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Llanelli to host World Cup Qualifying fixture

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Stebonheath park: welcoming international players

Stebonheath park: welcoming international players

INTERNATIONAL Rugby League will be held in Llanelli for the first time in 16 years when Wales host Serbia in a Rugby League World Cup qualifying match on Saturday October 15 at Parc Stebonheath (kick-off 6pm).

The last time Wales played in this town was in the 2000 Rugby League World Cup when Wales edged out a Hazem El Masri inspired Lebanon side 24-22.

Wales played three full internationals at the Parc Stebonheath ground before the Second World War, beating France 41-7 in 1935 in front of a reported 30,000 crowd, before an 18-2 win over the same opponents in 1938 and a 17-9 win over England later that same year. All games were part of victorious European Championship campaigns for the Welsh.

Since the war, the stadium has primarily been used for football as the home of Welsh Football League side Llanelli Town AFC, but since 2015, it has been the fortress of Conference South Rugby League side West Wales Raiders.

Raiders’ director Andrew Thorne is looking forward to hosting such an important event in Wales’ first step to World Cup glory.

“I’m so pleased that the World Cup qualifier against Serbia is being played at Parc Stebonheath,” he said. “Trying to build Rugby League in West Wales has always been tough, but over the last two years with the support of Wales Rugby League, we have managed to grow participation in the sport and now have a junior pathway. With the game coming to Stebonheath, I can only see that this fantastic sport will grow even more in the West.

“This is sure to be a fantastic event and hope that the public in Llanelli and the surrounding areas come and support the Wales team on the start of their World Cup campaign.”

Meryl Gravell, Carmarthenshire County Council’s Executive Board member for Regeneration and Leisure, said: “It’s absolutely wonderful to have the Wales Rugby League national side coming to Llanelli to continue the hard work that West Wales Rugby League are doing for the local area.”

Wales are taking part in a three-team group this autumn in the attempt to qualify for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup finals in Australia. In addition to the home game against Serbia in Llanelli, Wales will travel to Italy a fortnight later. The winner of the group goes straight through to the finals with the runners up taking on the second place side from Ireland, Spain and Russia in a final challenge in Leigh on November 4.

Wales coach John Kear is looking forward to his side playing in Llanelli and believes that Serbia will be strong opposition, especially after recently playing a full international match in Australia involving both Serbian and Australian born players. “It’s exciting that we’re going to South West Wales,” he said.

“It’s an area we’ve not played in since the last World Cup in 2013 when we took on Cook Islands in Neath.

“I’m anticipating support and enthusiasm from all the sports fans around the area and I’m sure it will be well attended.

“It’s a big game for us as we need to get to the World Cup, there’s no doubt about that. It’s now getting to knock out proportions so every game is very important.

“Serbia are looking to strengthen and that’s why they played their recent international match against the Philippines in Australia through that. Brian Smith is with them too and he’ll make sure they will be well drilled. They will be a formidable challenge for us.”

Wales Rugby League have had links with Llanelli for over 100 years. No less than 46 players who have turned out for Llanelli RUFC or the Scarlets have played Rugby League for Wales, while at least 15 WRL internationals were born in Llanelli. This is something that Wales Rugby League chairman Brian Juliff is keen to celebrate.

He said: “I am thrilled that we are playing this game in Llanelli as it presents us with a great opportunity to pay tribute to the outstanding heritage players that originated from West Wales.

“Supporting Andrew Thorne and his team of administrators and players as they continue to develop Rugby League in the region is a real pleasure, as I am fully aware of the huge amount of hard work and enthusiasm these volunteers bring to Wales Rugby League.

“Wales are the current European Rugby League Champions but we are very aware of the changing playing personnel that we will face in both qualifying games against Serbia and Italy due to our opponents’ intentions to field Australian based heritage players.

“We will, of course, stay strong to our belief that playing home grown players will continue to pay long term dividends and promote a sustainable and successful Wales Rugby League team.

“On that basis alone it would be hugely encouraging if our local supporters could fill the stadium and cheer our boys to success in this important first game. Cymru Am Byth!”

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Foel’s Championship dream halted

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FELINFOEL’s hopes of promotion to the WRU Championship were brought to an end on Sunday (May 12) as they were beaten in the play-offs by Ystalyfera.

Ystalyfera had won the first leg 34-28 on their home soil but Felinfoel were still very much in the tie and they had the backing of an 800-strong home crowd in the reverse fixture. Fans packed in to the ground and they witnessed an epic encounter.

Felinfoel held the lead at one time but their opponents hit back to seal a 20-30 win to win overall by 64 points to 48.

Felinfoel played some attractive rugby during the first half with wingers Eray Wilson and Elliot Dawe scoring tries wide out one of which was converted by Aled Roberts. Ystalyfera scored a penalty and a converted try making the half time score 12 points to 10.

Photos by Darren Harries

The second half opened brightly for Felinfoel with Roberts kicking a penalty and Wilson scoring a further try. With the score at 20 points to 10, matters were looking favourable for the home team.

It was at this stage that the Ystalyfera forwards took complete control of the match denying Felinfoel of any possession for the final 20mins of the match. With a strong scrummage and dynamic driving maul they continued to exert pressure onto the home team.

Ystalyfera were rewarded with a further two converted tries, penalty goal and drop goal and deserved their victory 20 points to 30, and promotion to the championship.

Both teams are to be congratulated in the way in which the game was played. Both sides gave their all and provided an entertaining encounter.

Both sets of supporters gave loud vocal support to each team and were sporting throughout the match.

At the end of the match Felinfoel coach Mike King who is leaving after two years in charge was given a rousing send off by players and supporters alike.

After the game Felinfoel took to twitter saying: “After another successful season, it’s time to say thank you. Thank you to all sponsors for supporting the club throughout the season once again. Without you we would not exist. Thank you to all the supporters who have been with us through thick and thin.

“Lastly, thank you to head coach Mike King who will be leaving us. He has set the foundations of the club and has turned this club around for the better. All at Felinfoel RFC can’t thank you enough. We wish you all the best in the future.”

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Morgan marches seconds home

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DAFEN Seconds earned the bragging rights over Llanelli Seconds on Saturday (May 11) as they cruised to an eight wicket win.

Dafen won the toss but elected to field and that looked to be a good decision as they bowled their opponents out for just 118 inside 22 overs.

Aadil Mukhtar finished with excellent figures of 5-21 while Oliver Evans supported well taking four wickets for the loss of 40 runs.

Needing just thirty overs of their reply, Dafen Seconds eased to victory as Jac Morgan finished not out on 64 to see his side over the line.

Photo by Darren Harries

The win for Dafen keeps them joint top of the table with Briton Ferry Town after two games while Llanelli sit bottom of Division 3 and are still searching for their first win.

On Saturday (May 18), Dafen Seconds are at home against Dyffryn while Llanelli Seconds are away to Neath thirds.

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Jones duo sink Bronwydd

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LLANGENNECH earned their first win of the season on Saturday (May 11) as they beat Bronwydd by 14 runs in a low scoring game.

Llangennech won the toss and elected to bat but they lost Chris Hickey early on when he was caught by Jacob Jenkinson off the bowling of Colin Tucker.

Matthew Jones scored 11 before he was caught and bowled by Tucker before David Williams was caught by Tom Gleeson off the bowling of Matthew Vaughan for a score of 14.

James Taube made the same score but was then caught by Phillip Howell off the bowling of Dafydd Morgan. Morgan also bowled Martin Gregory to leave Llangennech on 83-5.

Opener Scott Lloyd’s score of 30 had come off 127 balls and he was eventually caught by Vaughan off the bowling of Callum Collins-Davies.

Richard Clement was the third Llangennech batsman to make a score of 14 before getting out as he was caught by Jenkinson off the bowling of Gleeson.

Michael Jones was then run out before Gleeson claimed his second wicket as he had Simon Clement caught by Oliver Furneaux.

Vaughan then wrapped up the innings as he had Bav Patel caught by James Cale to leave Llangennech all out on 124. Photo by Darren Harries

Bronwydd’s opening pair of James Cale and Philip Howell shared 15 runs but Howell was out for a score of 8 to the bowling of Michael Jones.

Oliver Furneaux was next to fall when he was trapped leg before by Matthew Jones on a score of 11.

Chris Hickey then gave Owain Phillips his first wicket as he caught Jacob Jenkinson and the bowler then claimed his second as he had Cale caught by David Williams on a score of 17.

That left Bronwydd on 44-4 but Iwan Davies and Dafydd Morgan shared 40 runs for the fifth wicket to keep their side in the game.

Davies hit three fours and a six in his knock of 33 but he was then trapped leg before by Michael Jones. He then also bowled Callum Collins-Davies for a duck to reduce Bronwydd to 84-6.

Matthew Jones then had Dafydd Morgan caught on a score of 8 before then trapping Tom Gleeson leg before.

Hickey then took two more catches of Matthew Vaughan and Colin Tucker to give Matthew Jones his five-wicket haul and Bronwydd were all out for 110.

Gareth John had finished not out on 18 but it wasn’t enough for victory for the visitors.

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