Tuesday 19th February saw the kick off of a new era for schools rugby league in the principality with the inaugural Wales Schools Finals Day, held on a bright sunny day at Celtic Crusaders’ Brewery Field in Bridgend.
Schools rugby league in Wales has been going for some years now in the Carnegie Champion Schools tournament, with Brynteg Comprehensive’s Year 7 side beating Castleford High to win the trophy at the Millennium Stadium in 2005.
However this year, for the very first time, the two best teams in each year group were given the chance to compete for the Wales Schools Cup.
Both of the finalists in each year will progress to the national stages of the tournament, however the aim of this day, the first of an annual event, was to reward the best schools in Wales.
In the year 7 game Porthcawl Comprehensive enjoyed their first foray into the competition by beating Monmouth Comprehensive comfortably 60-16 with the wide expanses of the Brewery Field proving a big advantage for their pacy backs.
At year 8 it was much closer game with St Josephs of Aberavon facing Ysgol Gyfun Cwm Rhymni. In what was the game of the day, Cwm Rhymni finished winners after a couple of late scores winning 28-18 with slick handling and robust defence proving a great combination.
The year 9 final was a tough encounter with Brynteg making the short trip across town to play Croesyceiliog Comprehensive. This was billed as a tight game and it lived up to the hype with outstanding performances from both teams. After some sterling defensive work and fluid attacking Croesyceiliog were triumphant 36-10. There were stand out performances from both sides, with a lot of the Wales under 14s squad on show.In the year 10 game, Brynteg continued their good run of form as a year group, running home comfortable winners over Brynmawr Comprehensive 46-0. Since winning the national competition at year 7 in the Millennium stadium, this year group continue to excel as being the top team in Wales.
Celtic Crusaders’ Neale Wyatt was on hand to present the trophies for the first two finals and he said: “I really enjoyed the matches. It was easy to see that they these games were finals as they were played at a very high standard. The games were competitive and also played in good spirit. I look forward to seeing all of the kids back at the Brewery Field this season as Crusaders fans.”
To top the day off for the youngsters, Celtic Crusaders announced that as a reward for their dedication to the sport, all players would receive a free junior season ticket for 2008.
Wales Rugby League development officer Dan Clements said: “This is a great way for the Celtic Crusaders to recognise the efforts of everyone involved in the schools rugby league programme. The teachers and pupils worked tirelessly from September leading up to today’s games, often giving up their spare time after school.
“This year’s Carnegie Champion Schools tournament has been a resounding success in Wales with more participants right across the board and it has led to more games and improved performances on the pitch. To cap it off at a Welsh Schools finals day has been great. Being at the home of the Celtic Crusaders has added to the occasion immensely, in terms of enjoyment and experience and all the participants had a smile on their face all day”.