Semi-final day in South Wales

It’s time for the men’s League semi-finals in South Wales with the unbeaten South Wales Jets hosting Bridgend Blue Bulls at The Wern in Merthyr Tydfil and holders Rhondda Outlaws travelling to Harlequins Field in Port Talbot to face Aberavon Fighting Irish. Both games kick-off at 2.30pm.

Playing their first games of rugby league this year after playing charity rugby union previously, the Jets have recruited some of the best players in community and former semi-professional rugby league, many of whom new each other from clubs like South Wales Scorpions and Valley Cougars.

Liam “Biz” Price, founder of the Jets, said: “This year already has been incredibly successful for us but that means nothing as we move into the playoffs. One of our hardest games this year was against an extremely experienced Bridgend side and we expect no different this week. We certainly won’t be underestimating a team so familiar with the playoffs.”

Bridgend have won ten of the previous 19 titles and will be determined to win an 11th this season. Their head coach Marcus “Jaba” Thomas said: “We are looking forward to playing the Jets again this year after a fantastic display of rugby league when we last played. We know it’s going to be a hard game against a side that is undefeated but the boys are up for the challenge. After an up and down season from us, we will look to put some wrongs right on the day and make it to the Grand Final.”

Aberavon Fighting Irish lost 22-20 to Rhondda Outlaws in last year’s Grand Final, reaching the big dance in their first season back in open-age league for 16 years.

The Irish were also runners up in the first season of the league back in 2003 and Richard Lewis, who played for the side in 2003, is still playing in 2023 as well as working in a coaching position at Wales Rugby League, is looking forward to the contest. He said: “We at the Irish are very well looking forward to the usual battle against our closest rivals Outlaws. After a slow start, we have grown weekly and took the game to the wire against Jets which shows the character and want in our squad. The plan is to stick to the process and compete sets and finish strong. Defensively we have been consistent all season but will need to be on our A-Game to keep Outlaws out.

“We have both agreed to a 20-man squad which should keep the tempo and skill-set high and hope to put on a show for everyone watching.

“I’d like to thank all our sponsors at Fighting Irish, without their input and the several staff behind the scenes these players wouldn’t be able to perform as well as they do.

“A big good luck to both Jets and Bulls in the other playoff. Hope everyone enjoyed and it’s a hard-fought game.”

The Outlaws will be equally as keen to defend their title. James Allen from the club said: “After a disappointing performance against Irish in the regular season game, we, as a young new team, feel we have corrected and improved important parts of our game. We have had a lot of player changes since last summer and lots of players under the age of 20 have joined and a few are playing their first season of league, so to find ourselves in the play-offs is a credit to them and how this team has improved together through some difficult games. We are looking forward to the game, which we know will be physical and fast.”