.”

Game winning-hero and Man of the match Joe Leahy added: “It’s amazing. We were 1-0 down for so long and to win it like that is incredible.

“It was a massive team effort from everyone.”

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Sport

Senior Cup Final Preview: Carew v Merlins Bridge

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Carew v Merlins Bridge

Senior Cup Final: Bridge Meadow, Haverfordwest, 2:30pm

ON Saturday (Apr 20), Merlins Bridge take on Carew in the final of the Senior Cup at the Bridge Meadow in Haverfordwest.

In the first of a final double-header, both sides will be doing all they can to get the upper hand and lift the trophy.

The two sides will also meet at the beginning of May in the West Wales Cup Final at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea.

Meetings between the two sides have been close this season with Merlins Bridge earning a 3-1 win at the Racecourse in November while their game finished 2-2 in Carew in January.

Winners: Merlins Bridge celebrate their 2017 victory

Both sides have had a fantastic season with only three losses between them and they currently sit second and third in the Division 1 table.

The Wizards are aiming to claim the League title as well while Carew are also only three points behind the leaders with a game left to play.

Merlins Bridge won the Senior Cup in 2017 and they will be looking to get their hands on the trophy once again.

The Rooks last won the Cup in 1986 and having last reached the final in 2005, they will be keen to make a new piece of history for the club.

Route to the final

The Wizards began their cup run with a comfortable 10-0 win over Cosheston in the first round with Adam Hawkins scoring five times.

They then beat Herbrandston 5-1 in the second round with Hawkins again on target twice with other goals from Nathan Greene, Joe Leahy and Ashley Beck.

In the quarter final they were pitted against rivals Hakin United but the Wizards went through with a 3-2 win at the Racecourse after Nathan Greene scored twice.

They then took on Monkton Swifts at the Bridge Meadow in the semi-final and earned a 3-0 win thanks to goals from Adam Hawkins, Laurie Haworth and Nathan Greene.

Scott Ferney: Scored in each round of the Cup for Carew

Carew began their route to the final with a 2-1 win over Johnston in the first round thanks to two goals from Scott Ferney.

The second round saw them win 4-1 away at Narberth with Jordan Richards scoring twice and Ferney again on target.

They earned a similarly comfortable 7-1 win over Solva in the last eight with Richards scoring a hat trick. Ferney also scored with other goals coming from Iwan Izzard, Sean Whitfield and Lloyd Hughes.

They then played Pennar Robins in the semi-final, also at the Meadow, and earned a 3-1 to book their place in the final. Sam Christopher, Sean Whitfield and Scott Ferney were all on target for the Rooks.

What the managers say

Merlins Bridge boss Matthew Divry told the Herald: “We’re looking forward to it, it’s a game between two very good sides and it should be a good game.

We are more than confident, we’ve been turning up in the big games and we’ve got a wealth of experience in the squad.

Not many of their players have won or played in the Senior Cup Final but it’s all on the day.

We have a confident dressing room and a full squad to choose from and it’s the first of four big games for us. Both sides are evenly matched.”

Carew manager Rob Scourfield told the Herald: “We’re really excited, two of the boys have been in a final before but it will be a completely new thing for the others but we’re really looking forward to it and we have a full squad to choose from.

Our games against the Bridge have been the toughest we’ve faced this season, they are really well-drilled and have lots of experience.

We’re the top goal scorers in Division 1 so we have a goal threat from everywhere and I’m hoping the boys will be on form.

We know they are strong at the back, I have been impressed with their wide players as well and Joe Leahy is up there as one of the best strikers in Pembrokeshire so he is a massive threat, he hit a hat trick against us so we are well aware of that.

It should be a nice day and I hope it’s a really good game of football. Both sides respect each other and it should be a good advert for Pembrokeshire football.”

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Sport

Castle hosts World Cup trophy

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SCORES of young Pembrokeshire Cricketers will have the chance to play in front of World Cricket’s most famous trophy next month when the ICC World Cricket Trophy Tour visits Pembroke Castle.

The visit coincides with the annual U9 Cricket in the Castle festival that has become such a hit with players and supporters since its inception two years ago.

Players from Neyland, St Ishmaels, Saundersfoot, Haverfordwest, Cresselly, Hook, Lawrenny and Whitland will all be eager to impress in front of the famous trophy that is touring the UK ahead of the ICC World Cricket Cup taking place in England and Wales between May 30 and July 14.

Pembroke Castle lends itself beautifully to host a cricket festival like this,” said Sport Pembrokeshire Cricket Development officer Martin Jones.

From speaking with players and parents in the past I know that they have enjoyed their time playing in the castle grounds and with the ICC World Cricket Cup Trophy paying a visit this year, it will be even more special.

With the introduction of All Stars Cricket, there are more youngsters between the ages of 5-10 playing cricket in the county than ever before which is great to see and bodes well for the health of the sport in Pembrokeshire in years to come.”

For more information about All Stars Cricket visit www.ecb.co.uk/play/all-stars.

For more information about the ICC World Cricket Cup and for when matches take place at the Cardiff Wales Stadium visit www.glamorgancricket.com

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