Sporting Snippets - Part 6

We thought it would be good to show sports lovers in our county that we as sports writers sometimes make daft errors and so we provide a little story about local hacks Gordon Thomas, Fraser Watson and me (Bill Carne) alongside others by Riath al Sammarai (award-winning Daily Mail writer), Ian Davies and Ellis Davies (Directors of top sports news web-site ‘All Wales Sport’). To round things off we also feature a lovely little story to show what a modest gentleman of sport is Jonathan Thomas, our multi-capped Welsh Rugby international from the Hundleton/Stackpole area. So we hope you enjoy a special read!

Twickers – Gordon was only there for the beer!

Gordon ThomasMany younger readers will be surprised to learn that Western Telegraph Sports Editor Gordon Thomas played first class amateur rugby for Llanelli RFC.

The former Wales Schoolboy and Welsh Youth international full back was invited as a travelling reserve with the Llanelli RFC squad for a fixture against Harlequins at Twickenham HQ in the early eighties . . .
Back in those days there were only two replacements used, one forward and one back was allowed, but only used if a player was injured and deemed he could not continue over 80 minutes, not like today’s matches where at least seven replacements can be used at any time during the game.

On the Friday evening the players and committee members stayed in a hotel in the Richmond area, enjoying a few pints as a form of relaxation before the big game the following day.

Gordon recollects there was a challenge with a poster showing a ‘Heineken Boot’ with a capacity of a couple of pints where a customer had downed it in 10 seconds. This poster was clocked by burly prop Laurence Delaney who fancied his chances of beating that time. At the hotel bar Laurence stood on a stool and coolly downed it in an incredible three seconds flat, and he was in the starting line-up! Delaney was declared the winner and was handed a crate of Heineken lager that he duly gave to his teammates. Great preparation for a big game!

On Saturday morning after a hearty breakfast and a couple of hours chilling, the bus took the squad to Twickers, where it was straight to the bar for a few beers before the game for Gordon and his fellow travelling reserves.

About 30 minutes before kick-off, coach Gareth Jenkins frantically rushed into the bar and summoned Gordon to get changed as Peter Hopkins had twisted his ankle in the warm-up. Gordon told Gareth he had downed at least three or four pints and probably would not be fit to play.

“You’ll be fine, you probably won’t be used anyway,” was his sharp reply.

Guess what? Within ten minutes of the game starting winger Phil Lewis was tackled heavily into the advertising boards and suffered concussion.

Coach Jenkins looked to Gordon and winked, “On you go son.” Gordon took his place on the wing alongside a star-studded back line consisting of Welsh internationals – and showed his class so that no-one would now about his warm-up drinks!   

Fraser fails to kit his team out properly


Fraser WatsonFraser Watson still turns out for St Davids RFC when work allows but in his younger days he played on the wing for Llanelli and then Whitland before returning to Ty Ddewi to serve out his time. For this edition of ‘Sporting Snippets he recalls an occasion when he was the Saints’ skipper but badly let his side down, especially his larger than average-size front five . . .
St Davids RFC haven’t been short of big forwards over the years – but they maybe wish they’d taken a slimmer pack to Trinant for their Swalec Bowl Round Two fixture in October 2010.

The Saints travelled with just 16 players in a side that included big unites in stalwart Jack Dudley, Chris Morgan, and Nick Davies so they weren’t lacking in size up front!

Imagine the gasps then when skipper Fraser Watson opened the kit bag that day – only to discover he had picked up the youth team strip by mistake. It meant some tight fittings, with some tops hovering just above the belly button for a few!

Fair to say Watson wasn’t too popular with his team mates during the warm up, but remarkably, the Saints managed to come through the tie with a win. And they were able to laugh together afterwards as players wrestled with their own shirts for ages as they tried to get them back off!

Another Saints’ group who weren’t so impressed when the senior team got back to the club were the youth side, who were complaining the tops they were forced to play in that day literally came down to their knees!


Green trousers won by umpire - at county's top cricket final!

Bill CarneThis particular correspondent also made his fair share of mistakes but arguably one of the worst came after he had been accorded the honour of umpiring at the Harrison-Allen Bowl Final, the biggest annual event in Pembrokeshire cricketing calendar!
Being selected to officiate at the Harrison-Allen Bowl Final is rightly regarded as the ultimate honour and, as in all finals, the strict dress code is white shirt and umpires’ association tie, grey slacks and white trainers/cricket boots – and this was doubly so in this Blue Riband event.
In 1999, the last final of the millennium, I was to be part of the umpiring team alongside Les Hastings, one of the more experienced umpires on the circuit, and all went well as we both arrived early and walked the boundary, looked at the wicket and generally soaked up the atmosphere with supporters and players from host club Cresselly and Lamphey, seeking their first Bowl win after experiencing defeat against Haverfordwest the previous campaign.
It was finally time to get changed into our umpiring finery and it was only when I opened my kit bag that I realised my slacks were still on a radiator at home and there was no-one there – so I had to face the crowds, especially other umpires who would love to have been in the middle, in my gaudy green summer trousers.
I had a dirty look from some of them but my colleague Les was brilliant and so were the players in what turned out to a cracking contest which Lamphey deservedly won – and I can honestly say I enjoyed my only Bowl final because although I was a member of the umpires’ committee and County Club chairman at the time - I was never asked to stand in the middle for another final again! 

Riath is roasted by a world-class yachtsman


Riath Al-Sammarai Riath Al-Sammarai hails from Haverfordwest and as a very keen youngster interested in a career in sports journalism completed some work experience with the ‘Western Telegraph’  under the watchful eye of Gordon Thomas, the sports editor who is so well-known and respected across Pembrokeshire.

From there he took a degree in journalism at Cardiff University and has progressed to being the Chief Sports Feature writer with the Daily Mail, where his articles have been written about some of the most famous sportsmen in the world – and earned him the prize of being chosen as the Sports Feature Writer of the Year amongst all the national daily newspapers.

But prior to setting out at that level his first role was working for a year to help promote the Volvo Open Race, which started out as the ‘Whitbread Round The World Yacht Race’, and we’ll let him tell us about an interesting experience which was part of his learning curve!

“I really thought I had landed a plum job in the autumn of 2005, despite the fact that I knew absolutely nothing about yachting, my main experience on water having been the Fishguard/Rosslare ferry.

“I had to be at each stopping point of the race like Lisbon, Guangzhou (China), The Hague, Auckland, Cape Town, Melbourne, New York and Brazil to name but a few, staying in the same hotels as competitors and feeding back news, views and interviews to head office.

“I was young and perhaps I bit too sure of my ability because after one leg of the race I heavily criticized the performance of top Brazilian sailor Torben Grael, who had five Olympic medals tucked under his belt, two of them gold, and the article was posted up on the official website.

“The next morning I was in my hotel room when there was a knock on the door and standing there was a rather upset Mr Grael!

“He wanted to know my sailing background and although I tried to bluff my way out it was clear to both of us that this wasn’t going to be a debate I was going to win!

“Grael’s team finished third and he skippered the winning yacht in the next event – and I learned that day to make sure I knew what I was writing about and to think before I pilloried someone in print!"


Jonathan Thomas – always a true gent and a great rugby player


Jonathan ThomasIn my long time as a teacher who loved writing about sport I have been very lucky to meet loads of sports stars, from Warren Gatland and Zinzan Brooke to Sir Gareth Edwards, Phil Bennett, Alun Wyn Jones and Willie-John McBride but I can categorically say that Jonathan Thomas is easily in my top five of people I have interviewed.

JT always has time for everyone, attends the county junior finals as often as his time at Worcester Warriors and Bristol Bears would allow – and still visits him mum Elizabeth and calls her his ‘70 year old heroine’
Recognised as a Welsh international – but not as ‘J.T.’!

The first time that I interviewed Jonathan Thomas was in the old Ocky White’s Coffee Shop in Haverfordwest and we enjoyed several cups of coffee whilst discussing our cricketing days at Stackpole, his 67 Welsh caps and all his other achievements in the oval ball game.

Our chat was interrupted by an old boy from Pembroke Dock who said, “Sorry to interrupt but aren’t you a Welsh rugby player?”

JT confirmed he was and the admirer said,
“Wait until I get home and tell my wife I’ve met Mike Phillips – she knows that I’ve always been a great fan of yours!”

As I almost choked on my coffee Jonathan gently told the old feller who he was and smiled as he said,

“I wouldn’t mind being a scrum half mind!”

The rugby fan went off delighted after Jonathan had shaken hands with him, looking down from his 6 feet 5 inches, and hadn’t made him feel awkward in any way.


Ian recalls his cricketing days at Cefneithin

Pembrokeshire sports fans who use the super ‘All Wales Sport’ web site to get fixtures, results and tables from right across Wales might not personally know Ian Davies, who hails from Cefneithin and in his younger days was an accomplished all-round sportsman who specialised in cricket and rugby but can also claim to have scored the first-ever goal for the Gwendraeth Grammar School football team which had just started out in football after many years when only the oval-ball game dominated and produced legends like Barry ‘The King’ John.

“I really enjoyed opening the batting for Cefneithin and bowled a bit too – but there were a few times in those days when things weren’t always easy, but we enjoyed a laugh about them.

For away games we often used an old mini-bus with an even older driver and on one occasion we were due to play in Meinciau, a small village near Pontyates but when we reached the big hill nearby we must have had too much kit on board and the bus refused to climb it.

We tried pushing it but it was a heavy old vehicle and the gradient was steep – so after a couple of attempts we surrendered and had to make the long trek on foot so we weren’t in the best of hwyls before the start but eventually managed to win before the old bus rolled back down the hill with some ease!

“In another match we went to Burry Port to play against a useful side that included a good player called Tim Hancock and I gave a lift to a talented teenager we had bowling for us and for the only time in my cricketing days the game was halted because his bowling was so quick they thought he posed a danger (no helmets in those days, remember?!)

“That young feller was no other than Gareth Davies, who played at outside half for Wales and is the current chairman of the Welsh Rugby Union!”
Ellis DaviesEllis Davies is another ‘All Wales Sport’ director who knows his sporting onions and is the long-serving Hon Secretary of the Llanelli District Rugby Union. He is a former policeman who was stationed in Pembrokeshire for a number of years and has always been known for his wicked sense of humour . . .
“The funniest thing I ever was involved in was when one of my jobs was to appoint referees to rugby games in the Llanelli area and in one low-key seconds’ match the referee started the game before realising he had forgotten his stop watch and wrist watch – and didn’t want to show his error so let play go for a while – and then quietly asked a lady standing well on her own for the time, saying his timepiece had stopped.

She was one of only a handful of spectators and told him so he knew there was five minutes to go to half time – and in the second half did the same thing to work out when another 20 minutes had gone – and she agreed to give a thumbs up at 4pm, when he roughly worked out the game should finish.

In the meanwhile there was a minor skirmish on the pitch which caused him to show a yellow card to a player from each team – and after a while thought it was funny there had been no signal from the lady because it had seemed a long period of play.

So he walked over to ask if all was ok and received the abrupt response.

“I’m not telling you. You gave my son a yellow card so you can bu**er off!”
 “When the Carmarthen by-pass at Abergwili was being built the contractors had their offices etc nearby and on the 1st April one year I supplied Roger Phillips (Carmarthen Journal), who I knew through supplying them with sports details, the idea of an April Fool’s Day spoof that announced that Merlin’s bones had been found in the excavations. The news spread across Wales like wildfire before folks realised they had been duped!

“The following year we tried another spoof that announced that Ian (Davies), Barry Thomas (Sports editor of the Llanelli Star, Evening Post and Carmarthen Journal) and Ihad been invited for a trial by Coventry City AFC and again people were totally fooled and were contacting us to say ‘well done’.