WITH 24 children ready to display their emerging talents, the Old Penarthians Rugby Club U7s - aka the Titans - were able to field three teams when they travelled to Cwmbran on Sunday for their last tournament of the season.
Facing teams from the host town, Pontypool, Ebbw Vale and Forgeside, excited Titans were full of anticipation, having already won the Cardiff and Vale and District Cup and Plate competition and the Pencoed Tournament Cup and being eager to add to their growing collection of silverware.
Old Pens Green and Blue teams were drawn in Pool A and the Reds in Pool B and it was the Blues, coached by Ryan Pratt, who were the first to show the 'Steel Country' what the 'Old Seasiders' could do. Showing blistering pace, they eased to victory. The team played with a passion and love for the game that makes rugby, even at this young age, great to watch and take part in. Their tag tackles in defence were telling as they built a lead in each game on turnover ball after six tag tackles. Captain Joe Francis-Oaten, Oliver Long and Max Pratt tagged at the heart of the defence and caused chaos in attack. They were supported by fast runners Evan Friis and Callum O'Brien, who seemed they could score from anywhere on the field, and, not to be outdone, Wil Seeley and Dylan Davies jinked their way to many tries.
Winning their pool, Blues qualified for the final, but were pushed all the way, especially in the Titans 'derby' game with the Greens.
Coached by Anthony Friis, the Greens also lost their opening game against Croesyceiliog but ended up a respectable third in their pool. Skipper for the day Harry Edwards led the way like all good captains, with stout defence from Ethan Beasley, Casper Morley and Alfie Gore and some exceptional running from Freddie Evans, Twm Ryan-Davies and Theo Simmonds. The team combined and worked well and exemplified the Titans' strength in depth.
The Reds team, coached by head coach Stuart Barter, opened strongly in their pool and made short work of Forgeside and hosts Cwmbran, with Haydn Craven switching play from side to side and setting Jericho Perkins and Macsen Callaghan free to run in tries. With Stuart telling the boys that ‘attack is built on defence,’ captain Josh King tagged and turned the ball over on many occasions and, with strong defence from Connor Kennedy, James Bennett and William Davis, it looked like the Reds were heading for an all Old Penarthians’ final. However, in their final game, they continued to battle well before being losing to Pontypool United, who were also undefeated. A highlight for the Reds came from Josh who brought his side back to within one try when he intercepted a long pass and ran the length of the pitch to score.
In the final, with a tense atmosphere and in high temperatures, the Blues fell behind to two early tries before responding through Callum. Despite the Titans' great efforts in a game of end to end rugby, Pontypool maintained a two-try advantage to run out winners.
As Titans surrendered their unbeaten cup record, tears replaced the sweat but everyone was extremely proud of their achievements on the day and over the whole season.
With the Blues finishing as runners-up and the Reds third on try count, there were plenty of medals to be collected.
After the tears were replaced by song on the coach journey home, all the players were greeted back at the clubhouse with loud applause and cheering.
Head coach Stuart Barter said: "All the players have done so well this year, in training, games and tournaments. It was always going to take a very good side to beat us and we came up against them today.
"We have a very bright future with these players and we look forward to doing the same next season."