Rugby Preview 23rd November 2019


Championship Division:


Otters should return to winning ways

Sean GaleNarberth v Cross Keys

After losing narrowly at home to Glamorgan Wanders and then their heavy defeat at championship-chasing Bargoed, The Otters will seek a speedy return to winning ways as they entertain lowly-placed Cross Keys this Saturday.

At the start of the campaign coach Sean Gale will have targetted certain matches that were 'must win' whilst others even a losing bonus point was more they might hope for in such a really tough section - and after losing 52-6 against Bargoed this is an example of the former group of clubs because Cross Keys are currently 12th in the table, having won just once from seven starts.

Narberth have now slipped down to seventh, having won half of their eight games, and are capable of a top five finish if they play to their absolute potential.

They certainly proved their capabilities with a 52-5 slamming of Cardiff Met but

Gale knows that there is no such thing as a guaranteed win at this level so he will have emphasised the need for total focus and commitment against a Cross Keys' side which was once a proud member of the top 12 Welsh sides that were members of the old Merit Table.

Verdict: This is not only a game that The Otters need to win but ideally  a bonus point for scoring four tries would be more than welcome for Mr Gale and his staff!

Division One (West):

Scarlets to snatch county’s ‘Match of the Day’?

Toby SmithCrymych v Pembroke

This is undoubtedly the county's 'Match of the Day' as Crymych play host to Pembroke at Parc Lloyd Thomas, with both teams desperate for a victory to reactivate their flagging fortunes.
The Preseli Men are better than their current ninth place, with only two wins alongside five losses, two of them coming in the past two Saturdays against teams from up the line who were at that moment on the foot of the table!

Last Saturday, for example, they went down by 33-7 at Gorseinon!

The Scarlets have won only one match in seven outings, plus a draw, and might consider themselves unlucky to have lost some of their five set-backs by very narrow margins, including last week's 19-15 defeat at home to Yr Hendy.

Verdict: There is no doubt that the physicality of this match will be huge, but both have an attacking flair as another option - and I hope they use it. It could go any way and my gut feeling is a narrow home win but I go with my heart and tip The Scarlets!

‘Battling’ Borderers should pouch a bonus-point win

Gareth BennettWhitland v Penclawdd

A measure of Whitland's battling spirit can be gauged from the fact that some of their four wins have been by narrow margins but they can also play an expansive game and will surely look to use it against Penclawdd.

'The Cocklemen'  are currently holding up the table with two wins and four losses against 'The Borderers' fifth place (four wins and two defeats) but home coach Gareth Bennett will immediately scotch any talk about an easy tussle and won't want to rely on Nico Setaro's place kicking ability.

Verdict: It's a win for Whitland, hopefully with a bonus point.


Division Two (West):

Seagulls to soar at The Moor

Simon JamesFishguard & Goodwick v Loughor

The Seagulls had a cracking 31-10 win at Pontyberem, who were a place above them in the table, but once again they started badly and were ten points adrift in as many minutes before casting aside their travel sickness to claim a bonus point-victory.

This week they entertain Loughor, who are in 11th place having won twice from their seven matches so far - and a game targetted by coaches Nathan and Steve Jenkins as a real chance to to improve on their current sixth place.

Verdict: This should be a comfortable win for The Seagulls with skipper Chris Shousha in fine fettle alongside others up front like Simon James, Gavin Walsh, Andrew Morrillo and Ryan McVeigh - and with Mark Jones and Robbie Jones ever-ready to attack The Seagulls should be flying high at The Moors!

Mariners to win well at The Obs

Lee RileyMilford Haven v Pontyberem

Milford Haven lost 22-13  last weekend at Carmarthen Athletic and now know in their first campaign at this level that away games are very challenging, having lost four out of four on the road so far.

But experienced coaches Nathan Williams, Steve Martin and Andrew Williams will realise how important games at The Obs are - and The Mariners have already won all four of their home tussles so are doing OK in mid table.

This week they entertain Pontyberem, who lost at home to Fishguard in their previous match and are in 11th place so not in the most confident form - but dangerous nonetheless.

Verdict: The Mariners should rise to the occasion with the likes of Sam Dolling, Dan McClelland, Dan Jenkins and Lee Riley able to exert an influence in a comfortable fifth home win.


Seasiders to struggle against table-toppers?

Jonathan EvansTenby United v Burry Port

Tenby United have won three of their nine matches so far, including a gritty win over Fishguard & Goodwick at a rain-swept Heywood Lane but have yet to find their best form as astute coach Jonathan Evans looks to find the right balance between age and inexperience.

Andrew Cooke, Luke Hansford and skipper Luke Dedman are joined by youngsters aplenty of the calibre of Max Hastings, Harry Rossiter and Jack Broadhurst - and it is only a matter of time before The Seasiders achieve what coach Evans wants.

Verdict: This week they face a daunting task as they play league leaders Burry Port, who can boast a 100% record from seven matches and already look hot favourites to take the section silverware – and sadly I can’t see anything but an away win – although I’d be delighted if my forecast puts a jinx on the high-fliers!.


Division Three (West) A:

Aberaeron in a rich vein of form

Llangwm v Aberaeron

Aberaeron are currently in a rich vein of form, having won their WRU  Bowl match  against Nantyglo as they travel to Pill Parks to take on a Llangwm side that are renowned for their battling qualities.

They are sure to be tested to the full by The Wasps, especially in the first half, but with attacking players of the calibre of Rhodri Jenkins, Daf Llewelyn, Tom Slinger and the rest they are currently one of the teams I feel will feature on the promotion run-in.

Verdict: Skipper Gethin Thomas, Ollie Davies. Luke Hayman and the rest of The Wasps' side will relish the thought of a competitive game and will be delighted that I'm tipping Aberaeron to win with a little in hand!


Quins to bounce back against tough opposition

Neil MachinLlanybydder v Pembroke Dock Harlequins

This could be a real tester for The Quins because they lost Haverfordwest last Saturday and now face this long trip to play Llanybydder, who are in eighth place (won two, lost three) but are not easy to beat on their own patch (ask Haverfordwest, who have lost twice there already this season).

The Quins remain top, despite losing their second game of the campaign, with five good wins as proof of their ability to play attacking rugby if their pack can gain a share of set-piece possession.

Verdict: I hope the Quins will be at full strength for this long-ish journey because Llanybydder are a better side than their current league position suggests. If so it'll for a win by the Black and Whites which will keep them in first place.


Carms Saints too strong for All Blacks

Graham RichardsNeyland v St Clears

Neyland beat St Davids by 3-0 last Saturday but know they face a sterner task this weekend, even with home advantage, against St Clears, who are currently second in the table after winning five and drawing one of their eight matches.

The All Blacks struggled at the start but have gradually found something of a settled squad under Graham Richards and Steve Evans, whose sons have remained loyal to the club alongside others who deserve a pat on the back.

Verdict: They won 3-0 at St Davids but know they face an uphill task at The Athletic Ground against a Saints' side bristling with confidence after their 13-11 battle against Lampeter Town  - and although I hope The All Blacks win I have to bet on the Carmarthenshire Saints' success!


Barney’s Boys to win in Mid Wales

Matty PhillipsTregaron v Haverfordwest

Haverfordwest coach Steve Barnett will have enjoyed his team's table-topping  win at home against The Quins last Saturday because The Blues were outstanding at times and played really well against another in-form side.

But he will be hoping that they won't repeat their 'dismal performance' (his words, not mine!) in their previous match, away at Llanybydder as they make the long journey to Tregaron.

The home side has lost five of their seven previous matches but are a useful side at their Mid-Wales headquarters.

Verdict: I think Matty Phillips, Craig Barnett, Terry Lovell and the rest of The Blues will come back with a bonus-point win, as long as Steve Barnett, Simon Lepetit and Co issue the boys with travel sickness pills before they leave Merlins Bridge!


Pembs Saints likely to struggle

St Davids v Laugharne

The Saints came within an inch or two of a morale-boosting win last week and coach Gethin Bateman admits the whole camp was 'gutted' - but they will be raring to go at home against Laugharne in the hope of a first victory of the campaign.

They know that The Laugharnees have their tails up after winning four of their first five league games and the visitors will be well rested after their WRU Bowl match was postponed in Newport.

Verdict: The Black and Ambers will be sick of me mentioning their 100% record loss record and sadly I can't see them altering that against Mikey Williams, Tom Jameson, Rhys Thomas and co - but they deserve my absolute admiration for their stickability!


Cardis might find it hard-going here

Gethin BatemanLampeter v Cardigan

Cardigan gained a morale-boosting 20-5 win over Tregaron last Saturday and will be looking to repeat that process in Lampeter, who lost 11-13 at St Clears.

But with home advantage Lampeter will be looking for  a fifth success alongside a draw from their eighth league tussle against The Teifisiders, who have two wins in seven games so far.

Verdict:  Lampeter currently occupy third spot in the table and I expect them to stay there after this fixture!