PENARTH Hockey Club’s U13 squad made the long trip to Newtown for the Welsh Youth Hockey Finals last weekend and, although Storm Hannah had passed, knew a tumultuous set of games would decide the title.

The young Bears are a team of undoubted quality, but are notorious slow starters, so it was an ominous sign that their first game drew them against the most likely rival for the Welsh title in recently-crowned South Wales champions Whitchurch.

The Penarth boys knew that they would have to impose themselves on the game from the start and improve tactically from the South Wales finals if they were going to come out on top of what was certain to be a crucial encounter. To a certain extent, they achieved this, holding their ground rather than backing off the ball carrier, and tackling in pairs.

However, this caused Whitchurch’s exceptional playmaker to change his tactics, sending diagonal crosses from deep to a lone striker making runs behind the Penarth defence and, by half-time, the Bears were two goals down.

Although they could easily have had the spirit knocked out of them by a very strong and hugely talented opponent, Penarth are not a team that gives up easily, and the second half saw them playing with increased intensity and positive communication on the pitch.

Hopes of a comeback were blown away, however, when Fred Maizy took a ball to the neck, and a third Whitchurch goal threatened to floor the Bears but, minutes later, Harry Davies began a mazy solo run that prompted an illegal tackle which floored the playmaker and resulted in a penalty stroke.

The injured striker showed he had ice in his veins as he picked himself up and dusted himself off to convert the flick, reducing the deficit and setting Penarth on the hunt for a second goal.

Whitchurch, however, were relentless in their pursuit of a fourth and, with Maizy’s injury and the penalty stroke eating up precious minutes that central timing didn’t account for, the Bears were now playing against the clock as well as their opponent.

They had grown into the game, but only after three quarters had elapsed, and, ultimately, the better team prevailed to run out 3-1 winners, leaving the Penarth boys not only to ponder how they could start the first game of future tournaments with the necessary competitiveness, but also how they would pick themselves up for the next game of this one.

Following the disappointing result, it wouldn’t have been a surprise to witness the Bears implode, but they faced off against Dysynni knowing that only victory in the two remaining games would realise their fading hope of being Welsh champions.

The first couple of minutes followed a very similar pattern to the Whitchurch game, but Davies was intent on showing the crowd precisely what a quality side the young Bears are. His thunderous reverse stick shot not only nearly broke the backboard, but sparked a period of exceptional play that saw the whirlwind Bears leading by three at half-time.

The passing was now fast and accurate, and continuously exploited the space left by the Dysynni defenders, but the second half was still a much more even affair, and huge credit must go to the north Walian opposition for battening down the hatches and making the final ten minutes extremely exciting.

At the final whistle, however, Penarth ran out 4-0 winners, with Harry Davies netting a brace and Owain Mottram and Elliot Van Steen also finding the net.

Penarth’s final game against Eirias had all the hallmarks of a battle for silver, but the opening half suggested that the Bears would blow their opponents away as they created a tidal wave of chances that required an exceptional performance from the Eirias ‘keeper to repel the relentless attacks.

With the floodgates refusing to open, Penarth coach Graeme Jones used his half-time team talk to warn his young charges not to over-commit as it left them open to lightning counter-attacks, but the final five minutes still played out with a hail of chances at both ends.

With Whitchurch leading in their third and final game, Penarth were clearly fighting for the runners-up berth, and needed ‘keeper Joe Casey to pull off two exceptional saves in the penultimate minute to keep them on level terms.

Typical of the second half, his second save was cleared directly to Mottram who, in a matter of seconds, had won a penalty corner at the other end. Unfortunately, Penarth were unable to convert the chance and the game ended in a breathless goalless draw.

That was enough, however, for the Bears to secure second place overall, an exceptional achievement for the squad comprised of Joe Casey, Edward George, Louis Carver, Owain Mottram, Fred Maizy, Toby Collins, Elliot Van Steen, Angus McInnes and Harry Davies.

With no teams involved in this weekend’s senior Welsh finals, the U13s success brings the curtain down on the 2018-19 campaign, leaving only the end-of-season festivities and the usual rash of veterans’ games to fill the coming months.

Penarth Hockey Club always welcomes new, old and returning players, umpires, supporters, friends and helpers regardless of age and ability. Training will resume at Stanwell after the summer break, and is expected to remain on Wednesday evening.

Anyone interested in joining the club at senior or youth level can contact club secretary Dave Stevens ( for further information.