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Wizards sink Swifts to set up Carew final

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MERLINS Bridge set up a Senior Cup Final date with Carew as they beat Monkton Swifts 3-0 at the Bridge Meadow on Tuesday night (Mar 19).

Both sides named strong line-ups for the game, determined to make it into the final, but it was the Bridge who proved the stronger as they exacted revenge for a 5-1 league defeat to the Swifts earlier in the season.

A good crowd gathered to watch the game despite persistent light rain throughout the evening.

A minutes silence was also held prior to kick off in respect of former Merlins Bridge player Denzil (Tally) John, who sadly passed away.

The Wizards had previously beaten Monkton 3-0 in the West Wales Cup and from the first whistle it was clear that they were in a confident mood.

Adam Hawkins and Nathan Greene linked up well but when Greene was tackled the ball fell to Laurie Haworth whose shot was saved.

Hawkins then saw a shot saved after he had been put through and he then played a one-two with Jordan Thomas whose shot hit the post.

Monkton then had their first chance as James Russell won a 50-50 but he saw his shot blocked wide for a corner.

All that action came in the first five minutes and it set the tone for the rest of the game with both sides coming close to opening the scoring.

The Bridge then came close again when Dai Davies sent Greene through but he flashed his shot across goal and wide.

With half an hour gone Russell came forward but dwelt on the ball too long leaving Dylan Davies and Ben Steele frustrated after both made good runs.

Blake James then saw a cross go straight into the arms of Bridge keeper Gary Thomas who then also saved Davies’ deflected shot.

With seven minutes to go until half time, the Wizards took the lead as Laurie Haworth turned excellently in the left corner and ran into the box before crossing for Hawkins who fired in to the roof of the net.

Five minutes later they doubled their lead as Ashley Beck played the ball through for Haworth who poked the ball past Swifts keeper Michael Murray to make it 2-0.

Monkton looked to respond but a corner on the stroke of half time from Chris Richards went out over the bar.

It left the Division 1 leaders with a mountain to climb in the second half and they knew they would need an early goal if they were to get back into the game.

Ten minutes in the Wizards had the first real chance of the half as Haworth won the ball and crossed for Beck but he shot wide.

On the hour mark Monkton won a free kick on the edge of the D but Steele’s free kick bounced back off the wall.

The Bridge won a series of corners which came to nothing and when Monkton looked to break off one, Hawkins made a desperate lunge to try and stop the attack. He was booked for his challenge which may have done more harm than good as he was then replaced by Will Haworth.

With twenty minutes to go sub Ryan Griffiths crossed into the box but Russell’s looping header was comfortably claimed by Thomas.

Moments later it should have been 3-0 as a slip allowed Greene in but he fluffed his lines and scuffed his shot wide.

The Swifts continued to look for a way back into the game and when Steele went down in the box he was adamant he had been pushed but referee Angus Scourfield waved away his prolonged protests.

Davies then saw a shot saved and then came perhaps their best chance of getting back into the game as a good move found Richards but Davies could only head wide from his cross.

They were soon made to pay for their missed chances as Laurie Haworth found Greene in the box who knocked in to all but seal the win.

Greene and Matthew D’Ivry were then taken off in a double change, perhaps with one eye on the West Wales Cup semi-final with Hakin next week.

The game had been won but Monkton’s Josh Richards, who had only came on in the second half, let his frustrations get the better of him late on as he overstepped the mark and saw red for his language.

Merlins Bridge saw the game out and will now look forward to the final with Carew. That game will take place on Saturday, April 20, again at the Bridge Meadow Stadium.

Speaking after the match, Merlins Bridge boss Matthew D’Ivry said: “We are really pleased with the result. We were confident that if we played to our abilities that we would get the result.

“We were confident on the back of the season we have had so far, having only had one loss to Monkton. It wasn’t about getting revenge, but more about us achieving what we had set out to do.

“Last night our experience in the bigger games shone through and that gave us the edge.”

News

Wales v Scotland postponed

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WALES’ Six Nations match at home to Scotland on Saturday has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The two other Six Nation fixtures had already been postponed and no date has been confirmed to complete the 2020 Championship.

The Welsh Rugby Union had insisted earlier on Friday the game would “go ahead as planned”.

A WRU statement read: “The Welsh Rugby Union has maintained an open dialogue with, and continued to seek advice and direction from, the National Assembly for Wales and other stakeholders, including the Six Nations, on this fast-moving issue.

“Whilst medical advice remains consistent, we have decided that it is in the best interests of supporters, players and staff to fall in line with recent measures taken across the UK and global sports industries.

“The WRU would like to thank all parties for their counsel on the subject and will make further announcements with respect to rescheduling the fixture in the coming days.

“Every effort has been made to stage this game and we appreciate that individuals will have been inconvenienced. Given the fluid and unprecedented nature of this issue a postponement became the only viable option.”

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News

Domestic football at all levels in Wales suspended

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THE FOOTBALL Association of Wales has today (13 March) taken the decision to suspend domestic football at all levels in Wales with immediate effect until April 4 due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The intention at this time will be to resume the football schedule depending on the medical advice and conditions from the relevant authorities at that time.

The FAW is fully aware of the impact this will have on the domestic game but the health and safety of all fans, players, volunteers and stakeholders are of paramount importance.

The FAW will continue to monitor this situation on a day-by-day basis and will continue to provide updates when appropriate.

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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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