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Harriers on the road

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CARMARTHEN HARRIERS indoor and cross country athletes were out on the road in Cardiff and Newport on Saturday, February 18.

In an action packed weekend in the indoor Welsh Championship which attracted nearly 600 juniors from across Wales, 3 Harriers struck gold to be Welsh Champions and the tally was added with a further 2 bronze.

Frank Morgan had possibly the most comfortable win of the day, bettering his silver medal from last year his winning time of 4:47 gave him the 1500 metres gold by over 100 metres from his under 13 rivals. In doing so he moved top of the UK indoor rankings for his age.

Another outstanding performance was Lily Church who dominated the under 15 age group in the high jump. Jumping a big 1 metre 63 the bronze medallist from last year confirmed her position as one of the country’s best.

The teams form in the high jump then continued in sensational form with William Edwards once again passing 2 metres to win the under 20 men’s title. To round of the jumps Olivia Haines made the podium to take Bronze in a best jump of 10 metres 17.

Finally in the 1500 metres for under 17s Iestyn Williams ran a dogged race to stay in contention in a fiercely contested last lap to be rewarded with a bronze medal.

Other notable performances included under 13 athlete Sophia Reid-Thomas who in the younger year of her age group qualified for the B final finishing 3rd in a blanket finish in a very quick 9.13 seconds. Zak Daly and Tomos Rees also had good runs in the 200m heat and 3000 metres. Meanwhile in Sheffield, Glen Elsdon and Aled Price were up against the best in Britain in the UK 60m hurdles event and recorded times of 8.32 and 8.53 seconds.

The cross country runners battled the bitterly cold wind at the fourth round of the Gwent Cross Country League at a new course in Newport. In the Novice Boys which started the programme, Ifan Bowen did not disappoint as he maintained his 2nd place finish.

Iwan Thomas secured another top 10 finish and is on course for an individual medal. Jac Thomas 16th, Steffan Davies 38th and Jake Lynock in 56th competing in the same race scored valuable points for the team.

There was another top 3 placing in the Under 13 boys category, this time being Liam Edwards who kept up the pace with the leading pack and he was closely followed behind by Dafydd Jones in 6th – both will now be eying an individual prize in a few weeks.

The third scorer for the squad was Dafydd Thomas, who crossed the line in 21st position.

The Under 15 age group had five representatives – Archi Morgan was the first Harrier home in an improved 6th and supported him was Gareth Thompson in 12th and Casper Farquhar. In the girls, the ever reliable Eva Edwards and Maddie Morgan had good performances in 20th and 31st respectively.

In the older age groups, Ben Thomas continued his fine form running alongside talented English athletes in the U17s while in the seniors, Gordon Orme won his 70+ category with Gill Edwards and Lisa Forest also doing well in a large field.

The under 11 boys and under 13 boys teams are on course to win a team medal next month while the under 15 boys are also in with a good chance, currently just outside the top 3 in the standings.

The 5th and final round of the league for the first time in many years will be hosted at home by Carmarthen Harriers & West Wales, in conjunction with the County Council at Pembrey Country Park on Saturday, March 4.

The league – formed in 1963 has continued across South Wales and South West England every year since then and attracts the best cross country runners from Wales and England.

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Sport

Dressage rider is Festivals Champion

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GEMMA SOMERS from Nantgaredig has won the Petplan Equine Novice Silver Championship at the Petplan Equine Area Festival Championships on Hallucination. The combination have spent the winter preparing for the Petplan Equine Area Festival Championships held at Hartpury College, Gloucestershire from April 11-15.

Hallucination is a British bred 17.3hh, six-year-old mare owned by William Shufflebottom and ridden by Gemma.

The talented partnership clearly impressed the judges holding the lead throughout the 32-strong class despite being the first combination to trot down the centre line achieving an impressive score of 73.06%.

Nantgaredig-based rider Gemma Somers was delighted with Hallucination’s performance in an exciting atmosphere with some outstanding dressage tests and exceptional combinations competing for the Petplan Equine Novice Silver title. “It’s amazing to win,” said Gemma, “It’s her first time here so it’s been quite daunting for her! She’s been perfect all day, for the prize giving this evening she was a bit overwhelmed. I broke her in, so I’ve been her only rider, we started at unaffiliated competitions, joined BD and progressed from there.”

“She was really calm and relaxed – she can get quite tense and shoot off when she doesn’t like the look of something – but today she didn’t, she was just with me the whole time. It was a lovely test and I’m so pleased with her.”

The Petplan Equine Area Festivals, now in their 19th year, provide riders across the levels from Preliminary to Intermediate II with the chance to experience the thrill of competing in top competition style conditions. 27 Area Festivals took place all around the country in 2017 with over 4,200 horse and rider combinations taking part.

A further eight Area Festival Finals were then contested to gain qualification for the Championships at Hartpury.

Kate Hopkins, Marketing Consultant at Petplan Equine, commented; “We have been bowled over by the continued success of the Petplan Equine Area Festivals, participation has increased again, and the standard continues to rise at every Championships. We are proud and delighted to sponsor a series that has become so important to amateur and aspiring dressage riders around the country. It is an opportunity for grassroots riders to showcase the immense talent out there. We would especially like to congratulate Gemma and Hallucination on their fantastic win and wish her the very best of luck for the future.”
British Dressage’s Chief Executive Jason Brautigam said: “I am always very impressed with the dedication and commitment shown by competitors participating in the Petplan Equine Area Festivals series. The growth in the number of combinations going down the centre line continues to surpass all our expectations.

“The new format introduced last year, with the addition of the eight Area Festival Finals, has allowed even more people to experience the atmosphere of a top dressage competition – with the Championships being the icing on the cake. Petplan Equine’s support of the Area Festivals will soon be entering its 20th year, which is testament to how much they have been a loyal, committed and trusted supporter of our sport. BD really values the contribution that they make, and long may this partnership continue.”

Further information about the Petplan Equine Area Festivals and how to qualify for next year’s finals is available from the Petplan Equine website at: www.petplanequine.co.uk/area-festivals/

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Former Wales international Anthony Walker appointed Wales U19 head coach

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FORMER Wakefield Trinity, St Helens and Wales International Anthony Walker has been appointed as the new head coach of the Wales under 19 rugby league side.

He will lead the under 19s in the forthcoming European Championships and will remain as head coach of the side until at least December 2020.

The 26-year old retired from playing in October last year on medical grounds but is no stranger to coaching having juggled the latter days of his playing career with coaching Blackbrook in the north of England based National Conference League, guiding them to promotion in 2016 and picking up a local coach of the year award in the process.

Since his retirement from playing he has progressed to coaching in the professional game, working as a first team assistant coach at another of his former clubs, Rochdale Hornets, in the RFL Championship.

Walker, who also played for Whitehaven and Dewsbury Rams in his professional rugby league career, is Wales RL heritage #489 after winning eight caps and scoring three tries. He was in the side when Wales won the European Championship in 2015 after beating France, Scotland (where he scored a try) and Ireland.

He is delighted to be bringing through the next crop of potential Wales World Cup players.

He said: “I’m made up to have been appointed. When I saw the post, I contacted Wales CEO Chris Thair immediately. I’ve been coaching a lot since retiring and I want to give something back to WRL after they were so good to me whilst going through the retirement.

“We’ll be going into this summer’s Under 19 European Championship with the aim of winning the trophy.”

Wales won this trophy when it was last contested as under 18 competition in 2008, beating Czech Republic, England and France and a number of those Wales players went on to win full Wales caps.

Walker continues: “My aim is to make Wales under 19s as successful as possible and help create some future full Wales international players. However I want to make coming into camp as much of an honour as it was for me and for the lads to have some fun along the way.

“I won the senior European Championship as a player and I want to make memories for life for these group of lads, just like playing for Wales has done for me.”

Walker will be assisted by Wayne Ponting, who last year served as assistant coach to the Wales under 16s, under 18s and Student sides. He was previously involved with the Welsh regional academies, the South Wales Scorpions and Celtic Crusaders academy and scholarship sides after cutting his coaching teeth with Blackwood Bulldogs juniors.

The final appointment sees Steve Jenkins from Llanelli appointed as team manager.

Jenkins is a newcomer to Rugby League but boasts an impressive CV having been involved in a variety of managerial roles in rugby union with Llanelli RFC, Carmarthen Quins, the Scarlets and the Welsh Rugby Union.

Jenkins said: “From working in Rugby Union I have gained experience both with Scarlets and the WRU which I feel will assist me in the team manager role.

“During my time with the Scarlets I gained experience under coaches Gareth Jenkins and for Phil Davies where I was his team manager when he took the Scarlets to their last Semi Final of the European Cup in 2007. Additionally, working for the WRU was challenging and I understand the high standards that are set to help to run an international side.

“I am really looking forward to joining up with WRL under 19’s coaches Anthony and Wayne, and experiencing the challenges that lay ahead in preparing the squad for the European Under 19 Championship in August this year.”

The 2018 Under 19s European Championship will be contested in Belgrade, Serbia between the 5th and 11th of August with Wales taking on Russia in the first round of the eight-team knockout tournament.

Trial and training dates for the Wales under 19 side will be announced shortly.

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Scarlets name unchanged XV for final pool clash

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THE SCARLETS will welcome RC Toulon to Parc y Scarlets on Saturday afternoon in the final pool game of the 2017-18 European Rugby Champions Cup campaign.

A victory for the Scarlets would see the region make it through to the knockout stages of the coveted competition for the first time in over a decade and head coach Wayne Pivac has rewarded the side that secured such an emphatic victory over Bath last weekend by naming an unchanged XV.

With over 13,500 tickets sold already Saturday’s game will be the region’s biggest in European history at Parc y Scarlets, the record currently stands at 12,392 against Leicester Tigers back in January 2011.

In the only change to the replacements bench the region’s supporters will be delighted to see British & Irish Lion Leigh Halfpenny return to fitness.

Looking ahead to the game head coach Wayne Pivac said; “We know what to expect from Toulon, we’ve come up against each other on numerous occasions in the last few years. We need to make sure that we’re defensively on our game.

“There was only one point separating the teams in the first round of the competition this year and we gifted them some points early on from our errors. To fight back and get ourselves into a position to possibly win the game out there was very pleasing.

“I think it’s going to be another one of those games. It’s the same for both teams. Whoever gets the win is through. It’s a chance for both of us. We’re not through yet but you don’t want to be the team looking at the mathematical equation. It’s all set up for a great evening.”

Scarlets side to take on RC Toulon at Parc y Scarlets, Saturday 20th January, kick-off 5.30pm;

15 Rhys Patchell, 14 Tom Prydie, 13 Hadleigh Parkes, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Paul Asquith, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Gareth Davies, 1 Rob Evans, 2 Ken Owens ©, 3 Samson Lee, 4 Tadhg Beirne, 5 David Bulbring, 6 Aaron Shingler, 7 James Davies, 8 John Barclay

Replacements; Ryan Elias, Wyn Jones, Werner Kruger, Lewis Rawlins, Will Boyde, Aled Davies, Steff Hughes, Leigh Halfpenny

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