IT’S the penultimate week of the 2019 Welsh Rugby League domestic season with semi-finals at four different levels taking place writes Ian Golden.
The prize at stake is a place in Grand Finals day at Sardis Road on Sunday 11 August. And Rhondda Outlaws, who finished top of the Premier League table, are determined to reach the event, which is taking place at their ground.
They take on Cardiff Blue Dragons in the semi-final this Sunday in Pontypridd (kick-off 2.30pm) and after losing at this stage in the last two years, coach James Allen hopes it will be third time lucky.
He said: “We’ve been unsuccessful on the last two occasions but this time we feel we are better prepared.
“We’ll go into Sunday’s game with confidence in our ability, and without underestimating Cardiff. We know they are a physical team that will keep coming until the final whistle as we’ve seen from last weekend’s fixture. We wish all the semi-finalists good luck.”
The other Premier League semi-final is on Pyle RFC on Friday night when Bridgend Blue Bulls host Torfaen Tigers A (kick-off 7pm).
Bridgend have already qualified for the Under 12s and Under 14s finals – and the Bulls, who last won the senior final in 2016, would love to be in a third.
Steve Smith, Blue Bulls club general manager, said: “We’re really proud of our juniors who have had superb seasons and deserve their place in the Under 12s and Under 14s finals. It’s been an excellent adventure and they have excited all expectations. All the games have been competitive and a joy to be a part of. There is some fantastic talent in South Wales and the future is bright in Bridgend.
“In regards to the seniors, it’s been tough to get games this summer, but the ones we have had have been competitive and tough challenges. Hats off to the players who have stuck at it and hopefully this Friday’s semi-final won’t be our last game this summer.”
All three junior semi-finals feature Aber Valley. The Wolves slipped 40-26 at Torfaen Tigers in last night’s Under 16s encounter; the Tigers will take on Cardiff Blue Dragons in the final. Torfaen and Aber Valley meet again, at Under 12s level, on Sunday (kick-off 10am).
Helen Treherne from Aber Valley Wolves is proud of the club’s achievements this year.
She said: “Aber Valley Wolves are thrilled to be in all three Under 12s, Under 14s and Under 16s play-offs and that’s a testament to the hard work and dedication of players, coaches and parents.
“Two of our age groups won the Grand Final last season so we hope to emulate that success again this year but, whatever the outcome, we are and will remain immensely proud of all our young Wolves.
“We have great facilities, an impressive 105 juniors on our books – including an influx of over 40 Under 12s, who had never played Rugby League before – which proves that participation in Wales is definitely increasing. Good luck to all the teams in the play-offs.”
Wolves’ Under 14s encounter is against Cynon Valley Cavaliers at Aneurin Park, also on Sunday (kick-off noon), and the Cavaliers, in their first year as a club, were almost in two semi-finals having only missed out on the Under 12s game on points’ difference.
Jamie Evans, the Cavaliers Under 14s coach, said: “It’s amazing to think that we did not even exist two weeks into the 2019 Rugby League season after replacing a side that withdrew.
“What started out as a meeting with Rob Davies from Wales Rugby League has snowballed into something fantastic. We’ve fielded over 50 boys in our Under 12s and Under 14s, all of whom are new to the game.
“A big thank you to our guest coaches Rob Davies, Kim Williams from West Wales Raiders and the league legend, former Celtic Crusaders and Leeds Rhinos junior coach Andy Lindley.
“The boys have been magnificent, taking everything in their stride and are improving week on week but we’ve a massive test on Sunday against a quality side who play all hands rugby, and we are looking forward to the challenge that awaits.”
Thursday 1 August 2019
Torfaen Tigers 40 Aber Valley Wolves 26 (at New Panteg RFC, kick-off 7pm)
Winners to face Cardiff Blue Dragons
Friday 2 August 2019
Bridgend Blue Bulls v Torfaen Tigers A (Pyle RFC, kick-off 7pm)
Sunday 4 August 2019
Rhondda Outlaws v Cardiff Blue Dragons A (Sardis Road, Pontypridd, kick-off 2.30pm)
Torfaen Tigers v Aber Valley Wolves (New Panteg RFC, 10am)
Winners to face Bridgend Blue Bulls
Aber Valley Wolves v Cynon Valley Cavaliers (Aneurin Park, Caerphilly, noon)
Winners to face Bridgend Blue Bulls