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Evans and Parry win round five

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Tricky conditions: Elfyn Evans won stage five despite the conditions

Tricky conditions: Elfyn Evans won stage five despite the conditions

ELFYN Evans and co-driver Craig Parry are the winners of the Nicky Grist Stages last weekend (Jul 9-10), taking victory on round five of the seven round MSA British Rally Championship. 

The DMACK British Rally Team driver made it three wins from five, which is his second ‘home’ victory in Wales this season.

Fellow Welshman Tom Cave equalled his season best with a fine second while Desi Henry completed the podium after a tough two-day encounter.

Based in Builth Wells, the Nicky Grist Stages is a unique event on the BRC calendar with the two days split into two surfaces.

Biblical weather greeted the competitors on the opening day, with crews slipping and sliding through 45 miles of forestry gravel stages before tackling the famous Tarmac on the Epynt Ranges on the second day.

It wasn’t just the crews inside the car who were tested this weekend, as the service teams had just two-and-a-half-hours on Saturday evening to convert the cars from mud-slinging monsters into Tarmac-hugging weapons.

Series leader Evans had a difficult start to the event, as the Ford Fiesta R5 driver was not to have it all his own way, with a spin on the opening stage and pop-off valve problems on the second.

Undeterred by these early issues, the Welshman swiftly got back into his dominating stride, topping the time sheets on 12 of the event’s 15 stages to finish with a healthy one minute 11.4 second margin as the cars returned to Builth Wells for the Ceremonial Finish.

It was to be fellow countryman Cave in his Michelin-shod Ford Fiesta R5 who drew first blood, however, setting fastest time on the opening stage of the rally.

Cave would lead the event until an inspired Evans snatched the advantage on the third stage.

Thereafter, Cave couldn’t live with Evans’ pace but showed his own improvement in speed by recording another second place and his third podium of the year – result that has helped him to leap-frog Fredrik Ahlin into second place in the championship points standings with two rounds remaining on the calendar. Ahlin missed out on a points haul after retiring on the opening day.

Henry picked-up from where he left off in Scotland with another fine third position in his Skoda Fabia R5.

The Northern Ireland driver started off cautiously but gathered pace as he flew through the gravel stages.

It wasn’t to be plain sailing for the likeable Irishman, though, as he took a big cut on the opening day nearly sending the Skoda onto its roof.

With the Fabia safely back on all four wheels, Desi pressed on – more so when the competition switched to his preferred sealed-surface. Eager to hold station, Henry chalked up a fastest time on stage 12, showing his asphalt form which, in turn, elevated him up the championship points table at the end of the mid -Wales event.

Speaking on his win, Elfyn Evans said: “We are happy with how the event went and it wasn’t easy as the conditions were very challenging. We had a spin on the first stage and from there we had to bring it together. When we got the lead, and when things were difficult, I had spare capacity to keep it calm.

“In rallying, anything can happen and with double points on the Isle of Man finale, this will leave it open until the last round, so we have to keep on it, keep pushing and keep winning.”

Tom Cave said: “I am very pleased with second as it is good for the team and for the championship. Things have progressed even more this weekend, more than we had hoped. Our pace on both surfaces was encouraging especially on Tarmac on the second day.

“We knew it would be difficult to beat Elfyn this weekend but I have learnt a lot from chasing him and want to be even closer on the Ulster next time out. Second in the championship is good but we will keep working hard and keep making progress forward.”

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Errors prove costly for Raiders

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West Wales Raiders 16

North Wales Crusaders 56

By Ian Golden at Stebonheath Park

NORTH Wales Crusaders’ play-off hopes took a boost on Saturday after taking advantage of West Wales Raiders’ many errors to earn to a large win.

The Wrexham-based side will go into their last two games full of confidence but know they’ll have a tougher outing at Newcastle Thunder in a fortnight.

Their first try came on 11 minutes when Ben Stead forced his way through, and the lead was soon doubled after Dave Eccleston dived through a gaping hole in Raiders’ back-line. Stead converted to put the score on 10-0.

West Wales were close to getting a try back midway through the first half after winning a repeat set near to the North Wales line. Ash Bateman was close following a good run from Archie Snook, but the ball was forced off him when diving for the line.

Crusaders made them pay. From the resulting scrum, a 90-metre set culminated in Warren Thompson scoring under the sticks and Stead converting.

Raiders hit back on the half-hour. Regaining the ball on halfway after Snook bravely collected a kick from close range, Phil Cowburn sneakily slipped the ball back to Mitch Shaw who dived under the sticks. Cowburn converted.

Photo by Darren Harries

Crusaders struck back when Steven Roper couldn’t believe his luck and even hesitated when he saw a gap he could easily run through to score a try. He added the extras himself.

There was controversy with the next score. The referee initially awarded a scrum to Crusaders but after consultation, he gave Crusaders a penalty and Matthew Reid scored from that set.

And it went from bad to ridiculous on the half-time hooter after Sam Baker spilled the ball inside his own goal area allowing Alex Eckley to touch down easily. Roper missed both kicks but Crusaders were 30-6 up.

They added to their lead on 47 minutes in a try they had to work hard for. Raiders were defending well but Joe Ryan finally managed to break through before Lewis Fairhurst converted.

Raiders were unlucky not to a try back on the hour when Baker was pushed into touch when diving for the line. Crusaders went straight back up-field and after winning a penalty, Dante Monte-Samuels crashed over. Fairhurst’s kick just made it through the posts despite the wind taking it wide and Crusaders were 42-6 up.

There were five full Wales internationals in the game, two of them with Crusaders, but it took until the 68th minute before one got on the scoresheet. Rob Massam, the North Wales winger was sent over in the corner. Fairhurst missed the kick.

Then, after regaining the ball from kick-off, one of the West Wales trio scored and it was typically Steve Parry, diving low from dummy half. Cowburn sliced the kick wide.

In the set after that was a rare Crusaders error. Snook did well to beat his marker to score, much to the delight of his mother on the PA system! Cowburn converted.

But it was Crusaders who ended on a high as Massam crossed for two more in the left corner. Shaw did cross for Raiders in the last move of the game but it was chalked off for a forward pass.

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Town too good for Dafen

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DAFEN Seconds suffered defeat on Saturday (Aug 17) as they were beaten by Briton Ferry Town.

The game was reduced to 40-overs a side because of earlier rain and when Dafen won the toss they elected to field.

However, Briton Ferry racked up an impressive score of 225-4 in those 40 overs.

Amar Waseem and Neil Baggridge shared 146 runs for the first wicket as both reached their half centuries.

Waseem fell for a score of 68 and Baggridge for 63 as Dafen looked to hit back and keep the runs down.

Adeel Khan made a score of 22 while Aman Tasnem made 25 from 14 balls with a four and two sixes before he was run out.

Photo by Darren Harries

Adrian Mainwaring then finished not out on 27 as Dafen were set 226 to win the game.

Dafen lost Oliver Evans early on to the bowling of Nabel Iqbal and he also claimed the wickets of Harvey Jones (12) and Jonathan Griffiths (14).

He then claimed a fourth with the wicket of Luke Dunning as Dafen’s reply faltered.

Rhys Marchant made a score of 14 before being bowled by Mumtaz Hussain and he also claimed a further three wickets.

Aadil Mukhtar hit three fours and a six in his score of 22 but he was then bowled by Adeel Khan.

Andrew Herbert finished unbeaten on 15 but it wasn’t enough as Dafen were bowled out for 133.

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Llanelli close the gap

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LLANELLI closed the gap to second placed Tata Steel on Saturday (Aug 17) as they beat them by eight wickets.

Llanelli elected to field on winning the toss and they were able to bowl Tata out for 117.

Chris Thomas trapped Kelvin Bartle leg before early on and Steven Devonald did the same to Rohan Herbert to leave the visitors on 13-2.

Morgan Jones and Martin Lewis then made a good partnership worth 57 runs.

That was brought to and end though as Lewis was caught by Rhidian Morgan off the bowling of Iwan Rees.

Jones had made a score of 38 but he was then bowled by Jac Rees as Tata slipped to 72-4.

That became 78-5 when Phillip Taylor was trapped leg before by Iwan Rees.

The same bowler then had Joseph Crocket caught by Morgan as wickets continued to fall.

The score soon read 94-7 as David Richards caught and bowled Sean Holley.

Photo by Darren Harries

Nathan Ferrell made a late score of 10 but then saw himself caught by Morgan off the bowling of Richards who then also had Adam Jardine caught by Devonald.

Richards then claimed his fourth as he had Damien Williams stumped by Morgan to finish with figures of 4-13.

That left Llanelli needing 118 for victory and although they lost Ioan Phillips early on in their reply they were never really troubled.

Iwan Rees and Craig Howells shared 87 runs for the second wicket to all but give the home side victory.

Howells hit eight fours and a six as he scored 50 but he was then caught by Morgan Jones off the bowling of Damien Williams.

Rees and Ryan Nicholas then saw their side to victory with Nicholas finishing unbeaten on 19 with two fours and a six from his 14 balls faced.

Rees finished not out on 33 as Llanelli reached their target with plenty of time to spare.

The win moves them to within 14 points of second placed Tata Steel with two games remaining.

The first of those games takes place on Saturday (Aug 24) when Llanelli travel to Bronwydd. They then finish the season at home to third placed Maesteg Celtic.

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