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Sport

‘Dancing in the rain’ which the Gale brings

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By Jonathan Twigg

SINCE the turn of the new Millennium, Narberth RFC has been one of the premier club sides in South West Wales.

They currently sit in second place behind Pontypool in the WRU Championship table, a division in which they have remained since the WRU national leagues inception in the mid 1990’s.

The coaching guru in charge of the current Otters side is Sean Gale, a former Scarlet’s player whose commitment is recognised by all associated to the Pembrokeshire club. Commitment is part of Sean’s DNA, where any former work colleagues at the West Wales Fire Brigade testify.

The Fire Brigade have a long association to rugby in the West Wales area, with many players with Scarlet’s and its predecessor Llanelli RFC finding themselves on a career pathway with the ‘Brigade’.  Gale served for 32 years in the noble profession after Ronnie King opened the door of opportunity and is unsurprising that the ‘vow of allegiance’ he showed to his career, has been visible at the Lewis Lloyd Ground for a decade.

A man of few words whose compassionate tone rings clearly and when heard instantly captures the attention of those present. Never a raised intonation and the positives not the negatives proffered; a blueprint which fellow coaches Liam Gadd and Lloyd Phillips follow.

Sean was a graduate from Graig comprehensive school in the heart of Llanelli and had an instantly recognisable name to live up to. His dad Norman, revered in the Town as a front row hard man, captain of both his home town club and Country where he won 25 caps in a period when Wales were a team to mix it with the best.

Sean has recently crept quietly beyond the half century in terms of age, still living in Llanelli and committing to travelling three times a week to Narberth for training and games from his home in Swiss Valley. Married to Elizabeth for over 25 years he recognized her unstinting support of his rugby journey, alongside his mother Ann. Norman passed away in 2005 and it’s now his son Nick who shares his dad’s rugby memories alongside daughter Hannah.

Returning to the squad after a six month injury Nick plays under his dad’s stewardship, being a strike runner from the back three as opposed to his dad’s likeness for packing down in the front three.

“Living and breathing rugby is something I’m used to” Nick warmly stated with a beaming smile.  “Dad, never had a hair out of place and no stone unturned. He wants the best for me as a son and as a player with Narberth. I’ve come to understand when I need to listen and occasionally speak on a rugby matters! Dad cares; about his family, friends and colleagues, including the players in the squad and this is repaid tenfold from those of us lucky enough to be in the inner sanctum.”

The front row is not a place for the faint hearted where camaraderie exists well beyond the 80 minutes of battle. “I enjoyed my tussles with Mike Griffiths immensely” chuckled Sean.

Mike, the Cardiff prop, formally with Bridgend won 35 Welsh caps but Sean added: “I had the utmost respect for him. He was a tough person to scrummage against, but he did it fairly and without prejudice. I also played alongside the icons of Welsh rugby, current National assistant coach Rob Howley and British Lion winger Ieuan Evans before I hung up my boots for the final time in Llanelli colours in1999. That final game was against Romania, twelve years after my debut against Pontardulais.”

Memories are important and Sean recounted with pride when he played against the All Blacks in 1997, a game lost by over 80 points; he narrated his efforts of scoring two tries against Namibia highlighting such achievements come only from hard work. Sean was always seen as a good trainer, where his rugged stature came to the fore in games as a strong ball carrying prop; a try scorer!

“I managed 10 tries in one season for Bridgend which is a record for a prop” and one which he still shares with Whitland born prop Meredydd James.

Sean won seven secondary schools caps as a second row, with a stand out victory in 1985 when an unbeaten All Blacks schools side toured the Principality under Graham Henry.

He also played for the Wales Under 20’s and Under 21’s and made the ‘A’ team squad but never had the opportunity to run out on the pitch.

He clocked up 209 appearances for Llanelli with the final three years as a professional player whilst maintaining his service record with the Brigade, before chalking up 90 games in Bridgend colours and enjoying a ‘final season’ at Heywood Lane, playing for Tenby United in 2002-03.

Sean has qualities which any respected person, let alone a coach would hope to have associated to him.

He is honest and hardworking whilst continuing to maintain a drive to achieve more.  His family heritage is a cornerstone of his life and this shines through in his commitment to rugby.

Now a level 3 coach he worked with the Scarlet’s Academy for three seasons after starting out with Tumble where he was a player/coach before becoming forwards coach with Llanelli, Swalec champions in 2005.

He joined Narberth in 2006 following an invitation from then Director of Rugby Jonathan Dodds after they worked together at the Scarlets Academy and with the Wales amateur side.

Coaching was always something he strove to do following a lifetimes involvement nurtured in the early days from the family pub, a stone’s throw from Stradey Park. Frequenting the hostelry on a regular basis were Llanelli greats like Stuart Gallacher and Ray Gravell.

“Dad coached the Scarlets, so it was a natural progression for me to stay in the game as a coach once I finished playing because it means so much to me; it’s in my heart and soul” said Nick.

Sean’s mantra as a coach is to build his teams around a strong forward platform, never taking a backward step to an opponent, before then trying to play an expansive style.

He remains ambitious for Narberth as he fondly recounts: “I was impressed by the warmth of the welcome I received; it’s a very friendly club but importantly for me one which remains driven to be successful.”

He is focused in his approach and philosophy, determined to keep Narberth in the top two of the National Championship.

Doing so will be no mean feat as it is increasingly difficult with Premiership clubs able to cherry pick the best players, which is part of the player pathway in the Scarlet’s region.

Sean said he would be interested in developing his coaching career and with a raised eyebrow and a killer grin Sean recalled the time he was ‘hoodwinked’ into believing the then Llanelli maestro Gareth Jenkins was offering him a role back with the Scarlets. “I enjoyed setting the training programme after that faux pas by Adrian Killa”, he said.

Sean remains committed to Narberth as he explained his eagerness for the national leagues to remain as the current structure is under review by the WRU.

“One thing that frustrates me as a coach is the imposed Autumn break which happens for the international period in November.

“I find this hard because we go a month without competitive fixtures to keep my players at their top of the game. I have had memories which are significant in my life story and I hope those under my wing today build their own storyboard, which they can do if we all work together to get the right environment.”

Narberth as a club are equally as ambitious and are watching the debate on the restructuring of the national leagues with the same interest as Sean.

“We want to finish as high as possible every season; the result in every game is important, but not as important as the enjoyment the game brings” pointed out Rob ‘Basher’ Lewis, the clubs hardworking administrator. “Narberth have the right man in Sean at present and we can see the professionalism and passion he brings being embedded in the Club.”

Narberth hope the winds of change doesn’t occur, yet Sean’s strengths include his man-management of players and the rapport he has with the committee and supporters.

“He is currently irreplaceable as that skill set is difficult to replicate. As a club we need a figurehead to ensure our development plan is delivered” said Rob. Narberth have the foresight to hopefully enhance the playing facilities with a 4G surface and build on the senior team’s success so it emanates through the youth and junior sections.

They have a trademark association with brand names in the County and are in discussions with new partners to help them build their dreams.

Clearly Narberth can manage the ‘here and now’ as they have a structure off the field to accommodate a match day experience to rival a professional club.

There are no Otters burying their heads underground as they strive to improve each year, sharpening their teeth ready for the next challenge whilst, fully embracing the ‘gale’ in which they find themselves.

“We are not waiting for the gale to pass us by” said Basher “but we are dancing in the rain he brings.”

Sport

Harrison Allen: Lawrenny go through to quarter finals

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LAWRENNY booked their place in the quarter finals of the Harrison Allen Bowl on Wednesday night (May 25) as they beat Burton by nine wickets.

Lawrenny won the toss and elected to field and they were able to bowl Burton out for just 93.

Burton lost James Davies early on as he was caught by Tom Cole off the bowling of Jamie Lewis.

Ryan Morton also claimed two wickets as Burton slipped to 58-3.

That brought Luke Hayman into the middle with brother Toby and the pair took the score to 67-3 after 13 overs.

Toby reached a score of 37 before heading back to the pavilion while Luke added 12.

Steve Lewis was in fine form for Lawrenny as he took five wickets to finish with 5-13 while Ryan Morton finished with 2-26.

There were also wickets from Jamie Lewis (1-14) and Finley Lewis (1-7).

In reply, Steve Lewis scored 23 before he was sent back. Harry Thomas finished unbeaten on 23 while Troy Purslowe was not out on 45.

It sets up a quarter final against the winners of the game between Hundleton and Cresselly.

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Sport

Llangwm edge past Tish to book Harrison Allen quarter final spot

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LLANGWM secured their place in the quarter finals of the Harrison Allen Bowl on Wednesday night (May 25) as they beat St Ishmaels by 4 runs.

Tish won the toss and chose to field and they restricted Llangwm to 146-9 in their 22 overs.

Noah Davies and Joe Kiff made a good start for the hosts as they shared 67 runs for the first wicket.

Kiff was the first man to go as he was caught by Ieuan Hawkins off the bowling of Brennan Devonald on a score of 27 that had included two fours and two sixes.

Soon after, Davies, who had hit one of each boundary in his score of 27, was also following Kiff back to the pavilion after being bowled by Jonathan Pawlett.

Pawlett also claimed the wicket of Will Beresford before Steven Mills departed on a score of 16 (1 four, 1 six) when he was caught and bowled by Devonald.

That left Llangwm on 107-4 but scores of 15 from Matthew Kiff and 16 not out from David Lewis saw them to their total.

For Tish, Pawlett finished with excellent figures of 4-41 while Devonald finished with 3-25.

Peter Bradshaw hit two early fours in his score of 12 but he was run out.

Karl Rhead and Andrew Palmer shared 42 runs for the second wicket as Palmer made his way to a score of 35.

Rhead was bowled by Steven Mills who then did the same to Brennan Devonald moments later.

Palmer had reached 42 with five fours and a six but when he was brilliantly caught by Luke Brock off the bowling of Mills, Tish had slipped to 77-4.

Phil Cockburn and Jonathan Pawlett then shared 23 runs for the fifth wicket as they looked to keep Tish in the game.

Pawlett hit a six but was then caught by Oliver Davies to give Mills his fourth wicket and figures of 4-28.

Cockburn and Andew Pawlett then shared 37 runs for the sixth wicket as they took the tie down to the final over of the game.

They scored 17 runs off the 20th over and 18 runs off the 21st over meaning they would need 11 off the final over to win it.

Cockburn took a run off the first to bring Pawlett on strike. After missing the third ball he went for a run that wasn’t there and keeper Beresford ran out Cockburn.

He had hit two fours and three sixes in his score of 39 from 30 balls.

Andrew Pawlett and Andrew Williams could only take five runs from the next five balls but it wasn’t enough for victory.

Pawlett finished unbeaten on a score of 20 from 11 balls with one four and two sixes.

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Education

Crymych Panthers hold Boccia competition

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CRYMYCH Panthers Boccia Club recently held their first in-house Boccia competition, with eight members competing in two categories: BC1&2 (participants with a physical impairment) and BC8 (participants with an intellectual impairment).

Games were played in a round robin style competition. The final of the BC1&2 between Racheal Bailey and James Pugh was a very close game with James winning by 3 points to 1. The BC 8 final was between Yvonne Berry and Dewi Evans. Dewi won by 10 points to nil, back on form as a former Welsh international Special Olympic team member.

The competition was sponsored by Andrew Scott Davies of Pembroke who took part in the 2021 CARTEN 100 bike to assist the club.

Andrew Scott Davies presenting the winners and runners up with their trophies. All participants received a certificate of attendance.

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