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Whitland remain unbeaten

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By Jonathan Twigg

“A HAPPY camp is a winning camp” according to Coach Gareth Bennett and the GD Harries sponsored ‘Green Machine’ of Whitland were in buoyant mood on Saturday (Nov 4) after they kept their unbeaten start to the season in tact after against previously unbeaten visitors Pontarddulais.

The Borders are committed to play a style of rugby where they are willing to play the situation which falls before them, where a precarious 9-7 lead at half time in the face of a swirling wind could have led to them wilting in the face of a side intent on leaving Parc Llwyn Ty Gwyn with something to show for their efforts.

They scored the only try of the game two minutes before the break when winger Gethin Williams crossed wide out for fellow winger Paul Geary to add a majestic conversion to put the ‘Ambers’ 7-6 ahead, but had to settle for a losing bonus point as the home sides outside half Nico Setaro kicked them to victory with five penalties.

Setaro took a while to settle into the flow of the game as he was guilty of some poor tactical kicking as his side were second best in the early exchanges in all aspects.

The scrum found itself disrupted from the start, as skipper Marc Thomas lost one against the head and throughout the first half they continually failed to secure line out ball which would have allowed them a platform from which to play on the front foot.

Setaro missed an effort from just beyond the 22m line after six minutes before ‘The Bont’ lost influential Loose Head prop Andrew Williams two minutes later as he found himself exposed to some rough treatment on the floor and the ebb of the game swung in Whitland’s favour.

Hooker Thomas was tenacious in his tackling and driving play supported by the ‘boiler house’ veterans Raff Williams and 47 year old Dai Ebsworth.

Ebsworth experience of playing for three decades, including at Narberth was evident both on and off the ball as he became a go to man in the line out which led to a second penalty failed penalty attempt for Setaro after winger Liam Price had run over 25m with the ball in hand.

Fellow winger Sean Coles also combined in a sweeping 50m run with Price and the home pressure finally paid dividends midway through the half when Setaro’s penalty was successful after Pontyates referee Justin Thomas marched forward for ten metres after some dissent.

The visitors were penalised eight times in the first half, mainly for not releasing the player in the tackle as they slowed the game down with many on field injury assessments.

The tactics galvanised Thomas, Ebsworth, Number 8 Jack Mason and flanker Benji Kirk to put in the hard yards for their side and a second Setaro penalty after 32 minutes extended the lead.  Williams try came about thanks to second row Jordan Daniels and flanker Dean Courtney setting a platform for the winger to cross.

In time added on at the end of the first half a counter attack from their own half saw Setaro’s angled kick fielded by full back Aled Stone, a product of the Clubs junior and youth set up.  Instead of putting the ball out of play to end the half he tried to run from within touching distance of his own posts to be caught by the marauding home back row and the resultant penalty from wide out for not releasing allowed Setaro to lead his side from the field with a 9-7 cushion.

Centre Josh Thomas entered the fray after half time for Whitland as ball player Johnnie Thomas moved to the wing to replace Sean Coles, victim of a dead leg.

The second half game management from the home side saw them stifle any effort by Pontardullais to get ahead with some excellent handling and miss moves shipped the ball wide to winger Thomas and Price ensuring the game was played deep in the visitors territory.

Setaro and full back Scott Newton are composite ball handlers and kickers from hand, alongside Thomas and Price as they dictated both the tempo and tactical play which saw them combine and travel at times over sixty metres with ball in hand.

Coach Dan Mason was complimentary of this play as ‘the players are encouraged to express their ability at all times’.

He added: “There may have been a hangover from our last game at Tumble alongside nerves due to the ‘magnitude of the game’ at the start of the afternoon but we are all confident in our own and our team mates skills.  Bennett, added ‘there is no better feeling for a front five forward to get up from the battle on the floor to see the ball 40m downfield and it keeps a spring in our step and a smile on our faces.”

Replacement Thomas also added a new dimension to the play after the break by taking and carrying the ball to the first defender with fellow centre Alun Davies enjoying the freedom created to ensure Setaro and the back three could perform.

Flanker Ryan Michael was instrumental in leading a high defence line alongside scrum half Adam Davies who edged out his more experienced counterpart Adrian Killa or the visitors as the game wore on, which restricted the ability for Stone et al to run back from deep, resulting into the kicks into the hands of Newton, Setaro and Thomas.

Setaro landed two more penalties as the graft of his forwards put their side 15-7 ahead with ten minutes remaining although it could have been different had Geary not slipped when attempting a straight forward penalty attempt a minute later; he made amends with five minutes left after work from Daniels drew Michael offside as his side felt the loss just when his side most needed him most of Number 8 Jacob Miles, an attacking dynamo alongside his scrum half Killa all afternoon.

A vociferous visiting contingent in the stands became frustrated as the play couldn’t transfer to give their idols an opportunity to win the game where a Club spokesman at the end of the game praised ‘Whitland’s second half performance, which ended our unbeaten league start, although the losing bonus point may prove crucial as the season draws to its climax.”

The final word on an absorbing Whitland Ladies sponsored top of table encounter was left to Bennett. “As coaches it’s a case of osmosis as these players just want to take everything we are giving them onto the pitch.  We have no expectations beyond our next game and we are able to use players out of position when the need arises; our philosophy of trying to play rugby beyond our outside centre will remain.”

Next week Pontarddulais entertain St Clears whilst the unbeaten Green Machine travel to Mumbles to take on a side which were unable to field a team last weekend.

Sport

Nicky Hayen: European football is the goal for Haverfordwest County

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HAVERFORDWEST COUNTY return to action this weekend as they take on Newtown in the JD Cymru Premier.

Football in Wales had been suspended following the announcement of Welsh Government restrictions but they have now been relaxed and football can once again get underway.

The Bluebirds face a tough test against the side that sits in second place in the table but new manager Nicky Hayen will not be in charge for the game against Newtown as his work permit has not come through.

He will be watching on though as Gary ‘Waggy’ Richards takes temporary charge and Nicky told the Herald that he is fully confident that his assistants can get a good result.

When the sides last met in October the Bluebirds came out on top with a 1-0 win thanks to a goal from Alhagi Touray Sisay.

Speaking ahead of the game on Saturday Nicky told us about his plans for the team, his ambitions and how he wants to work closely with grassroots teams in Pembrokeshire and with the community.

Nicky may not be able to take charge just yet but he has already been observing training sessions and been gathering information on the other teams in the JD Cymru Premier.

Asked what attracted him to join Haverfordwest County, Nicky said: “First of all, the ambition of the chairman, this is the most important thing so he had a project for three years to reach European football. I like projects and when you’re digging into stuff from the club, you can see that is a good combination.

“I saw some games of the team and I saw two different teams, one team who play with confidence and played the football that I like, building out from the back and trying to find the football solutions on the ground, and I saw a team that didn’t have confidence that was clearing every ball and wasn’t winning contests so I saw that they have the skills to do what I have in my mind.

“So this combination, the ambition of the chairman, the team that is playing at this moment, I think we have to be capable of performing better than the position in the league at this moment.”

The ultimate aim for the club is to reach European football but Nicky isn’t thinking about that just yet.

“The ambition is to make it to the first six positions, it will be almost impossible for this season so we want to avoid relegation and then have a good pre-season and we’ll see what happens next season but finishing in the top six is a nice goal.

“To reach this you have to win your first game and then your second game, I just take one game at a time, starting with the game at Newtown, we’ll try to win and then I hope I can be on the bench for the Penybont game.

“The short term project is staying in the league, but the project is much bigger and it includes building bridges with the grassroots teams with the Pembrokeshire League, with the community so what we want to do is to create an environment over here that is more than football.

“The academy is something that is really important, we want to improve our players and everyone can see that we give chances to players to develop in the squad and this is what we are already doing now.

“The one thing I don’t want to do is change the club culture. We have to keep the culture but we have to add some value and create an identity that is clear for the next fifty years.”

Nicky is settling in well in Haverfordwest and is looking forward to seeing more of the area but says he is focussed on the football for now.

Haverfordwest’s game with Newtown takes place on Saturday, January 22, kick off at 2:30pm.

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Sport

Five-star Milford sink Pennar

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MILFORD UNITED moved up to seventh place in Division 2 on Saturday (Jan 15) as they beat Pennar Robins seconds 5-1 at Marble Hall.

The club had worked up until 1:00 pm to prepare the pitch for the encounter with Pennar Robins and their efforts were matched by the players who put in a very good performance to overcome a youthful and capable Pennar team.

Milford started sprightly, attacking down both flanks. But it was a break down the middle by Liam Parks, which first opened up a Pennar defence, which was well marshalled by Gideon Hockin.

Parks ran through on goal and when he was closed down by the Pennar keeper, he slipped it to the right for Liam Parr, whose shot from a difficult angle, hit the post.

The Pennar keeper was busy and pulled off a number of good saves. Milford looked destined to open the scoring when Ben Lewis squared a ball for Lewys Tee inside the box, only to see his shot canon off a Pennar defender making a last ditch block.

But it was Pennar who opened the scoring in the first half. A free kick was conceded by Milford on the half way line, who then failed to deal adequately with it. The ball fell kindly for Liam Williams, who executed a lob perfectly to score against the run of play.

Milford were still in the game though and they finished the first half putting more pressure on the Pennar back line, one attack resulting in a corner. Morgan Picton whipped in a far post cross, which was met sweetly by the on rushing Jacob Horn to level the game.

Pennar made a couple of tactical changes at half time and started the second half well. It was a good shot from Pennar, from which Ferdy Stevenson pulled of an equally good save, diving down low to his right.

Milford began to gain control of the game and created several good opportunities, which they couldn’t quite take. But a good interchange with Lewys Tee, opened up the defence for Ben Lewis, who managed to get his shot off and scored from just inside the box.

At 2-1 there was still a game to play for but the pressure was mounting and a Milford corner was not fully cleared and was picked up by Horn just outside the box. He managed to fashion a little bit of space and supplied an excellent cross to the back post. It was met by his centre half partner, Scott Griffiths, who rounded off an accomplished performance by the pairing, by heading home the third and decisive goal.

This gave Milford a chance to get fresh legs on. Owen Wilson, Lewys Tee and Liam Parr came off for a well deserved rest. All three contributing well to an impressive performance.

The new arrivals ensured that the home side kept their foot on the gas. A darting run by Liam Parks into the penalty area looked dangerous and a Pennar defender couldn’t get to ball and brought him down for a penalty.

Ashley Mathias stepped up confidently to take the spot kick and dispatched it into the bottom right corner.

Milford were enjoying their football now and continued to dominate possession and a ball played over the advancing Pennar defence fell to Scott Griffiths, who, with two touches, put the ball into the back of the net, only to be correctly ruled offside and denied a brace.

It was now time for another one of the substitutes to get nvolved in the action after a ball was played into the box by Jacob Horn. The defence didn’t quite get their line right, which left Milford’s Tom Blockwell unmarked in the middle of the box. He still had a lot to do though, but having chested it down he shot from 10 yards out to score the final goal.

An impressive performance and result from the Milford Robins against a good Pennar Robins side, who had previously won 4 of their last 5 games.

Sorry sent in error. Cont.:-Get involved in the action after a ball was played into the box by Jacob Horn. The defence didn’t quite get their line right, which left Milford’s Tom Blockwell unmarked in the middle of the box. He still had a lot to do though, but having chested it down he shot from 10 yards out to score the final goal. An impressive performance and result from the Milford Robins against a good Pennar Robins side, who had previously won 4 of their last 5 games.

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Sport

Bridge and Clarby settle for a point

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CLARBESTON ROAD and Merlins Bridge were forced to settle for a share of the points on Saturday (Jan 15) as their game finished 1-1.

The two sides had met at the Racecourse in November with that game finishing 3-3 and it was another close game on Saturday.

Matthew D’Ivry opened the scoring for the Wizards inside 5 minutes after latching onto a short back pass and firing into the top corner.

Will Haworth missed great chance to double the lead for the visitors and at the other end Ben John forced Bridge keeper James Dickson into a save.

Within seconds of the restart, Dickson was again called into action in what was the save of the afternoon.

Midway through the half, Clarbeston Road were level as Charles George powered in a header from a set piece.

Shortly afterwards, Ben John had a goal disallowed for Clarbeston Road but there were no further chances and a draw was a fair result.

On Saturday, January 22, Merlins Bridge travel to Goodwick United while Clarbeston Road travel to Fishguard.

Clarbeston Road: Matthew Davies, Josh Wood, Greg Brown, Tom Glover, Matthew Griffiths, Jake Booth, Charles George, Ben John, Jason Griffiths, Steffan Thomas. Subs: Joules Ward, Matthew Ellis, Keegan Summers.

Merlins Bridge: James Dickson, Chris Ormond, Andrew John, Josh Silk, Henry Thomas, Dai Davies, Jordan Williams, Leon Davies, Matthew D’Ivry, Will Haworth, Ben Davies. Subs: Matthew Price, Chris Brown, Lee Hudgell.

PHOTO by MW10 Sports Photography

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