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Heart & Soul: A fans view of the Scarlets’ victory against the Cardiff Blues

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By Jonathan Twigg

PARC Y Scarlets was the venue on Saturday (Oct 28) evening for the second ‘Welsh Derby’ as the Scarlets eventually defeated the Cardiff Blues 30-17 to remain top of the Guinness Pro 14 Conference B table.

Leading 18-3 at half time  through tries from man of the match Hadleigh Parkes and hooker Ryan Elias a buoyant home side were pegged back to 18-17 after an hour as the visitors scored tries from New Zealand born winger Willis Halaholo and replacement scrum half Lloyd Williams to go with conversions from former ‘man of Hendy’ Stephen Shingler.

At this stage the fire under the saucepan needed rekindling and the ‘hwyl’ found its voice from the Hydro North stand, be it water or something stronger to inspire replacement full back to fly over and score with his first touch, thanks to winger Steff Evans grubber kick following a flowing home sides move through the hands of their back division.

A bonus point victory was secured ten minutes from the end as Evans crossed to complete the scoring with Leigh Halfpenny striking a conversion and two penalties and Rhys Patchel a conversion.

Playing in deepest West Wales has often been revered as playing in heaven and the support given from the home faithful is legendry across the globe.  Be it the folk song Sospan Fach synonymous to Stradey Park and now Parc Y Scarlets or a rendition of Calon Lan the close knit community spirit associated to this Welsh Region is special.

Have you wondered how a person goes from being a supporter, to being a fan to becoming a fanatic?  Stationed in the Hydro North stand, which was inspirational after an hour of the game to push the Scarlets to victory, it was a question answered by Mick Haltam, a former three quarter with Haverfordwest and Llangwm, who hails from the Midlands, but is now firmly ensconced in the local sporting scene.

“As a child I grew up in the 70’s when Welsh rugby was such a joy to watch. Even as an Englishman I used to marvel at the skills of Phil Bennett, JJ Williams, Delme Thomas and Ray Gravell who used to play for this magical team way out west that I could not pronounce. Players like these and the romance of games, like beating the ‘All Blacks’ made me an admirer of Llanelli RFC from afar.”

Mick arrived in Pembrokeshire when he was posted to Cawdor Barracks, in 1996 and he fulfilled his dream of living the magic at Stradey Park. “I would be an irregular visitor to Stradey as I was still playing the game” said Mike.  With partner Joanne Phelps equally smitten from the pull of ‘Johnnie Bach’ it took little persuasion for them to take their son Olly when the Club introduced the ‘supporters’ village’ in 2010.  Hooked immediately with the family match day experience, that first against Leinster, when Olly was just three years old was the start of a love story.

Now season ticket holders, the family are committed to the pilgrimage from their home in Narberth by car or train, depending on the kick off time.  Mick recalled when he went from being a fan to a fanatic, after the 24-15 Heinekein Cup quarter final victory over Munster in 2007.

He has been to every Pro 12 ground, with the exception of Treviso and now with the introduction of South African sides the Southern Kings and Cheetahs, plans are already in place to finance the those memory making trips. “European games have also allowed us to get to all the English Premier clubs, except Newcastle, plus Perpignan, Brive, Clermont and Toulon in France.”

At the end of the 2013 season when the Scarlets made the play-off semi final away to Ulster, Olly was a mascot and savoured the atmosphere at Ravenhill for the first time holding Rob McCusker’s hand.  As proud as they were, it was surpassed last season with the Pro12 Final mauling of Munster as it rekindled the ‘magic’ which first drew Mick’s attention in a bygone era.

Mick recalls with delight that ‘Priestland’ try v Perpignan in 2010 as readily as any victory over the Ospreys, including last spring, alongside European victories at Northampton and Harlequins whilst Glasgow is undoubtedly a family favourite destination.  A definition of fanatical can be summed up with Micks explanation of how he and Olly had planned a ‘dads and lads’ visit to the last scheduled away game of last season in Connacht.

“Olly and I took my motorbike via the Fishguard ferry and rode to Galway, experiencing a fantastic away trip. Of course, winning this game meant we’d qualified for the play-offs and pitched us away to Leinster two weeks later. A family weekend followed, flying from Bristol to Dublin before a third Irish away trip in four weeks hit the wallet hard [but it was worth every penny], as we left Pembroke on the 3am ferry and drove to Dublin for the European Final.”

In true partnership Mick and Joanne shared the driving; Mick taking the wheel on the journey into Dublin from their hotel half an hour outside the City, with Joanne driving back! Not even Steve Martin could have perceived Micks voyage of discovery in supporting the Scarlets; through ‘Planes, Trains, and Automobiles’, plus bikes and ferries, experiencing first hand the Heart and Soul of Scarlet Fever.

“We are all part of the Scarlets family” said Joanne, “including the staff and players; we always find time for each other. Today we’ve had a day out, firstly the obligatory shopping experience at Trostre before a family meal and the early arrival at the ground.”  A chuckling Mick, who himself is now coach of Narberth Under 11s after representing the Army with aplomb as far afield as Romania, summed up the victory over the Cardiff Blues with a splattering of ‘Calon Lan’ from his still notable Midlands cadence, alongside friends Steve Barnett and Tom George.

Rest assured there is more fever to come from the Scarlets family; Mick, Joanne and Olly will undoubtedly reminisce for time and memorial.

Sport

Scarlets make five changes for Cardiff Blues clash

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Scarlets show five changes to their starting line-up for Saturday’s Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup clash with Cardiff Blues at Parc y Scarlets (15:00; Premier Sports),

Interim head coach Dai Flanagan has reshuffled his side, giving opportunities to centre Ioan Nicholas and lock Josh Helps.

It will be 23-year-old Nicholas’s first PRO14 appearance since October 2019, having been frustrated by injury this season. Helps comes into the starting XV for the first time since November.

In the back three there is one change with Johnny McNicholl replacing fellow Wales international Steff Evans on the left wing. The only other switch behind the scrum is the inclusion of NIcholas for Tyler Morgan to partner Jonathan Davies in midfield. Angus O’Brien and Kieran Hardy continue their half-back partnership.

Up front, Ryan Elias again swaps with Ken Owens and resumes the captaincy after leading the side for the first time in the opening round match against the Dragons. He packs down in between Rob Evans and Alex Jeffries, the scorer of the only try of the game in last weekend’s 22-6 win over the Ospreys.

Helps and Lewis Rawlins combine in the second row, while injuries to Blade Thomson and Uzair Cassiem see Ed Kennedy handed the No. 8 jersey. Kennedy, Aaron Shingler and Jac Morgan make up the back row.

There are two of Warren Gatland’s 2021 Lions selections on the bench in Ken Owens and Gareth Davies. Steff Thomas, Javan Sebastian, Morgan Jones, Iesyn Rees, Dan Jones and Joe Roberts provide the rest of the replacement cover.

Both the Scarlets and Blues have a win apiece after the opening two rounds of the Rainbow Cup.

Scarlets team v Cardiff Blues (Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup; Parc y Scarlets, Sat, May 15, 15:00 Premier Sports)
15 Leigh Halfpenny; 14 Tom Rogers, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Ioan Nicholas, 11 Johnny McNicholl; 10 Angus O’Brien, 9 Kieran Hardy; 1 Rob Evans, 2 Ryan Elias (capt), 3 Alex Jeffries, 4 Josh Helps, 5 Lewis Rawlins, 6 Aaron Shingler, 7 Jac Morgan, 8 Ed Kennedy.
Reps: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Steff Thomas, 18 Javan Sebastian, 19 Morgan Jones, 20 Iestyn Rees, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Dan Jones, 23 Joe Roberts.

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Sport

Newtown hold on to beat Haverfordwest

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NEWTOWN secured seventh place in the JD Cymru Premier Play-off conference as they beat Haverfordwest County 2-1 at the Bridge Meadow.

The Robins had beaten the Bluebirds 6-1 at Latham Park a few weeks ago but it was much different this time around.

Newtown took the lead as early as the second minute as they won a corner which was sent into the box for Tyrone Ofori who flicked the ball in.

The Bluebirds battled for a way back into the game and came close when the ball was played over the top for Jack Wilson but it just ran away and the Newtown keeper Dave Jones was able to gather the ball.

On 17 minutes, the Bluebirds won a corner which Elliot Scotcher sent into the box and Danny Williams headed in to the far corner to make it 1-1.

Newtown were then given a free kick in a dangerous position which captain Craig Williams sent into the box. Kieran Mills-Evans chested the ball down at the back post and Bluebirds keeper Wojciech Gajda made a good save to push the ball away.

There was another chance for Newtown soon after as Tyrone Ofori saw his header pushed wide by Gajda.

From the resulting corner, Shane Sutton headed home to put Newtown back in front.

The Bluebirds then had a chance to get level but Dan Summerfield sent a rasping drive just over the bar.

With half an hour gone, Alaric Jones sent a ball into the box but Corey Shephard saw his header saved by Dave Jones.

Both sides battled away with Scotcher sending a drive over from the edge of the box.

However it remained 2-1 to the visitors as the half time whistle went.

Newtown had a great chance to extend their lead at the start of the second half as Williams sent a corner into the box but Mills-Evans headed just wide.

The Bluebirds looked to get back in the game but despite getting into some promising positions, they were unable to test the Newtown keeper.

With twenty minutes to go a Bluebirds throw was headed on to the back post. Danny Williams headed towards goal and thought it had gone over the line but Dave Jones made a fantastic save to keep Newtown ahead.

Sub Cameron Keetch then had a great chance to level for the home side but he headed wide.

As the game entered the final stages, rain became harder making things difficult for both sides. Newtown were still searching for a third and nearly had it when the ball was played in to Breese into the box but he shot wide.

The Bluebirds were also looking for a late equaliser but as time ran out they resorted to long balls which Newtown were able to deal with.

The visitors kept the ball in the corner late on but the Bluebirds were able to get the ball out as they looked for one last chance.

It never came and the visitors held on to secure seventh place in the table.

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Neyland through in Village Cup after beating Bronwydd

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NEYLAND made it through to the next round of the Village Cup as they beat Bronwydd by 98 runs on Sunday (May 9).

No cricket had been possible in Pembrokeshire on Saturday because of heavy and persistent rain but some great work meant that their cup game could go ahead.

Before the game got underway, a minutes silence was held in respect of former Bronwydd CC player Aled John, who recently passed away.

Bronwydd won the toss and elected to field first which came as no surprise and they were able to restrict Neylad to a score of 160-9 in their 40 overs.

After losing Patrick Bellerby and Ashley Sutton early on, to the bowling of Clive Tucker, Neyland were sitting on a score of 23-2.

However, a stand of 54 between Nick Koomen and Brad McDermott-Jenkins put the hosts in a good position.

Koomen had reached 38 with six fours but he was then bowled by Josh Rencken and wickets continued to fall.

Nathan Banner departed for a second ball duck when he was bowled by Matthew Bagshaw and the same bowler then did the same to Ross Hardy.

McDermott-Jenkins had hit six fours in his score of 40 but he then fell to the bowling of Rencken and Neyand had slipped to 99-6.

Andrew Millers (1), George Evans (11) and Lewis Page all fell to the bowling of James Dickson as Neyland were in danger of being bowled out.

It was left to brothers Sean and Patrick Hannon to steady the ship as they shared 29 runs for the final wicket.

Both finished on scores of 15 not out with Sean hitting a six while Patrick’s score came from only 14 balls.

It meant that Bronwydd would need 161 to progress to the next round.

They made a steady start to their reply but when Josh Rencken was caught by Patrick Bellerby off the bowling of Nathan Banner on a score of 19, wickets began to tumble.

Jacob Jenkinson made a score of 15 but he was then stumped by Sean Hannon off the bowling of Andrew Miller.

Miller also picked up the wicket of Oliver Furneaux before Ross Hardy trapped James Dickson leg before to leave the visitors on 51-5.

Hardy then did the same to Carwyn Jones and he also bowled Iwan Davies as the game started slipping away for Bronwydd.

Miller then picked up his third to finish with figures of 3-11 from his eight overs while Hardy returned to pick up his fourth to finish with impressive figures of 4-5 from seven overs, five of which were maidens.

McDermott-Jenkins wrapped the game up with the wicket of Colin Tucker as the hosts secured an excellent win.

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