Rugby Previews 28th December 2019


Championship Division:

Tough tussle for The Otters

Richard Rees back in action for NarberthNeath v Narberth

After their 44-0 drubbing of Ystalyfera in their previous match Narberth know that it is back to earth with a bump as they travel to The Gnoll to take on the once-mighty Neath, the Welsh All Blacks who ruled club rugby across the UK and were renowned across the Southern Hemisphere.
Sadly things have changed since those heady days but even though they have stooped to sixth place in the championship they are still a potent threat at home, with a typically big pack and fast backs.
Verdict: The Otters back row of skipper Richard Rees, Tom Powell and the outstanding Roy Osborne could play a key role here in halting possession to the Neath half backs - but although I think The Otters might hold the opposition, who are just above them in sixth place, for long periods I think they will do well to collect a losing bonus point. But I hope Sean Gale and Co prove me wrong and are quick to let me know how duff I am as a pundit!

Photo - Richard Rees back in action for Narberth


Division One (West):

Must-win game for Preseli Men?

Crymych v Yr Hendy

I'm sad to see Crymych struggling in 11th place, with only two wins in nine starts - and things don't seem to be getting any easier as they entertain Yr Hendy, who are in third spot with seven wins and three defeats.
Randall Williams and his squad seem to have lost confidence and with a youthful side need a boost after only two victories from nine starts.
Verdict: I would love to see The Preseli Men end this decade with a win and I think they have a chance against a team to whom they lost 24-3 in September but I think they might well pouch a bonus point but miss out on a third win that would be just what they need.

Borderers to just about complete a derby double

Jack Mason key figure at No 8 for WhitlandWhitland v Pembroke

My match of the day and what a way for both teams to round off another decade! Whitland are doing really well and might have even improved on fifth place (with seven wins and three defeats) whilst Pembroke languish in bottom place, with one win and a draw alongside seven losses.
Their earlier tussle at Crickmarren was magnificent before The Borderers edged home by the odd point in 29!
Verdict: That loss at home sums up The Scarlets' season because a lot of their defeats have been by very narrow margins and injuries haven't helped their first season in this section after two successive promotions.
So travelling to Parc Llwyn Ty Gwyn is a real challenge for Geraint Lewis and his depleted squad but they will give it their all under the leadership of Scott Powell. It could be close with a real contest of different styles - but I think The Borderers might gain another narrow win to complete the double!

Photo - Jack Mason key figure at No 8 for Whitland


Division Two (West):

Mariners to maintain their impressive home record

Steve Martin - their assistant coach seems likely to play for MilfordMilford Haven v Fishguard & Goodwick

Another local derby to relish on this last day of 2019 as The Mariners take on The Seagulls at The Observatory and with both clubs eager to gain the section's bragging rights in our county. The Seagulls won 30-20 at The Moors and will be looking to use their pack power to nullify the Milford runners like skipper Dan Birch, Dan Jenkins, assistant coach Steve Martin and veteran Lee Riley.
Up front they have coach Nathan Williams ready in the wings and with Sam Dolling as a key ball winner - but The Seagulls have heavyweight fire-power via Ryan McVeigh, Gavin Walsh, Luke Freebury, Simon James and skipper Chris Shousha relishing the close exchanges.
Verdict: Milford Haven, now tenth in the table, are unbeaten in four home starts and could well surprise their old rivals if they can get a good start whilst Fishguard will look to wear them down, as they did last season.
The Seagulls sit four places ahead in the table but although my head tells me it could be a repeat of their last match, I'll go with The Mariners to maintain their 100% home record!

Photo - Steve Martin - their assistant coach seems likely to play for Milford


Seasiders to win ‘targetted’ match

Harry Bolton - still playing well for TenbyKidwelly v Tenby United

Tenby United's coaching staff of Jonathan Thomas, Andrew Barlow and Ossie Boswell will have targetted this match at Kidwelly as one they must win if they are move up the  section table before 2020.
Kidwelly are currently in the bottom two, having won only once from eight starts, but did beat The Seasiders 22-17 at Heywood Lane to achieve that success. However, I think the Tenby youngsters have grown a lot in experience since then.
Verdict: It might be close, as was the previous encounter - but I'm going for a Tenby United win here - if they can raise the early tempo just a little and stay focussed in the last quarter!

Photo - Harry Bolton - still playing well for Tenby


Division Three (West) A:


Blues to bag bonus point victory

Matty Phillips - leads  Haverfordwest by exampleLlangwm v Haverfordwest

Llangwm and Haverfordwest traditionally play on Boxing Day in the Bishop Cup and this year is no exception as they will meet at Pill Parks in a match will attract a big crowd of former players from both camps.
The Blues are currently fourth whilst The Wasps are 11th but the latter will relish their underdogs’ tag and pile into the old enemy from the outset in what is guaranteed to be a lively encounter.
Gethin Thomas, Lewis Murphy, Ollie Davies, Luke Hayman, Yale Grice, Ian Griffiths and the rest of The Wasps will relish the chance but the firepower of Unaia Balekinasiga, Craig Barnett (18 points in the previous encounter), Elgan Roberts, Rhys Baker and Co will be vital for The Blues.
Verdict: The Blues have already won 38-3 in the encounter at Pembroke Road in September and will be looking for a similar bonus-point verdict despite playing away. To be candid I think they will achieve that but they will have a few hurdles to overcome before the final whistle!

Photo - Matty Phillips - leads  Haverfordwest by example


Quins start as hot favourite at The Athletic Ground

Neil Machin - Quins coach seeking a win at NeylandNeyland v Pembroke Dock Harlequins

This usually intense local derby will draw a large crowd to The Athletic Ground as The Quins pay a call after already beating The All Blacks 53-23 at Bierspool.
It is no secret that Neyland are battling hard with a side depleted from last season but they are a gritty bunch and will give it their best shot, whilst The Quins are looking to climb from their seventh spot after such a bright start where they topped the table for the first month.
Verdict: In that previous tussle there were two tries apiece from new recruits Jack Price and Jordan Asparassa and they received a significant boost before their previous match (which they lost 22-3 at home to Tregaron) when they were joined by powerful centre Josh Thomas from Whitland.
Verdict: On form it should be a comfortable win for The Quins but the likes of skipper George Williams, Owain Evans and perhaps 44 year old Chris Busby, will make sure they might have to battle hard for that sought-after bonus point.

Photo - Neil Machin - Quins' coach seeking a win at Neyland


No Christmas pressies for The Saints

Dan Murphy - key role for St Davids captainSt Davids v Cardigan

Cardigan travel to St Davids in search of a double, having won 43-8 at the King George Vth Playing Field, and with skipper Tom Taylor  in top form and leading by example alongside Rhodri Jones and Cerith Griffiths) they are odds-on favourites to do so.
The Saints put in a good shift at St Clears in their last match (followed by a memorable night out in Swansea) and coach Gethin Bateman will be eager for his troops to win their first match of a difficult season.
Verdict: I would be the first to celebrate a Saints' success but sadly I can't see them receiving a slightly late Christmas present!


Photo: Photo - Dan Murphy - key role for St Davids captain


Laugharnees look good to me!

Will Evans - in good form for LaugharneLaugharne v St Clears

This all-Carmarthenshire clash is a real local derby because there are players who have turned out for both clubs, who hate to relinquish the bragging rights to the opposition.
When they previously met in Laugharne it was the home side who turned out comfortable 38-9 victors as Gareth Spiers and Adam Davies claimed a try brace apiece.
The Saints have now moved into second spot, having played more games, whilst The Laugharnees are two places below and are in the middle of an impressive run.
Verdict: Laugharne drew 29-all in their previous match at Aberaeron after conceding a late try but and are also looking forward to their rearranged Welsh Bowl match away to Tumble so might have a little too much on their plated whilst St Clears beat St Davids 26-5 with home advantage.
It should be close but I think Laugharne will have too much fire-power as Mikey Williams and co look for a bonus-point success!

Photo - Will Evans - in good form for Laugharne


Aber to break down Llan’s tight defence on the road

Llanybydder v Aberaeron

Llanybydder are traditionally strong at home (ask teams like Haverfordwest, who have lost twice there!) but Aberaeron are playing really well and are in the last eight of the Welsh RU National Bowl competition as their reward.
Aber will be eager to win to climb out of their current fifth place, which doesn't do justice to their ability.