PENARTH RFC’S Under-16s and supporters recently travelled to France to compete in the 15th Tournoi International De Cornouaille in Quimper, Brittany, a two-day event.

The tournament was played on two artificial pitches within an impressive stadium and Penarth were in a pool of six teams which included a very strong Vannes team with 85 U-16 players to choose from.

Our first game was against Centre 29, a team from Brittany. With games only 12 minutes long, it was important that they started strongly.

Some great ball handling from the backs saw Aled Rees score the first try of the day, converted by Drew Musa. A second try from Adam Nilsen settled the nerves and the game ended with a 14-0 victory to Penarth.

Next up was a Belgium national select team who looked physically strong and athletic.

Another good performance from the boys saw Drew Musa take the ball flat from the scrum whilst running at pace, he drew in the defenders and then outpaced them to finish off a great move.

He successfully converted his own try. Some great work from the forwards, particularly Cameron Sultana, with two lineout steals in this game, gave the backs plenty of possession and Adam Nilsen put his foot on the gas to cross over for the second try, converted by Drew Musa again.

This was an important victory 14-3 which gave the boys confidence going forwards.

Game 3 was against last year’s tournament winners Vannes RC, a professional club in France with a strong junior set up.

We were told by our host the night before that we would not beat Vannes! This was all the motivation we needed and with confidence high and some ferocious tackling by Lewys Williams, Evan Lloyd and Max Crandon we had plenty of possession again.

This possession went slickly through the hands of the backs and this time it was Morgan Jenkins our winger who had the opportunity to show his pace and crossed the line twice, again Drew Musa converted both tries.

At 14-0 Vannes showed their class and scored to make it 14-7. What could have been a nervy last minute or two was soon over when a high ball was caught by captain, Evan Lloyd, who took the ball in our 22 and literally blasted his way through anyone who came in his path.

He ran the length of the field to score a try that any winger would have been proud of! So against quality opponents we came away as winners 21-7.

Plouzane, another team from Brittany were up next. After the last victory confidence was high and players were lining up ready to take the ball on, some great work on the floor by Rhys Powell and some moments of magic from Aled Rees, saw centre Rhys Gentles score the first two tries of the game, both converted by Drew Musa.

A great run by Morgan Jenkins on the wing and a kick ahead saw Max Crandon do the tidying up work and offload to Ryan Allen who scored the try in the corner.

The final try of this game was a solo effort of side stepping and outpacing his opponents from Aled Rees which was well deserved for all his hard work. 24-0 to Penarth.

Our final game on the Saturday was against Neuilly, based in Paris. From the start it was obvious they were a good team and for the first time in this tournament we found ourselves down 7-0.

However, order was soon restored with some great ball handling and a try from Rhys Gentles under the posts converted by Drew Musa.

A final push saw Matt Wiltshire running with real purpose and determination, thoroughly deserving his try in the corner to end the game 12-7.

So we ended the Saturday as pool winners and playing for positions 1-6 the next day. Straight from the stadium we went to a meal and entertainment provided by the hosts.

So on the Sunday it came down to the business end of the tournament and our first opponents were Virginia RFC from Ireland who were staying in the same hotel as us and had already bonded with the boys in Evan Lloyd’s barber salon.

We made a flying start against the Irish boys with a try by Aled Rees. This was followed by tries from Joe Roberts, two from Rhys Gentles, and a tremendous score by Rhys Powell who terrified his opponents with his pace, power and new haircut.

At half-time, we were up 26-0. The second half continued in the same fashion with three tries scored by Mason Grady to give us a convincing 46-0 win.

Our last pool game was against Rennes an academy club based in Brittany with over 80 U-16 players on their books to choose from (at this point we had 16 fit players!).

From the off it was obvious that they had done their homework on us and every time Evan Lloyd took the ball forward he found three defenders on him.

A messy game, marred by unusual decisions saw us 3-0 down after a penalty decision against us.

An edgy few minutes saw us get a penalty back to make it 3-3. Another penalty awarded to Rennes put them in the lead 6-3.

A lovely break from our backs created an overlap and the ball was delivered to our winger with a clear run ahead of him.

Unfortunately, the greasy ball was knocked on and an opportunity missed.

Another last gasp drive was made by Connor Mitchell but he was held up by the Rennes defenders.

A controversial last couple of minutes was ended by the touch line judge who made the call to finish the game after one of the Rennes players got a head injury.

Despite the absolute heartache, the boys held their heads up high and applauded their opponents on their win.

So we found ourselves in the third and fourth play-off. A game the club was determined to win, despite the disappointment of the previous game.

Evan Lloyd continued with his captain’s performance and scored the opening two tries of the game. Followed by Rhys Powell and the final try scored by Joe Roberts for a 22-3 win to gain third place.

A consolation was that our scrum half, Aled Rees, was voted the best number 9 of the tournament, a decision made by all the other coaches.

Also a big shout out to Rhys Newman who played every game in the tournament despite suffering from travel sickness and in the final game he was still charging up the field as a support runner.

And to James Steele for continuing to play after a dangerous tackle left him with a sore back.

Also for our walking wounded, Max Blakeley and Will Hardy, who picked up injuries just before the tour and cruelly had to sit and watch from the touchline.

Over the two days Penarth won seven out of eight games, scored 25 tries and only conceded two.

Some of the plays were absolutely magnificent and these boys have come a long way since U-7s.

Apart from their performance on the pitch the boys were superb in every aspect of the tour and a credit to themselves and the club they represented.

Many thanks to Ruth Wiltshire and Sian Ropaigealach for spearheading the fundraising efforts and everyone else who helped us achieve our fundraising targets.

We would like to thank local businesses SCP Electricals, The Highwayman, Thompsons Butchers, Vale Garage Services, The Clay Pit Restaurant, David Baker and Boys to Men for their support too. It was very much appreciated.

A big thank you to coaches Jason Allen, Nigel Boucher and Phil Musa for their unwavering support and hard work over the last 10 years and they can hand these boys over to youth rugby next season safe in the knowledge that the foundations have been put in place for this very exciting group of players.