Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Glantaf are going into this Friday’s national Champion Schools Year 9 Final full of confidence as they take on Mirfield Free Grammar School at Richmond RUFC (kick-off 3.40pm) writes Ian Golden .
The day is part of a festival of national Rugby League finals with all competitors attending the Rugby League Challenge Cup Final at Wembley Stadium the next day.
Mirfield is the former school of Hollywood star Patrick Stewart whilst his colleagues Ioan Gruffudd and Matthew Rhys once attending the Welsh language school, but it’s unknown whether they will be lending their support on Friday.
One former pupil who will be though is Jamie Roberts. Now playing rugby union for Harlequins, the Glantaf side will be attending a session with him in London on the day before the game.
Wembley winners two years ago in the Year 7 Final after beating Widnes’ Wade Deacon, they lost by one conversion to the same school in the 2016 year 8 final. That remains the only game of Rugby League that the players have lost and they’ve still never been outscored on tries in a game.
Glantaf skipper Gwilym Evans has sent a bilingual message ahead of the day and it appears he is very much looking forward to the event.
“It’s the third time in a row that we’ll be travelling to London to play in the Champion Schools Final,” he said. “Unfortunately we lost in the last year’s final against Wade Deacon so I’m determined to win this year.
“We qualified for the nationals by winning last year’s WRL competition. Our national tour then began at Maidenhead against Hinchley Wood of Claygate, London. The final score was 38-0. The squad were all really pleased with the result and Mr Garner, our teacher and coach, was impressed with the 0 on the scoreboard.
“We have improved our defence this year and I would like to thank Idris Evans for holding exercise sessions around the ruck area. After playing a home game against Outwood Grange, I was a little disappointed with the performance but we still won 36-12 in front of around 500 pupils.
“It was important that we had the chance to improve our performance in the semi-final against Brooksbank. The boys were vigilant because Wade Deacon had lost to this team in the previous round. Thanks to the outstanding performance from Louis Rhochfort-Shugar and wearing out the Brooksbank defence, we won the game. It was nice to see Harri Griffiths win the player of the match after a great performance in defence and attack.
“We go into the final having never faced Mirfield Free Grammar School and we are determined that we will not repeat the disappointment of last year.
“We resumed training this week and on Thursday we will travel to Richmond and visit Twickenham Stoop to see former Glantaf pupil, Jamie Roberts train at Harlequins.
“I expect a hard but exciting game and I hope that we can make sure we get the right result but more importantly the right performance.”
Champions Schools 2017 Finals itinerary
Friday 25 August
YEAR 7 GIRLS
Castleford Academy v Malet Lambert (Hull) (11.00am)
YEAR 8 GIRLS
St John Fisher (Dewsbury) v St Peter’s (Manchester) (noon)
YEAR 8 BOYS
St Peter’s (Wigan) v St John Fisher (Wigan) (1.00pm)
YEAR 9 GIRLS
Outwood Grange (Wakefield) v Castleford Academy (2.40pm)
YEAR 9 BOYS
Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Glantaf (Cardiff) v Mirfield Grammar (Kirklees) (3.40pm)
YEAR 10 GIRLS
Castleford Academy v St John Fisher (Dewsbury) (4.55pm)
YEAR 10 BOYS
Castleford Academy v St Peter’s (Wigan) (6.10pm)
All at Richmond Athletic Association, London. Admission £3 (£1 concessions)
Saturday 26 August
YEAR 7 BOYS
STEVEN MULLANEY MEMORIAL FINAL
Castleford Academy v St Peter’s (Wigan)
At Wembley Stadium (1.05pm)