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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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Wanderers too strong for Crymych

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LLANELLI Wanderers earned their seventh win of the season on Saturday (Apr 6) as they comfortably beat Crymych 34-7.

Rhydian Morgan put the home side ahead with an unconverted try early on and he then scored a penalty to give the home side an 8-0 lead.

Crymych were then guilty of a number of offences and the referee awarded the Wanderers a penalty try. The visitors also had a player sent off which meant they would be a man light for the rest of the game.

That gave Llanelli a 15-0 lead at the break and it didn’t take long for the home side to increased their lead in the second half.

Lewis Jones crossed for the try but the conversion was missed.

Crymych did bring themselves back into the game as Laurence Headlam went over and Gareth Davies added the extra two points.

Rhydian Morgan then crossed for his second try of the game to give his side a bonus point and he then added the extras to take the score to 27-7.

Lloyd Thomas went over for the final try of the game and Morgan again added the extras for a personal haul of 17 points from the game.

That made it 34-7 to the Wanderers and they saw the game out to close the gap on their opponents.

On Saturday (Apr 13), the Wanderers are away as they travel to Whitland while Crymych host Gowerton.

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Bont hold on for win

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PONTYBEREM kept up their push for promotion as they edged to a 15-13 win away at Carmarthen Athletic on Saturday (Apr 6).

The Bont knew they could not afford to slip up in this game as they continue to chase second placed Pembroke.

The Athletic fielded a different XV to the side they played at the Park earlier in the season and they put on an impressive display.

They were able to keep the Bont at bay as Bradley Roderick scored two penalties to give them a 6-0 lead.

The visitors though began to claw their way back into the game and Rhodri Lewis crossed in the corner for an unconverted try, leaving the score a 6-5 at half time.

Pontyberem upped their game in the second half and a tremendous burst by prop James Prosser saw him go over under the posts having begun his run on the 22-metre line. Mike Sauro then added the extras for a 6-12 lead.

The visitors still had to be alert though as the Athletic threatened to get back into it but Sauro then added a penalty to make it 6-15 to the Bont.

Roderick then intercepted the ball on his own 10-yard line before going on to score and adding the conversion to make it 13-15.

That set up a nervy final six minutes but the Bont held on to keep their promotion hopes alive.

The win means that the Bont are now three points behind second placed Pembroke who they play this weekend (Apr 13).

It is one of the biggest games for both sides and a big crowd is expected at the Park.

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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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