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Road to Russia ended by the Republic

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By Jonathan Twigg

WALES’ World Cup journey ended on Monday (Oct 9) at the Cardiff City Stadium when they were beaten 1-0 with a goal by James McClean of the Republic of Ireland in an emotional, tense but drab encounter.

The evening started with a rousing rendition of ‘Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’, which moved the crowds mood to a crescendo and the Welsh team, lacking the mercurial Gareth Bale responded through possession and territory, which failed to generate chances to open the scoring.

The requirement was simple; beat the visitors and take a pathway through the play offs, probably as a seeded team and if luck   ran with the Welsh players then maybe gaining automatic qualification if Serbia didn’t beat Georgia. Neither happened as Martin O’Neil, manager of the ’boys in green’ conjured up a master plan to outwit his opposite number Chris Coleman.

Predicted as the biggest game for Wales in a generation, after the disappointment of play-off elimination at the hands of Russia in 2004, a Paul Bodin penalty miss in the fatal night in 1994 and perhaps back as far as Scotland’s Joe Jordan’s handball in 1978.  Wales can’t make that final step to infinity and the World Cup Finals, their last game being a quarter final defeat at the hands of champions Brazil in Gothenburg, Sweden, although an inspired semi-final performance at the 2016 Euro’s had heightened the publics expectations, perhaps falsely.

Without Bale, the collective team spirit needed to come to the fore for the Dragon, but it failed to ignite against an Irish team which out muscled them in key areas.  Stoke City’s Pembrokeshire born midfielder Joe Allen left the field in a groggy state after being the filling in a sandwich, the bread supplied by skipper David Meyler and striker McClean.  Wales couldn’t adapt to the loss of Allen with the normally bright Aaron Ramsey and youngster Lawrence unable to produce the magic moments.

The winner came in the 57 minute with the crowd rekindling the spirit of Euro 2016 with a rendition of ‘please don’t take me home’ when Jeff Hendrick robbed skipper Ashley Williams of the ball to whip in a cross from the right hand side for McClean to meet on the half volley.

The goal which stunned 30,000 voices into silence, 3000 Irishmen apart, saw Wales fall behind for the first time in the World Cup qualifying campaign and the crowd felt the unease as the team struggled to gain parity in the game.

Reflection shouldn’t be on the disappointing result in the final game, more perhaps on the team’s inability to secure three points in fixtures they were in control of during the campaign.

In 12 months they drew with Austria, Georgia, Serbia twice and the Republic of Ireland in Dublin, the first four of those fixtures saw them leading on each occasion.  Coming into the last game they had won three on the bounce and held prime position for qualification for the play-offs in their own hands.

The defeat, a first on home soil since Serbia in 2013 takes some of the momentum out of Chris Coleman’s managerial reign, where a top draw offering of a return to Club football may see him venture to pastures new.

It could also mark the end for some stalwart performers as Ashley Williams, Chris Gunter and Joe Ledley head a list of players who may find another two year campaign too much for their aging limbs.

Wales’ golden generation may well be changing although the future is bright with a conveyor belt of talented youngsters now on the verge of the squad.

Optimism remains high from a Welsh public desperate to see their heroes reach a World Cup Final, where we are ranked thirteenth in the World.

There is still time for the Dragon’s roar to breath some real fire on the World stage.

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County go through in MG Cup after thumping Barry

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HAVERFORDWEST County began life under manager Tony Pennock in fine fashion with a 4-2 victory over Barry Town United in the Nathaniel MG Cup second round on Friday night (Aug 5).

A brace from Jack Wilson, along with goals from debutants Lee Jenkins and Rhys Abbruzzese helped see the Bluebirds safely through to the third round.

Josh Graham and Mo Djalo found the net for the Dragons, who reached the semi-final of the competition last season, but it wasn’t enough as County’s extra firepower made the difference.

In front of a crowd of 337 at the Ogi Bridge Meadow, the Bluebirds nearly took an early lead when Wilson got a volley away from inside the area which was pushed away by Cameron Clarke.

The majority of the chances fell the hosts’ way in the first-half, with Jordan Davies trying his luck from distance after Clarke had come off his line and given possession away, before Ryan George’s solo run to the edge of the area ended with the wing-back shooting over the bar.

Jenkins then went close when he rose highest to meet Wilson’s long throw into the area, with his header going narrowly wide of the right post.

It was very nearly 1-0 on the half hour mark when George’s cross into the area picked out Jordan Davies, who directed his header goalwards but saw the ball cleared off the line.

However, just three minutes later, it was 1-0 when the ball was worked out to George on the right side, and his cross picked out the towering Jenkins who powered his header into the left corner to mark his first competitive County appearance with a goal.

Almost immediately after the restart though, the Dragons found an equaliser as a through ball played Graham in, and the forward slid the ball past Lewis Brass for an instant response.

Wilson shot over the bar as Haverfordwest County looked to restore their lead before the break, and while he was off target on this occasion, seven minutes after the restart his header from debutant Jamie Veale’s corner flew into the net to make it 2-1.

And less than five minutes later, the youngster almost doubled the Bluebirds’ advantage when a long ball upfield from Dylan Rees played him in, and an excellent first touch gave the forward a chance to get a chipped effort away which rolled just wide to deny what would have been a spectacular goal.

With the hour mark approaching, George sliced an effort wide of the right post, but just a minute later Abbruzzese was on hand to tap in from point-blank range from Jordan Davies’ pass to join Jenkins in netting on his debut with a goal against his former club.

Pennock’s men were full of confidence at this stage, and they were able to make it tell when Abbruzzese turned provider to set Wilson up to score his second goal of the night with a neat finish from close range to extend the advantage to 4-1.

Gavin Chesterfield’s side pulled a goal back with just over 10 minutes remaining when they were awarded a penalty after Brass was adjudged to have fouled substitute Djalo inside the area, and the forward converted from the spot to make it 4-2.

With the Bluebirds in a comfortable position in the closing stages, Pennock was able to introduce academy product Toby Davies and exciting young prospect Dan James, allowing the pair to play out the final few minutes.

With their passage through to the next round safely secured, the Bluebirds now turn their attention to the start of the new JD Cymru Premier season, which gets under way with a game against Caernarfon Town at the Ogi Bridge Meadow next Saturday, August 13 (Kick-off 14:30).

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Hook seal win in Under 11s final

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Hook (246-6) beat Cresselly (217-10) by 29 runs

THIS year’s final was between the top two sides from both zones with Cresselly beating Haverfordwest in the one semi final and Hook beating Narberth in the other.

The Under11s game is played in a pairs format and Hook Captain Charlie Holder won the toss against his counter part Phoenix Phillips and decided to bowl first.

Some tight bowling from Hook saw St Cresselly lose wickets on a regular basis. The batting pairs of Phoenix and Ollie Toy put on 13, Arthur Jenkins and Elin Edwards 7, Caden Jones and Jack Mears 7 and Cody Jones and Finley Rowlands 7.

For Hook the pick of the bowlers were Olly Nutty 1-11, Rhys Tennick 2-10, Charlie Holder 2-10, Mason Hughes 2-12 and George Wonnacott 3-11. Cresselly finished on 217-10.

After Mondays rained off game where the Cresselly bowlers dominated the Hook batters came in with a bit more determination and Cresselly found wickets a little harder to take despite their best efforts.

Ollie Nutty and Mason Hughes put on 13 for the opening stand followed by Rhys Tennick and George Wonnacott 19, Jack llewellyn and Joe Warrender 14 and Charlie Holder and Oliver Stamp 18.

For Cresselly Jack Mears 1-12 , Phoenix Phillips 1-9 and an excellent direct hit run out, Cadyn Jones 3-8 and no doubt the fieder of the match with two suburb catches was Finley Rowlands.

Hook finished on 246-6.

This final was the inaugural year of the Evan Martin Trophy, a stalwart of Hook CC for many years, and after deliberations with the Umpires the trophy was awarded to a jubilant George Wonnacott of Hook

Again it was great to see a large crowd of knowledgable spectators who certainly saw some entertaining Cricket . It was great to see the two teams enjoying the aftermath game celebrations with Hook playing all sort of games on the field.

In the presentation after the match Martin Jones (Junior Organiser) congratulated both sides on reaching the Final with some excellent play by both and Hook for their victory. Both sides should be proud of their Junior sections.

He thanked Hook for hosting the final including Andrew Thomas & Keith James the grounds staff. Afterwards the Club l refreshments for the players, which was well received.

He thanked Umpires Allan Hansen and Robert Ridge, Scorers Natalie Jones & Jon Willington who all contributed to the evenings entertainment.

Last and by no means least he thanked Sponsors Colin John of Llewelyn Davies & Co Chartered Accountants for his continued and valuable support of Junior Cricket in the County togerther with Richard Merriman County Chairman.

Cresselly Squad: Rhys White, Bobby Shapcott, Mari Cole, Lilly & George

Hook Squad: Dylan Keen, Nico Quinn, Morgan Jones, Rowan Nickerson

Sponsor: Colin John – Llewelyn Davies & Co Chartered Accountants

Umpires: Allan Hansen & Robert Ridge

Scorers: Natalie Jones & Jon Willington

Coaches: Simon Cole/ Christian Phillips and Matthew Holder

Venue: Hook CC

Cresselly Under 11s
Evan Martin Trophy winner George Wonnacott
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Wales senior men’s assistant coach Gareth Williams departs

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GARETH Williams, Wales senior men’s assistant coach with responsibility for the contact area, has left his role to join the Scarlets as defence coach.

Williams departed following the three-Test Series in South Africa where Wales’ senior men’s side secured its first ever win over the Springboks in South Africa in the second Test.

The 40-year old started working as part of head coach Wayne Pivac’s coaching team during the 2020 Autumn Nations Cup and 2021 title-winning Guinness Six Nations campaigns, combining the role with his previous position with the Welsh Rugby Union as head of transitional players and head coach of Wales men’s U20, before being appointed on a full-time basis in June 2021.

Prior to this Williams spent a decade coaching Wales Sevens on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, during which time he helped his country win Rugby World Cup Sevens, as well as assisting Team GB in claiming silver at the Rio Olympics.

Pivac said: “I’d like to thank Gareth for his work over the last two years. It’s a shame to lose one of the coaching team just over a year out to Rugby World Cup, but I understand Gareth’s decision and am pleased for him.

“He’s not going far and it will be great having a good young coach moving from the national team into the regional system to further their development. This is also an important element in increasing alignment between international and domestic rugby in Wales.”

Williams said: “I’m incredibly proud to have been able to work with the men’s national team over the past two years. This is a such a great group of talented and hard-working players and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

“It is not an easy decision to leave and I’d like to thank Wayne, the other coaches and staff for all their support during my time with the squad.”

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