THE sporting year began with a lofty comparison for Taunton Town, who were likened to Manchester City by AFC Totton manager Louis Langdown after winning 4-0 in Hampshire.

Ross Staley scored a hat-trick in that victory before jetting off to Australia, but his departure did not disrupt the team as they continued to sit pretty at the top of the table.

Taunton Titans also enjoyed a strong start to 2018, winger Ollie Rice scoring a remarkable six tries in a thumping 66-15 win over Wimbledon, but a 38-22 defeat at rivals Redruth the following weekend dented promotion ambitions.

Elsewhere on the rugby field, Taunton Colt Joe Snow linked up with the England Under-20s for the Six Nations and Wiveliscombe and Wellington continued their own promotion charges.

Hannah Taunton began a successful year by becoming the first lady home at the Stoke Stampede 10k and January ended with a visit from darts royalty as Raymond van Barneveld visited Somerset ahead of the Premier League.

Taunton Vale Hockey Club’s men’s first team gave their survival hopes a shot in the arm with a 3-2 win over PGSOB, but two defeats the following weekend dampened spirits and they were relegated from the GoCrea8 Premiership in March - the Ladies’ firsts finished mid-table in the West Club’s Women’s League Premiership.

Snow disrupted the sporting action in March but there were no such weather worries on Australia’s Gold Coast, where the Commonwealth Games took place at the start of April.

Somerset was well represented at the games - Taunton shooter David Luckman successfully retained his gold medal, Rob Paxton claimed bronze in the bowls and former King’s College student Maddie Hinch did likewise as part of the England Hockey team.

The silverware theme continued back home as Taunton Town romped to promotion, which was secured in the last week of March, and then wrapped up the league title the following week.

Craig Veal’s 86th-minute winner against Kidlington on March 31 ensured the Peacocks would be playing Southern League Premier Division football for the first time in 2018/19, leaving boss Leigh Robinson to hail the “hunger and desire” of his talented squad.

They did not rest once the title was secured either, extending their club-record unbeaten run and adding another trophy to the cabinet with victory over Beaconsfield Town in the ‘Champion of Champions’ match - a truly memorable season at Wordsworth Drive.

It was not such plain sailing for Somerset County Cricket Club, whose pre-season preparations were disrupted by events on and off the field.

Lee Cooper resigned as chief executive after just nine months in the role and, over in South Africa, overseas signing Cameron Bancroft was spotted applying sandpaper to the ball being used in the third Test between the hosts and Australia.

A worldwide sporting scandal erupted and amid increasing furore - some of which seemed more than a little over the top - Somerset took the decision to cancel the batsman’s contract.

In brighter news, Jack Leach made his England Test debut in New Zealand having banged on the door for the previous two seasons and, on the domestic front, Bancroft’s replacement Matt Renshaw scored consecutive centuries as Somerset won their first two County Championship matches for the first time since 1993.

In netball, Galmington Hovelands completed a brilliant treble and our running clubs continued to astound with some of their feats - Peter Hall and Martin Webb, from Running Forever, completed an epic 190-mile Northern Traverse race across three National Parks.

The rugby season ended in ecstasy and agony as Wellington were promoted back to Western Counties (West) as champions but Wiveliscombe were denied at the last, losing their promotion play-off 15-12 to Barton Hill.

Taunton Titans were forced to settle for another season of ‘close but no cigar’, finishing fourth behind the runaway duo of Chinnor and Cinderford.

The Taunton Saturday League came to a close having been dominated by Bridgwater sides - Middlezoy Reserves won Division 1 and Redgate came out on top in Division 2.

FC Castlemoat restored some Taunton pride with the Division 3 title and Ash Rangers’ men and ladies enjoyed cup success.

Wellington and Bishops Lydeard secured mid-table finishes in their respective Western League divisions and Watchet Town narrowly failed to defend their Somerset County League Premier Division title - at the other end, Staplegrove were relegated.

As the winter sports drew to a close the summer sports began, and Taunton Deane claimed the bragging rights with an early-season WEPL Premier 2 Bristol/Somerset win over Taunton.

Newly-promoted Taunton St Andrew’s got off to a flyer with three straight wins in Premier 1, including victory over champions Bath, but life would get harder for the Saints as the season wore on - see later this week for more on that in part two of our sporting review of 2018.