Rugby Football Club
Bryn Estyn Road, Wrexham, LL13 9TY (UK)
CLUB NEWS 03-04
|Preview for 17th April 2004|
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Wrexham face a must-win game at Llandudno tomorrow afternoon when they take on the Seahorses in a Division Four North contest, the outcome of which is crucial to the survival of both clubs in the top flight of rugby in North Wales (kick-off at 2.30pm).
Full-back Kerry Powell is set to make his 50th appearance for the club provided that he feels no ill effects from a back strain that he picked up in last week's victory over Ruthin. Powell is a former Youth Team captain and still has fond memories of scoring his First Team debut try against Llandudno at Maesdu Road last season.
Lock Mike McLeod, unavailable last weekend, returns to strengthen the pack alongside Mike Jones who seems to be improving with every game and is now a proficient line-out jumper. The in-form hooker Gareth Perrin, who is starting to become a regular try scorer, has been selected to play in the front-row with Rob
Pierce and Geraint Davies.
In the backs, James Plant will retain the fly-half spot unless Richard Lloyd recovers from a shoulder injury and passes a late fitness test. Following impressive performances against Ruthin and then Mold on Tuesday evening, Chris Andrew looks set to partner skipper John Roberts in the centre while Simon Williams
returns on the wing.
Wrexham were in a similar relegation battle last season when they travelled to Llandudno who were also situated in a lowly position in Division Four North. Although they faced a very difficult task away from home, Dave Cheesbrough's side produced some of their best rugby on that day and, although it was touch and go at
times, managed to win by 18-15.
In a sustained and classy opening display, they scored all of their points in the first 16 minutes and then had to weather a storm as Llandudno discovered their rhythm and struck back with the wind at their backs. Powell claimed the opening try and added a conversion and two penalties, and will be hoping for a similar score when he makes his landmark appearance tomorrow.
Wrexham won the corresponding encounter at Bryn Estyn Road by 23-6 last September, all of their points coming from their threequarters. This time, the forwards should feature more on the scoresheet, particularly after their superb performance against Dolgellau a fortnight ago when they claimed three strikes against the head in a turbulent second-half.
Llandudno possess a strong and aggressive pack and, knowing that they must win to make any headway in their fight to escape from the relegation zone, will be fighting for their very existence. They still have three matches to play after tomorrow's game but face difficult encounters against top runners like Ruthin and
will struggle to earn points from most of them.
Wrexham, who lie in fifth from bottom place but still need one more win to avoid the drop to Division Four, cannot afford to rely on possible victories against Nant Conwy, Newtown and Bala in their remaining league games and must put everything into pulling off a comprehensive win tomorrow. On recent performances
they can achieve this, but will have to battle all the way.
Wrexham Seconds take on Whitchurch Seconds in a cross border friendly at Bryn Estyn Road. Kevin Davies's side defeated their opponents by 26-14 at Whitchurch two seasons ago and will be keen to repeat that success tomorrow. The Thirds and the Youth Team are looking for suitable friendly contests in the local fixture pool.
The repair and reconstruction of the clubhouse at Bryn Estyn Road, following the horrendous wrecking of large areas of it by vandals, continued this week with the reopening of the damaged kitchen and downstairs bar. Members assisted the club with time, effort and some finance to make sure that the building was secure and
could welcome visiting clubs to play rugby.
Loss assessors worked with the club committee during this week to examine the damage suffered and replace items and stocks lost. It is reported that the police managed to recover vital evidence immediately following the break-in by vandals and are examining it in an effort to try to apprehend the intruders.
WREXHAM 17 RUTHIN 15
A late try by number eight Carl Turner, and a conversion under pressure by outside-half James Plant, gave Wrexham their first victory over Ruthin since 2000 in an Easter Saturday friendly fixture at Bryn Estyn Road.
The visitors claimed the lead in the 11th minute with a fine try by winger Lee Jones, but the resolute tackling of the home side prevented a further breakthrough and Wrexham outside-half James Plant dropped a superb goal to reduce the deficit before the break.
Ruthin, close to full strength for this Easter friendly, opened strongly in the second-half and soon created an overlap on the left for full-back Jim Salisbury to sweep in at the corner. Then Wrexham responded with a marvelous performance from their Second XV back-row trio of Carl Turner, Dave Morris and John Gill and
closed the gap when Rob Pierce scored a try under the posts.
Plant added the simple conversion that tied the scores at 10-10 and the game erupted as both sides went in search of the winning score. Ruthin flanker Richard Jones crashed over for a late try that seemed to have beaten Wrexham at last but there was still time for Turner to brush off several tackles and plant the ball firmly
under the posts. Plant's conversion added the coup de grace.
Wrexham Seconds, much changed due to First XV calls, maintained their winning ways with a 46-28 demolition of Llangollen at Dinas Bran. Tries came from Tom Wright, Mike Andrew, Peter Dougan, Gareth Bostock, Darrell Hughes, Alex Crewe, Gareth Hughes and Jason Griffiths while Andrew landed two conversions and Darrell Hughes managed a further two points.
The Thirds completed a successful afternoon for Wrexham Rugby Club with a 43-14 success at Denbigh Thirds. Wayne Roberts claimed a brace of tries while Stan Edwards, Nick Johnson, Andy Lee, Gerry Darbyshire and Sion Williams weighed in with a score apiece. Top points scorer Ross Roberts added three conversions and Dave Beckett added one more.
Despite a brave performance from man of the match Sam Wright and inspired work by their skipper Glen Bellamy, Wrexham Under 16's were beaten 26-0 at Oswestry by a well drilled home side on Tuesday.
MOLD 18 WREXHAM 5
Mold completed a rare double over Wrexham on Tuesday evening to maintain their fourth place in Division Four North and leave their visitors still looking for one more win to rescue themselves from the threat of relegation.
Wrexham opened strongly with locks Mike Jones and Rhodri Evans helping the pack to secure a stream of possession from the set pieces and were unlucky when full-back Kerry Powell missed a 12th minute penalty in front of the posts.
The home side contested well and soon fought back to take the lead with a penalty by scrum-half Jamie Griffiths. More pressure from the Mold forwards earned a second penalty for Griffiths before a tackling error at a line-out let in lock Emrys Roberts for a try which Griffiths easily improved.
Wrexham found it difficult to reach the heights of their winning performance against Ruthin on Saturday and could not stamp their authority on the game, their defence letting them down at times. Mold were able to stretch their lead to 18-0 just before the break when number eight Joe Studley was driven over from a line-out.
The visitors recovered after the break and reduced the deficit when number eight Gareth Noon broke loose in the 22 and crashed over wide-out. Despite breaks by winger Simon Williams and several promising charges up the middle of the field by Powell, however, Wrexham couldn't break through a stubborn defence again and the rest of the game became a stalemate in the advancing gloom of the late evening.
This seasons old news
Wrexham Rugby Club members and officials have been working hard this week to recover from last Friday's frenzied attack by vandals which caused a trail of destruction throughout the clubhouse and left the club with an estimated £20,000 bill for the damage suffered.
It would appear that vandals forced their way into the building late on Friday evening and proceeded to destroy bars on both levels of the two storey building. Very little was stolen but the intruders smashed stocks of beer and spirits, glasses, television sets, trophy cabinets, furniture, plates, doors and shutters as well as many of the large picture windows in the club.
Beer from open beer taps on the first floor of the building flooded the kitchen underneath, bringing down the ceiling and forcing the closure of the club's catering facilities. Miraculously, the gym and the office housing the North Wales branch of the Welsh Rugby Union were left undamaged.
Chairman Stan Edwards masterminded the recovery operation which enabled the scheduled home league game against Dolgellau to go ahead. He said, "In the current period of rebuilding and restructuring the club, it came as an absolute shock to us that some people could commit this mindless vandalism that could deprive Wrexham people of rugby in their area".
"However, we shall rectify the damage and will not be put off our aim of securing the future of the rugby at the club for decades to come. Members and their families and friends have done a tremendous job in clearing up the damage throughout the club and are a tremendous credit to the community", he added.
The clear-up started on Saturday morning after initial police investigations had been concluded and a 'Dunkirk' spirit prevailed as one of the two bars was reopened with a limited range of refreshments. Although the kitchen was out of action, a buffet was provided by a member's wife to feed the visiting players and supporters from Dolgellau.
A limited service will be provided tomorrow afternoon when Ruthin visit Bryn Estyn Road for a friendly fixture which was arranged last weekend by Wrexham coach Dave Cheesbrough to fill a blank date and keep his players in match trim (kick-off at 2.30pm).
Ruthin are bringing a squad of 22 players and both sides intend to use their full complement of replacements with some Second XV players being given a chance to shine. Wrexham outside-half Gareth Smith suffered a broken thumb against Dolgellau last Saturday and will definitely miss tomorrow's encounter, probably giving Dylan Griffiths an opportunity to deputise.
Flanker Mike Ward is unavailable and prop Geraint Davies is doubtful for this game, but Nick Perrin is set to return to the front-row and a slimmed down Mike McLeod looks to be a strong contender for a place in the second-row. Ruthin should be close to full strength and will try to play the open style of rugby which earned them a 49-0 victory over Llandudno last week.
Following the withdrawal of Bala Seconds from a scheduled game against Wrexham Seconds at Bryn Estyn Road, the home side are hoping that the local fixture pool will find a replacement game for them. With a number of his players on First Team duty, skipper Kevin Davies may take this opportunity to bring in a couple of Youth Team players to assess their potential.
Wrexham Thirds, nearing 600 points scored this season, will visit Denbigh to take on a mixture of their Seconds and Thirds in a friendly Easter fixture. Sean Williams and his successful outfit will be out to make amends for a previous 20-22 defeat (k.o 2.30pm).
In Mini and Junior Rugby, all sides will enjoy an Easter
break as their officials prepare for next week's Presentation Evening at the
The Schools Mini World Cup Competition, run by local rugby development officer Marc Roberts, will be held at Bryn Estyn Road on Wednesday 28th April from 12.00pm to 3.30pm. Llanelli Scarlets coach Gareth Jenkins and three of his top players will be in attendance.
Wrexham and Mold have agreed to play their postponed Division Four North league game on Tuesday evening 13th April at Mold's Chester Road ground (k.o. 6.00pm)
WREXHAM 20 DOLGELLAU 3
Despite turning up at their clubhouse on Saturday morning to find it had been trashed by vandals, Wrexham put it all behind them to gain a rare victory over Dolgellau and avenge a 34-6 away defeat earlier in the season.
A stirring effort when facing a strengthening wind in the second-half made sure that Dolgellau were never able to overturn Wrexham's 12-0 first-half lead. The power of the home pack made a big difference with three strikes against the head and hooker Gareth Perrin not only scored but also delivered one of his most inspiring performances to date.
Early on in the game, Wrexham outside-half Gareth Smith used the wind to put pressure on the visitors defence with a series of high kicks. Dolgellau held out against a keen home pack for a lengthy period but pressure told in the 18th minute when Perrin was driven over in the corner by his forwards following a 15 metre surge by prop Rob Pierce.
Centre Kerry Powell was a little unlucky to miss the target with his difficult conversion attempt but flanker Mike Ward maintained the home side's momentum by robbing the Dolgellau forwards of their possession. Just when Wrexham looked capable of making another breakthrough, however, the forwards tired badly following three weeks of inactivity.
Wingers Simon Williams and Gavin Brace eventually restored the momentum towards the end of the first-half with a couple of good breaks wide-out. The forwards followed them and pounded away at Dolgellau, having two potential scores refused by the unsighted referee until lock Rhodri Evans touched down from a maul in the 38th minute and Powell landed the conversion.
Facing into the wind after the break, the Wrexham pack drove hard into the rucks and mauls and earned a penalty which Powell kicked to increase his side's lead only three minutes after the restart. The score rattled Dolgellau and they counter attacked strongly to earn a couple of penalties, one of which outside-half Dewi Thomas kicked to reduce the arrears.
Undeterred, Wrexham increased their forward effort and went close through good work by number eight Gareth Noon and Perrin before lock Mike McLeod entered the fray with flanker Dean Griffiths as 54th minute replacements. Moments later, a slimline McLeod switched to number eight and charged over to score from a set-scrum.
The wind blew back Powell's attempted conversion but Wrexham were soon on the attack again in a hotly disputed final quarter. Smith was replaced by Chris Andrew when the outside-half broke a thumb, skipper John Roberts led the way with some storming runs before being sin-binned for obstructing an opponent at a maul, and fire was met with fire right up to the final whistle.
Wrexham remained in fifth from bottom place on a day when relegation threatened Pwllheli demolished Newtown by 45-8 and lowly Rhyl, Bala and Llandudno suffered defeats. A victory at Llandudno in a fortnight's time should guarantee Wrexham's safety in Division Four North for this season but they know that nothing can be left to chance.
Wrexham Thirds all but wrapped up the North East Wales Division Two Championship with a sparkling 40-22 victory over Ruthin Thirds at Cae Ddol. They still trail leaders Corwen, who have completed their programme, by one point but have a much superior points scoring difference and will be awarded that coveted point, win or lose, when they play their last game against Flint.
Ross Roberts became the Division's top scorer when he grabbed three tries and landed four conversions. Nick Johnson, Andy Perrin and James Bellis claimed a try apiece before they rounded off the day by saying a fond farewell to flanker Pat Mitchell who has impressed in his two seasons with the team and is leaving to join the Royal Air Force. 03/04/04 Preview
Wrexham, needing at least two wins from their six remaining games in Division Four North to ease their relegation worries, need to make home advantage count tomorrow afternoon when they return to league action against Dolgellau (kick-off at 2.30pm).
Richard Lloyd, still nursing an injured shoulder, is unavailable and the outside-half jersey will therefore be worn by Gareth Smith who has been impressing in recent games and may have a major influence on the outcome of tomorrow's encounter. Top try scorer James Plant retains his full-back berth and centre Kerry Powell has happily made a full recovery from a rib injury.
In the pack, coach Dave Cheesbrough has concerns over the progress of number eight Gareth Noon and flanker Dean Griffiths who have both missed recent training sessions due to injuries. Prop Geraint Davies is fit to resume in the front-row after injury and flanker Mike Ward will make his long awaited 75th senior appearance in the back-row.
Ward, a product of the Wrexham Youth Development system, made his First Team debut as a lock-forward for the famed Wrexham Northern Counties side in a Division Two game at Waterton Cross against South Wales Police four years ago. Although he tasted defeat by 36-10 on that occasion, Ward impressed in the second-row and crossed for a 'try' that was disallowed.
A consistent performer over the last three seasons, Ward has switched successfully to the back-row and is a fine ball winner and tackler. He will need to rely on all of his experience against Dolgellau tomorrow afternoon because they employ a high speed game using forwards and backs in concert to try to punch holes through the home defence.
Wrexham came unstuck in the encounter at Marian Mawr last October and succumbed by 34-6 to a side led by the veteran North Wales outside-half Ian Palterman. Dolgellau were also well served by their rampaging hooker Geraint Evans, who notched two tries, and the former Wrexham Northern Counties prop Dai Arthur Owen who plundered his customary score against his former team mates.
When the Gwynedd side last visited Wrexham a year ago, they quickly settled after their bus journey and established a 10-0 advantage before the home side had any chance to draw breath. A fightback ensued, but it took an injury time try by the former Ruthin and Wrexham winger Simon Sullivan to level the scores at 15-15 on the final whistle.
A win for Wrexham tomorrow is crucial because, although they are currently fifth from bottom of Division Four North, they are locked in a relegation battle with Rhyl, Pwllheli and Llandudno with only three points separating the highest and lowest in the table. Newtown managed to escape from this desperate group with two well organised wins and Wrexham need to follow suit.
Weighted heavily against Wrexham's chances of success tomorrow are the fact that they have not played any competitive rugby for three weeks due to the intervention of the Six Nations Championship, and they lack a proven try scorer since Hywel Raymond departed for Ireland at the beginning of March.
However, winger Simon Williams and centre John Roberts did manage to cause former champions Llangefni some anxiety in Wrexham's last league match and they can pose similar questions for the Dolgellau defenders tomorrow. Lock Rhodri Evans will enjoy playing against his old club and prop Geraint Davies knows his way to the try line and will be keen to score.
Wrexham Seconds are hoping to fill a blank date with a game from the local fixture pool while the Thirds will face a challenging task at Ruthin in a North East Wales Division Two league game. Second placed Wrexham can overtake Corwen and win the League Championship if they can defeat Ruthin tomorrow and then claim a home win against Flint in their last game of the season.
Wrexham Youth Team visit Llanrwst for a North Wales Youth Division One Championship contest against league leaders Nant Conwy who are set to join the elite in the Premier Division next season and take on top clubs from South Wales. Wrexham are an improving side and should maintain their steady progress tomorrow afternoon (k.o.2.30pm).
In Mini and Junior Rugby, the Under 9's to 11's will entertain their cross border rivals Whitchurch in a full programme of games at Bryn Estyn Road on Sunday morning. The Under 13's and 14's travel to the Wirral to play Anselmians while the Under 15's will face a demanding contest at Wrexham against Market Harborough (k.o.10.30am).
Friday 14th May has been reserved by club officials for the senior players Annual Dinner and Presentation of Awards Evening at the Bryn Estyn Road clubhouse (7.30pm). This ever popular event will set the seal on a challenging season and enable the captains and players to vote for the players in each team from First XV to Youth XV who have made the most outstanding contribution towards the success or improvement of that team.
By that time, the main club officers should have negotiated a rescue package designed to guarantee the future survival of rugby football at Bryn Estyn Road. They are currently examining a number of proposals and will come to a decision by Friday 23rd April.
Centre Iestyn Harris was named Man of the Match at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff when Wales defeated Italy by 44-10 in their last Six Nations Championship game of the season. The creativity of Harris launched Wales towards a victory that avenged the embarrassment of defeat in Rome last season when the league convert struggled for control at outside-half.
Wales finished in fourth place in the Championship behind World Champions England who were beaten 24-21 by new Grand Slam Champions France in Paris. Coach Steve Hansen was able to take a winning farewell salute as he departed for New Zealand to become the All Blacks assistant coach to former Welsh Coach Graham Henry.
Full-back Gareth Thomas broke the Welsh try scoring record of 33 tries, previously held by Ieuan Evans, with a touchdown from a powerful run. Wingers Shane and Rhys Williams claimed a brace of tries apiece and replacement centre Tom Shanklin sliced through for a sixth score against the tired Italians. Wales can now look forward with confidence to their summer tour of Argentina and South Africa.
Wales will complete their 2004 Six Nations Championship campaign and will aim to finish on a high note when they take on an improved Italy side at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff tomorrow afternoon (kick-off at 2.00pm).
Having beaten Scotland convincingly in their opening game of the competition and then faltered badly when succumbing to Ireland in Dublin in their second contest, they recovered to push France and England to the limit before losing narrowly in their last two matches.
Fielding what is acknowledged to be one of the best back lines in the World, Wales should be able to out maneuver the more pedestrian Italians and claim a victory that will earn them a respectable fourth place in this year's Championship. They have made great strides since last year's whitewash and can expect even better results next season under new coach Mike Ruddock.
Wrexham Firsts, showing another blank date on their fixture list, hope to arrange a floodlit match against a North Wales club this evening or secure an early kick off game against a local club tomorrow morning. Coach Dave Cheesbrough is keen to maintain the match fitness of his players in preparation for the resumption of the league programme next week, but is not very optimistic of his chances of finding a suitable game.
Flanker Mike Ward is itching to make his 75th senior appearance for the club but may have to wait until next week when Dolgellau visit Bryn Estyn Road. Centre Kerry Powell has resumed training after recovering from rib injuries but outside-half Richard Lloyd is still nursing a tender shoulder injury and may be out for two more weeks.
With a strong contingent of players and supporters visiting Cardiff to cheer on Wales, none of the other Wrexham senior sides will be in action tomorrow. On Sunday, however, the mini rugby sides will train in the morning at the club site while the Under 15's and 16's will travel to Waterloo for games against the highly rated Merseyside club (k.o.10.30am).
At a packed Special General Meeting at Bryn Estyn Road on Tuesday evening, members received a briefing on the future prospects of the club and then formalised the election of new officers. Stan Edwards takes over as Chairman, Neil Sissons is Vice-Chairman, Nerys Jones is Treasurer and Gareth Lewis remains as Honorary Secretary.
The club, originally a sports club providing rugby, squash, cricket and hockey facilities but now saddled with a clubhouse that is far too big for its current rugby only membership, has been under pressure financially for some time and has been examining ways of reorganising to provide more appropriate facilities for members at a much lower cost.
The newly appointed Main Committee was given a solid vote of confidence by members to examine proposals from representatives of NEWI, property developers and other parties who are interested in assisting the club and possibly acquiring part or all of the 28.5 acre Bryn Estyn Road recreational site.
The club officers have requested a month to examine all proposals before a decision is made. Whatever is finally decided, the committee's mandate is to ensure that rugby will continue to be played at the Bryn Estyn Road site. Chairman Stan Edwards said after Tuesday's meeting, "We are confident that the future of the club will be secured by the end of the season".
A mounting injury list and the unavailability of players who were attending the England v. Wales 2004 Six Nations Championship game at Twickenham last Saturday, forced coach Dave Cheesbrough to declare a rest day for his First Team squad. Wrexham Seconds were let down by Caldy Veterans who called off their scheduled visit to Wrexham due to a fixture list mix-up.
The Thirds also faced a Saturday afternoon without a rugby game when Chester Veterans, for the second time this season, were unable raise a side to play their arranged game at Bryn Estyn Road. Happily, Fixture Secretary Kevin Davies managed to organise a replacement game at the same venue against Afon Dee and the hard fought contest finished with a 0-0 scoreline.
As the scoreline suggests, defences held firm for most of an enjoyable game and few scoring opportunities appeared. One did appear in the final quarter when Wrexham lock Alex Crewe surged over the Afon Dee line, but referee Matt Arnold became caught up in the forward surge and had to rule out the 'try' because he was unsighted when Crewe touched down.
Wrexham Youth Team suffered a 14-54 home defeat against North Wales Youth Division One Championship contenders Denbigh, but they gave a much improved performance and scored two sparkling tries. Luke Pemberton claimed the first score, Man of the Match Gareth Owen crowned a superb performance with a late try and skipper John Gormley slotted both conversions.
Wrexham proved unstoppable as they powered their way to win the North Wales Mini Rugby Under 10's Competition at Rhyl on Sunday. The path to the final included a 3-1 victory over Flint, a 4-0 whitewash of Bro Ffestiniog, a 1-1 draw against Nant Conwy and a 3-1 conquest of local rivals Mold.
They met Nant Conwy again in the final of the competition and defeated their opponents by 3-1 in a tense contest. Their success was fuelled by excellent performances from Meredith Francis, Llewelyn Edwards & Nia Williams and the fine rugby exhibitions from all teams offered the promise of good things to come in later seasons from these young club development sides.
Wrexham Under 16's were beaten 30-0 at Lymm by a fine local side who were making final preparations for their Cheshire Cup final against Wirral next week. Thomas Cheesbrough claimed the Man of the Match award for Wrexham while Andy Clutton gave a very competitive performance after switching from his regular centre position to full-back. 20/03/04 Preview
Wrexham, missing several key players through injury and others who are visiting London tomorrow to support Wales in their Six Nations Championship game against England at Twickenham, will enjoy a break from fixtures this weekend and then hope to secure a game from the local fixture pool to fill a blank date next weekend.
Centre Kerry Powell had to leave the field against Llangefni last week with damaged ribs and will benefit from a short rest. Number eight Gareth Noon, who was rested for most of last Saturday's game before coming on as a replacement for Dean Griffiths, is recovering from an elbow injury and should be fit to start in the middle of the back-row next week.
With Wales set to complete their 2004 campaign against Italy in Cardiff next week, Wrexham are not due to resume league action until Saturday 3rd April. They will take on Dolgellau at Bryn Estyn Road on that day and need to be at their best to secure a victory over the Gwynedd club that has struggled for form this season but normally comes out on top against Wrexham.
Dave Cheesbrough's side, with only two home games and four away games remaining, need to secure at least two victories from those contests to save them from the threat of relegation to Division Five North. Defeating Dolgellau at home is now essential and Cheesbrough will be working very hard over the next fortnight to make sure that he can field his strongest squad.
Wrexham Seconds will take on Caldy Veterans in an early kick-off game at Bryn Estyn Road while the Thirds will entertain Chester Veterans at the same venue. On an action packed afternoon, the Youth Team also have home advantage against Denbigh in the North Wales Youth League (k.o.2.00pm).
Following the completion of these games, players and supporters will gather in the Wrexham clubhouse to watch the England v. Wales Six Nations Championship game on television. North Wales star Robin McBryde has been restored to the Welsh front-row after recovering from injury and should bolster the scrum which struggled against the French a fortnight ago (k.o.4.00pm).
In Mini and Junior Rugby, the mini rugby sides will take on teams from Chester in a full programme of games at Bryn Estyn Road on Sunday morning. The junior teams will visit Lymme in Cheshire for games at all levels from Under 13 to Under 16 (k.o.10.30am).
LLANGEFNI 30 WREXHAM 3
Having held Llangefni to a 6-3 half-time lead against a strong Anglesey wind, Wrexham had high hopes of producing a shock result against the former Division Four North champions. However, their titanic first-half efforts had taken a toll on the visiting forwards and Llangefni were then able to use their fast backs to win a thrilling game.
Defeat left Wrexham still immersed in a relegation battle with four other clubs to avoid the drop to Division Five but, although Rhyl managed to pick up points by defeating Bala by 12-11 and Pwllheli managed a draw at Nant Conwy, Wrexham are still fifth from bottom and better poised than the others to survive in the top flight of rugby in North Wales.
Having had to make several late changes to their original line-up when five regular players withdrew due to injury or work commitments, coach Dave Cheesbrough was pleased with the performances of some seasoned campaigners like prop Nick Perrin, lock Jason Griffiths and flanker Llyr Williams who answered the late call in order to turn out a side.
Electing to play against the wind in the first-half, the visiting pack settled quickly and dominated the set pieces with lock Mike Jones and flanker Mike Ward winning plenty of possession in the line-out and the front-row limiting Llangefni in the scrums. With Danny Munro excelling in the back-row, pressure earned them a penalty in the 12th minute and centre Kerry Powell kicked it to put his side in front.
From the restart, however, the home forwards forced their opponents into committing an offside error and winger Iwan Davies promptly levelled the scores with a simple penalty. Wrexham responded with breaks by skipper John Roberts, number eight Dean Griffiths and winger Simon Williams but all were stopped by desperate defence, much of it illegal and only mildly punished.
As the fast and furious pace continued, Powell failed with a difficult penalty attempt into the wind before Llangefni countered with some pressure play and eased into the lead when Iwan Davies was successful with his second penalty of the game.
Even though the match referee declined to sin-bin home players for persistently 'killing the ball', Wrexham turned round with some confidence at the break with the prospect of the wind in their favour. Llangefni, knowing that they needed more points on the board, had no alternative but to run their possession back at the visitors and did so very effectively with their fast threequarters and back-row players in support.
Their pressure told in the 51st minute when outside-half Arwel Roberts powered over for an unconverted try before coming back again for his second touchdown at the start of the final quarter. Iwan Davies kicked a conversion to put his side in the lead by 16-3 before Wrexham responded by moving John Roberts to scrum-half to create more continuity near the scrum.
The home forwards continued to infringe illegally with only warnings being issued by the hard pressed referee and were lucky again in the 75th minute when their winger Ioan Davies scored a controversial try after impeding Wrexham full-back James Plant. Iwan Davies added the conversion and then helped to break up a smart counter attack by Wrexham winger Pete Smith.
Wrexham continued to battle on, despite the loss of centre Kerry Powell through injury, and sensed an opportunity when the referee finally used his yellow card to dismiss a home player for persistent obstruction. Despite this, however, Llangefni were able to unleash the flying Ioan Davies against a tiring defence and he duly scored with Iwan Davies adding the final points.
Wrexham Seconds survived a major scare at Bryn Estyn Road before they defeated visitors Flint by 17-16 to round off their league season as unbeaten Champions of North East Wales Division One. Flint used the wind to their advantage and were ahead by 16-0 after only 20 minutes before the Champions started their fightback with a fine try by Scott Davies.
Dylan Griffiths added a conversion and then kicked a penalty to bring the score to 10-16 at the break before the home pack got to work with Andy Smith claiming a 51st minute pushover try converted by Griffiths. Flint could have won the game with a last minute penalty in front of the Wrexham posts but, somehow, their replacement kicker lost his concentration and his conversion attempt flew wide.
Flint Seconds called off their Division Two home game against Wrexham Thirds only an hour before Wrexham were due to set off on their journey to Deeside. Wrexham Youth Team held their hosts Colwyn Bay to a 10-0 lead at half-time, but lost concentration when their best player Mark Gasson had to be taken to hospital with a
thigh injury and were whitewashed by 65-0.
In Mini and Junior Rugby, Wrexham Under 16's were taught a lesson in fine passing by a well drilled Nant Conwy side which romped to a 54-0 success at Llanrwst. It was a different matter at Wrexham where the Under 11's took on a combined Under 11's /12's team from Nant Conwy and ran out deserved victors by 4 tries to 3. Ben Lee (3) and Jonathon Davies grabbed Wrexham's tries in a hard fought match. 13/03/04 Preview
Wrexham should be at full strength for their Division Four North game at Llangefni tomorrow afternoon but can expect a very challenging contest against the former champions who are unlikely to prevent leaders Ruthin from winning this season's Championship but hope to finish in a strong second place (kick-off at 2.30pm).
With Richard Lloyd back in the squad after recovering from a shoulder injury, Wrexham coach Dave Cheesbrough will have to decide between Lloyd and Gareth Smith as to who starts in the crucial outside-half position. There has also been strong competition in training this week for the hooker berth between the freshly returned Danny Munro and Gareth Perrin.
Mike Jones ,who was unavailable due to a wedding last week, is back in the squad and will share the second-row duties with Mike McLeod and Rhodri Evans during the course of the match. Flanker Mike Ward suffered a heavy impact and had to leave the field as a precautionary measure during last week's 'A' game against Whitchurch but should start in tomorrow's line-up.
Wrexham's 3-0 defeat of Rhyl in their last league game a fortnight ago gave skipper John Roberts and his side some breathing space in their battle to avoid relegation, but difficult games lie ahead and a victory at Llangefni tomorrow would be a marvelous confidence booster.
However, Llangefni recently enjoyed a great run in the Welsh Cup Competition and matched Wrexham's famous record of being the only North Wales club to have reached the last 16 in the prestigious tournament. They were finally knocked out by 54-21 at Premier Division Caerphilly but won many admirers and will be very confident of success on home ground tomorrow.
Wrexham Seconds, with their North East Wales Division One Championship already retained, can afford to relax a little against Flint Firsts in a league game at Bryn Estyn Road tomorrow afternoon. This will not be the case for Wrexham Thirds who visit Flint Seconds and need to win to maintain pressure on leaders Corwen in the Division Two title race (k.o.2.30pm).
Wrexham Youth Team have injury problems but hope to overcome them to visit Colwyn Bay in a North Wales Youth Division One game tomorrow afternoon. In Mini and Junior Rugby, the Under 9's entertain Colwyn Bay on Sunday morning while the Under 10's to 12's have home advantage against teams from Nant Conwy. The Under 13's to 15's are looking for games in the local fixture pool while the fast improving Under 16's will be in action at Nant Conwy (k.o.10.30am).
Wrexham Rugby Club officials continued to prepare this week for the important Special General Meeting to be held the clubhouse on Tuesday 23rd March when members will be asked to vote on proposals developed by an emergency steering committee in relation to the management and future development of facilities at the Bryn Estyn Road site (7.30pm).
WHITCHURCH 'A' 24 WREXHAM 'A' 10
Both sides fielded a mixture of First and Second Team players in a hastily arranged game at Whitchurch, a game that filled a blank fixture date for both clubs and ensured that some key players maintained their match fitness.
Wrexham started off in fine form and opened the scoring in the 9th minute with an excellent try by full-back James Plant who scythed through the home defence to touch down near the corner. Centre Kerry Powell missed the difficult conversion and suffered the same cruel luck minutes later when he attempted to covert a rampaging try from a line-out by hooker Gareth Perrin.
Whitchurch gradually recovered and struck back at the start of the second quarter with a well worked unconverted try by their full-back. Despite good work by Wrexham prop Geraint Davies and flanker Mike Ward, the home pack dominated the end of the first-half and claimed two converted pushover tries that stunned the visitors.
Wrexham pushed hard at the start of the second-half to make up the deficit and would have scored within minutes of the restart if a player hadn't knocked on within sight of the try line. Having been given a wake-up call, Whitchurch quickly responded with an unconverted try that seemed to have put the game beyond Wrexham's reach.
Frustration set in and Wrexham lost the services of their skipper John Roberts for 10 minutes when he was sent to the sin bin for a late tackle on an opponent. In a disappointing final quarter, the visitors lost their early momentum, Whitchurch were content to settle for their 14 point advantage and the game petered out as a contest.
Wrexham Seconds, captained by Kevin Davies, retained the North East Wales Division One Championship for the second successive season with a hard fought 24-17 away victory over bottom club Abergele Firsts. They remain unbeaten in league rugby although Llangollen forced the best out of them in a 28-28 draw at Wrexham last November.
The Champions trailed by 8-14 against the breeze at the break, but a stirring second-half display and two late drop goals from Dylan Griffiths wrapped up the Championship at this early stage of the season. Tries came from Jason Griffiths and Gavin Brace with two penalties and a conversion from Dylan Griffiths.
In a top of the table Division Two contest between leaders Corwen and Wrexham Thirds at Bryn Estyn Road, the home side trounced the visitors by 48-0 and closed the gap between the clubs to only one point with Wrexham having a game in hand. Ross Roberts enjoyed a field day as he collected four tries and four conversions, Wayne Roberts joined in with a hat trick of touchdowns and James Bellis crossed for one score.
Wrexham Youth Team suffered a heavy 3-84 defeat at the hands of visitors Llangefni after two players had to go to hospital for attention and no replacements were available. Skipper John Gormley secured their consolation points with a second-half penalty.
In Junior Rugby, Wrexham Under 16's competed very well against a well drilled Newcastle under Lyme team in a new fixture at Bryn Estyn Road but, although they had enough chances to win the game themselves, they eventually lost by 0-17. Centre Tim Roberts claimed the Man of the Match award for his sound tackling while forwards Daniel Stokes, Chris Hughes and Adam Holmes showed up well when making their debut appearances
Wrexham hope to fill tomorrow's blank date on their fixture list with a suitable 'A' Team game from the local fixture pool. For many players and supporters, the weekend will then be rounded off with a visit to Cardiff on Sunday to cheer on Wales in their Six Nations Championship game against France.
Coach Dave Cheesbrough confirmed this week that Wrexham have lost the services of their top try scorer Hywel Raymond who has accepted a contract to work in Ireland with his current employers and has already taken up temporary accommodation in Dublin. He will be a difficult player to replace as he is the one player with genuine pace and experience in the side.
Replacing Raymond will not be easy and his loss has come at a time when Wrexham need to be scoring more tries and winning more matches in their bid to escape from a packed relegation zone. However, Cheesbrough has been heartened by the return of the fast winger Gareth Bostock from a hamstring injury and the pace that his son Ben Cheesbrough is showing on the wing.
Lock Rhodri Evans suffered a slight recurrence of an ankle injury in the game against Rhyl last Saturday but he has shown that he is a fast healer and will probably be out for only one game. The vastly experienced Mike McLeod replaced him and displayed that he is match now fit and ready to take on opposition defences in the manner which made him a top try scorer in his prime.
Several top players will be unavailable tomorrow but Wrexham need to play a competitive game because they looked very rusty last week following a spell of four weeks without a game. They know that they will have to be at their best when they visit former league champions Llangefni for a Division Four North contest next week.
Wrexham Seconds visit Abergele Firsts tomorrow to defend their North East Wales Division One Championship where they are unbeaten leaders. The Thirds have a top of the table game in Division Two against leaders Corwen at Bryn Estyn Road and must win this crucial game to return to overtake Corwen. Wrexham Youth Team have a home league game against Llangefni (k.o.2.30pm).
In Mini and Junior Rugby, the Under 9's to 12's visit Sandbach on Sunday morning for a full programme of games at all levels. The Under 13's to 15's have home advantage for their games against Old Anselmians and the Under 16's have arranged a new fixture against Newcastle under Lyme at Bryn Estyn Road (k.o.10.30am).
Wales kick-off their game against France at 3.00pm on Sunday afternoon at the Millennium Stadium. Local favourite Robin McBryde remains in the Welsh pack which was seriously outplayed by Ireland in Dublin a fortnight ago, but coach Steve Hansen has beefed up his scrum by recalling the 19 st. prop Ben Evans in place of the injured Adam Jones. Skipper Colin Charvis resumes in the back-row after recovering from
A steering committee, set up by Wrexham Rugby Club officials to examine the management and future development of facilities at its Bryn Estyn Road site, will report back and submit proposals to club members at a Special General Meeting to be held on Tuesday 23rd March (7.30pm).
WREXHAM 3 RHYL 0
A second-half penalty by centre Kerry Powell was enough to give Wrexham a deserved victory over fellow Division Four North strugglers Rhyl at Bryn Estyn Road, but they will have to work much harder this month to improve on what was a dour performance in good conditions.
They did score two perfectly good tries but the match referee, who perhaps felt under intense pressure whilst being scrutinised by a posse of assessors, disallowed both scores because he was unsighted and couldn't clearly see the ball being grounded.
Wrexham played into the wind in the first-half and did most of the pressing with their pack on top in the set-scrums and flanker Mike Ward leading by example in the hotly contested loose exchanges. When outside-half Gareth Smith kicked towards the right corner in the 8th minute, winger Ben Cheesbrough won the race with his opposing winger to touch down in the corner.
Disappointment followed when the 'try' was disallowed by the referee who did not have a clear line of vision. Then rustiness, following four weeks of inaction, led to a mountain of mistakes on both sides and no further clear scoring chances appeared until the end of the first-half.
Rhyl won possession outside the home 22 in the 39th minute and suddenly released full-back Matt Anwyl through the Wrexham defence. A try under the posts looked inevitable until the indefatigable Powell managed to haul down the attacker only five metres out. Two minutes later Anwyl had the chance to make amends with a penalty but his effort sailed wide of the uprights.
Wrexham tried to construct several moves to achieve a breakthrough at the start of the second-half but they were too predictable and laboured in their approach with the result that the Rhyl defence had no trouble in blocking them. It didn't help when the ball was taken into mauls and possession stolen by the visiting forwards.
By the 55th minute, however, Wrexham were using their forwards to batter away at the visitors line and Rhyl resorted to illegal methods in an effort to keep their line intact. In the 61st minute, the visiting forwards transgressed once too often and conceded a penalty in front of their posts which Powell kicked to put Wrexham into a deserved lead.
Rhyl countered with a breakaway movement which was halted by a timely tackle from Gareth Smith. Then Wrexham resumed their offensive and the forwards drove Gareth Noon over the Rhyl line for the score that they thought had crowned his 100th senior appearance. Again, however, the referee was badly positioned and the 'try' was disallowed.
With the game still very open, Rhyl broke out from their stranglehold and were awarded a kickable penalty with only minutes to go. Anwyl decided, however, to ignore a kick at the posts and aimed for a kick to touch which could produce a match winning try from the ensuing line-out.
They won the line-out but the Wrexham held firm before Smith kicked them out of trouble. The game ended with the Wrexham pack winning a scrum-against the head and nearly scoring that elusive try. A relieved coach Dave Cheesbrough conceded that "A win is a win".
Wrexham Seconds took on a pool fixture at Old Parkonians Firsts on the Wirral and looked poised to snatch a late victory before a last minute breakaway try settled the issue in favour of the home side by 29-19. John Darlington claimed a brace of tries for the visitors while Mark Lloyd crossed for one touchdown and Dylan Griffiths added two conversions.
Wrexham Thirds maintained their good current form with a 26-5 victory over Afon Dee at Shotton. Gareth Gregory crossed for a brace of tries, Mark Mira and Stan Edwards added a try apiece and Ross Roberts kicked three conversions. The Youth Team game at Nant Conwy was called off due to a layer of six inches of snow lying on the recently flooded pitch.
Back-row forward Gareth Noon will make his 100th senior appearance for Wrexham when they take on fellow strugglers Rhyl at Bryn Estyn Road tomorrow afternoon in a Division Four North contest that the home side must win to keep their survival hopes alive (kick-off at 2.30pm).
Wrexham, Newtown, Pwllheli, Rhyl, and Llandudno are currently stuck on 12 league points apiece in the Division's relegation zone and one of these five clubs will be relegated automatically with bottom club Bala at the end of the season. As Newtown and Rhyl have at least a game in hand, Wrexham must make progress tomorrow to distance themselves from the drop zone.
Following three weeks of inactivity due to a waterlogged pitch at Bala and the start of the 2004 Six Nations Championship, injuries have healed and the Wrexham team is now at full strength apart from the absence of the experienced outside-half Richard Lloyd who is still suffering from a niggling shoulder problem.
Lloyd's successor is likely to be Gareth Smith who took over the fly-half role in his side's last game at Ruthin and performed well after a shaky start in atrocious conditions. As well as being a fine goal kicker, Smith has an eye for a quick break and has shown that he can crack the massed defences that are encountered in modern rugby.
Gareth Noon has recovered from injuries to celebrate his centenary of appearances and is expected to take over from Dean Griffiths at number eight. Noon made his First Team debut nine years ago in a Division Five contest at Carmarthen Quins which Wrexham lost by 8-72. He went on to become a regular player in the flagship Wrexham Northern Counties side which represented North Wales with distinction at Division Two level in the late Nineties.
Wrexham lost this corresponding fixture by 22-28 last season but gained revenge when they triumphed at Rhyl by 21-20 thanks to an injury time try by winger Hywel Raymond. Earlier this season, Rhyl took the honours at The Waen by 11-6 after the visitors suffered the dismissal of prop Geraint Davies due to indiscipline and Raymond was forced off with a torn hamstring.
Coach Dave Cheesbrough has seen his Wrexham side lose four of their five games since the start of the New Year but has been heartened by a marked improvement in their try scoring capabilities and a strengthening in a previously fragile defence. Kerry Powell tackles well in the centre and the return of Simon Williams and James Plant to the threequarters has bolstered the team.
Training went well this week as players tried hard to maintain their fitness and work off the excesses incurred during a skiing holiday and the party atmosphere of a long Dublin weekend spent supporting Wales against Ireland in the Six Nations Championship. Some rustiness will be in evidence tomorrow but Rhyl have not played for over a fortnight and will also have to adjust.
With Mike McLeod and Mike Jones resuming their partnership in the second-row of the pack, Wrexham should be able to secure at least their share of the line-out possession and should also unsettle Rhyl in the loose exchanges. On a good surface at Bryn Estyn Road, the talented home threequarters have the ability to use the ball and claim a much needed victory.
Wrexham Seconds take on lowly Afon Dee Firsts in a North East Wales Division One contest at Bryn Estyn Road and, having won by 55-3 on their last visit to Shotton, should have little difficulty in defending their position as Champions and current league leaders (k.o.2.30pm).
Wrexham Thirds lead Division Two ahead of Corwen on points scored difference and will be tested when they meet Afon Dee Seconds on Deeside tomorrow afternoon. The Youth Team visit Llanrwst for a North Wales Youth League game against leaders Nant Conwy and should perform well following a long lay-off that has given injuries time to recover.
In Mini and Junior Rugby, the Wrexham Under 9's to 12's taken on Denbigh in a full programme of games on Sunday morning. The Under 13's and 14's travel to Northwich while the Under 15's and 16's make a shorter journey to Whitchurch for more cross-border contests (k.o.10.30am).
A 40 strong contingent of Wrexham players, officials and friends arrived home from Dublin on Monday evening following a long weekend in Ireland which culminated in Sunday's Six Nations Championship game at Lansdowne Road between the hosts and a much improved Wales.
Clear favourites on the back of exciting World Cup performances against New Zealand and England, followed by a comprehensive 23-10 victory over Scotland at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales disappointed their 30,000 travelling followers by conceding a flurry of points early on before crashing to a 36-15 defeat at the hands of the pumped up Irish.
On this occasion, the level of expectancy perhaps assisted their downfall. They were simply outplayed by a highly motivated Ireland team determined to stop a run of three defeats and to ensure that the good work of the last two or three years did not go to waste. The return of skipper Brian O'Driscoll made a big difference to Ireland and early Welsh tackling was slack.
Ireland led by 36-3 late in the final quarter but Wales kept plugging away and were rewarded with two quality tries by replacement centre Tom Shanklin to add to a first-half penalty by outside-half Stephen Jones who also kicked one conversion. Wales finished with their heads high, ready to take on the misfiring French in Cardiff on Sunday 7th March (k.o.3.00pm).
Wrexham winger Mike Richmond, a product of their Youth Academy who returned from several years at college to play for the First Team at the end of last year, is on the move again. He has accepted a job in Leicester, leaving local rugby supporters with memories of the 60 metre jinking run that resulted in Richmond's match winning try against Bala last November.14/02/04 Preview
Wrexham players and supporters will join a multitude of rugby followers from North Wales traveling to Cardiff for tomorrow's opening game in the 2004 Six Nations Championship between Wales and Scotland at the Millennium Stadium (kick-off at 4.00pm).
The Wrexham First XV squad players who have elected not to travel to Cardiff are looking for a suitable early kick-off game, preferably at Bryn Estyn Road, to maintain their match fitness in preparation for the resumption of the Division Four North league programme in a fortnight's time.
A Wrexham Veterans side, drawn from the Second and Third XV's, will face a stiff challenge when they take on Chester Veterans in a pre-international contest at Bryn Estyn Road tomorrow afternoon (k.o.2.00pm). The remnants of the Thirds are also hoping to secure a home game from the local fixture pool.
There is a very positive feeling amongst supporters that Wales will do well in this season's compressed Championship, particularly after their exciting performances against New Zealand and England in the World Cup Competition last November.
Players like flanker Jonathan Thomas, who gave a spectacular display against New Zealand, and wing Shane Williams, who mesmerized defences with his angled breaks, are set to carry on the example set by Wales only a few months ago. Winger Gareth Thomas has reinvented himself at full-back and is set to break the Welsh try scoring record of Ieuan Evans who notched 33.
Scotland, on the other hand, are currently the weakest side in Europe and have few players of talent emerging. New coach Matt Williams has brought a premature end to the international careers of some famous names including Gregor Townsend in his quest to bring in new players and rekindle the spirit in the side.
Although Wales coach Steve Hansen suffered the horror of a whitewash in his last Six Nations campaign, he is set to make sufficient improvements this season to enable him to finish on a high note when he hands over to his successor in May.
In Mini and Junior Rugby, the Wrexham Under 9's to 13's will visit Widnes for a full programme of games on Sunday morning. The Under 13's travel to Crewe and Nantwich while the Under 14's to 16's are looking for games from the local fixture pool (k.o.10.30am).
Wrexham First Team's visit to Bala for a Division Four North contest was called off on Friday evening when torrential rain led to the already heavy pitch becoming waterlogged. The deluge was perhaps fortuitous as five of the Wrexham regulars were unavailable because they were enjoying a skiing holiday together and hooker Danny Munro was absent due to business commitments.
Happily also, all of Wrexham's main contenders in their fight to avoid relegation to Division Five North at the end of the season were beaten in league games that survived the storms and floods. If they can defeat Rhyl at Bryn Estyn Road when the league programme resumes on 28th February and follow that up that up with success in the rearranged game at Bala on the following Saturday, they may be able to distance themselves from a very tight relegation battle.
Wrexham Seconds maintained their unbeaten progress as champions of North East Wales Division One but had to work very hard for their 15-7 victory over Ruthin Seconds at Bryn Estyn Road after the visitors bounced back in the second-half and threatened to take over.
The home forwards soon dominated the opening exchanges and won a good position in the Ruthin 22 from which outside-half Dylan Griffiths was able to plunge over the line for the opening try in the 7th minute. Griffiths added the conversion and then kicked astutely to keep his side in the driving seat.
Wrexham constructed some promising movements with winger Scott Davies and centre Ben Cheesbrough going close to crossing the visitors line but, a resilient Ruthin defence coupled with the home side's inability to string more than four passes together, prevented any further score until after the break.
With the wind in their favour in the second-half, Wrexham continued to do most of the pressing with lock Mike McLeod showing the sort of form which had earned him five tries against Mold Seconds in the previous week's league game. His second-row partner Keith Jones produced a steady stream of possession from the line-outs and it looked to be only a matter of time before another score appeared.
That score duly arrived, but to Wrexham's horror it was Ruthin who scored and the try was touched down between the posts. It all came from a promising home attack that went wrong when a forward used an overhead lob to miss out his centre and Ruthin winger Lee Jones intercepted the pass before running over half the length of the pitch to touch down.
Outside-half James Stokes added the simple conversion to tie the scores and Ruthin suddenly became energised as they relished the prospect of claiming the unbeaten league record of their old adversaries. Wrexham were forced to increase the tempo of their game and hooker Dave Green played an important role as he tackled furiously to prevent a further breakthrough.
Gradually, the home side began to exert pressure through their forwards again and the visiting pack conceded a penalty for an offside offence in the 71st minute. Dylan Griffiths kicked very well to convert from 35 metres and Wrexham sensed that they were back in business.
More pressure, with the back-row stalwart Carl Turner securing a loose ball on the ground, led to a stirring pushover attempt by the home pack and number eight Dean Griffiths managed to touch down for the 76th minute try that finally broke a courageous Ruthin resistance. Realistically, only Flint Seconds can now halt Wrexham's drive for a third successive Championship.
Wrexham Thirds' 64-14 conquest of Ruthin Thirds at Bryn Estyn Road enabled them to take over from Corwen, who didn't play, at the top of Division Two. Scrum-half Ross Roberts claimed a personal tally of 24 points with a brace of tries and 7 conversions while other home tries came from Wayne Roberts (2), James Evans (2), James Bellis, Andy Lee, Sion Williams and Ian Sanger.
Gareth Gregory, newly converted from centre to outside-half, gave an impressive performance in what was an excellent team display. Ruthin managed tries from Clive Rule and Les Shutt, Rule adding two conversions.
In Junior Rugby, the Under 16's were forced to field an understrength side due to injuries and lost to a strong Oswestry team by 7-48 at Bryn Estyn Road on Sunday. Winger Robert Mossam kept Wrexham in touch in the first-half with a 45 metre run that produced an outstanding try and outside-half Martin Jones added a fine conversion into the wind. 07/02/04 Preview
Wrexham visit bottom club Bala for a Division Four North
league game that they dare not lose in their battle with four other clubs to avoid
relegation to the basement of North Wales Rugby (kick-off at 2.30pm).
Mike McLeod, fresh from scoring five tries for the Second XV last week following a four week period of suspension, returns to bolster the second-row of the pack. Dave Green, unavailable to travel to Ruthin last week due to family commitments, is expected to reclaim the hooker berth in the front-row with Gareth Perrin taking a seat on the substitutes bench.
Pete Smith, who scored one of the best tries of the season in November's 17-12 defeat of Bala at Bryn Estyn Road, played well last Saturday following his return from injury and retains his place on the right wing. Gareth Smith may drop back to full-back in place of the unavailable James Plant with Simon Williams starting in the centre for the first time this season.
Bala have failed to win a game in 13 outings since they were promoted to Division Four North at the end of last season. They shook Wrexham with some raw aggressive rugby when they visited Wrexham last November, however, and led twice before Mike McLeod inspired a fightback and the home side took over in the second-half.
The five point winning margin was, however, too close for comfort and John Roberts and his struggling side will have to produce a much better performance if they are to emerge as victors tomorrow. Ruthin travelled to Bala and triumphed by 64-14 a fortnight ago and Wrexham, scoring freely until last week's whitewash at Ruthin, need to aim for a similar score.
Wrexham, Newtown, Pwllheli, Rhyl, and Llandudno are currently stuck on 12 league points apiece in the Division's relegation zone and one of these five clubs will be relegated automatically with Bala at the end of the season. As Newtown and Rhyl have at least two games in hand, Wrexham must make progress tomorrow to distance themselves from the drop zone.
Wrexham Seconds continue the defence of their North East Wales Division One Championship with a home game against Ruthin Seconds who are third in the table with a good defensive record. The Thirds visit Cae Ddol for a Division Two contest against bottom team Ruthin Thirds. The Youth Team visit Llandudno for a North Wales Youth Premier Division game (k.o. 2.30pm).
In Mini and Junior Rugby, the Wrexham Under 9's to 12's visit Ruthin for a full schedule of games on Sunday morning, the Under 13's and 15's will train at Bryn Estyn Road, the Under 14's visit Chester and the Under 16's entertain Oswestry (k.o.10.30am).
RUTHIN 17 WREXHAM 0
Division Four North leaders Ruthin completed a remarkable double whitewash over their traditional North Wales rivals Wrexham when they scored three tries and a conversion without reply in atrocious muddy conditions at Cae Ddol to add to their 20-0 success at Wrexham last November.
The visitors battled all the way but were well beaten in the forward battle where Ruthin lock Dafydd Llewelyn totally dominated the line-out and flankers Alex Airlie and Joe Palmer made sure that Wrexham were always under pressure behind the scrum. The visiting back-row of Dean Griffiths, Danny Munro and Mike Ward tackled feverishly but were firmly shackled in attack.
Wrexham survived an early penalty scare and slogged through the mire to make some impression at the start of the second quarter. Lock Mike Jones featured in a solid forward drive before outside-half Gareth Smith panicked Ruthin with a chip into their 22, but former Wrexham full-back Jim Salisbury read the danger and sent the visitors back into their half with a long kick to touch.
Ruthin could easily have lost a couple of players to the sin bin for a clear late tackle and persistent offside infringements, but Bridgend referee Jeff Lake was in a lenient mood and issued only penalties from which Wrexham were unable to profit. The home side soon countered with heavy forward pressure which eventually produced the game's first try in the 29th minute.
Wrexham won a scrum 5 metres from their line but, as Daniel Cheesbrough attempted to scramble the ball away to Gareth Smith for a relieving kick, it was knocked from his grasp and the former Wrexham Northern Counties and New Brighton scrum-half Rhys Hughes pounced on the loose ball to score wide-out.
Outside-half Jon Tudor failed with the conversion attempt and Wrexham managed to reach half-time only 0-5 in arrears but facing a strengthening wind. Despite some excellent tackles by Danny Munro and his comrades, the home side camped in the visitors 22 soon after the restart and went further ahead in the 51st minute when prop Wayne Williams crashed over.
Inspired by the fine skills of Rhys Hughes, the home side continued to press and made the game safe seven minutes later when former Wrexham prop Iwan Roberts forced his way over near the posts. This time, Jon Tudor was able to add the conversion and Ruthin sensed further scores after notching over 60 points in each of their two previous contests.
Wrexham coaches Norman Stalker and Wayne Pugh had other ideas, however, and piled on replacements with skipper John Roberts moving to scrum-half to take on the home back-row. Wrexham finished strongly and should have scored the pushover try that their efforts deserved in the 72nd minute. The ball refused to emerge, however, in a confusion of muddied players and Ruthin were awarded the resultant put-in at the scrum to keep their defensive record intact.
Wrexham Seconds remain unbeaten as Champions of North East Wales Division One following their 43-17 demolition of Mold Seconds at Bryn Estyn Road on Saturday. Mike McLeod returned from suspension to claim an impressive tally of tries, Alex Crewe and Scott Davies managed one apiece and Darrell Hughes landed four conversions.
In Division Two, the Thirds kept up the pressure on leaders Corwen by overturning a 3-5 half-time deficit to defeat Flint Seconds by 25-5 at Wrexham. Ross Roberts claimed 15 of those points through a try, two conversions and two penalties while Andy Lee and Stan Edwards added a try apiece. The Youth Team game at Nant Conwy was postponed.
In Mini and Junior Rugby, the Under 14's, missing 8 of their regulars due to District representative calls, used the remainder of their squad to challenge Widnes at Bryn Estyn Road but eventually went down by 0-88. Kieran Morris, Daniel Sissons, Shaun Strudwick, Phil Davies, Danny Roberts & Ashley Dawson played for the North Wales Under 13 team that defeated a hitherto unbeaten Bridgend side by 24-5 and 6 other Wrexham players helped North Wales to defeat Bridgend by 19-12 at Under 14 level.
Wrexham take on Division Four North Championship leaders Ruthin at Cae Ddol tomorrow afternoon with every intention of improving on the rich vein of form that has helped them to score an average of nearly four tries in each of their last six games (kick-off at 2.30pm).
Lock Mike McLeod returns from suspension to make his 150th appearance for the club, allowing coach Dave Cheesbrough to pick a strong pack to face the Championship favourites. Dave Green is likely to continue at hooker if he recovers from a recent knock and Mike Richmond is set to test the home defenders down the right wing.
Cheesbrough will miss lock Rhodri Evans who suffered an ankle injury at Mold last Saturday and will have to await the results of late fitness tests on outside-half Richard Lloyd (shoulder) and lock Mike Jones (cut eye), but has able replacements to promote from the Second XV if needed.
Ruthin emerged victorious by 20-0 in the November fixture at Bryn Estyn Road and managed to win by 30-17 when the two sides last met at Cae Ddol a year ago. Wrexham matched Ruthin in most departments in the recent game, but lacked ambition, while they were a little unlucky in the previous encounter to concede a very dubious penalty try at a crucial stage of the game.
Last week's cup defeat at Mold emphasised the importance of successful goal kicking in rugby because the visitors scored more tries than their hosts but lost because they failed to convert any of their scores. Wrexham's conversion success rate has rarely fallen below 50% over the last two decades but this season has slumped to 41% and an urgent improvement is therefore required.
Tomorrow's game at Ruthin promises to be very evenly contested in the forward exchanges and the outcome is likely to depend on which side defends best and which side kicks the points when offered. Wrexham, still lying only one place away from the relegation zone, will certainly test the Championship leaders in every department and should maintain the improvement which will eventually see them climb into a safe position in the league table.
Wrexham Seconds continue the defence of their North East Wales Division One Championship against Mold Seconds at Bryn Estyn Road where they will be joined by the Third XV who entertain Flint Seconds in a top of the table Second Division contest (kick-off at 2.30pm).
Wrexham Youth Team visit Llanrwst to take on Nant Conwy in a North Wales Youth Premier Division game. In Mini and Junior Rugby, the Under 9's to 12's take on teams from Crewe and Nantwich at Bryn Estyn Road on Sunday morning while the Under 13's to 16's will also have home advantage for their games against Widnes (k.o.10.30am, weather permitting).
First Team prop Rob Pierce celebrated the birth of a baby daughter last week. Greystones, the Irish rugby club which regularly visited Wrexham in the Seventies and Eighties, will travel across the Irish Sea with a strong contingent of mini and junior rubgy players to compete in games at Bryn Estyn Road in April.
MOLD 21 WREXHAM 20
Having led by 20-0 early on in the second-half of their titanic North Wales Cup struggle against Mold at Chester Road, Wrexham lost momentum through injuries and indiscipline and were overtaken in the last minute when scrum-half Jamie Griffiths converted his own try.
Kicking failures also contributed to Wrexham's downfall, centre Kerry Powell missing the target with four difficult conversion attempts while Jamie Griffiths made no mistake with his with three easier shots. There was no opportunity for a winning drop goal from outside-half Richard Lloyd who is usually so adept at kicking goals on these big occasions.
Coach Dave Cheesbrough was not too disappointed with the result saying, "We continued the good form of last week and took lots of positive things from this game. It would have been nice to have won it, but our main aim is still to concentrate on doing well in our league campaign".
Winger Hywel Raymond put Wrexham in front in the 11th minute when he collected a loose ball, joined a maul and was driven towards the home line before plunging over for a deserved touchdown. Centre Kerry Powell failed with his ambitious kick from wide-out.
Nine minutes later, flanker Dean Griffiths increased his side's advantage when he broke from a 5 metre scrum and crashed over near the corner. Wrexham then came under pressure from the Mold pack and had to defend well to maintain their advantage with Daniel Cheesbrough having a good game as he took the pressure away from his half-back partner Lloyd with some accurate kicking.
Danny Munro was rushed on as a replacement when lock Rhodri Evans suffered a nasty looking ankle injury that required lengthy treatment. After Wrexham had reshuffled their pack, they continued to press in the home 22 and props Geraint Davies and Rob Pierce combined to send Munro over for a third unconverted try in the 39th minute.
The visiting forwards continued to dominate exchanges immediately after the break and set up a marvellous opportunity for outside-half Richard Lloyd to release Powell for Wrexham's fourth try in the corner. With the wind at their backs, however, Mold started to press and were handed an unexpected advantage when Dean Griffiths was sent to the sin-bin for offside infringements.
Lock Andy Roberts quickly found a way through to score under the posts in the 50th minute and scrum-half Jamie Griffiths added the simple conversion. Then winger Ritchie Hopkins finished off a swift attacking movement by grabbing a smart try and Griffiths converted again.
Deep in the final quarter, Wrexham were forced to reshuffle their pack again due to injuries to replacement prop Gareth Hughes and lock Mike Jones. After Rob Pierce was sin-binned for allegedly kicking away the ball, Mold seized their opportunity and camped on the Wrexham line until a gap appeared and Griffiths squeezed through for the match winning goal.
Wrexham Seconds remained unbeaten as Champions of North East Wales Division One after a 39-0 demolition of Rhyl Seconds at Rhyl. Jason Griffiths, Llyr Williams, Carl Turner, Peter Dougan, James Wrathall and skipper Kevin Davies were the try scorers while Darrell Hughes landed three conversions and a penalty.
The Thirds closed the gap on Division Two leaders Corwen with a convincing 24-7 victory over Afon Dee Seconds at Wrexham, James Bellis bagging a brace of tries with Wayne Jones and Gerry Darbyshire adding a touchdown apiece. Rhodri Davies and the over Fifties prop Steve Jarvis shared the conversions.
Wrexham Youth Team proved to be no match for a mobile Colwyn Bay side in their North Wales Youth Cup first round contest at Bryn Estyn Road and crashed to a 0-61 whitewash. Gareth Owen was voted as Wrexham's Man of the Match for his determined tackling skills on his 18th birthday. 24/01/04 Preview
Wrexham visit their local rivals Mold at Chester Road tomorrow afternoon for one of the day's most attractive games in the first round of the North Wales Cup competition, The match will kick-off at the early time of 2.00pm in case extra time needs to be played.
Hooker Danny Munro returns to the Wrexham side after a short business break while winger Mike Richmond, flanker Carl Turner and centre Simon Williams rejoin the squad and will all be in contention for places in the starting line-up.
Dave Green, the regular Second XV hooker who received an unexpected recall to the senior side last week and delivered a very impressive performance against Caernarfon, has been placed on standby. However, flanker Dean Griffiths and brothers Ben and Daniel Cheesbrough are set to miss the action due to injury and their loss will pose problems for the Wrexham selectors.
Skipper John Roberts is expected to fill Daniel Cheesbrough's scrum-half position. Roberts, usually a centre, has played with authority at scrum-half when called on to do so over the last few seasons and obviously reveled in the physical contact when he replaced Cheesbrough during last week's game.
The return of Munro will be welcomed, particularly as he was the only player to score a try in the last game at Chester Road between Mold and Wrexham, the home side edging to victory by 6-5. When the sides met again at Bryn Estyn Road three weeks ago, Mold ran out more convincing 29-14 winners, strengthened by their high degree of success in league competition this season.
Boosted by last week's victory over high flying Caernarfon, Wrexham should acquit themselves much better tomorrow afternoon. The return from long term injury of Simon Williams, who has also scored at Chester Road in the past, will encourage John Roberts and his side in this cup competition, although their main aim is to build some momentum for their league campaign.
Wrexham Seconds, champions and current leaders of North East Wales Division One, visit Rhyl Seconds who are in fifth place in the league table. The Thirds take on Afon Dee Seconds at Bryn Estyn Road in a contest that was originally scheduled as a Division Two league game but is now deemed to be a 'friendly' because Clwb Afon Dee have withdrawn from all league competition.
Wrexham Youth Team entertain Colwyn Bay in the first round of the North Wales Youth Cup competition and have a good chance of making further progress by securing their first win of the season (k.o.2.30pm).
In Mini and Junior Rugby, the Under 9's to 12's will train at their Bryn Estyn Road headquarters on Sunday morning while the Under 13's travel to Dolgellau, the Under 14's and 16's visit Colwyn Bay and the Under 15's have a home game against Oswestry (k.o.10.30am).
Steve Cook, the House and Grounds Manager at Wrexham Rugby Club, has revealed that a small number of tickets may still be available for Wales' home games in the 2004 Six Nations Championship. They will play Scotland, France and Italy at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff and Mr. Cook can be contacted on 07968 582231 for further information.
WREXHAM 29 CAERNARFON 12
Two tries by prop Geraint Davies helped Wrexham to secure a desperately needed home victory in Division Four North at the expense of Caernarfon whose promotion hopes were severely dented.
They started shakily and received a setback in the 9th minute when Caernarfon flanker Paul Rowlands profited from a chargedown of outside-half Richard Lloyd's tactical kick and scored in the corner. However, they quickly recovered, dominated the set-scrum and finished with style and confidence.
A good line-out catch by lock Mike Jones and a smart break by centre Kerry Powell led to Wrexham's equalising try with flanker Mike Ward applying the finishing touches. Powell's conversion attempt failed but sure tackling by him prevented Caernarfon's dangerous centre Arwel Roberts from breaking through while Lloyd's assured kicking held the defensive line.
With veteran Dave Green taking two strikes against the held on his recall to the senior side, Wrexham pressed hard towards the end of the first-half and took a deserved lead in the 35th minute when top try scorer Hywel Raymond scythed through the Caernarfon defence on a 30 metre angled run and touched down under the posts. Powell slotted the simple conversion.
Caernarfon caused a scare with a breakaway move but good tackling rescued the home side before they resumed their offensive and claimed a crucial try before half-time. Full back James Plant joined the threequarter line and was stopped inches short of the visitors posts before prop Geraint Davies picked up and scored with Powell adding the extra points for a 19-5 lead.
Skipper John Roberts had to move from centre to scrum-half to cover an injury to Daniel Cheesbrough immediately after the break, while Simon Williams made a welcome return in the centre following his lengthy recovery from injuries received in a serious car accident. The changes didn't upset the home side and they proceeded to bottle-up Caernarfon in their own half.
The plan worked well until the 65th minute when Caernarfon stole the ball from the back of a Wrexham ruck and moved the ball to the left wing where prop Merfyn Jones took a final pass and stormed over in the corner. Outside-half Kelvin Morris added the conversion to reduce the arrears even further.
Wrexham were not prepared to crumble, however, and took control of the game through their dominant pack which was well led by number eight Gareth Noon. Prop Rob Pierce spotted a hole in Caernarfon's defensive line and dived through to score in the 72nd minute and Geraint Davies added gloss to Wrexham's magnificent victory with a final try from a Mike Jones line-out catch.
Rhos Seconds, promoted to North East Wales Division One last season, have decided to withdraw from the league due to insufficient player numbers and therefore cancelled their scheduled visit to Wrexham Seconds at Bryn Estyn Road last Saturday. Instead, Wrexham managed to secure a friendly fixture against Birkenhead Park Seconds and won by 26-12.
In an excellent performance against strong opponents, Scott Davies, Llyr Williams, Dave Morris and Nick Stott notched a try apiece while Darrell Hughes (2) and Mike Andrew shared the conversions. The Thirds fell at Corwen by 6-10 in their top of the table Division Two clash, Carl Pugh landing two penalties which looked to be enough until Corwen scored late on.
Wrexham Youth Team played well against North Wales Youth Premier Division leaders Ruthin at Cae Ddol, despite the loss through a knee injury of lock Phil Williams, but still lost by 0-71. 17/01/04 Preview
Wrexham take on Caernarfon, last week's conquerors of previously unbeaten Ruthin, in a Division Four North contest at Bryn Estyn Road tomorrow afternoon, knowing that a home victory is essential for them to make any headway in the battle to avoid relegation
(kick-off at 2.30pm).
James Plant came through last week's game at Pwllheli with flying colours following a welcome return to the side after injury and will provide the last line of defence at full-back. Mike Jones, who has taken over from the suspended Mike McLeod in the second-row, will be the main line-out jumper with number eight Gareth Noon lending his support from the back.
The home side will miss hooker Danny Munro who is unavailable for tomorrow's game while prop Duncan Campbell has returned to New Zealand leaving coach Dave Cheesbrough to find a suitable front-row replacement from the Second XV. Skipper John Roberts, prop Rob Pierce and winger Mike Richmond face late fitness tests.
Wrexham have been on the receiving end of some hefty poundings by Caernarfon over the last few years but ran away with last season's contest at Bryn Estyn Road to win by a handsome 57-8 margin. November's game at Caernarfon ended in a 20-9 victory for the Gwynedd men, but Wrexham had to play most of the game without McLeod who was red carded for retaliation.
The league situation today is that bottom club Bala look doomed for the drop while Wrexham, Pwllheli and Newtown are level pegging on three wins apiece above Bala and one of these clubs looks certain to be consigned to the second automatic relegation berth at the end of the season.
Wrexham should have been secure by now but lost form over Christmas and failed to complete an expected home victory over Mold and a double over Pwllheli. They have ten games left, six of them away, and need to win five of those games to avoid relegation. It is highly unlikely that they will defeat Championship leaders Ruthin, current champions Nant Conwy and Llangefni.
Although Caernarfon unexpectedly defeated Ruthin last week to remain in third place in the table, they struggled at bottom of the pile Bala on the previous Saturday to secure a 15-15 draw and were demolished by 60-8 at Ruthin only five weeks ago. If Mike Jones and Gareth Noon can secure a steady stream of possession from the line-out, Wrexham have match winners in winger Hywel Raymond and centre Kerry Powell and can claim their fourth victory of the season.
Wrexham Seconds, champions and current leaders of North East Wales Division One, take on Rhos Seconds at Bryn Estyn Road.The Thirds are in action at Corwen in a top of the table Division Two contest while the Youth Team will visit Ruthin for a North Wales Youth Premier Division One game (k.o.2.30pm).
In Mini and Junior Rugby, the Under 9's to 12's will take on opponents from Warrington in a full programme of games at Bryn Estyn Road on Sunday morning. The junior sides are looking for suitable games from the local fixture pool but will train at Wrexham if no matches are forthcoming (k.o.10.30am).
It has been agreed that Wrexham will visit Mold next Saturday 24th January for a first round game in the North Wales Cup competition. Although Wrexham have a proud record of success in cup contests, having won the North Wales Cup on no less than 18 occasions, they have enjoyed little success since 1999 and will face an uphill task at Chester Road (k.o.2.30pm).
PWLLHELI 20 WREXHAM 12
Wrexham showed a vast improvement on their previous performance when they were well beaten at home to Mold, but ran out of steam near the end of their Division Four North game at Pwllheli and fell to another damaging defeat.
The inclusion of Mike Jones in the second-row strengthened the pack and enabled Wrexham to secure possession form the line-out. Dean Griffiths had an outstanding game in the back row and the visitors profited in defence from the partnership of Kerry Powell and skipper John Roberts in the centre, assisted by a rugged performance from flanker Mike Ward.
Wrexham were early masters of the wet and blustery conditions and piled on bags of pressure. They took a deserved lead in the 9th minute when Mike Jones won a line-out on the Pwllheli 22 and top try scorer Hywel Raymond came in from his wing to slice through and score near the posts. Powell added the simple conversion but was just off target with a penalty soon afterwards.
The home side used the wind to counter with several promising attacks and drew level at the start of the second quarter when they replicated Wrexham's try scoring move and released winger Ian Gwyn on an angled run that enabled him to score under the posts. Outside-half Dylan Llyr added the extra points with his straightforward conversion.
Undaunted, Wrexham pressed hard against the elements again and regained the lead in the 31st minute when they won a line-out in the home 22 and lock Rhodri Evans was driven over the line assisted by former Pwllheli prop Geraint Davies. Powell was off target with the difficult conversion and the visitors were then forced to withstand a barrage until half-time arrived.
With the wind at their backs, Wrexham quickly turned the screw in the second-half and stretched the home side in all departments. Full-back James Plant, making a successful return from injury, was held up when he seemed certain to score, Mike Ward dived over a badly marked line that turned out to be 5 metres short of the try line and outside-half Richard Lloyd missed a drop goal.
With no points to show for 15 minutes of sustained pressure and prop Rob Pierce struggling after suffering a heavy knock, Wrexham relaxed a little and soon paid the price after the home pack resumed their offensive. A pushover try by lock Mark Saynor was followed by another unconverted try by prop Euros Hughes in the final quarter.
Wrexham still had a chance to level the scores but Pwllheli dug deep into their reserves and were awarded an injury time penalty that Dylan Llyr kicked to help his side complete an against the odds double over Wrexham and ease their hefty relegation worries.
Wrexham Seconds returned to winning ways with a 48-0 demolition of Denbigh Seconds in North East Wales Division One. Jason Griffiths returned to the side from First Team duty to grab a superb hat-trick of tries while others came from Dave Morris (2), Alex Crewe, Chris Phillips and Dave Green. Darrell Hughes (3) and Dylan Griffiths shared the conversions.
The Thirds matched their Second Team colleagues by claiming a 48-0 victory in their no league contest at Mold. Skipper Sean Williams and James Bellis notched a smart brace of tries apiece while single scores came from Dai Griffith, Pat Mitchell, Andy Lee and Gareth Gregory. Rhodri Davies kicked 3 conversions and Carl Pugh added one more.
Wrexham Youth Team took an early lead in their non league home game against Bala and had high hopes of winning their first game of the season until the visitors conjured up two match winning tries to win by 12-5. Anthony Medcalf claimed Wrexham's try, his first for the Youth Team.
Danny Munro makes his 100th First team appearance for Wrexham tomorrow in a crucial Division Four North contest at Pwllheli that the East Walians need to win to make some progress in their battle to avoid dropping into the relegation zone (kick-off at 2.30pm).
Munro, a product of the Wrexham youth development system, had to travel to South Wales to make his senior debut against Seven Sisters in a Heineken Division Five game in 1995. A versatile player, he has impressed as a flanker and centre threequarter as well as his current role as hooker in the front-row of the pack.
Coach Dave Cheesbrough was disappointed with his team's lack lustre performance against Mold last week on top of their previous defeat at home to Pwllheli in December. He is also having to cope with losses from the squad due to centre Gareth Smith's shoulder dislocation last week and winger Gareth Bostock's hamstring injury.
Prop Rob Pierce's wife is expecting a baby, so the ever present young forward may have to take a short break. The good news for Cheesbrough, however, is that his utility threequarter James Plant has rejoined the squad after recovering from injury and winger Mike Richmond's torn hamstring has responded to treatment.
Duncan Campbell, the young prop from Otago in New Zealand, who has family connections in the Wrexham area and asked via e-mail to play for Wrexham on permit during a six week visit to Wales, may make his full debut if Rob Pierce is unavailable. He came on as a final quarter replacement for Geraint Davies last week and managed to make a praiseworthy impact.
Although Wrexham's defensive lapses enabled second from bottom Pwllheli to defeat them at Bryn Estyn Road in December, Wrexham played some attractive rugby and produced three sparkling tries. However, they gave away too many points in the early stages and were left with too high a mountain to climb at the end.
The East Walians emerged victorious by 24-5 at Pwllheli when the two sides last met there in September 2002 and they can do so again if they have faith in their rugby and are truly committed in the tackle. Danny Munro is certainly a person who is not afraid of the tackle and he will not disappoint on his special landmark day.
Wrexham Seconds lost their season long unbeaten record in last week's friendly against Chester Seconds but they are still unbeaten in league competition. They take on Denbigh Seconds in a North East Wales Division One contest at Bryn Estyn Road tomorrow afternoon and should return to winning ways, having beaten Denbigh by 32-16 at their ground last September.
The Thirds will have to work hard in their friendly game at Chester Road against Mold Thirds while Wrexham Youth Team are hoping that home advantage will help them to record their first win of the season when they take on Bala in a friendly game (k.o.2.30pm).
In Mini and Junior Rugby, there should be a real local derby flavour at Bryn Estyn Road on Sunday morning when the Under 9's to 12's take on teams from Mold. The Under 14's visit Oswestry on the same morning while the other junior rugby teams will train at Wrexham (k.o. 10.30am).
WREXHAM 14 MOLD 29
The level of confidence was the factor that made all the difference in the latest local derby encounter between Wrexham and Mold at Bryn Estyn Road on Saturday. On the back of six league wins this season, Mold oozed confidence throughout while relegation threatened Wrexham looked so rudderless and disjointed that they failed to make headway and duly foundered.
The performance of number eight Gareth Noon was the one bright spot in a poor display by the home pack and the tackling of full-back Kerry Powell prevented his side from suffering a bigger defeat. Wrexham never gave up, even when trailing by 0-22 with 5 minutes of normal time remaining, and gained some consolation when they were awarded two late penalty tries.
Under pressure for the whole of the first quarter and having to reshuffle their back line when centre Gareth Smith suffered a dislocated shoulder, Wrexham then worked their way into the visitors half with a long distance kick by outside-half Richard Lloyd. The couldn't create a score, however, and then went behind when Mold's scrum-half Jamie Griffiths kicked a penalty.
The visitors raised the level of their game again and went further ahead in the 34th minute when the ball was moved swiftly from a ruck and lock Andy Roberts steamed up amongst his threequarters to crash over in the corner. Gareth Noon tried to inspire a home fight back with a couple of aggressive runs but support was slow to arrive and attacks petered out.
Mold soon got into their stride in the second-half and former Wrexham centre Jon Aby put the visitors into a commanding lead when he suddenly attacked outside the home 22 and flatfooted several flailing defenders to score virtually untouched near the posts. Griffiths added the extra points and then converted a 61st minute try by centre Ritchie Cochrane.
Facing a humbling whitewash, Wrexham introduced Otago prop Duncan Campbell and pounded away at the Mold line until they were awarded a 75th minute penalty try for persistent blocking infringements by the visiting pack. Powell added the simple conversion but was unable to prevent Dan Edmunds from countering with a classic winger's try two minutes later.
Deep into injury time, Wrexham continued to press upfield and went close to scoring again when centre Hywel Raymond made an excellent break up to the Mold line. Although Raymond was tackled, a try by the support players looked inevitable until a Mold hand illegally stole the ball and the referee had no option but to award a second penalty try which Powell again converted.
On a day when all of the Wrexham sides suffered defeats, the Seconds lost their 8 month unbeaten record to a fine Chester Seconds outfit. James Plant, returning from long term injury, scored Wrexham's only try in their 5-15 reverse. The Thirds did most of the pressing at Whitchurch against the local third string but failed to score and eventually went down by 0-10.
Wrexham prop Geraint Davies returns from a long term suspension to bolster the home front row for what is expected to be a keenly contested local derby league game against Mold at Bryn Estyn Road tomorrow afternoon ( kick-off at 2.30pm).
Skipper John Roberts, who has been struggling to overcome a niggling leg injury since the end of November, has benefited from a long rest over the Christmas and New Year period and is ready to lead Wrexham's fight against relegation from his regular place in the centre. He will partner Gareth Smith who has been performing well as the main goal kicker in recent games.
Gareth Noon's troublesome shoulder has also shown some improvement after the long festive break and he will steady the scrum at number eight with Mike Ward and Dean Griffiths on the flanks. Absent, however, will be Wrexham's experienced lock Mike McLeod who has started a four match suspension after being involved in a fracas at Caernarfon.
McLeod's place will probably be filled by Jason Griffiths with Mike Jones packing down on the other side of the scrum. Apart from his injured full-back James Plant, Coach Dave Cheesbrough has a full back line to choose from and will welcome the return of winger Mike Richmond who has the pace needed to penetrate Mold's trusty defensive line.
Mold defeated Wrexham by 6-5 when the two sides met at Chester Road last season but Wrexham bounced back with an 18-15 success at Bryn Estyn Road in April that secured their continuing existence in Division Four North of the National Leagues.
The scores were tied at 15-15 after 80 minutes in that dramatic game before Richard Lloyd performed a 'Jonny Wilkinson' and dropped a marvellous goal to win the contest. Similar fare is expected to be served up tomorrow with a dramatic final quarter and only a few points deciding the issue at the end of the match.
Having narrowly escaped relegation themselves last season, Mold have improved dramatically this season and are riding high in fourth place in Division Four North with the possibility of finishing in second place behind unbeaten Ruthin by the end of April. Wrexham's home defeat by Pwllheli in their last game has left them in a precarious fourth from bottom place and they need to make some progress by securing a win tomorrow afternoon.
Wrexham's slack defence let them down against Pwllheli last month and has so far led to them 'leaking' 25 tries in league 10 games. Mold, on the other hand have a more efficient system and have conceded only 12 tries in winning 6 of the 9 games that they have played in their championship campaign.
Dave Cheesbrough's side did have a poor try scoring record but there has been a remarkable improvement in recent games due to a change in attacking strategy combined with the return from injury of threequarters Hywel Raymond and Gareth Smith and the introduction of pace down the wings from Mike Richmond and Pete Smith.
Wrexham have scored nine tries in their last two games and look set to build on that impressive record during January against Mold, Pwllheli and Caernarfon. A tantalising game is therefore in prospect tomorrow afternoon with championship and relegation issues at stake and honour to be satisfied in a local derby.
The Second and Third Teams have a blank fixture date but are keen to arrange games and are hoping to secure suitable matches from the local fixture pool. The Youth Team will not be in action this weekend but will resume fixtures after a long Christmas break with a home game against Bala next week.
In Mini and Junior Rugby, all of the mini rugby teams, including the very good unbeaten Under 9's squad, will be involved in games against Shrewsbury at Bryn Estyn Road on Sunday morning (10.30am). The junior sides will train at the same venue in preparation for games against Oswestry next week.
Several Wrexham members will be attending a Referees Course at Ruthin Rugby Club on Sunday morning, starting at 9.00am. As possession of a refereeing qualification is now compulsory before a person can referee a rugby game in Wales at any level, there has been a great demand for courses since September.
Any late applicants should contact Austin Thomas, the North Wales Welsh Rugby Union Director of Rugby, on 01978 311553 or e-mail him on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Although little senior rugby was played over the Christmas and New Year period, the Firsts and Seconds combined to send a team to Ruthin last Saturday for a low key friendly game against a Ruthin Select XV. The objective was to keep players from both clubs in condition and the game was played in a friendly spirit with no result being declared and no injuries reported.
However, Wrexham players Mike Richmond and Gareth Bostock were involved in an accident at the infamous Nant-Y-Garth Pass on the way to the game and ended up in a river in their upturned car. Happily, they both escaped uninjured and managed to hitch a lift to Ruthin Rugby Club where they played a full part for their side in their festive workout.
Wrexham Thirds returned to the top of Division Two of the North East Wales Championship with a 38-10 victory over Ruthin Thirds at Cae Ddol last Saturday. A brace of tries by scrum-half Rhodri Davies put them in the driving seat in the first-half before Ruthinbounced back with a converted try to narrow the margin to 10-7 at the break.
The visiting forwards took control in the second-half once they had worked off an excess of Christmas pudding in their systems and they produced plenty of ammunition for the threequarters to put the issue beyond doubt with some free running rugby.
Davies added three more tries to his impressive tally and converted all of them as well as a touchdown from centre Gareth Gregory who made a very promising debut. There was also an excellent debut performance from winger Sion Williams who grew stronger as the game progressed to its exciting conclusion.
The eagerly awaited pre Christmas local derby game between Mold and Wrexham at Chester Road tomorrow afternoon has been postponed by mutual agreement due to Wrexham's chronic injury situation and the unavailability of key players.
The Welsh Rugby Union agreed to the request on Monday evening and confirmed that the match will be played at a later date - probably in February - and that no points will be deducted from Wrexham who requested the postponement. The only Wrexham game to be played tomorrow will be the Youth Team's North Wales Youth Division One contest at Denbigh (kick-off at 2.00pm).
Wrexham Firsts' next scheduled fixture - the Division Four North game against Mold at Bryn Estyn Road on Saturday 3rd January2004 - will go ahead as planned unless there are some late unforeseen developments. The only game to take place over the Christmas period will be the North East Wales Division Two league contest between Wrexham Thirds and Ruthin Thirds at Cae Ddol on Saturday 27th December.
Wrexham Firsts' home defeat by Pwllheli has left them in a precarious fourth from bottom place in Division Four North at this halfway stage of the competition. It is not as bad as the two previous seasons, when they had only two victories to their credit instead of the current three wins, but it does look as though they will have to scrap hard to avoid relegation from now on.
The bottom two in the division will be relegated automatically to Division Five North at the end of the season and will play new fixtures against clubs like Rhos, Machylleth, Llanidloes and Bangor University. Clubs like Colwyn Bay, Bethesda and Welshpool, which were relegated from the higher division in previous seasons, are all poised to return in a furious promotion battle.
The difference in standard between the existing clubs in Division Four North is very small as Wrexham discovered in their home game against Championship leaders Ruthin who have won all of their ten league games. Wrexham matched Ruthin in most departments on that November day but lost because they lacked the skills to take advantage of the chances that they created.
Since then, there has been a definite improvement in Wrexham's striking capability as demonstrated by their scoring of nine tries in their last two games compared to their previous best of six scores from eight league games. The back line has been strengthened by the inclusion of elusive wingers like Mike Richmond and Pete Smith plus the return from injury of top try scorer Hywel Raymond.
The forwards are still failing to make a scoring impression near their opponents try line because they lack penetrative ball carriers who attack with pace at low angles, but they will improve with the return of prop Geraint Davies from suspension on 3rd January and the expected full recovery of number eight Gareth Noon from a niggling shoulder injury.
They are unlikely to make any impression against top clubs Ruthin, Llangefni and Nant Conwy in the second half of the season but could account for Caernarfon, Mold and Pwllheli in January. Wrexham are starting to excite supporters again with their try scoring abilities and, if they can improve their poor disciplinary record and work harder in defence, relegation can be avoided.
The Wrexham Mini and Junior Rugby Section will complete the first part of their packed season on Sunday morning with training and fun games followed by a Christmas Dinner for young players, parents and club members at their Bryn Estyn Road headquarters (from 12.00 pm). The dinner will be followed by a party and disco on the same day in the club's upstairs function room (7.00pm).
WREXHAM 21 PWLLHELI 32
Wrexham threw away a golden opportunity to climb into a safe mid table position in Division Four North when they performed well in patches against second from bottom Pwllheli at Bryn Estyn Road but failed to measure up defensively and suffered a shock defeat.
With skipper John Roberts restored to the centre following injury and prop Rob Pierce celebrating his 100th appearance for the First Team, Wrexham confidently elected to play up the slope into the wind and eased into a 7th minute lead through a penalty by centre Gareth Smith.
The visitors soon replied with a penalty by outside-half Ian Gwyn that levelled the scores and then used their abrasive pack to pummel Wrexham until they conceded a try to lock Mark Saynor. Gwyn slotted the conversion and then added the extra points following a 22nd minute touchdown by centre Sion Williams.
The home defence was in tatters at that stage but Wrexham reorganised and, led by some spirited counter attacking by winger ywel Raymond, went on the offensive in the second quarter. Set up by a pass from Raymond, flanker Mike Ward was hauled down inches short of the Pwllheli line and then the big lock Mike McLeod was held up after a strong charge.
In injury time, it was left to centre Gareth Smith to conjure up a move which resulted in full-back Kerry Powell joining the line at pace and diving over in the corner to score a superb try. Smith failed with the difficult conversion into the wind but there were high hopes that the home side could make up the nine point deficit in the second-half.
Slick handling by the home backs and powerful driving by their pack led to a break upfield by Gareth Smith in the 45th minute that resulted in a try for winger Chris Andrew who sprinted in at the right corner. The angle of the conversion kick was still too acute for Smith to add the extra points but Wrexham consoled themselves with having hauled themselves back into the game.
Pwllheli increased their level of effort as a result and bounced back only two minutes later with a penalty by Ian Gwyn. The battle continued with the home forwards camping in the Pwllheli 22 and battering away at their opponents defences only for Andrew to be bundled into touch and McLeod and flanker Dean Griffiths denied just short of the line.
A penalty was finally conceded at the start of the final quarter and Smith duly obliged with a successful kick to put his side within reach again. Against the run of play, however, Pwllheli kicked high into the Wrexham half and winger David Lloyd-Williams swept through flailing defenders to score near the posts with Ian Gwyn adding the conversion into the gale.
There was still time to save the game and Wrexham resumed their attack with winger Gareth Bostock making a debut appearance before slick handling in the backs enabled top try scorer Hywel Raymond to add to his tally with a try in the left corner. Once again the difficult conversion flew wide and Wrexham were left trailing by six points with seven minutes to go.
Needing a converted try to win the game, the home side threw caution to the wind and paid the price when Pwllheli's Maori hooker Duran Ngakuru intercepted an attacking move in the last minute of the game and tore through to score an opportunist try. Defeat was hard to take for Wrexham who had played the more attractive rugby, but Pwllheli had given their all and deserved their rare win.
Like the First Team, Wrexham Seconds elected to play into the wind in the first-half of their top of the table North East Wales Division One game at Flint and ended up trailing by 3-12 at the break. Unlike the senior side, however, they shackled their opponents in the second-half and stormed to a convincing 24-12 victory to increase their lead at the top of the table.
Ben Cheesbrough and Jason Griffiths grabbed their first two tries after the break and then Llyr Williams and Andy Smith dived on the ball to share the third score, there being no television judge to decide which individual should be credited with the try. Dylan Griffiths converted all three tries and performed well to kick a penalty into the gale in the first-half.
The arranged referee failed to appear for Wrexham Thirds' home game in Division Two against Flint Seconds and the match was therefore changed into a 'friendly' contest with the league match to be played at a future date. Wrexham won by 27-10 thanks to tries by Andy Perrin, Paul Parbury, Jason Parry, Nick Clare and Nick Johnson. Jamie Jennings added one conversion.
Wrexham prop Rob Pierce will celebrate his
100th appearance for the club when he runs out with his front row colleagues to take on
Pwllheli in what promises to be keenly contested Division Four North contest at Bryn Estyn
Road tomorrow afternoon (kick-off at 2.30pm).
A former Youth Team player, Pierce made his First Team debut against the representative North Wales side at Wrexham five years ago. Although his team lost by 15-18, Pierce gave an impressive performance and was good enough to be included as a regular squad member in the Wrexham Northern Counties flagship side in the following year.
Now considered as an ever present in the current Wrexham team, Pierce will be keen to mark his centenary appearance with a winning performance against Pwllheli. Tomorrow's visitors currently occupy the second from bottom place in the table with only one win to their credit and will be trying very hard to halt their run of bad luck and escape from the relegation zone.
Wrexham's three victories this season in Division Four North have enabled them to stay just above the drop zone but a handsome victory over Pwllheli could lift them into the mid table and relieve much of the pressure which has been fraying nerves in recent weeks.
Skipper John Roberts, who has been resting from active duty after rupturing a blood vessel in his side's magnificent victory over Newtown a fortnight ago, is still doubtful for tomorrow's game, but flankers Dean Griffiths and Mike Ward will return to boost the back-row after injury.
Number eight Gareth Noon is suffering from a sore shoulder and will have to pass a late fitness test before he can take his place in the squad. Lock Mike McLeod will probably have to start his suspension for an alleged punching offence tomorrow and it is likely therefore that Jason Griffiths will start alongside Mike Jones in the second-row.
Wrexham completed a double of victories over Pwllheli last season but they had to fight their way back from being a try down in their home game last April to eventually triumph by 13-8. The Gwynedd club, former North Wales Champions and one time participants alongside Wrexham in Division Two of the Welsh National League, tend to raise their game against their old partners and tomorrow's meeting should be no exception.
While Pwllheli have a useful fly-half in Ian Gwyn and a speedy winger in Arwel Roberts, Wrexham have discovered the talents of their own elusive winger Mike Richmond in recent games. With Hywel Raymond restored to full fitness on the other wing and Kerry Powell resolute in the centre, even the loss through injury of full-back James Plant should not prevent Wrexham from giving their supporters a pre-Christmas treat.
Wrexham Seconds face a top of the table clash with second placed Flint in a North East Wales Division One contest on Deeside tomorrow afternoon. Champions and still unbeaten leaders this season, Wrexham will recall that they lost by 15-21 at Flint last January and will want to avoid a repeat of that defeat.
The Thirds take on Flint Seconds at Bryn Estyn Road knowing that they must win to maintain their top of the table position in Division Two. Flint are in fourth place but are only two points behind Wrexham and Corwen. The Youth Team are hoping to visit Llandudno for a friendly contest (k.0. 2.30pm).
In Mini and Junior Rugby, there promises to be a feast of rugby entertainment at Bryn Estyn Road on Sunday morning with teams from Congleton and Llandudno arriving to play the mini rugby teams at all levels, and Mold sending teams to play the junior sides (k.o. 10.30am). Next week, the Mini and Junior Rugby Section will hold their Annual Christmas Party at the clubhouse.
BIRKENHEAD PARK 2ND 18 WREXHAM 'A' 17
A Wrexham 'A' XV, fielding seven First Team regulars, looked set for victory after a titanic struggle at Birkenhead Park Seconds, but fell foul of the home referee in the dying minutes and conceded a penalty which cost them the game.
The visitors made a bright start and took an early lead when lock Alex Crewe forced his way over from a maul. Centre Kerry Powell narrowly missed the conversion but Wrexham continued to press the pace and went further ahead when full-back James Plant joined the line on an angled run and flighted an overhead pass to centre Hywel Raymond who touched down near the corner.
With most of the First team pack being unavailable or injured, it was left to supporting players to win the ball for a strong set of visiting backs. Steve Jarvis, now into his Fifties with an illustrious rugby career behind him, was one of those players and did a magnificent job at prop. Mark Jones also acquitted himself in the front row with Carl Turner leading by example at number eight.
Park competed well and struck back in the second quarter with a converted try and a penalty to level the scores at 10-10 by half-time. Wrexham continued to threaten with some strong running by their threequarters and went ahead again when outside Dylan Griffiths launched a counter-attack from his own 22 and released the speedy Mike Richmond down the right wing.
Richmond cut inside his opposing winger and then drifted outside the home full-back to crack the Park defence and score a superb try. Powell's angled conversion sailed sweetly between the uprights to put the visitors in control again, but a lapse in concentration led to an unconverted try by Park before the referee handed victory to the home side with a dubious penalty in front of the posts for obstruction.
The game provided useful match practice for the First team regulars who took part in preparation for this week's vital home game against Pwllheli. On the plus side, top try scorer Hywel Raymond continued his rehabilitation following a prolonged absence due to a hamstring injury but, on the negative side, a knee injury to utility threequarter James Plant could prove to be costly.
Wrexham Seconds took a much changed side to Caldy and triumphed by 31-0 against the local third string. Scott Davies had a fine afternoon, racing in for a hat-trick of tries, while Darrell Hughes dummied his way over for a fourth score and skipper Kevin Davies scythed through for the final touchdown. Hughes added three conversions.
Caldy were unable to raise a side to play Wrexham Thirds and the Youth Team had to call off their scheduled visit to Widnes due to injuries, but in Mini and Junior Rugby the Under 16's fought hard at Caldy with only 14 players only to lose by a narrow 10-15 margin. Their tries came from Jonathan Davis and Mike Platt.
Wrexham First XV have managed to fill a blank date with a hastily arranged visit to Birkenhead Park where they will take on the successful North Division One side's second string. Wrexham Seconds will also travel to the Wirral for a friendly fixture against Caldy Thirds (kick-off at 2.30pm).
Tomorrow was originally set aside as a non-league Saturday to enable top players throughout North Wales to concentrate on playing games in the Provincial Championship. Although the North East Wales "Bulls" defeated the "Rhinos" and the "Sharks" this season to lead the Championship, a lukewarm reception from a number of clubs has led to the competition being abandoned.
Wrexham skipper John Roberts and number eight Dean Griffiths will be rested for the Birkenhead Park game to enable them to recover from injuries picked up in recent matches. Whilst Griffiths is suffering from a knee strain, Roberts is trying to cope with a damaged blood vessel in his leg, but both players will benefit from a rest prior to next week's vital home game against lowly Pwllheli.
Last week's victory over Newtown didn't improve Wrexham's fourth from bottom place in Division Four North, but it did give them a springboard from which they can make progress in their forthcoming games against Pwllheli and Mold. They play each side twice over the next month and have the capability to win at least two of those games.
Lock Mike McLeod is likely face a suspension soon for an alleged punching offence and will be greatly missed by the pack. However, new young players like Mike Richmond, John Gill and Ben Cheesbrough are performing well alongside experienced hands like Hywel Raymond and Gareth Noon and the future is bright as long as discipline is maintained in the squad.
Wrexham Thirds visit Caldy for a friendly fixture tomorrow afternoon and will renew an old link between the clubs that was broken in the mid Nineties (k.o.2.30pm). The Youth Team have postponed their visit to Widnes due to mounting injuries and will play them in the New Year.
In Mini and Junior Rugby, the minis will entertain teams from West Park St.Helens at Bryn Estyn Road on Sunday morning while the juniors will visit Caldy for games at all levels (k.o.10.30am).
For those people in the Wrexham and north east Wales area keen on taking up refereeing, a level 1 referees course has been organised by the Welsh Rugby Union at Ruthin Rugby Club on Sunday 4th January 2004. The course is free of charge and clubs interested should contact the North Wales Director of Rugby Austin Thomas on Wrexham 311553 by Monday 15th December.
WREXHAM 41 NEWTOWN 9
Wrexham eased their relegation worries by overcoming an 8-9 half-time deficit to record a stunning home victory over Newtown that included six tries and doubled their Division Four North try count for the season.
Despite fielding a weakened side due to injuries and suspensions, Wrexham contained a lively Newtown side when faced with a strong wind in the opening half and then opened up on all cylinders after the break to dominate the game with some fast open rugby.
The best try of the game was delivered only three minutes after start when Wrexham were under severe pressure just outside their 22. When a Newtown player spilled the ball, the home forwards quickly swept it up and transferred it via half-backs Daniel Cheesbrough and Richard Lloyd to former Youth Team winger Mike Richmond making only his second appearance.
Richmond took off at speed and raced 65 metres up the right touchline brushing off several tackles and swerving away from others before he rounded the opposing full-back and planted the ball to the right of the posts. In the absence of regular kicker Kerry Powell, centre Gareth Smith made a good attempt with the conversion kick, but the prevailing wind blew it off course.
The visitors stormed back two minutes later with a penalty from outside-half Rowan Meek as the Wrexham forwards 'killed the ball' in front of their posts. Meek squandered a splendid opportunity to give his side the lead when he miss-hit another penalty soon afterwards and was made to pay when Gareth Smith was successful with a similar effort at the end of the first quarter.
Wrexham continued to defend well and nearly scored again when winger Hywel Raymond, making a successful return from injury, broke into the visitors 22 and fed full-back James Plant. A forward pass was adjudged, however, as was a similar pass by the Newtown number eight at the other end before Meek finally kicked his side in front with two penalties.
Apart from one thrust into the home 22, Newtown spent the whole of the period after the break being stretched and pummeled in their own half. Skipper John Roberts rewarded his hard working forwards for their continuous pressure by scything through the Newtown defence in the 48th minute to score a neat try which Smith easily converted.
Lock Mike McLeod had a score disallowed before replacement prop Richard Williams made his substantial presence felt by blasting over for a try in the 58th minute. Smith kicked the conversion and then added the extra points after McLeod applied the finishing touches to a swift break by Daniel Cheesbrough and touched down for Wrexham's fourth try of the game.
With Richard Lloyd using his excellent kicking skills to dictate play in the final quarter, Wrexham were able to give a debut chance to winger Ben Cheesbrough before Hywel Raymond streaked down the left wing and notched an impressive touchdown. Smith converted before lock Jason Griffiths added Wrexham's final try following a movement that oozed the confidence that has been lacking for most of the season.
Wrexham Seconds continued their unbeaten defence of the North East Wales Division One Championship with a 62-0 whitewash of visitors Abergele. An excellent first-half performance laid the foundation for success and tries came from Chris Andrew (2), John Darlington (2), Scott Davies, Mike Powell, Mark Lloyd, Peter Dougan, Neil Route and Rhodri Evans. Darrell Hughes slotted 6 conversions.
The Thirds were narrowly beaten by 20-18 at Corwen in their Division Two game but still managed to hold on to their place at the top of the table. Patrick Mitchell and Nick Clare grabbed a try apiece while Geoff Lang added a conversion and two penalties.
Wrexham Youth Team led Colwyn Bay by 7-5 at half-time in their North Wales Youth League Division One game at Bryn Estyn Road, but their hopes of securing their first league win of the season were dashed when the visitors scored a converted try in the second-half to win by 12-7. Danny Seabrook claimed Wrexham's try and John Gormley added the conversion.
In Mini and Junior Rugby, the Under 16's played very well at Macclesfield against an all conquering local side but eventually had to settle for a 12-37 defeat. Darren Jones scored two impressive tries for the visitors and Jonathan Davies kicked a conversion. 29/11/03 Preview
Wrexham, currently fourth from bottom of Division Four North and facing what has become in recent seasons their annual battle against relegation, can kick-start a surge up the table if they manage to defeat Newtown at Bryn Estyn Road tomorrow afternoon (2.30pm).
Although their Christmas and New Year league games against Mold will present a formidable hurdle, Wrexham are capable of completing a double of victories over luckless Pwllheli in the next six weeks to move away from the relegation zone, and can avenge last week's defeat by Caernarfon when the Gwynedd club visits Bryn Estyn Road in mid January.
The main problem for Rugby Director Dave Cheesbrough and his coaches is containing the indiscipline in the pack which has led to three current suspensions and the likelihood of lock Mike McLeod being banned for four weeks. Some of the veteran campaigners in the Wrexham Second XV may have to be utilised to maintain a competitive First Team squad.
McLeod is still eligible to play tomorrow and the return of flanker Dean Griffiths, unavailable last week, will boost the home pack. The pacey winger Pete Smith, who was also unable to play at Caernarfon last week, rejoins the squad along with flanker Mike Ward who should be fully fit after recovering from a leg injury.
Wrexham completed a notable double of victories over Newtown last term, their 34-10 home success being the most decisive. The 6 tries that they scored on that occasion matches the total number of tries that John Roberts and his side have scored in 8 league games this season and it is obvious that Wrexham must open up their game more if they to make the progress that their skill and dedication warrants.
Wrexham Seconds take on fourth from bottom Abergele Firsts in a North East Wales Division One contest at Bryn Estyn Road tomorrow afternoon. Mistakes and poor goal kicking nearly put an end to their unbeaten record as divisional champions against Llangollen last week and a big improvement will be needed to ward off Flint and other clubs currently snapping at their heels.
The Thirds still lead Division Two but face a stiff contest at Corwen and will have to be at their best. The Youth Team will also have to build on a recent good performance at Llangefni if they are to achieve their first success of the season when they entertain Colwyn Bay in a North Wales Youth Division One game tomorrow afternoon (k.o.2.30pm).
In Mini and Junior Rugby, the minis will take on teams at Denbigh on Sunday morning while the Under 13's and 15's will entertain Crewe and Nantwich with the Under 14's and 16's travelling in the opposite direction to take on sides from the Cheshire club (k.o.10.30am).
Wrexham Rugby Club will hold their Annual General Meeting at the clubhouse on Monday evening at 7.30pm. As well as the crucial task of appointing new club officers, the meeting will discuss important proposed developments at the club including the disposal of parcels of land and buildings at their extensive Bryn Estyn Road site.
CAERNARFON 20 WREXHAM 9
For the third season in succession, indiscipline wrecked a solid Wrexham performance at Caernarfon as lock Mike McLeod was dismissed near the end of the first-half for allegedly throwing a punch at an opponent. This latest indiscretion, Wrexham's fourth this term, will lead to the club being fined by the Welsh Rugby Union and any more lapses could result in the deduction of league points and possible relegation to Division Five North.
At the time of McLeod's departure, the Gwynedd led by 10-9 but were under pressure and conceding a stream of penalties for 'killing' the ball. It then became an exercise in containment for the visitors in which they competed very well, despite the loss of number eight Gareth Noon due to the recurrence of a shoulder injury, and were unlucky to concede further scores.
Caernarfon made a bright start to the game and went ahead when prop Merfyn Jones crashed over for an unconverted try in 6th minute. Wrexham quickly countered with some good forward work instigated by prop Rob Pierce and were denied a score when winger James Plant was held inches short of the home line.
More pressure from the visitors was rewarded with a smart drop goal from outside-half Richard Lloyd and then full-back Kerry Powell kicked a 24th minute penalty to put them in front for the first time. Caernarfon's reaction was to mount a furious onslaught that turned the tables and produced a try for prop Keith Williams, but Powell kicked a 31st minute penalty to peg the home side back again.
McLeod's red card forced Wrexham on to the defensive in the second-half but they rose to the occasion with a good team performance and a special effort on the wing by former Youth Team player Mike Richmond who made his First Team debut last week. Richmond tackled and ran with the authority of an experienced hand and should prove to be a great asset in the coming months.
A breakaway try scored only six minutes into the second-half by home centre Arwel Roberts, converted by outside-half Kelvin Morris, meant that Wrexham needed to score twice to catch up. They tried very hard and Pierce went very close to grabbing a consolation try, but Caernarfon always had the extra player and wrapped the game up with a well judged Morris penalty.
Only a last minute try by winger Gareth Bostock saved Wrexham Seconds' unbeaten record as they drew 28-28 with Llangollen in a keenly contested North East Wales Division One game at Bryn Estyn Road. Other home tries came from Dave Green, Chris Phillips and Mark Jones with Darrell Hughes supplying a conversion and two penalties.
Llangollen, coached by former Wrexham First Team threequarter Kevin Whitehead, led on two occasions through fine tries by Iestyn Whitehead (2) and Dai Lawrence, plus two conversions and three penalties by Whitehead, but were unable to shake off Wrexham's powerful pack.
The Thirds defeated Mold Thirds by 40-5 in a non-league encounter at Wrexham, thanks to a brace of tries each from Paul Hughes and James Bellis, single touchdowns from Mark Whittall and Andy Perrin and five conversions from the ever youthful Geoff Lang.
In Junior Rugby, Wrexham Under 16's took time to adjust
after an influx of new players to their side but got into the groove in the second-half of
their game against Colwyn Bay at Bryn Estyn Road and won by 7-0 with a try by Mike Platt
and a 35 metre angled conversion by newcomer Danny Powell.22/11/03 Preview
Wrexham visit Caernarfon tomorrow afternoon for what promises to be a stiff but not insurmountable challenge against the side which is currently occupying fourth place in the Division Four North table and harbours ambitions to claim the title for the first time in its history (kick-off at 2.30pm).
Beaten at Caernarfon's ground by 0-61 and 24-45 after being hampered by injuries and sendings off in recent seasons, Wrexham will concentrate on maintaining their discipline and elevating their standard of rugby to a higher level in order to put pressure on the home side and avenge those heavy defeats.
Gareth Smith, who made a successful return from a shoulder injury against Ruthin last week, will provide a forceful presence in the Wrexham centre while Gareth Noon should pass a late fitness test on a shoulder and a facial injury to take his regular place at number eight in the pack. Danny Munro is retained in the back-row after making a very effective contribution there last week.
Wrexham floored a useful Caernarfon side with a 57-8 success at Bryn Estyn Road last April and proved that they possessed the mettle to defeat the abrasive men from Gwynedd. Much credit for that victory was accorded to the powerful surges of lock Mike McLeod, who is in tomorrow's Wrexham side, but skipper John Roberts and flanker Mike Ward also made a big impression while grabbing a brace of tries apiece.
Caernarfon left it late at Rhyl to secure a 15-13 win last week after failing to impress for much off the game. Wrexham appear to be improving all round at the moment with ball retention becoming much more reliable and, if they have the confidence to spread the ball out wide, they have the potential to upset Caernarfon and move into a secure mid table position.
Wrexham Seconds, unbeaten Champions of North East Wales Division One, take on newly promoted Llangollen at Bryn Estyn Road. The inclusion of number eight Andy Smith made a big difference in the pack last week and Dylan Griffiths continues to impress at outside-half with his fine kicking skills (k.o.2.30pm).
The Thirds face Mold Thirds at Wrexham in a non-league local derby fixture while the Youth Team will have a rest day prior to a big home game against Colwyn Bay next week. In Mini and Junior Rugby, the Under 14's an 16's entertain Colwyn Bay at Bryn Estyn Road on Sunday morning while the Under 15's will travel to Oswestry for their game (k.o.10.30am).
Wrexham Rugby Club Chairman Gareth Lewis is keen to remind club members that the club's Annual General Meeting will take place on Monday 1st December at 7.30pm. All members are urged to attend as the meeting will discuss important proposed developments at the club including the disposal of parcels of land and buildings at their extensive Bryn Estyn Road site.
WREXHAM 0 RUTHIN 20
Wrexham performed better than of late in this mainly even local derby encounter, but they ended up being whitewashed because they squandered their available chances through mistakes and failed to use their speedy wingers while Ruthin were quick to capitalise on their few opportunities.
Wrexham opened with a fierce onslaught and spurned two penalty chances as they went in search of the opening try. But the visitors defence held firm before their powerful lock Alex Airlee drove hard into the home 22 and scrum-half Rhys Hughes finished off a 'truck and trailer' driving maul with a fine try in the 8th minute.
The visitors came back for more but Wrexham relieved further pressure through the intelligent kicking of full-back Richard Lloyd and some excellent work in the line-out by number eight Gareth Noon. Danny Munro also revelled in his switch from hooker to the back-row and forced Ruthin to turn over possession on a regular basis.
Good work by the home forwards and the probing of outside-half James forced the visitors to concede a stream of penalties until the referee finally despaired and sinbinned a Ruthin centre for persistent infringements. However, the home side were unable to increase their momentum and failed to capitalise on their numerical superiority.
Munro put in a superb tackle to deny Ruthin's Jim Salisbury a try late in the second quarter but the full-back eventually got on the scoresheet when he kicked a penalty in first-half injury time to punish Wrexham's handling in the ruck .
The home side persevered with their tight forward game in the second-half, relying on their forwards to break through Ruthin's defensive line. Munro wriggled clear four minutes after the restart but his final pass to a supporting player went to ground with the Ruthin line at his mercy and a clear scoring opportunity was lost.
Just when Wrexham seemed to be making further progress, James Plant had a tactical kick charged down allowing former Wrexham stalwart Jim Salisbury to scoop up the ball and run 40 metres virtually unopposed to score a stunning unconverted try against the run of play.
Although Wrexham piled on replacements and continued to compete well up front, they were unable to stem a final onslaught from the visiting pack which produced a try for flanker Tony Cole who crashed over from a maul. Salisbury's touchline conversion put the icing on the cake for Ruthin who remain unbeaten and look worthy Championship leaders.
Wrexham Seconds came close to losing their unbeaten record at Port Sunlight after trailing by 13-15 at half-time, but they routed the home scrum in the second-half and went on to win by 28-23. A penalty try was followed by a pushover score from Andy Smith and then a touchdown by Neil Route. Dylan Griffiths added two conversions and three penalties.
Wrexham Thirds didn't have a game while the Youth Team travelled to Llangefni and were beaten by 41-0. The Anglesey players led by 36-0 at the break players but had to work very hard in the second-half to counter a strong Wrexham revival led by John Gormley, Gareth Owen and Danny Seabrook. The tries just wouldn't come15/11/03 Preview
Wrexham face the difficult task of trying to stop unbeaten Ruthin from adding to their already impressive tally in the Division Four North Championship when the sides meet in what promises to be a hard fought derby match at Bryn Estyn Road tomorrow afternoon (kick-off at 2.30pm).
Richard Lloyd has recovered from a shoulder injury that kept him out of the side for a month and is expected to feature in Wrexham's starting line-up at full-back. Pete Smith, who made a big impression on his debut against Bala last week, should be retained on the wing and James Plant will be given another chance to impress at outside-half.
Coach Dave Cheesbrough won't be able to field his strongest team, however, as number eight Gareth Noon needs more time for his shoulder injury to recover, flanker Mike Ward is also struggling to shake off an injury and backs Hywel Raymond and Gareth Smith face late fitness tests.
There was a period in the Seventies and Eighties when Wrexham reigned supreme in this classic tie, but times have changed and Ruthin have completed notable doubles over their old adversaries in each of the last three seasons to demonstrate that they now have the upper hand.
Wrexham were also beaten 16-5 by Ruthin in a North Wales Cup game at Bryn Estyn Road last term, but in all of the games Wrexham competed well and probably enjoyed the major share of possession. They lacked a cutting edge, however, while Ruthin possessed players who could turn a half-chance into a score and usually did so.
Former Wrexham players like Jim Salisbury, Gareth Edwards, Rhodri Jones, Iwan Roberts and Paul Threlfall have assisted Ruthin in their quest for the North Wales Championship and this season looks like the Clwyd Valley side's big chance to claim the title from Nant Conwy who they have already beaten convincingly.
Wrexham met a very stiff challenge from the Bala forwards last week and came out on top, so they should be able to compete with a hard aggressive Ruthin eight tomorrow. As battering away at the Ruthin line has rarely produced dividends, they must employ the tactical kicking of Richard Lloyd and spread the ball to the wingers who can turn the game and cause a major upset.
Wrexham Seconds and Thirds are looking for a game from the local fixture but the Youth Team will visit Llangefni looking for their first win of the season in a North Wales Youth Division One league game (k.o.2.30pm).
In Mini and Junior Rugby, the mini rugby teams will have home advantage in their programme of games against Shrewsbury on Sunday morning while the junior sides will visit the Shropshire club to take part in a full schedule of matches (k.o.10.00am).
Wrexham Rugby Club Chairman Gareth Lewis has announced that the club's Annual General Meeting will take place on Monday 1st December at 7.30pm. All members are urged to attend as the meeting will discuss important proposed developments at the club including the disposal of parcels of land and buildings at their extensive Bryn Estyn Road site.
WREXHAM 17 BALA 12
Wrexham made heavy weather of their defeat of bottom club Bala in a vital Division Four North contest at Bryn Estyn Road, but they managed to produce the brightest moments in a poor game thanks to a sparkling try by debutant winger Pete Smith and smart drop goals by outside-half James Plant and full-back Richard Lloyd.
Bala opened strongly with the wind at their backs and punished the home side for preventing the release of the ball with a first minute penalty by outside-half Ynyr Jones. Then Richard Lloyd's tactical kicking helped his forwards to gain a foothold deep in the Bala half and winger Kerry Powell levelled the scores with a well struck penalty in the fourth minute.
The visitors soon swarmed back to the other end following a missed tackle in the Wrexham centre and it was all hands to the pumps, including a try saving challenge by Pete Smith, as the home defenders tried hard to prevent Bala breaking through. Eventually, the visitors settled for a second penalty by Ynyr Jones which pushed them into the lead again.
Bala played a raw brand of rugby as they strove to increase their advantage but their best attacks were littered with mistakes and Wrexham gradually came back into the game with some powerful forward surges by lock Mike McLeod. Powell levelled the scores in the 33rd minute with a penalty following several sweeping movements which started with breaks by Plant and Smith.
Moments later, Smith suddenly broke free down the right wing from his own half and jinked to evade several defenders before planting the ball over the Bala line for a brilliant debut try. Stunned, the visitors stormed back and pounded away at the home line until they were rewarded with a Jones penalty deep into injury time.
Wrexham had the advantage of wind and slope in the second-half but Bala kept them bottled up in their own half for the first ten minutes as a titanic battle developed between the forwards. The home pack eventually gained the upper hand and established the platform from which James Plant was able to extend the home lead with a neat drop goal.
The big disappointment for Wrexham was that they were unable to produce any fluency in their attacking moves. Number eight Dean Griffiths scrapped tirelessly to win possession but all too often the ball was dropped in the centre and the visitors were able to counter. Decision making was poor with support play slow and the potential down the wings was largely ignored.
The closing quarter could have been very costly for the home side with Jones landing one penalty and striking an upright with the other before Wrexham were reduced to 14 players with the dismissal of replacement hooker Gareth Perrin for an alleged stamping incident.
However, prop Rob Pierce came to the rescue with a fierce forward drive in the dying minutes and Lloyd followed up by firing a superb drop goal straight between the uprights to put the game beyond Bala's reach.
Wrexham Seconds continued the imperious defence of their North East Wales Division One title with a crushing 55-3 victory over Afon Dee at Shotton. Dylan Griffiths delivered 20 of those points with a try, 6 conversions and a penalty while other tries came from Carl Turner (2), Chris Phillips, Mark Lloyd, Ben Cheesbrough, Mike Richmond and Andy Smith.
Afon Dee Seconds were unable to raise a side to visit Wrexham Thirds for a scheduled Division Two contest, but Chester Thirds agreed to travel to Bryn Estyn Road for a replacement friendly fixture and played their full part in a rousing game which the home side won by 53-27.
Bangor footballer Huw Griffiths switched to rugby union on a soccer day-off and scored an amazing 7 tries while his centre partner Gerry Darbyshire managed two more. Nick Clare rounded off a fine game of rugby by kicking 4 conversions.
Wrexham, beaten on every one of their last four outings, hope to break that sequence by overcoming bottom placed Bala in a crucial Division Four North game at Bryn Estyn Road tomorrow afternoon (kick-off at 2.30pm).
The selectors expect to field a near full-strength side following late fitness tests on a number of players who have been struggling with injuries picked up in recent league games. Centre Gareth Smith suffered a shoulder injury at Rhyl and probably needs another week to recover but outside-half Richard Lloyd is set to make a welcome return to the side.
Leading try scorer Hywel Raymond has had three weeks to recover from a hamstring strain and is expected to play, as are forwards Mike Ward and Gareth Noon who had to pull out of last Friday's 'Bulls' v 'Sharks' Provincial Championship game at Ruthin.
Bala are newcomers to Division Four North of the Welsh National League having been promoted to the top flight in North Wales after winning last season's Division Six North Championship. They have lost all of their games so far because they have found it difficult to adjust to the increased pace and power needed against top sides like Ruthin, Nant Conwy and Rhyl.
Wrexham are also struggling after making a bright but losing start to their campaign at Nant Conwy but have one victory to their credit this season, a comfortable 23-6 home win over Llandudno in September. Their task has not been an easy one as they have had to face former champions Llangefni and competitive Dolgellau in stiff early season contests.
Wrexham whitewashed Bala by 30-0 when the two clubs last met at Bryn Estyn Road in a North Wales Cup game seven years ago. Phil Kingsley Jones, the manager of the great All Blacks star Jonah Lomu, managed Wrexham at that time after reviving the fortunes of a club that had plummeted from Division Two to Six East over four seasons.
Only two of the players who took part in that 1996 victory by Dennis Weston's side remain in today's Wrexham squad - centre Chris Andrew and back-row expert Llyr Williams. They will recall the fierce pride which Bala always carry with them into games, particularly the ones involving the clubs which used to dominate North Wales Rugby.
So far, Wrexham have failed to display the sort of good form which they are undoubtedly capable of producing but will steel themselves for a challenging contest against Bala. Their task should, however, be assisted by the inclusion in the pack of powerful players like Mike McLeod, Rob Pierce and Dean Griffiths who are match fit after appearing for the 'Bulls' in last week's provincial game.
A victory tomorrow would enable Wrexham to move away from the wrong end of the league table and provide a much needed confidence boost for difficult games which lie ahead. This week's contest will be followed by a home game against leaders Ruthin and then a visit to Caernarfon before John Roberts and his side return home for a game against Newtown.
Wrexham Seconds, champions and current unbeaten leaders of North East Wales Division One, visit Shotton to play Afon Dee who are third from bottom at present. The Thirds, leaders of Division Two, could face a tough game at Bryn Estyn Road against Afon Dee Seconds who are unbeaten in second place and have been scoring an average of 30 points per game (k.o.2.30pm).
In Mini and Junior Rugby, the mini rugby teams will train at their Wrexham headquarters on Sunday morning while the junior sides will travel to Lymm for a full programme of games against the Cheshire club (k.o.10.30am).
The Wales v. England 2003 World Cup quarter-final game in Brisbane on Sunday morning will be a terrific draw for millions of television viewers, particularly after the amazing swashbuckling performance which Wales put on in losing to the mighty All Blacks by 37-53 in their pool game.
All of the fancied sides, such as Australia, New Zealand and England, have been exposed by underdogs in their pool games and none can expect a smooth ride to the final. They are all very aware that whoever loses this weekend will be out of the competition and on the first plane home (k.o.10.00am).
BULLS 29 SHARKS 12
Wrexham outside-half James Plant scored a superb second-half try that inspired the North East Wales 'Bulls' to take a commanding lead in the North Wales Provincial Championship with a convincing victory over the Denbighshire and Conwy 'Sharks' at Ruthin on Friday.
There was also a try for Wrexham lock Mike McLeod who displayed commanding form throughout and sealed the Bulls victory over the Sharks with a score from a forward drive. Prop Rob Pierce also had a superb game while centre John Roberts and scrum-half Daniel Cheesbrough looked comfortable at this level of rugby.
The Bulls took the lead with a try from winger Paulo Tardival and a conversion from full-back Jim Salisbury before the Sharks levelled with a converted pushover try. A second touchdown from Tardival eased the home side back in front by half-time and then James Plant dummied smartly to score under the posts, giving Salisbury a simple conversion.
The Sharks used their superior set scrummage to counter with an unconverted try in the final quarter but the Bulls were in no mood to let their advantage slip and stormed back with McLeod's excellent try with a conversion and a penalty from Salisbury. The Bulls will face the Gwynedd Eagles in their next game on Saturday 29th November, the venue still to be decided.
The first ever Celtic League game to be held at the Racecourse Ground was hailed as a success with over 5,000 rugby followers watching the Llanelli Scarlets defeat the bottom placed Scottish Borders side by 36-20 on Saturday afternoon. Over 1,500 fans traveled north from the Llanelli area and many stayed overnight to enjoy the hospitality in the Wrexham area.
The Scarlets strengthened their second place in the league table, behind Ulster, with a bonus point for scoring four tries in the game and will return to the Racecourse in March with their celebrated World Cup players to take on Glasgow.
Wrexham Firsts and Seconds didn't play on a day when many rugby supporters were visiting the Racecourse Ground to cheer on the Scarlets. The Thirds visited Chester Vets and probably wished that they had been somewhere else as the home side notched up a 48-7 victory. Nick Johnson touched down under the posts for Wrexham's only score and Nick Clare converted.
The Youth Team was whitewashed 58-0 by Llandudno at Bryn Estyn Road, the highly polished visitors - two of whom play for the Llanelli Scarlets Academy - rattling up a total of ten tries. Wrexham had several good chances to score but failed to press home their attacks although scrum-half Adam Jones and centre Bokani Hanyane impressed throughout.
It promises to be a bumper weekend of rugby with the North East Wales 'Bulls' tackling the Denbighshire and Conwy 'Sharks' in the North Wales Provincial Championship at Ruthin Rugby Club this evening (7.30pm), and the Llanelli Scarlets taking on Glasgow in the first ever Celtic League game to be played at the Racecourse Ground tomorrow afternoon (2.30pm).
Llanelli moved up to second place in the table, behind leaders Ulster, with a hard earned victory over Connacht in Ireland last weekend and should not have too much difficulty in overcoming the Scots who are languishing near the bottom with only two wins out of six to their credit.
Although Ulster are performing well, most of the Irish sides are under achieving this season against the new Welsh provincial sides and it is beginning to look as though the Welsh Rugby Union's controversial decision to set up the new provincial squads at the possible expense of Welsh Premiership rugby is beginning to bear fruit.
The Llanelli players and support staff have been based in Bangor this week and have been visiting a number of clubs to promote their interest in the development of the game of rugby in North Wales. They will visit Wrexham Rugby Club's Bryn Estyn Road site this afternoon to provide skills training for players from the Under 19 and the Mini and Junior Rugby squads (2.00pm).
Wrexham skipper John Roberts will lead a group of ten Wrexham players who have been included in the 22 man 'Bulls' squad for this evening's provincial game at Ruthin. Other players come from Ruthin, Mold, Rhos and Flint although the Mold representation will be diminished because a number of their senior players will be away on a stag weekend.
Wrexham's Richard Lloyd, now on the mend after recovering from a shoulder injury, will make a welcome appearance at outside-half. Other players included in the squad are Kerry Powell, Gareth Noon, Rob Pierce, Gareth Perrin, Mike Ward, Mike McLeod and Dean Griffiths. Winger Hywel Raymond will undergo a fitness test on the hamstring which he injured at Rhyl two weeks ago.
The Bulls defeated the Powys and South Gwynedd 'Rhinos' by 44-12 at Welshpool in September's opening game with Hywel Raymond claiming two of their seven tries. It was a perfect start to their Championship challenge and they are hoping that home advantage will help them to go one step further by overcoming the 'Sharks' this evening.
Tomorrow, Wrexham First Team will have a blank fixture date for the second week in succession but most of their players will visit The Racecourse to cheer on the Llanelli Scarlets in their quest to win the Celtic League.
The North East Wales Division One Championship game between holders Wrexham Seconds and league newcomers Llangollen, which was due to take place at Bryn Estyn Road tomorrow afternoon, has been postponed to allow players from both clubs to visit The Racecourse.
Wrexham Thirds will travel to Hare Lane for a friendly contest with Chester Vets while the Youth Team will try to gain their first victory of the season when they take on Llandudno at Bryn Estyn Road (k.o. 2.30pm).
In Mini and Junior Rugby, the minis will visit Crewe and Nantwich for a full programme of games at all age groups on Sunday morning. The junior rugby teams, ranging from Under 13 to Under 16, will play fixtures at all levels at West Park St.Helens on the same morning.
Wales reached the last eight of the 2003 Rugby World Cup Competition in Australia with a 27-15 victory over Italy in their best performance to date and now look set to meet Six Nations Champions England in next week's quarter-final in Brisbane.
Before that game, however, they must face the new tournament favourites New Zealand in their last pool game on Sunday morning, knowing that the All Blacks have been averaging over 70 points per game against Canada, Italy and Tonga and have pledged to improve their standard against Wales (k.o.9.35 am).
Wrexham Rugby Club will stage their Annual Bonfire and Fireworks Spectacular at their Bryn Estyn Road site this Sunday 2nd November. As usual, entertainment will be provided for children and refreshments will be available. The club gates open at 6.30pm and the bonfire will be lit around 7.00pm.
Next week, Wrexham Firsts will step up their training in preparation for the vital home league game against Bala on Saturday 8th November. Promoted as Champions of last season's Division Six North, Bala have failed to win this season and are propping up the table with Wrexham who have managed to overcome only Llandudno so far but are capable of performing much better.
With Wrexham Firsts enjoying a short break from league and cup fixtures, the Seconds grabbed the limelight with a hard earned 8-3 victory over Ruthin Seconds in a North East Wales Division One Championship game at Cae Ddol.
Led by stand-in skipper Carl Turner, the defending champions Wrexham took an early lead with a penalty by their former Ruthin scrum-half Paul Edwards, but the home side quickly stormed back and leveled the scores with a penalty of their own.
Then smart work by Wrexham outside-half Carl Pugh created a free flowing movement by the Wrexham backs with the final pass going to the out of position second-row forward Jason Griffiths who galloped over near the corner virtually unopposed.
Having regained the initiative, Wrexham were unwilling to let their lead slip and held on throughout a scoreless second-half to maintain their position at the top of the table. Although they missed a couple of penalties, they were pleased with the attacking flair of winger Gareth Bostock who unsettled the home defence whenever he broke loose.
Disappointingly, Ruthin didn't have enough players to field a Third XV and had to call off their scheduled Division Two game against Wrexham Thirds at Bryn Estyn Road on Saturday morning. Wrexham claimed the league points and remain at the top of the table.
In Mini and Junior Rugby, Wrexham Under 16's fought gamely but were beaten 41-3 by a well drilled Nant Conwy side at Bryn Estyn Road. Jonathan Davies kicked a penalty for the home side. 25/10/03 Preview
Wrexham, knocked out of this week's Principality Welsh Cup competition at the first hurdle and now beset by injuries, will take a welcome break tomorrow to recover from recent knocks and take stock of their progress since the start of the season.
Four successive defeats in league and cup competition have left the Wrexham First Team squad and their specialist coaches shell shocked and wondering what has gone wrong with a side which was probably the fittest and best prepared one in North Wales at the start of the season.
Frustration leading to indiscipline and the resultant sendings off has hampered their cause but the main problem for them has been their inability to claim points for the pressure that they exert on their opponents. Forwards like Gareth Noon, Mike McLeod, Dean Griffiths and Mike Ward have been 'working their socks off' in recent games but still the scores won't come.
Wrexham regularly shun penalty kicks that appear to be difficult and take the line-out option instead so that their forwards can assault the opposition try line. Unfortunately, they are predictable and opposing packs are too well organised in defence nowadays to concede tries in such situations, particularly when the body angle of the attacker is high and easily checked.
It is no coincidence that all of the six tries that skipper John Roberts and his side have scored so far have come from open play and Wrexham must concentrate on moving the ball at pace and getting quick support behind the ball carrier. The front-row of the pack, good at holding their own in the set scrum, must also do more to break through the gain line in setting up attacks.
Wrexham should have enough strength and organisation to beat the poorer sides like Bala, Pwllheli, Llandudno and Newtown, and therefore avoid the prospect of being one of the two bottom sides which will be relegated automatically from Division Four North by next May. Bala visit Bryn Estyn Road on Saturday 8th November and nothing short of victory will suffice for coach Dave Cheesbrough and his charges.
Wrexham Seconds continue the defence of their North East Wales Division One title when they visit fourth placed Ruthin Seconds at Cae Ddol tomorrow afternoon. The Champions are unbeaten in this year's campaign and now have an excellent blend of youthand experience in their side with winger Peter Smith looking a good prospect for promotion to the First Team.
The Thirds, currently leading the Division Two Championship, have a home game against Ruthin Thirds who are in fourth place. The Youth Team will take a welcome break from fixtures and will work hard in training to try to improve their tackling skills after last week's whitewash against Nant Conwy (k.o.2.30pm).
In the Rugby World Cup Competition, Wales take on Italy tomorrow morning in the battle for a likely quarter-final place against England. Following a convincing 41-10 victory over Canada in their opening game, Wales toiled to beat Tonga by 27-20 last Saturday and will have to be at their best to vanquish a fast improving but injury hit Italian side (k.o.9.30am).
In Mini and Junior Rugby, Wrexham Under 9's, 10's and 11's will visit Warrington for games on Sunday while the Under 12's will travel to Rhyl. The Under 13's and 15's will train at Bryn Estyn Road where the Under 16's, now up to full strength thanks to manager Gareth Jarvis, will take on Nant Conwy (k.o.10.30am).
Preparations are well in hand at Wrexham Rugby Club's Bryn Estyn Road site for the staging of the Annual Bonfire and Fireworks Spectacular on Sunday 2nd November. As usual, entertainment will be provided for children and refreshments will be available. The club gates open at 6.30pm and the bonfire will be lit around 7.00pm.
RHYL 11 WREXHAM 6
For the second week in succession, Wrexham's attempt to make headway in the Division Four North Championship was hampered by an early sending off. Even so, and despite injuries, they dominated much of the game at The Waen and should have secured at least a draw after pounding away at the home line for over five minutes towards the end of the game.
Prop Geraint Davies was the man who received marching orders from the referee in the 21st minute for allegedly stamping on the head of a Rhyl player lying offside at a ruck. Davies received a lengthy suspension for a similar offence last season and is set to receive an even longer ban when his case is heard this time.
By the time that Davies was sent off, Rhyl had already forged an 8-0 lead with a penalty by outside-half Matt Anwyl and a try by centre Mickie Griffin who cut through a gap in the visitors defence following a line-out to score. Wrexham were already struggling to reorganise after the loss of winger Hywel Raymond with a hamstring injury and his replacement by Gareth Smith.
Once they had reorganised again, however, Wrexham took the game to Rhyl and spurned penalty kicks as they went in search of a try which would close the gap appreciably. A solid 25 metre forward drive nearly produced a score but all that they had to show for their efforts was a 34th minute penalty by full-back Kerry Powell for a deliberate knock-on by a home player.
Trailing by 3-8 at the break, Wrexham opened the second-half with a solo run to the line by skipper John Roberts who was then swallowed up by defenders. A penalty kick was ignored as the visitors searched for a try but, with locks Mike McLeod and Gareth Noon performing superbly, the pressure told and Powell settled for a 47th minute penalty as Rhyl argued.
The Seasiders defended well and Anwyl missed an easy penalty in a rare visit to the Wrexham half, but 14 man Wrexham continued to dominate a tight forward game without being able to create any real scoring opportunities. Deep in the final quarter, Rhyl forced their way upfield and made their presence count this time with a second penalty by Anwyl.
To their credit, Wrexham stormed back and pounded away at the home line for over five minutes with one forward after another having a go at cracking the Rhyl defensive line. They should have scored but a combination of lady luck not smiling on them and the use of poor attacking angles kept them out and a relieved home side held on to claim a narrow victory.
On an adjoining pitch at The Waen, Wrexham Seconds powered their way to a convincing 47-14 victory over Rhyl Seconds in a non-league contest. Carl Turner, James Wrathall and Neil Route claimed a brace of tries apiece and Mike Andrew added a seventh try. Darrell Hughes kicked four conversions and Paul Edwards slotted two more for good measure.
Wrexham Thirds lost by 10-43 in a pool fixture at Eagle Vets in Warrington. Trailing by 5-38 at half-time, their only points coming from a Dave Leadbitter try, they fought back after the break to share an even second-half with a try by Malcolm Bostock.
Injuries took their toll on Wrexham Youth Team at Bryn Estyn Road where they lost their way against reigning North Wales Division One Champions Nant Conwy and were beaten by a record 122-0 score. 18/10/03 Preview
Wrexham, beaten heavily in their last two league games, hope to bring an end to their losing run when they take on Rhyl tomorrow afternoon at The Waen in a Division Four North contest (kick-off at 2.30pm).
Prop Geraint Davies and outside-half Richard Lloyd, who both missed last Saturday's game against Llangefni with shoulder injuries, face a late fitness test to rejoin the squad. Lloyd's tactical kicking was a key factor in Wrexham's 21-20 victory at Rhyl last March and his return to the side would be a major boost for them at a difficult time.
Rhyl's 12-10 home victory last week over bottom club Bala doesn't sound as though the Seasiders are on fire at the moment, but they possess a skilful fly-half in Matt Anwyl who will cause Wrexham problems with his accurate kicking and attacking flair.
Tomorrow's visitors came out on top of that ding dong battle last March after a marvelous try in injury time by winger Hywel Raymond. Wrexham had enjoyed a comfortable 16-3 lead at the start of the second-half but nearly threw it all away when they lost two players to the sin-bin for technical offences. Raymond, with two tries to his credit, will be a key player again tomorrow.
With last week's game in mind when one player was sent-off and two sin binned, Wrexham Coach Dave Cheesbrough will no doubt remind his players that discipline will be paramount tomorrow. Having competed well against three top North Wales clubs since the start of the season, Wrexham can apply the lessons that they have learnt to overcome Rhyl and move into the mid table.
Wrexham Seconds visit Whitchurch Seconds hoping to maintain their unbeaten record and their defensive prowess after preventing any tries being scored against them in their last three games. The Thirds are looking for a game from the local fixture pool and the Youth Team will be in action at Bryn Estyn Road against Division One league leaders Nant Conwy (k.o.2.30pm).
In Mini and Junior Rugby, the Under 15's will have home advantage in their game against Chester on Sunday morning. Most of the others will be watching Wales take on Tonga in their second Group D game in the 2003 Rugby World Cup Competition (9.00am). Wales eased to a 41-10 success against Canada in their first game, claiming a bonus point for scoring four tries.
Tickets are selling well for the eagerly awaited Celtic League clash between Llanelli Scarlets and Glasgow at the Racecourse on Saturday 1st November at 2.30pm. The game is the first of its kind in North Wales and should attract keen support from the Region with tickets available from the Racecourse ticket office between normal office hours.
WREXHAM 12 LLANGEFNI 34
Former Champions Llangefni maintained their unbeaten record in this season's Division Four North campaign with a classy victory over Wrexham, but the home side played well at times and could have mounted a closer challenge if they had not been hampered by bouts of indiscipline.
Lock Mike McLeod was voted man of the match by Wrexham after securing a stream of possession from the line-out and unsettling the visitors with his powerful surges. Winger James Plant was in top form in the first-half and scrum-half Daniel Cheesbrough and full-back Kerry Powell also played their full part in an entertaining contest.
Wrexham dominated the game for the first ten minutes with good ball winning work by the forwards and plenty of attacking thrusts from the threequarters. The taking of wrong options and some slowness in passing the ball let them down, however, and they finished their opening barrage without scoring the points that their adventure deserved.
Llangefni then countered with a classy interplay between their forwards and backs that led to a try in the 12th minute by lock Alex Morrison who claimed the ball in a line-out and burst through to score. Centre Iwan Davies added a difficult conversion before missing an easier penalty at the start of the second quarter.
Wrexham were fully stretched in the 29th minute when flanker Dave Morris, newly returned to the side after good performances for the Second XV, was adjudged to have pushed and punched a player running past him and was shown a red card by the referee. Davies kicked the resultant penalty and Wrexham had to reorganise to try to save the game.
The gulf in class between the two sides showed, however, when full back Arwel Roberts followed up a chip over the home defence and sold a dummy to breeze through and score by the posts with Davies supplying a simple conversion.
Wrexham refused to lie down and countered in injury time before the break with a superb passing movement that finished with winger Hywel Raymond slipping the ball to number eight Gareth Noon who used his power and physique to score an excellent unconverted try in the corner.
Forwards coach Wayne Pugh gave his Wrexham side a rousing speech at half-time but it proved to be too inspirational for Noon who was promptly yellow carded for a high tackle on an opponent. Worse soon followed when the Llangefni forwards set up a 30 metre rolling maul and skipper John Roberts joined Noon in the sin-bin for trying to pull it down near the try line.
Flanker Huw Davies scored an unconverted try from the resultant tap penalty but 12 man Wrexham heroically managed to prevent any further damage until they were rejoined by Noon and Roberts. Kerry Powell caught a high ball in the 60th minute to launch an impressive counter but the ball was lost and Arwel Roberts kicked downfield to score a try which Davies converted.
Number eight Emlyn Bown, a former Wrexham player, scored Llangefni's fifth try soon afterwards when he stole the ball from the Wrexham threequarters who had tried to run the ball from their try line. The home side had the last word, however, when Hywel Raymond jinked his way through a gaggle of defenders to score close enough to the posts for Powell to convert.
Wrexham Seconds maintained their unbeaten record as Champions of North East Wales Division One with an emphatic 57-0 at Mold Seconds. Peter Dougan and Gareth Bostock notched a brace of tries apiece while Scott Davies, Jason Griffiths, Nick Stott, Chris Phillips and John Gill claimed a try apiece. Darrell Hughes landed four conversions and Paul Edwards contributed two more.
Wrexham Thirds defeated Flint Seconds by 43-5 at Flint to claim their second success of the season in Division Two. Paul Hughes and Andrew Griffiths grabbed a brace of tries apiece after Nick Johnson had opened the scoring with a spectacular effort, and Nick Clare kicked five conversions and a penalty to claim a personal tally of 13 points.
In Mini and Junior Rugby, Wrexham Under 16's got their season underway with a hard earned 19-15 victory at Ruthin. Their tries came from newcomer Danny Powell, James Gibney and Martin Jones while Jonathon Davies kicked superbly to land the two match winning conversions. New players Nathan Edwards and Matthew Capper also impressed in the new 22 player squad.
At Under U15 level, Ruthin & Wrexham played a short training match to polish their skills for the coming season.
Wrexham Under 14's stormed to a 56-38
victory at Ruthin with tries from Gwyn Edwards (4), David Blackwell (3) and Robert Moore
boosted by 8 conversions from Kieran Morris. Ruthin were unable to field an Under 13 side.
At Wrexham, Ruthin Under 12's came out on top by 12-0 in a well contested game. The Under 11's played two games against the Ruthin visitors, losing the first encounter by 10-25 before succumbing by 5-30 in the second match. The home tries came from Jonathon Davies (2) and Ben Lee. 11/10/03 Preview
Wrexham, humbled at Dolgellau last week and needing to bounce back quickly, will have no tougher challenge than the one which they face against former Champions Llangefni in a Division Four North contest at Bryn Estyn Road tomorrow (kick-off at 2.30pm).
Coach Dave Cheesbrough and the selectors need to strengthen the pack which was torn apart last week and are set to recall Mike McLeod to the second-row with flanker Dave Morris rejoining the squad after a good try scoring performance for the Seconds last week. There may also be a place on the bench for former Youth Team forward John Gill who is also showing some good form.
Outside-half Richard Lloyd's shoulder injury ruled him out of the Dolgellau game but he is expected to pass a late fitness test to partner Daniel Cheesbrough tomorrow. Lloyd opened the scoring against Llangefni when the crack Anglesey side visited Wrexham last season but there was little else to cheer about on that day as the visitors went on to win by 38-10.
With a useful pack including North Wales flanker Will Bown and fast wings of the calibre of Iwan Davies and Ioan Davies, Llangefni are capable of winning by a similar score tomorrow. Wrexham have shown a lot of promise in three of their last four matches, however, and have the skills and pace to unsettle the former Champions if they can put last week's disaster behind them and play to win.
Wrexham Seconds visit Mold Seconds as they continue the defence of their North East Wales Division One title. The Thirds travel to Flint Seconds for a Division Two encounter while the Youth Team hope to make up for last week's drubbing against Ruthin when they take on Rhyl in a friendly game at The Waen (k.o.2.30pm).
In Mini and Junior Rugby, the mini rugby sides will take on Ruthin at Bryn Estyn Road on Sunday morning and the junior sides will travel to Cae Ddol for games against Ruthin at most levels (k.o.10.30am).
Current Champions Australia take on Argentina in the opening game of the 2003 Rugby World Cup Competition in Sydney this morning (10.00am) but Welsh fans will have to wait until Sunday to see their heroes take on Canada in a Pool D game in Melbourne (9.00am).
Wales will face the favourites New Zealand in their last group game in 3 weeks time but should by then have already claimed a quarter-final place after their other group games against Tonga and Italy. Former Menai Bridge and Mold hooker Robin McBryde is included the 30 man Welsh squad and will attract keen support from fans in North Wales.
Wrexham Youth Team centre Butjalani 'Butch' Hanyane has as very unusual way of attempting conversion kicks. He takes off his non kicking rugby boot and places the ball in it to keep the projectile in position while he prepares for his run-up. His unusual approach is probably a throwback to his upbringing in Zimbabwe where the rugby grounds can be rock hard.
A Preliminary Coaching Course will be held at Mold Rugby Club on Sunday 26th October between 9.00am and 5.00pm. Wrexham organiser Neil Sissons says, "The course is an introduction and is not difficult. It is ideal for those just starting out or who are interested in acquiring basic skills that will enable them to better understand and enjoy the game that their children have chosen."
Those interested in joining the course should contact Wrexham Rugby Development Officer Marc Roberts on 01978 317689 or Neil Sissons on 01978 357990.
Tickets went on sale this week for the eagerly awaited Celtic League clash between Llanelli Scarlets and Glasgow at the Racecourse on Saturday 1st November at 2.30pm. The game is the first of its kind in North Wales and should attract keen support from the Region with tickets available from the Racecourse ticket office between normal office hours.
DOLGELLAU 34 WREXHAM 6
Following good all round performances against Llandudno and Abercrave, Wrexham visited Marian Mawr with high hopes of securing a victory that would enable them to join the leading group in Division Four North. Instead, however, Dolgellau comprehensively demolished a strangely timid looking Wrexham pack to claim a record victory over their old opponents.
Dolgellau struck the first blow in the 3rd minute when outside-half Ian Palterman kicked a penalty to punish a Wrexham infringement at a ruck. Minutes later they went further ahead when lock Aled Evans dispossessed the visitors at a line-out and drove over to score an unconverted try.
Prop Geraint Davies and flanker Dean Griffiths showed some spirit in the visiting pack and created a bit of pressure after a quarter of an hour that led to a penalty by full-back Kerry Powell. Then Dolgellau countered with another try from a line-out by hooker Geraint Evans before Powell struck with his second penalty of the game to keep the visitors in touch.
Just before the break, however, Palterman helped to put the game beyond Wrexham's reach when he sent a grubber kick into the 22 and the ball bounced off the posts into the hands of full-back Jonathon Lloyd who scored under the posts. Palterman had no difficulty in kicking the simple conversion the gave the Gwynedd side a 20-6 lead at half-time.
Wrexham sent on replacement forwards Mike Jones and Llyr Williams after the break and they inspired their side to a better performance that led to a stream of penalties as the home flankers persistently blocked the release of the ball. No further action was taken against the transgressors by the referee, however, and Wrexham's attempts to score tries all foundered.
When Wrexham did secure possession, the ball was generally lost by the forwards or kicked away and failed to reach the wings. Following an injury to number eight Gareth Noon, the visitors ran out of ideas again and Dolgellau wrapped up the game with a second try for Geraint Evans and one for former Wrexham prop Dai Arthur Owen with Palterman adding a brace of conversions.
Wrexham Seconds kept their standard flying and maintained their unbeaten record with a decisive 31-3 victory over North East Wales Division One new boys Llangollen at Dinas Bran. Dave Morris crowned a forceful performance with a brace of tries while Carl Pugh, Mike McLeod and Darrell Hughes breezed in for one apiece. Hughes completed the rout with 3 conversions.
Wrexham Youth Team entered their first league game of the season against Ruthin in North Wales Youth Division One with high hopes but were thumped by 61-15 as poor tackling let them down. Phil Williams, Danny Seabrook and 'Butch' Hanyane claimed consolation tries in the second-half.
Wrexham Thirds matched a visiting Denbigh XV on try count but slipped to a 20-26 defeat because they couldn't convert any of their scores. Jason Parry switched from the pack to the wing and surprised himself and his colleagues by claiming a hat-trick of tries while veteran skipper Gerry Darbyshire raced in for Wrexham's fourth touchdown. 04/10/03 Preview
The Wrexham selectors have made one change for tomorrow's Division Four North game at Dolgellau, recalling Rhodri Evans at lock to face his former clubmates (kick-off at 2.30pm).
Mike Jones, who held the second-row berth at Abercrave last week, takes his turn on the substitutes bench alongside hooker Danny Munro. Chris Andrew, a double try scoring centre in the Second Team's handsome 57-7 victory over a Ruthin XV last week, will have to undergo a late fitness test on an ankle injury to rejoin the squad along with Llyr Williams.
Dolgellau won last October's league game by 20-3 at Marian Mawr, despite being subjected to a battering by the visitors in the first-half. Wrexham took an early lead through a penalty by outside-half Richard Lloyd but poor fitness let them down later on and Dolgellau surged back through their forwards to secure a deserved victory.
That was Dave Cheesbrough's first game in charge of coaching matters at Wrexham and much has progressed since then at Bryn Estyn Road. Fitness levels are now much higher and there is a structure to Wrexham's play that was missing last year. Their only problem at the moment is converting the pressure which the pack exerts into points against well organised defences.
The 23-6 league victory over Llandudno just a fortnight ago was a great confidence booster for skipper John Roberts and his side who are keen to reward the efforts of forwards coach Wayne Pugh and backs coach Norman Stalker with regular successes this season. Despite losing in the Welsh Cup at Abercrave last week, the good performance there will put the team in good heart for tomorrow's encounter which could go Wrexham's way with a sprinkling of luck.
Wrexham Seconds continue the defence of their North East Wales Division One title with a visit to Llangollen who were promoted last season after finishing as Champions of Division Two. Wrexham Youth Team take on Ruthin at Bryn Estyn Road in the first league game of this season's North Wales Youth Division One Championship and the Thirds travel to Denbigh Thirds for a friendly fixture (k.o. 3.00pm).
In Mini and Junior Rugby, the Under 13's to 16's will take on opponents from Sandbach in a series of Sunday morning games at Bryn Estyn Road (k.o.10.30am).
ABERCRAVE 10 WREXHAM 7
Wrexham fell at the first hurdle in this season's Principality Cup competition, but it was a close run contest which the West Glamorgan side managed to clinch with a second-half penalty, the sides having been level on 7-7 at the break.
The North Walians made an impressive start with the forwards dominating exchanges and providing a stream of possession for outside-half Richard Lloyd to pin Abercrave in their own half with some thundering touch kicks. When the visitors won a line-out on the home 22 in the 4th minute, skipper and centre John Roberts cut through to score under the posts and full-back Kerry Powell added the simple conversion.
They pounded away at the home line for the next 20 minutes and should have stretched their lead with some fine work by the forwards, particularly the front-row of Geraint Davies, Rob Pierce and Gareth Perrin which was totally dominant. Pierce has held just short of the line on a fierce burst while Davies forced his way over but had a try disallowed for an alleged double movement.
Abercrave's only option when they managed to win the ball was to move it to their fast running backs and, against the run of play, they managed to level the scores with a try from a tap penalty move by full-back Ed Morgan and a conversion by outside-half Chris Storeman shortly before half-time.
Wrexham powered back through their strong forwards and spurned a couple of penalties as they went in search of a try from a line-out. However, although Abercrave were outgunned up front, their defence was as sound as Wrexham's and they were able to thwart their best efforts.
The battle to secure the winning points went on for 20 minutes in the second-half and Wrexham still looked the likelier side to progress to the next round when an Abercrave player hacked a loose ball downfield and chased Wrexham's excellent flanker Mike Ward and Kerry Powell as they combined to cover the threat.
The referee ruled that the players had prevented the release of the ball illegally and awarded a penalty which Storeman gleefully accepted. In a hectic final period Wrexham flanker Dean Griffiths was sin-binned for an alleged late tackle, number eight Gareth Noon and John Roberts went close with several breaks but Abercrave did just enough in defence to hold on.
Coach Dave Cheesbrough was disappointed with the result but was pleased with his team's overall performance in a well contested game. "It's never easy to go down to South Wales at the best of times and hope to win. We should have won it but we failed to convert our dominance", he said afterwards.
Wrexham Seconds defeated a Ruthin XV by 57-7 in a friendly at Bryn Estyn Road, Chris Andrew, Andy Perrin and Scott Davies claiming a brace of tries apiece while Mark Lloyd, Carl Pugh and Ross Roberts added a try apiece. Dylan Griffiths slotted 5 conversions and Darrell Hughes landed one to complete an impressive victory.
Wrexham's Under 19 Team led by 19-8 at Bala in the last quarter of their friendly game, but then slumped to a 19-29 defeat as late injuries and team changes took their toll.
In Mini and Junior Rugby, Wrexham Under 12's led the way on Sunday with a superb 29-12 victory at Caernarfon having trailed by 0-12 early on. Lewis Jones, Dwayne Jones, Christian Chalk, Jordan Davies and Ashton Williams notched a try apiece and Dwayne Jones added 2 conversions.
The Under 11's managed a 25-15 victory over Caernarfon with Jonathon Davies (3) and Ieuan Keenan (2) celebrating their call-up to the N.E.Wales schools squad by scoring all of the tries. The Under U 10's thrashed their Gwynedd opponents by 55-10 thanks to tries from Ashley Salisbury (4), Nia Williams (3), Benjamin Hewitt, Russell Jones, Tom Wynn-Lloyd and Sean Ferrari. Salisbury.
The Under 9's also made their long trip to Caernarfon worthwhile by pulling off a 30-0 success. Their scores came David Bowen, Edward Evans, Jacob Williams, Harry Cartwright, Jack Williams and Harry Williams. 27/09/03 Preview
Wrexham, worthy competitors over the last three decades in the Welsh Rugby Union Cup competition, travel to the West Glamorgan village of Abercrave tomorrow afternoon for the first preliminary round of this year's competition (kick-off at 2.30pm).
Mike McLeod, Wrexham's experienced second-row forward and a real driving force in the pack, rejoins the squad following his annual holiday and is expected to make his presence felt against a solid Abercrave eight. Chris Andrew should also be available to steady the threequarter line while scrum-half Daniel Cheesbrough will have his first taste of cup rugby for Wrexham.
Abercrave are a successful outfit in Division Four South West of the Welsh National League and started this season with a convincing 17-8 home victory over Rhigos. They play familiar clubs like Pyle, Morriston, Amman United and Maesteg Celtic in their division as well as the less well known but equally competitive Briton Ferry and Glais.
Wrexham possess a rich Welsh Cup history and are still the only North Wales club to have reached the last 16 of the competition, losing to Newport at Rodney Parade in 1986. They have played memorable matches against the best clubs in Wales including Cardiff, Neath (3 times), Swansea and Ebbw Vale.
The North Walians have enjoyed a good cup run in the preliminary rounds in recent years but have usually come unstuck when drawn away in the first round proper of the competition where the bigger clubs make their entrance. Last season's 17-3 away victory over Llanhilleth was a tremendous achievement and this was followed by a 40-27 away victory over Dolgellau before the travelling told and they were beaten 63-24 by Hendy.
Having to travel to the heart of the South Wales for a cup match in a highly charged atmosphere is not a comfortable task, but coaches Wayne Pugh and Norman Stalker have instilled confidence and the desire to win in the side this season and an in-form Wrexham should be able to progress past the keen challenge of Abercrave.
Wrexham Seconds and Thirds have blank dates on their fixture list at the moment but are hoping to secure suitable games from the local fixture pool. Former First Team skipper and coach Ross Roberts may make an appearance for one of the sides after completing an excellent cricket season, and another stalwart, Nick Johnson, is tipped to come out of retirement for the Thirds.
The Wrexham Youth Team will travel to Bala for a friendly fixture that will serve as a warm-up to next week's first North Wales Youth League Division One game when they entertain a high flying Ruthin side at Bryn Estyn Road. Wrexham defeated Bala in all three friendly and cup matches last season and are aiming to repeat that success tomorrow afternoon (kick-off at 3.00pm).
Wrexham's challenge in Division One has been strengthened by the inclusion of two students from Zimbabwe, brothers Bokani and Butjilani Hanyane. They arrived in Wrexham in February with 19 year old Bokani undertaking a nursing course at NEWI and 17 year old Butjilani ("Butch") studying 'A' Levels at Ruabon High School.
They come from the town of Kadoma in Zimbabwe, not far from the capital city of Harare where both played rugby for Churchill Boys High School. They play in the centre of the threequarters and are keen to make their mark with Wrexham's Youth Team.
In Mini and Junior Rugby, the minis travel to Caernarfon on Sunday for games in all age groups while the juniors will enjoy a training morning at their Bryn Estyn Road headquarters (k.o.10.30am). 20/09/03 Preview
Wrexham, keen to make an impact in Division Four North this year and determined to make up for the 6-23 reverse against champions Nant Conwy on the opening day of the season, take on Llandudno at Bryn Estyn Road in what promises to be a very closely contested game (kick-off at 2.30pm).
Chris Andrew returns to strengthen the centre but lock Mike McLeod is unavailable and his second-row partner Mike Jones will have to undergo a late fitness test to check on his recovery from an ankle injury that forced his replacement in last week's Bulls v Rhinos Provincial Championship game at Welshpool.
There is also a late fitness test for prop Rob Pierce who rarely misses a game but had to be replaced in the Bulls game when he became troubled by a back strain. All of the other Wrexham players who played at Welshpool are fit and raring to go against Llandudno including winger Hywel Raymond who notched two tries in that game.
Gareth Smith, the utility threequarter who joined Wrexham club from the Mid Wales club Cobra in the summer but was unable to train as often as he would have liked, is now up to full fitness following a recent game for the Second XV and an impressive performance as a replacement centre in the Bulls game. Dave Cheesbrough has included him in his First Team squad and he is expected to make his debut appearance against the Seahorses tomorrow.
Wrexham lost to Llandudno by 9-13 at Bryn Estyn Road last November after surrendering a 9-0 half-time lead. Poor defensive qualities and an inability to win at home let them down on that occasion, but they bounced back at Llandudno in February and just managed to defeat the Seahorses by 18-15.
That was a very important triumph for Wrexham because it lifted them off the bottom of the league table and heralded a run of victories which eventually enabled them to secure a respectable 6th place by the end of a difficult season. Full-back Kerry Powell scored a debut try at Llandudno, together with a penalty, and should get his name on the score sheet again tomorrow.
The home side will be in good shape tomorrow, having been well prepared by coaches Norman Stalker and Wayne Pugh, but they will need to stiffen the defensive line which backed off at times against Nant Conwy a fortnight ago. Although this will be only the second competitive game that half of the players will have featured in this season, the timing of attacking moves is showing an improvement and should prosper tomorrow.
Llandudno were defeated 8-5 by their neighbors Rhyl in their opening game of the season a fortnight ago and will be trying very hard, like Wrexham, to secure an all important first victory of the season. The battle could be decided in the pack where Llandudno will commit their heavier forwards against lightweight but more mobile opponents.
Following two successive away victories, Wrexham Seconds will be pleased to have home advantage against Rhyl Seconds in their North East Wales Division One game tomorrow afternoon. Wrexham Thirds visit Afon Dee Seconds for a Division Two encounter and the Youth Team will open their season with a friendly against Widnes at Bryn Estyn Road (k.o.3.00pm).
In Mini and Junior Rugby, the Under 8's will visit Colwyn Bay, while the Under 10's, 12's, 14's and 15's will travel to Llandudno. The other squads will be involved in training sessions at Bryn Estyn Road and all games will commence at 10.30am.
RHINOS 12 BULLS 37
The North East Wales 'Bulls', who include players from Wrexham, Mold, Ruthin, Flint and Rhos in their squad, got off to a fine start in the North Wales Provincial Championship with a decisive victory over the Powys and South Gwynedd Rhinos at Welshpool last Saturday.
Mold full-back Eddie Hughes claimed a magnificent hat-trick of tries in an enthralling contest and Wrexham wing Hywel Raymond used his speed to grab a superb brace of tries in warm and sunny conditions. There was also a try for Wrexham scrum-half Huw Thomas and a penalty and two conversions for Wrexham full-back Kerry Powell.
Dave Cheesbrough, one of the main organisers of the Bulls squad, was delighted with the result and the interest generated by allocating set dates for the provincial games to be played. He is now looking forward to the second round which will be played at Ruthin on Friday 31st October when the 'Bulls' take on the Conwy and North Denbighshire 'Sharks' (k.o.7.30pm).
Wrexham Seconds continued the successful defence of their North East Wales Division One Championship with a seven try 44-22 victory over Rhos Seconds at Ponciau Banks. Tries came from Peter Dougan, James Jess, Scott Davies, Jason Griffiths, Dave Morris, Mark Jones and Dylan Griffiths who also kicked a penalty and three conversions for a 14 point personal tally.
Wrexham Thirds were heavily defeated 19-49 by Corwen at Bryn Estyn Road but were able to claim the three league points from this scheduled Division Two fixture because Corwen were unable to provide a front row and had to borrow a Wrexham player to make a game of it. James Bellis, Jason Parry and Kevin Davies were the Wrexham try scorers and Davies also managed two conversions for good measure.
In Junior Rugby, the Under 14's pulled off a remarkable 62-0 first game of the season success at Caernarfon. The well drilled visitors soon piled up the points with tries from David Blackwell (3), Gwyn Edwards(3), Owen Willington (2) and Jake Edwards(2). Keiron Morris managed 6 conversions in breezy conditions.
It was a different story for the Under 15's, however, as they slumped to a 10-76 defeat at the same venue. The Caernarfon side proved to be irresistible in the opening period as they stormed to a 66-0 advantage by half-time. But Wrexham stuck to their task and performed much better in the second-half with a try apiece from Daniel Roth & Paul White to show for some improved attacking play.
The revamped North Wales Provincial Championship will be launched tomorrow with eight Wrexham players included in a 22 mans quad for the North East Wales 'Bulls' who take on the Powys and South Gwynedd 'Rhinos' at Welshpool Rugby Club (kick-off at 3.00pm).
Wrexham skipper John Roberts will be accompanied by Richard Lloyd, Kerry Powell and Hywel Raymond from his threequarter line while pack leader Gareth Noon, Geraint Davies, Rob Pierce and Mike Ward will represent the forwards. The rest of the squad will be comprised of players from Mold, Rhos, Ruthin and Flint rugby clubs.
The Provincial Championship took place on mid-week dates in previous seasons and ran out of steam towards the end of last season due to a combination of confusion over dates, difficulties over the constitution of the four provincial sides and some lack of interest.
The Welsh Rugby Union's keenness to promote provisional rugby as a means of developing emerging players has led to a complete rethink and the competition will now take place on allocated Saturday dates throughout the season. No National League fixtures can take place on those dates so that the focus is firmly set on the Provincial Championship.
Wrexham Firsts, having endured a cancellation and a postponement before they were able to launch their season at Nant Conwy last Saturday, have come to a full stop again. Most of their players who have been included in the provincial squad should get a game at Welshpool, however, and the others will step up their training in preparation for next week's home league game against Llandudno.
Wrexham Seconds continue the defence of their North East Wales Division One title with a challenging trip up the road to Rhos Seconds who were promoted as runners up to Llangollen from Division Two last season. The powerful presence of Llyr Williams at number eight and the deft skills of Dylan Griffiths at outside-half should help Wrexham to combat a Rhos side determined to make up for last week's drubbing at Llangollen (kick-off at 3.00pm).
The Thirds, who finished one place adrift of the promoted sides in Division Two last season, take on Corwen in their first game of the season at Bryn Estyn Road. The will be led once again by skipper Sean Williams and should be strengthened this season by the introduction of several Second Team stalwarts who are now dropping down a team to give way to younger players.
The Youth Team have one more week to prepare before they start their season next week with a home game against Widnes. In Mini and Junior Rugby, the minis will have a training morning at Bryn Estyn Road this Sunday morning while the Under 14's and 16's will travel to Caernarfon for games against the Gwynedd club (k.o.10.30am).
06/09/03 Rugby news
NANT CONWY 23 WREXHAM 6
Nant Conwy, Champions of Division Four North, mounted a stiff defence of their title to pull off their second victory of the week in defeating a well drilled Wrexham side which competed well but clearly lacked essential match practice following two fixture cancellations.
On this showing, Wrexham should be able to defeat Llandudno at Bryn Estyn Road in their next league fixture, but they will have to tighten their defence, strengthen their front-row and improve their support play if they are to have a realistic chance of making a challenge for the Championship this season.
The visitors started well at Llanrwst, unsettling the home side and driving them back with a series of excellent touch kicks from outside-half Richard Lloyd. Rhodri Evans, the new lock from Dolgellau created problems at the front of the line-out for Nant who responded by illegally blocking the release of the ball and late tackling Lloyd.
Four penalties within seven minutes were awarded to Wrexham, and skipper John Roberts nearly made it to the home try line with an angled run, but all that they had to show for their hard work was a single successful penalty in the 9th minute by centre Kerry Powell. There was plenty of adventure in Wrexham's play, but it was obvious that they were playing their first game of the season when they miss timed two attacking passes in threatening situations.
Gradually, Nant recovered and escaped from their half through their dominant front-row and the kicking skills of outside-half Peredur Ellis to mount pressure outside the Wrexham 22. Suddenly, their centres combined to create a swift attack and poor tackling by the visiting defence enabled full-back Adam Russell to join the line and score a 16th minute unconverted try in the corner.
Wrexham tried to reply through the powerful thrusts of number eight Gareth Noon and flanker Dean Griffiths but they had to switch to defensive mode when winger Hywel Raymond was sin-binned for a tackle on a player without the ball. They managed to survive the 10 minute period until Raymond's return, but their defence fell apart again in the 39th minute when Nant were allowed to create an overlap from which winger Steffan Morgan scored in the left corner.
Wrexham's four man coaching team worked feverishly at half-time to get their side back on track, replacing Rhodri Evans in the second-row with the big lock Mike McLeod to bolster the lightweight pack. With flanker Mike Ward tidying up well at the breakdown, Wrexham returned to the offensive and reduced the arrears in the 43rd minute with a well struck penalty by Powell.
This was quickly cancelled out by a penalty from Russell when Lloyd strayed offside, but the visitors maintained their momentum with Dave Morris replacing Griffiths on the flank and sensed a possible victory when a Nant flanker was finally yellow carded for persistent obstruction.
However, they spurned a golden opportunity to draw level when the ball was presented to the backs in the 67th minute less than 10 metres out with the home defence fully stretched on the left. The half-backs took the wrong option and directed the movement to the right where Nant had defenders in abundance and quickly snuffed out the danger.
With only 8 minutes of the match remaining, solid driving play by the home front row drew in the Wrexham defensive cover and the nippy home backs created a fast flowing move to make the match safe for them with a try in the corner by centre Gareth Williams. Russell kicked the conversion and added a penalty in injury time.
Wrexham Seconds were not at their strongest but still mounted a successful first defence of their North East Wales Division One title when they defeated Denbigh Seconds by 32-16 at Craig Road. Tries came from Nick Perrin, Jason Griffiths, man of the match Llyr Williams and Michael Powell, while Dylan Griffiths kicked well to add three conversions, a penalty and a drop goal.
The mini rugby teams commenced their new season with a visit to local rivals Mold and achieved a notable success at Under 9 level when they triumphed by 2-1 on tries. Jack Williams and Richard Williams grabbed a try apiece for the winners. The Under 10's played two games, going down by 2-4 in the first - Llewelyn Williams grabbing a brace of tries for the visitors - and 1-3 in the second, despite the determined tackling of Sean Walker and a fine touchdown by Nia Williams.
The Under 11's played four 10 minute encounters to utilise fully the large squads paraded by both clubs, drawing the first by 1-1 following an equalising interception try by Jack Chalenor. Mold emerged as 3-0 victors in the second game despite promising performances by Wrexham newcomers James Wilson and Nathan Jones. The third game was again evenly contested, with Mold edging a 1-0 victory. Another 1-0 success eventually went to the home side in the final game which was observed by selectors from the North-East Wales schools side.
Wrexham, well prepared for their new season thanks to improvements in their coaching set-up, start a fresh campaign in Division Four North with an enticing home game against Newtown at Bryn Estyn Road on Tuesday evening (kick-off at 6.30pm).
This game was originally due to take place in a fortnight's time but was brought forward by the Welsh Rugby Union to enable Saturday 13th September to be dedicated to the playing of the first round of the North Wales Regional Championship, avoiding any possible conflict with the main league programme.
Despite suffering the disappointment of having last Sunday's warm-up game against Glamorgan Wanderers cancelled by the Cardiff side, the Wrexham squad organised a full internal game which impressed their Coaching Director Dave Cheesbrough. "We had a good solid workout and what was vital was that we had a full 80 minutes of physical contact in a game situation", said Cheesbrough.
Two of the big forwards, Jason Griffiths and Mike McLeod, who had struggled with injuries during pre-season training and were doubtful starters for the beginning of the season, came through the game without mishap to give the squad a further boost. There was also an impressive newcomer's performance from John Gill, a former Youth Team player.
Skipper John Roberts is looking forward to the start of the new season and is keen to maintain the team's impressive form of the second half of last year when they escaped from a real threat of relegation and played with such conviction that they finished in sixth place in their division and nearly claimed the fourth spot.
Wrexham completed a double over Newtown with a 34-10 success at home in November followed by a narrow 26-18 victory at Newtown last January. Despite an impressive try scoring record, the Mid Wales outfit suffered a slump in form last season and were lucky to avoid relegation to what was then Division Six North.
The introduction of Wayne Pugh as the forwards coach at Wrexham with Norman Stalker taking care of the backs and Kevin Powell assisting in overall coaching matters has made a big impact in pre-season training throughout the recent months and is about to be put to its first test.
Tuesday's visitors possess a strong pack with former Wrexham Northern Counties star Tim Jones sniping from the scrum-half position. Their outside-half Gareth Gerrard has a good turn of pace and they rely on lock Neil Farrington to secure their line-out possession as well as take their kicks at goal.
The outcome of the first game of the season is always difficult to predict but one pointer is that the Wrexham side is far fitter and mobile than it was at the start of last season. While the forwards were hugely influential in winning the home game against Newtown last season, the backs dominated the second encounter with tries from John Roberts, Paul Edwards, Paul Mizzi and Hywel Raymond.
More can be expected from the backs in Tuesday's opening encounter as Cheesbrough and his coaches continue their transformation of the Wrexham squad from one which was perceived by many in North Wales to be a team of big forward plodders with very little else to offer. An opening victory for Wrexham would be a perfect tonic for the following Saturday's test against league champions Nant Conwy at Llanrwst.
Wrexham Seconds don't start the defence of their North East Wales Division One title until Saturday 6th September when they visit Denbigh Seconds. The Thirds start their challenge for the Division Two Championship with a home game against Corwen on Saturday 13th September.
The Youth Team have been training well during the summer and are looking forward to their first game on Saturday 20th September when Widnes will visit Bryn Estyn Road for a friendly. Their age range is 16 to 18 and they are always keen to welcome new players to their Thursday evening training sessions to strengthen their squad for a fresh campaign in Division One of the Dragons Trust North Wales Youth League.
In Mini and Junior Rugby, the mini rugby teams will visit Mold for their opening fixture on Sunday 7th September while the juniors will enjoy home games against Lymm. They run teams for all age groups from Under 8's to Under 16's.
Wrexham Rugby Club members, past and present, were saddened to learn last weekend of the death at the age of 68 of their amiable former Chairman and President Geoffrey St. John Goddard whose funeral took place at Llangollen Parish Church on Wednesday.
'Sinjun', as he was known by his many friends, joined the club in 1966 and played with distinction as a first team prop until 1972. Previously, between 1952 and 1966, he captained Manchester and Gosforth and his unstoppable presence in the front-row of the pack was rewarded with a succession of caps for Lancashire between 1959 and 1966.
During his playing days at Wrexham, he propped for Denbighshire, North Wales and the touring Crawshay's XV which was packed with international rugby stars. He became Chairman of Wrexham Rugby Club in 1972 and helped to make it the top club in North Wales and one of the most respected ones in the North West. He then became Wrexham's first President in 1983 and remained until 1990 when he took a well earned retirement.
Goddard's catch-phrase - 'Think about it' - underlined his basic philosophy in life and he was a great ambassador for Wrexham Rugby Club, often surprising and impressing those he met with his self-taught command of the Welsh language.
Wales put an end to a miserable string of 11 successive defeats with a 54-8 victory over a woeful Romanian side at Wrexham's Racecourse Ground in the third of their World Cup warm-up games on Wednesday evening. New full-back Gavin impressed with a personal tally of 24 points through his accurate kicking and the forgotten winger Shane Williams forced his way back into World Cup contention with a smart brace of tries.
The attendance of 4,000 was well below that expected and was due to a combination of the despair of fans after successive defeats and the fact that Romania, well beaten visitors to The Racecourse on two previous occasions, offered little fresh attraction.
North Wales supporters deserve better and the Welsh Rugby Union should consider bringing a leading international side to play Wales at Wrexham. Tomorrow, Wales play their fourth and final World Cup warm-up game at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff where they will face a very stiff test against a confident Scottish side.05/07/03 News
Wrexham's new pre-season rugby training programme got off to a good start at Bryn Estyn Road on Tuesday evening with over thirty players responding to the call from Head Coach Dave Cheesbrough and his staff to don training kit following over a month's rest from the game.
The new coaches, Wayne Pugh and Norman Stalker, who were officially introduced to the club at a players meeting last week, fitted in well and ran through some training routines designed to improve the power and endurance of players prior to the kick-off of the new season at the end of next month.
Most of the regular First Team squad, still relatively fit after their May tour to South Africa, attended this opening session but there were a couple of new faces around to concentrate minds and increase the level of competition for senior places. Utility forward Rhodri Evans has joined the club from Dolgellau and threequarter Gareth Smith has moved from the Mid Wales Cobra outfit.
Evans is a young policeman who has moved to the Wrexham area as part of his career development with North Wales Police and has solid experience of playing in the second-row as well as the back-row. Although he is not a particularly tall player he has physical presence and should compete well in the line-out where Dolgellau players traditionally excel.
Gareth Smith has experience of playing at full-back and outside-half and could prove to be the ideal replacement for Wrexham's Richard Lloyd should the former skipper decide to hang up his boots at the end of next season. The Cobra player is highly regarded and played for the Rhinos provincial side as well as the North Wales representative squad last season.
Mike McLeod, the experienced second-row forward who helped Wrexham to avoid relegation last season, was unable to train due to an injury, but is keen to play for another season and should be able to start his training programme at the end of this month. James Plant, the utility threequarter who missed most of last season due to an injury, has fully recovered and worked hard in Tuesday's training session.
The attendance by Second and Third Team players was poor but there was a notable appearance by the experienced war horse Carl Turner supported by regulars Mark Lloyd, Nick Perrin, Peter Dougan and Neil Route. Traditionally, their numbers increase as the start of the season nears.
Pre-season training for the senior sides continues throughout the summer at Bryn Estyn Road every Tuesday and Thursday evening at 7.00pm. They are joined on Thursday evenings by the Youth Team players, between 16 and 19 years of age, under the direction of their new coach Ian Gormley and his assistants.
Wrexham's first game of the season in Division Five North was announced this week and is somewhat of a surprise as it will take place at Bryn Estyn Road on Tuesday evening 2nd September against Newtown. This early mid-week fixture has been arranged so that Saturday 13th September can be fully dedicated to the playing of the first round of the North Wales Regional Championship
The Level 1 Referees Course arranged for Sunday 13th July at Colwyn Bay Rugby Club is set to attract 20 representatives from Wrexham Rugby Club. It has been decreed that only qualified referees will be covered by insurance to referee matches at any level in the new 2003/2004 season. The course starts at 9.30am and finishes at 4.30pm and any additional persons interested in attending should contact Neil Sissons at email@example.com.
Local Rugby Development Officer Marc Roberts is organising a Welsh Rugby Union level 1 coaching course at Denbigh Rugby Club on Saturday 9th August for those interested in obtaining the minimum qualification to coach players at junior or senior level. The course, which costs £50 per person, starts at 9.00am and closes at 5.00pm. Marc can be contacted on 01978 317689.
The Wrexham Mini and Junior Rugby Section are organising a Summer School for young male and female players interested in playing rugby and improving existing skills on Saturday and Sunday 16th and 17th August. This popular event will be held at the Bryn Estyn Road site and those interested in attending should contact Neil Sissons at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Following last week's meeting of the new coaching team at Bryn Estyn Road, it is now full steam ahead for Dave Cheesbrough and his assistants as they prepare for next Thursday's crucial Player's Meeting at the same venue which will effectively launch Wrexham Rugby Club's challenge for the 2003/2004 Division Five North League Championship.
Cheesbrough is very keen to achieve a full attendance at this crucial meeting which will give the players their first chance to meet the new front line coaches Wayne Pugh and Norman Stalker, and reflect on the problems which they encountered last year as they start to look forward to their new challenge. The meeting starts at 7.00pm at the club's Bryn Estyn Road headquarters.
"It is important that as many players as possible attend Thursday's meeting in order that the coaching team can identify certain player needs and can then set goals and targets for the forthcoming season," stressed Cheesbrough. Last year's Youth Team Coach Kevin Powell has also been added to the coaching group and will assist with the preparation of the First Team.
Pre-season training will commence at 7.00pm on the following Tuesday 1st July and will continue on every Tuesday and Thursday evening throughout the summer. Wayne Pugh confirmed that the early sessions will incorporate power and endurance work to provide a fitness base which is intended to carry the players through the season.
Skills will be sharpened and improved as the training programme gathers momentum and new backs coach Norman Stalker will assume full responsibility for honing the cutting edge of the threequarter line. Practice games are being planned for mid August although preparations have been hampered by the lack of a replacement so far for Fixture Secretary Paul Roberts who completed a three year tenure in the post at the end of last season.
Ian Gormley who has been appointed as the new Youth Team Coach to succeed Kevin Powell, is forming a support team and will commence his training programme on Thursday 3rd July at Bryn Estyn Road at 7.00pm. His squad will be sponsored by local company Wrexham Signs and he is very keen to recruit new players from 16 to 18 years of age to strengthen his side.
Kevin Davies and Sean Williams have been confirmed as the captains of the Second and Third Teams respectively and are keen to increase the involvement of their teams in the pre-season training programmes. This has been difficult due to the slender coaching resources available for the last three seasons, but the lower teams should be well catered for.
In April, the Seconds claimed the North East Wales Division One Championship for the third year in succession and the Thirds were not far away from winning the Division Two Championship. With improved coaching methods and the resultant higher fitness and skill levels, there is no reason why both teams cannot win their respective league titles next season.
This Sunday, Dave Cheesbrough and one of his assistant coaches will attend a Coaching Seminar at Colwyn Bay run by the North Wales branch of the Welsh Rugby Union and led by Llanelli Coach Gareth Jenkins who is hotly tipped to become the next Welsh Coach when current coach Steve Hansen has completed his contract. The seminar starts at 10.30am and concludes at 4.00pm with presentations by Jenkins and a demonstration by the successful Gwynedd Under 15's side.
A Level 1 Referees Course has been arranged for Sunday 13th July at Colwyn Bay Rugby Club to provide anyone interested in refereeing games with a minimum qualification. Wrexham Rugby club are sending 20 representatives as it has been decreed that only qualified referees will be covered by insurance to referee matches at any level in the new 2003/2004 season.
Wrexham committee member Neil Sissons, recently appointed as Vice Chairman of the North Wales Junior Rugby Association, is coordinating the course which starts at 9.30am and finishes at 4.30pm. Those completing the course will be presented with a referees kit and the cost of £50 per person will be met by the Wrexham Rugby Club Mini and Junior Committee if the delegate is enrolled with them as a member.
Wrexham Chairman Gareth Lewis has been active in the close season organising events and preparing for the forthcoming season. He is anxious to appoint a new Fixture and Referees Secretary and put his new management team in place at the club's Annual General Meeting which is scheduled for next month. A date for the meeting will be announced once the club accounts have been finalised and audited.
Those looking forward to next season's Six Nations Championship may wish to note that Wales will kick-off their challenge with a home game against Scotland on Saturday 14th February 2004 at 4.00pm. Bearing in mind Wales's stirring performance against Australia in Sydney last week and Scotland's two successive defeats in South Africa, the Scots could be scheduled for a 'Valentine's Day Massacre' at the Millennium Stadium.
Wrexham Rugby Club announced their new coaching set-up this week with forwards coach Wayne Pugh and backs coach Norman Stalker joining the existing team of Dave Cheesbrough and Marc Roberts who rescued the club from the bottom of the Division Five North Championship last season and eventually steered them to a respectable 6th place.
Both of the newcomers have become highly respected coaches throughout North Wales and Wirral since finishing their playing careers, Pugh with the Denbighshire and Flintshire Bulls provincial squad and then the Welsh Women's 'A' Rugby Team while Stalker, a former Chester player, has coached successfully at Chester and Caldy.
Wayne Pugh is already well known at Bryn Estyn Road as he played with distinction as a second-row forward for the club from 1985 to 1991, making over 130 appearances during which he scored 33 tries. He scored 20 of those tries in the record breaking 1986/87 season under the legendary skipper Rob Jones when Mike Mahoney was coaching at the club.
In between, he enjoyed a brief spell at Liverpool St.Helens who were one of the top sides in England at the time. He was a quick learner and shared his new found skills with his Wrexham colleagues when he returned to the club. Pugh finished his playing days at Chester and Caldy where he resumed an old friendship with his former adversary Norman Stalker.
Stalker played with distinction in the threequarter line for Chester during the Eighties and then turned to coaching. One of his best achievements was in helping to guide Chester to the final of the Cheshire Cup Competition against Sale in the late Nineties. Most recently, he has coached Caldy during a very
successful season and is Head of Physical Education at Caldy Grammar School.
Pugh and Stalker will bring a fresh vitality to their specific areas on the training field and will be officially introduced to the club at a Player's Meeting on Thursday 26th June at 7.00pm. Pre-season training will start on the following Tuesday and will continue on every Tuesday and Thursday evening throughout the summer.
Dave Cheesbrough will continue to be involved in coaching at Bryn Estyn Road but will play a more executive role in planning and co-coordinating Wrexham's challenge in the Division Five North Championship next season. The difficult task of rescuing the club from relegation is not something that Cheesbrough will want to face again and he will be determined to prepare his side for a successful start in September.
No changes in personnel in the Wrexham squad have been reported so far but the introduction of Pugh and Stalker to the coaching team could attract some much needed new players. The existing back line combines a fine blend of experience and youth but the pack needs reinforcement in several areas if it compete with the mobility of Nant Conwy and Llangefni who set the Championship on fire last season.
Many First Team players were included in the 54 man touring party which has recently returned from a successful tour to the Cape Town area in South Africa where they played three local clubs with mixed results.
They won the opening game by 24-7 against Blakes RFC from the Western Province Premier league 'C' with tries from full-back Chris Andrew, centre Mike Andrew, replacement hooker Gareth Perrin and replacement lock Jason Griffiths. Outside-half Darrell Hughes landed two conversions while lock Gareth Sanger and flanker Dave Morris shared the Man of the Match Award.
Two days later, they nearly defeated the highly fancied Premier League 'A' side Stand RVK but were eventually forced to concede a 38-44 defeat to the relieved home side. Tries came from scrum-half John Roberts, outside-half James Plant, centre Mike Andrew, prop Rob Pierce, replacement lock Jason Griffiths and full-back Kevin Powell. Powell added 3 conversions and Eamonn Curtain landed one more while Roberts, Gareth Sanger and Rob Pierce were acclaimed for their outstanding performances.
Tour weariness cost them the final game at Retreat RFC from Division 'C' who triumphed by 19-17. Flanker Dean Griffiths claimed the first try for the tourists and other touchdowns came from centre John Roberts and hooker Gareth Perrin with full-back Kerry Powell adding one conversion. Skipper John Roberts won the Man of the Match Award.
On and off the field of play, the tourists made many new friends and fostered the growth of rugby in non-white communities in the Cape Town area by presenting free rugby kits to the youth teams of the clubs which they played on their 10 day tour. The final game at Retreat RFC was watched by over 2,000 spectators and was preceded by a civic reception for skipper John Roberts and his touring party.
The tour was superbly organised by Ian Gallagher who has already taken the club to Ireland, Chicago and Toronto. Having seen his charges enjoying the ultimate experience of swimming with sharks in the South Atlantic and abseiling from Table Mountain, however, he must be wondering how he can improve on this year's adventure.
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