There were three wins from three for the Welsh Premiership sides in the Cardiff Blues development pathway, as the national club competition got underway on a very wet weekend across South Wales.
First up in the season curtain raiser on Friday night at the Arms Park was Cardiff RFC against the black and ambers of Newport RFC. The Rags began life as more of an unofficial second string Cardiff Blues side with no fewer than eight full-time contracted players in the matchday squad.
Tier 2 academy players Joe Gaughan and Morgan Sieniawski started at number eight and blindside flanker respectively, while loosehead prop Rhys Carre took a seat on the bench after returning from Wales U18 duty in South Africa. Senior academy players Rhun Williams, Harri Millard and Seb Davies all started in the spine of the tean at 5, 13 and 15.
Game time was also awarded to senior players Jarrod Evans and Salesi Ma’afu. In the case of Evans it’s understandable to see him there with Cardiff RFC somewhat light at stand-off, while Steve Shingler and Gareth Anscombe were fit to take their place in the first team squad. However, Ma’afu on the other hand is purely there to gain match fitness which he so desperately needs and has been attempting to reach for almost a year now.
In an end-to-end encounter Cardiff took the lead after Rhun Williams set up winger Ceri Young to score, before the favour was returned and the young full-back claimed his first Arms Park try. Newport came back into the game either side of half-time, but it was the impressive goal kicking of Jarrod Evans who sealed the win for the home side thanks to two touchline kicks. A 25-22 victory to kick the season off for Duane Goodfield’s men.
On the Saturday it was the turn of the Valleys sides as Pontypridd paid a visit to Bedwas whilst wearing their horrific multi-coloured away kit this season, an ode to the Refresher sweets. Tier 2 academy centre Cameron Lewis was selected to start at 13 alongside scrum half Dane Blacker, with counterpart Josh Novell covering lock from the bench. Senior academy hooker Liam Belcher started and was joined in the front row by senior prop Brad Thyer, while Aled Summerhill covered an injury shortage at full-back.
It wasn’t a perfect start for Ponty but they managed to scrape a 13-18 win thanks to tries from wingers Lewis Williams and Alex Webber, as well as Aled Summerhill getting on the scoreboard. The boot of former Cardiff Blues fly-half Ceri Sweeney also came in handy as Josh Novell entered the fray towards the end of the game, only to depart shortly afterwards to the sin bin while Ponty clung on to secure victory.
In the final of the three wins tier 2 academy winger Terri Gee started for Merthyr as they were victorious away at Cross Keys in their first Premiership match after last season’s Championship winning campaign. Former Cardiff Blues hooker Rhys Williams was amongst the scorers, and number 8 Andy Powell picked up a yellow card, as Lee Jarvis’ men won 3-18 in a solid opening weekend win.
Elsewhere in the pathway there was some college action on Wednesday as the WRU U18 College League got underway. Reigning champions Coleg y Cymoedd sent Coleg Llandrillo back to North Wales on the end of a 49-12 thrashing at The Wern. Cardiff & Vale took the spoils at CAP with a 14-8 win over Glantaf, who were playing their first game at this level and finally, Whitchurch beat Bridgend away 6-44. No confirmation on if there was a game for Cowbridge, and if so what the score was, at this stage.
To round off this week’s pathway report there was a win for Cardiff Blues U16 North, 7-29 away at Llanelli in Tenby, and their U16 South counterparts drew 31-31 with Ospreys at the Arms Park to complete a very successful initial age grade campaign for the two young sides.
Saturday 10th September – Merthyr RFC vs Cardiff RFC, 14:30, The Wern.
Pontypridd RFC – no game
College Fixtures – TBC