WAN­DER­ERS OFF TO A FINE START

Carmarthen Journal - - Local Rugby -

LLANELLI Wan­der­ers are gear­ing up for their re­turn to ac­tion at Gow­er­ton on Satur­day look­ing to con­tinue a de­cent start to the cam­paign in Di­vi­sion One West.

The Stradey Park club have won four and lost two of their first six matches and are cur­rently fifth in the ta­ble, nine points back on lead­ers and last sea­son’s cham­pi­ons Felin­foel.

They also have a game in hand on all of the top three sides, in­clud­ing sec­ond-placed Gow­er­ton, ahead of the week­end clash.

The Wan­der­ers have also pro­gressed to the third round of the WRU Na­tional Plate where they have been handed a tough-look­ing trip to 2014 run­ners-up and One East Cen­tral ta­ble-top­pers Rhi­w­bina.

John Davies’s side have cer­tainly re­sponded well af­ter what was, by their own ad­mis­sion, a dis­ap­point­ing eighth-placed fin­ished last sea­son, hav­ing fin­ished run­ners-up in 201617.

The new cam­paign has al­ready brought home vic­to­ries over Hendy, Tenby United and Dun­vant as well as a win at Kid­welly, while they were nar­rowly beaten 10-6 at home by Felin­foel on the open­ing day and also went down nar­rowly 14-13 at Gor­seinon.

In the Plate, the Wan­der­ers got the bet­ter of Bry­na­man 22-15 in round two af­ter a walkover against Ty­croes in the first round.

“On the whole we’re pleased with the start,” said sec­re­tary Richard Keenan.

“Af­ter a dis­ap­point­ing sea­son last year the tar­gets were to fin­ish in the top four and to reach the quar­ter-fi­nals of the Plate com­pe­ti­tion.

“We were bit­terly dis­ap­pointed to lose the first game to Felin­foel as it was a game we should have won that day, and also speak­ing to Felin­foel, they also stated that they were lucky to win it.

“Hendy was a great lo­cal derby,” he added. “It was a re­ally hard, phys­i­cal game of rugby with two big dis­ci­plined packs go­ing ham­mer and tongs.

“We were 21-10 down with 15 min­utes to go and came back to win 2221 with a last kick of the game con­ver­sion. That, for the coaches, was the most pleas­ing re­sult.”

The Wan­der­ers lost tal­ented backs Jonathan Ge­orge and Dafydd Daniel to Felin­foel be­fore the sea­son started as well as flanker Shaun Ed­wards to Llan­gen­nech.

That, though, has given youth a chance to shine, with Lewis Jones at full-back, winger Jor­dan Evans and Lloyd Thomas at No. 10 all mak­ing an im­pact so far.

Keenan con­tin­ued: “We were dis­ap­pointed to lose those boys but there’s no sour grapes, they’ve gone on to bet­ter them­selves and we’ve shuf­fled our pack.

“Lewis, who was in youth last sea­son, and Jor­dan, who is still a youth player this sea­son, have both been ex­cep­tional and re­ally adapted well to Di­vi­sion One rugby.

“Lloyd has switched from full-back to out­side-half and he’s con­trol­ling it re­ally well for us.

“I think of our squad that played Bry­na­man, 19 of them have come through our ju­nior ranks.

“Our cap­tain James Ban­nis­ter is in his 31st sea­son with the club this year, hav­ing started when he was five!

“Last sea­son we were in the mid­dle of the re­de­vel­op­ment of our changes rooms and build­ing a club­house which hit snag af­ter snag.

“We didn’t play at home un­til af­ter Christ­mas, we were play­ing on the col­lege pitch and lo­cal park pitch and ev­ery­thing that could have wrong with the de­vel­op­ment went wrong, but we’re pleased that’s be­hind us and things are look­ing good at the mo­ment off the field too.”

The Wan­der­ers also have one eye on their Plate trip to Rhi­w­bina on De­cem­ber 8 when a place in the last 16 will be at stake.

“It’s a tough draw, par­tic­u­larly up there,” con­tin­ued Keenan. “But I was talk­ing to some­one last week and, as they said, Llanelli Wan­der­ers are also a good side and we shouldn’t hold any fear go­ing up there.”

Llanelli Wan­der­ers’ Ben­jamin Wil­liams tries to break through the Kid­welly de­fence in a game last sea­son.

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