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Bluebirds top table for New Year

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JD Cymru Division One South
Haverfordwest County 4 Llanelli Town 1

THE BLUEBIRDS continued their recent run of good results with a 4-1 victory over Llanelli Town.

Despite going down to defeat, the Reds of Llanelli can take consolation from a vastly improved display in which they more than matched the home side box-to-box.

The only element missing from the visitors’ performance was the delivery of a telling final ball which could have led to a goal.

Llanelli’s meagre playing resources are already stretched by a long injury list and, at Bridge Meadow, three development players were in the matchday squad out of necessity.

To add to the problems, the visitors were also without a recognised striker, making the task of attempting to salvage some positive outcome from the contest even more difficult.

In fact, the visitors were the livelier side in the opening stages.

Ryan Hurlow played a ball into the path of Kyle Copp close to goal, but he failed to make a telling contact and a decent chance was lost.
Liam Samuel also posed a threat to the Bluebirds` goal with a run to the edge of the area, but he delayed his shot which was eventually blocked and then cleared out of danger.

The home side countered after a rebound from a Ben Fawcett strike fell to Kurtis Rees. Llanelli’s Lee Bevan acted quickly to alleviate the threat.

Copp and Hurlow combined with the latter forcing a corner which was eventually dealt with, but it was the home side who eventually struck first on 25 minutes when a Kieran Howard free-kick was headed out only as far as Rees who launched a 30-yard high ball into the goalmouth over the head of Kai Rees despite the Reds` keeper best efforts to prevent it finding the net.

A corner to the Bluebirds into the goalmouth was cleared with some difficulty by the visitors` defence, while Rees pulled off an important save by turning over a header from Marcus Griffiths when he connected with another Howard set-piece.

Haverfordwest had a goal disallowed for offside when referee Teifion Cook overruled the assistant referee’s failure to flag.
With the score 1-0 at the half, Llanelli had done well to hold off the league leaders and would have drawn confidence from their display.
Shortly after the kick-off for the second half, came the game’s most controversial moment.

Llanelli keeper Rees bravely put himself on the line to claim the ball from the feet of a Haverfordwest player. Rees was clearly injured and remained prone on the ground when the ball broke free into the path of Haverfordwest’s Howard. With the goalie incapacitated, Howard guided the ball into the back of the visitors’ net.

There was confusion about whether the effort would stand, particularly as Rees continued to receive treatment on the field following his injury while Llanelli players expressed their disapproval to the ref. However, the goal stood and, after further treatment, the shaken Rees was able to resume.

Galvanised by the perceived injustice, Llanelli struck back quickly.

Awarded a free-kick, Copp swung the ball into the Haverfordwest box where Bevan rose highest to head the ball beyond the Bluebirds’ Kyle Stuart to haul the Reds back into the game.

As the game opened up, both sides created chances. For Llanelli, Joe Clarke’s strike from the edge of the eighteen-yard box went wide. Kyle Stuart made a fine save from Copp’s well-struck effort.

With fifteen minutes left, the Bluebirds cutting edge up front proved decisive. The ball was neatly played through to Fawcett, who out-muscled defender Chris Thomas before hitting a low shot past Rees.

The score seemed to take the air out of Llanelli’s sails and Haverfordwest piled on the pressure. An effort from Wilson was well stopped by Rees, while Griffiths was prevented from scoring only by a last gasp tackle from Zac Griffiths. Fawcett saw his finish from an assist by Howard rebound off the top of the crossbar.

With time running out, a ball driven across the face of Llanelli’s goal was met by an attempt to hack it clear by Brown which only ended up in his own net.

The result was hard on the vistors, who for the most part had matched their opponents for effort. At least they have a chance of turning matters around when the sides do it all again on Friday evening (January 3) at Stebonheath, kick off 7.30 p.m.

TEAMS
Haverfordwest County: Stuart; Bradley (Merry, 82); Rowe; Pemberton ©; Howard; Tancock; Watts; Rees; Fawcett; Griffiths; Wilson (Palmer, 68); Subs. not used; Drake; Hughes; Harman.
Llanelli Town: Rees; Griffiths; Brown; Thomas; Bevan ©; Clarke; Copp; Logan; M. Cutler; Hurlow; Samuel.

SCORERS: Haverfordwest County; Rees, 25; Howard, 46; Fawcett, 76; Brown (OG), 90.
Llanelli Town; Bevan, 49.
CARDS: Haverfordwest County; Griffiths.
Llanelli Town; Thomas; Clarke; M. Cutler.
REFEREE: Teifion Cook.

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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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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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