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Vikings and Wizards lock horns in West Wales Cup semi

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TONIGHT (March 26), Hakin United will take on rivals Merlins Bridge in the semi-final of the West Wales Cup at the Bridge Meadow stadium in Haverfordwest.

It will be the latest chapter in a long rivalry between the two clubs but with a place in the final up for grabs this one is going to be extra special.

Merlins Bridge won a thrilling game between the two sides earlier in the season 4-3 at the Racecourse but Hakin will be looking to exact some revenge for that defeat.

The Wizards are having a strong season with just one league defeat to their name, against leaders Monkton Swifts, and are also in the final of the Senior Cup, having also beat Hakin on their way.

Hakin United sit five points behind their opponents in the table after three defeats in their fourteen games so far.

It will be another exciting and close game between the two teams and one that is not to be missed.

The Vikings have been in five finals, winning it three times, including once in the 50s when it was called the Amateurs Cup.

Merlins Bridge have been in the semi-finals twice but have never reached the final and they will be hoping to make it third time lucky.

Route to the final

They began their run to the last four with a 1-0 win away to Kilvey Fords in October with Will Haworth grabbing the only goal to send them through to round 2.

The Wizards were again drawn away from home to last season’s beaten finalists Penlan Club but they again came back with a 1-0 win thanks to a goal from Joe Leahy.

In the third round Merlins Bridge played Monkton Swifts and two goals from Nathan Greene and another from Leahy gave them a 3-0 win.

Leahy and Greene were at it again in the fourth round as they both scored to earn the Wizards a 2-1 win over Swansea side Llandarcy.

Merlins Bridge were drawn at home to Plough Colts in the last eight and earned a 5-2 win with Adam Hawkins scoring twice and other goals from Leahy, Greene and Dai Davies.

Leahy and Greene have both been on the scoresheet in each round from the third round and Hakin will do well to keep these two quiet.

The Vikings played Llandeilo in the first round and came away with a 5-2 thanks to a hat trick from Cameron Thomas and other goals from Shane Walsh and Nicky Woodrow.

Woodrow then scored four for the Vikings in round 2 as he helped his side thrash Milford United 12-2. Justin Harding, Mark Jones and Ryan Wilson all scored twice in that game alongside others from Shane Walsh and Adam John.

Hakin played Morriston Town in the third round and earned a 3-0 win thanks to a Woodrow hat trick.

In the fourth round, Hakin needed extra time to get past St Josephs as two goals from Justin Harding and another from Walsh saw them through.

In the quarter final they were drawn against holders Goodwick United and came from behind to win 3-1 thanks to two goals from Woodrow and one from Ryan Wilson.

Justin Harding and Nicky Woodrow have both been in good scoring from in the Cup and they will likely prove a handful for the Bridge defence.

What they say

The Herald asked both camps for their thoughts on the game and here is what they had to say.

Hakin United manager Kristian Bennet said: “It’s going to be a battle! It is a big pitch and it will be a big occasion so it should be a cracker. The players are looking forward to it with it being one step from the Liberty.”

Merlins Bridge boss Matthew D’Ivry said: “It’s going to be a tough one, I have been with the club for fifteen years but we’ve never been in the West Wales final in that time. We’ve had a hell of a draw against Penlan, who were favourites, who we beat to zero, and we then beat Monkton, Kilvey and Llandarcy.

“It will be strange playing Hakin but we know their qualities but we are confident that if we perform to our capabilities no one in west Wales can beat us. The (Senior Cup semi-final) result will give us confidence but we will have to be careful of being over-confident.

“It’s massive for both clubs but I am confident our boys will give absolutely everything.”

The final will take place at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea on Tuesday, May 7.

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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