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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

Ammanford sign Kurtis Marsh from Lawrenny

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LAWRENNY’S Kurtis Marsh will play for Ammanford Cricket Club in the 2022 season after the two clubs agreed a deal.

Marsh was one of Lawrenny’s stand out performers in Division 1 of the Pembrokeshire League this year.

He scored a number of important centuries and fifties as his club just missed out on securing the league title.

In total he scored 1070 runs in 15 innings while his highest score was 140 not out.

He was the Division’s highest scorer by just over 200 runs and was unbeaten in five innings.

On Twitter, Lawrenny Cricket Club said: “Absolutely gutted to lose Kurtis Marsh to Ammanford but he absolutely deserves this opportunity to play at a higher level. An unbelievable player and a top, top bloke. Go and smash it up there Kurt!!”

Marsh will now look forward to testing himself in Division 1 of the South Wales Premier Cricket League.

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Sport

Carew and Hakin earn big wins in West Wales Cup

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CAREW and Hakin United were big winners on Saturday (Oct 9) as they booked their places in round two of the West Wales Cup.

Carew travelled to Neath Premier Division side Cilfrew Rovers and it didn’t take them long to settle as James Hinchcliffe scored in the opening minute.

Cilfrew’s task became ever harder three minutes later as Adam Muskett scored to put his side in a strong position.

Matthew Evans pulled a goal back for the Rovers after 16 minutes but with five to go until half time Carew scored their third through Sam Christopher.

Muskett and Hinchcliffe scored in quick succession in the second half to all but seal the win for the Rooks.

Goals continued to come as Muskett completed his hat trick before Shaun Whitfield, a Dylan Morgan penalty and two from sub Jack Christopher took Carew’s score into double figures.

Muskett then got his fourth of the game to make it 11-1 to Carew.

Hakin also made the trip to Neath to face Division 1 side Resolven and, like Carew, they did not have to wait long for the first goal of the game.

It came from Justin Harding after four minutes and it was soon 2-0 as Jaden Chapman scored.

Ben Aldred then scored two goals in the space of two minutes, both assisted by Ryan Wilson, to effectively win the game for the visitors.

Harding added his second and Hakin’s fifth shortly before half time.

Twenty minutes into the second half, the Vikings added a sixth as sub Laurie Haworth found the back of the net.

Aldred and Chapman added to the scoring before Shane Walsh scored with three minutes to go to seal a 9-0 win.

Kilgetty bowed out of the competition as they were beaten 4-2 by Giants Grave. St Ishmaels were also sent packing after they were beaten 7-3 by CKSV.

Merlins Bridge’s game away at Treboeth was postponed because of a positive covid-19 case amongst one of the Neath teams’ players.

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Sport

Saints go through to round two

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ST Clears booked their place in the second round of the West Wales Cup on Saturday (Oct 9) as they beat Llangyfelach 3-0.

The Saints started the game slowly with most of the squad having been at captain Danny Peters’ wedding the day before.

Swansea Senior League Division 2 side Llangyfelach hit the post early on in what was their only real chance of the first half.

The Saints had quite a few chances to take the lead as Steve Thomas hit the bar with a good header from Ben John.

They slowly got on top and and they finally took the lead when the Llangyfelach keeper spilled a corner and Kyran Lewis nodded in from close range.

The second half was tight with more chances coming for the visitors but it was also heated at times with a number of yellow cards shown.

The second goal for the Saints when Nick squire hit a 30 yard effort from outside the box into the top corner, assisted by Martin Thomas.

Shortly before full time, the home side had Michael Matwychuk sent off for an apparent off the ball elbow.

Nick squire scored his second of the game from close range not long after to seal the victory.

The Saints’ reward for their win is a home tie against Felinfoel in the second round.

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