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Town soundly beaten by rampant Merthyr

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Sacha Walters: added urgency in the second half

Sacha Walters: added urgency in
the second half

Merthyr Town 4
Carmarthen Town 0

FOLLOWING on from a positive performance against Championship side Cardiff City, Carmarthen continued their pre-season programme with a hugely disappointing display against Merthyr Town. The Glamorgan side, newly promoted to the Southern League Premier Division (the third tier of the English non-league pyramid), dismantled the Town side who were soundly beaten with the final score-line comfortably reflecting the gulf between these sides on the day.

Yet in the opening stages the game was fairly evenly balanced with the play switching quickly from end to end although neither defence looked particularly troubled and there were few scoring opportunities. The only notable chance arose in the 4th minute when Merthyr’s Kayne McLaggon cut in from the left flank and struck a fierce 20 yard effort that keeper James Kirkwood turned around the post with a smart full-length save.

However from midway during this half Merthyr began to take control as they enjoyed by far the greater share of possession, moving the ball around with confidence and precision – as a result the Old Gold attacking threat was easily nullified while their defence came under increasing pressure.

And on 22 minutes the hosts deservedly went ahead when the ball was played across to Ian Traylor on the right wing from where he swiftly cut inside, went cleverly past Jordan Knott and from the corner of the penalty area fired a crisp shot beyond Kirkwood’s reach and into the corner of the net.

Then after 27 minutes the lively Traylor split the visitors’ rather static defence with a fine pass that set Ryan Prosser free inside the penalty area and he coolly drove the ball home giving Kirkwood no chance.

Despite the best efforts of Luke Cummings, Kyle Bassett and, in particular, the industrious Lewis Harling in midfield, Carmarthen remained unable to fashion any serious scoring chances – by contrast, it seemed more than likely that Merthyr would soon stretch their lead still more.

On 40 minutes from Jaye Bowen’s corner-kick Traylor rose highest in the crowded goalmouth only to direct his header narrowly over the bar. Then moments later Traylor was again influential when his deep right-wing cross into the penalty area was met by Prosser, who stabbed the ball into the net from close range. Embarrassingly, the Old Gold had not managed a shot on target during the entire first-half.

After the interval the home side were quickly back in control of the game, demonstrating all too graphically how beneficial it is to keep hold of the ball for as long as possible – a task that was seemingly beyond Carmarthen. And in the 51st minute Traylor received the ball on the edge of the penalty area but his fierce strike was too straight and Kirkwood was well placed to deny him another goal.

However the visitors, to their credit, were still demonstrating considerable spirit and determination, especially in midfield where Harling and Bassett, supported now by substitute Sacha Walters, continued to press forward at every opportunity. And it was Bassett who had the notable (albeit dubious) distinction of producing Town’s first shot on target after 67 minutes when, having received a short pass from Dan Sheehan, he raced towards the penalty area in typical bustling style and held off the challenge of a defender before releasing a powerful 20 yard drive that drew a fine save from keeper Cameron Clarke.

Unfortunately this seemed only to galvanise Merthyr into even greater effort and they extended their already comfortable lead on 74 minutes as Gethin Hill broke into the penalty area and rifled the ball home through a crowd of players with Kirkwood unsighted.

Then in a final flurry of goalmouth activity in the closing stages of the game the Old Gold again threatened when in the 89th minute Rhodri Morgan burst forward to the edge of the penalty area before slipping the ball on to Mark Jones who saw his sharp close range shot resisted by Clark with an impressive reflex save. Moments later Sheehan’s searching cross from the right wing reached Jones rising above his marker at the far post but he sent his header narrowly over the bar.

Yet the last chance, unsurprisingly, was fashioned by Merthyr deep into added time when after a quick exchange of passes Hill received the ball just outside the penalty area but his fierce angled drive flew fractionally too high.

Team:

James Kirkwood; Dan Sheehan; Chris Thomas; Sam Handy (sub Luke Prosser 46); Jordan Knott; Kyle Bassett; Lewis Harling; Luke Cummings (sub Rhodri Morgan 51); Chris Hartland (sub Liam Thomas 36, sub Chris Hartland 58); Mark Jones (sub Sacha Walters 46); Jeff White (sub Mark Jones 61);

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Sport

Davies to captain Scarlets for 2021/22 season

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WALES international and British & Irish Lion Jonathan ‘Fox’ Davies will captain the Scarlets for the 2021-22 season.

Former Ysgol Dyffryn Taf pupil Davies has played 170 matches for the Scarlets since making his debut in 2006 and is one of the most decorated centres in international rugby having won 91 caps for Wales and represented the Lions in the Test series in Australia 2013 and New Zealand in 2017.

It will be his second stint wearing the Scarlets armband having been a co-captain along with Rob McCusker in 2013.

‘Foxy’ takes the reins from hooker Ken Owens who led the Scarlets for a record-equalling seven successive seasons.

“Jon is one of the most respected players in the game, someone with a huge amount of experience at all levels,” said Scarlets head coach Dwayne Peel

“He has been a leader amongst our group for a number of years now and certainly since I have been here his leadership qualities have been there for all to see, on and off the training field.

“Foxy is the ultimate professional – when he speaks people listen. The way he conducts himself is an example to every player in the squad.

“He has been a big part of this club for a long time; he has grown up in the region, played his junior rugby here and it is clear that wearing the Scarlets jersey means a huge amount to him.”

Paying tribute to Davies’s predecessor Owens, Peel added: “Ken has been a fantastic leader for us over the last seven years and will continue to have a huge part to play in the leadership of this group.”

Davies, who captained Wales during the recent summer internationals in Cardiff, said: “It is a massive honour to be handed the Scarlets captaincy, you only have to look at the captain’s board to see so many great players and icons of the game who have led the club.

“I am fortunate that there will be a strong leadership group around me – British & Irish Lions and experienced Wales internationals who have enjoyed success at domestic and Test level. Those players also know there is a hard-working, driven group of youngsters pushing them for the jersey. There is a really exciting mix to the squad.”

Davies added: “Winning the PRO12 title with the Scarlets four years ago remains one of the highlights of my career and there is a real ambition and hunger among the players and coaching group to reach those levels again.

“There has been a good buzz about pre-season, the boys have worked really hard and we’re all looking forward to the start of the new URC season in Edinburgh on Saturday.

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Scarlets appoint Phil John as Academy coach

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FORMER prop Phil John is back at the Scarlets having been appointed to the role of Academy skills coach.

John made 330 Scarlets appearances over 17 seasons and holds the record for the most Scarlets matches played in the regional era.

Since hanging up his playing boots following his final game against Glasgow in 2016, he has worked with the RGC 1404 Academy and alongside another ex-Scarlet Mark Jones with the Premiership team in North Wales.

He also has experience coaching with the Llanelli RFC Premiership side and as an assistant to Danny Wilson for the Scarlets.

John, who started out on a rugby apprenticeship scheme at Stradey Park, replaces Emyr Phillips who becomes the Scarlets transition coach overseeing the academy players who are training with the senior side.

“It’s good to be back at Parc y Scarlets and I’m looking forward to working with a talented group of young players who have bright futures in the game,” said John.

“When you look at the players who were in the Academy five years ago when I was here, they are now starting week in week out for the Scarlets, it is great to see the journeys they have been on.

“The Scarlets Academy has a proud tradition of being a production line for the senior side and I’m excited by this opportunity to help make sure that continues.”

Scarlets Development Pathway Manager Kevin George added: “For us, this appointment was about getting the balance right in the coaching group with Emyr having been promoted to oversee the transition players.

“We had a lot of interest in the post and Phil, with his experience working with academies and the commitment he gave to North Wales, came out very strongly. We are delighted to have him on board to help nurture the next generation of Scarlets.”

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Five-star Felinfoel sink Tumble

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FELINFOEL kept up their unbeaten start to the season on Saturday (Sept 18) as they beat Tumble 5-2 at the King George playing fields in Division 1 of the Carmarthenshire football league.

However, they didn’t have it all their own way as Tumble took the lead after five minutes through Matthew James.

Foel kept plugging away and were rewarded when Chris James hit a 25-yard shot that was fumbled over the line by the keeper to make it 1-1.

Some good passing football then put Sam Ashford through on goal to put the ball past the keeper and make it 2-1 to the home side.

They weren’t done there as Chris James made it 3-1 with a great header.

In the second half, both sides were looking to score again but it was Foel who got their fourth when Mathew Ellis supplied top goal scorer Jordan Badman with the pass to make it 4-1.

Five minutes later the roles were reversed when Badman played in Mathew Ellis to make it 5-1.

To Tumble’s credit they kept plugging away and were rewarded with a goal two minutes from time as James scored his second of the game.

It was a great strike from James but it mattered little as Foel came away with the 5-2 win and their unbeaten record still intact.

On Saturday (Sept 25), Felinfoel are at hoem again as they host Bancffosfelen, kick off at 2pm.

Tumble are also in action as they travel to Llangennech.

Photo by Darren Harries

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