WITH the Six Nations reaching its conclusion over last weekend and next there has been a pause in proceedings in Division 3A South East as club rugby takes a back seat.

However this is little more than the calm before the storm as Penarth now face six games to save themselves from back-to-back relegations, with three of those games against the sides currently sat below them.

Whilst there will be a more in depth look at those remaining fixtures, and in particular the first of those against bottom placed Cefn Coed, next week here we look at the reasons why, notwithstanding the current league standings, there are plenty of reasons for optimism at the Athletic Field.

In terms of the current squad there are few who would ever seen the old adage of “a mix of youth and experience” in starker contrast.

Of the club’s top 10 players by appearances five are over 30 (four of those are over 35) and five are under 23. And whilst the performances of the old guard have been of equal value it is the younger element of squad which is really exciting the Seasiders’ supporters.

Scrum-half Spencer Robinson, centres Rhys Beynon, George Roberts and forwards Alan Doyle, Mason Good and Miles Jones are to the forefront of not only this season’s battles but also for many seasons to come and a foundation on which future successes can be built.

Robinson has been nothing short of a revelation this year and he has set the league alight with his sharp passing and electric pace which sees him comfortably top of the club’s try scoring charts and also lead to a trip to Dubai with local semi-professional 7s team the Ponty Butchers in December.

Robinson’s first few games were spent terrorising defences from the wing with skipper Rhys Morgan donning his favoured number 9 shirt. But once the opportunity to show what he could do from the back of the scrum was granted Robinson has not looked back.

Beynon, by contrast, was far from an unknown quantity, having sacrificed part of his final year of youth rugby to play for the first XV last season, and injury allowing has been a stand out player once again.

His ability to drift outside his man and conjure up miraculous off-loads has been the key to most of Penarth’s victories this season, and in particular the rout of Clwb Rygbi in which he recorded a hat-trick of tries.

Roberts, Good and Jones have had truncated seasons due to spending the first half travelling the world together.

Along with prop Harry Wood the three have added a real impetus to the side both on and off the field.

Roberts was last season’s youth captain and whilst it took him a few games to find his feet he is starting to show the kind of form which spectators of youth rugby will have revelled in over the last few seasons.

Jones and Good despite their young age have been stalwarts of the 1st XV for the last two years and are two of the first names on the team sheet each week. The upturn in lineout accuracy since hooker Good’s return has been marked and Jones’ presence as an out and out No 8 has given renewed focus to Penarth’s attacks.

Then there is Alan Doyle, vice-captain and cornerstone of the Penarth scrum. As props go there are few as polite and mild mannered as Doyle but in this division there are few who can cope with his impressive scrummaging and less still who display the kind of handling that would not look out of place in the three quarters.

And his importance is not just seen in glowing tributes, but also in cold hard statistics: Doyle has played in every game Penarth RFC have won in the last three-and-a-half seasons. Which makes his return from injury appear for the crucial trip to Cefn Coed even more timely.

But optimism spreads beyond the current first XV squad. The youth and mini and junior ranks are filled with talent, highlighted this weekend with Mason Grady and Evan Lloyd of the youth team being selected for Wales U-18s and former youth player Daf Smith playing for Wales 7s in Vancouver.

Furthermore the youth side have competed this year in the Blues Premiership, which is the highest level of club rugby available, and acquitted themselves brilliantly finishing joint on points with Pontypridd and above Merthyr and Rumney.

They are now playing in the tier 1 Premiership trophy competition, and whilst wins are hard to come by, the experience and quality of rugby they are being exposed to will only improve them as players and send even higher quality up to the senior ranks.

In many respects the remainder of this season is not just about avoiding relegation for the sakes of those players currently involved in the squad but also to ensure that the standard of rugby that the graduates of this year’s youth team progress to is sufficient to encourage them to stay and start to build Penarth back to where it wants to be in the higher reaches of Welsh league rugby.