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WRU Championship Cup Preview, 15/10/2022

Narberth head coach Sean Gale hopes to create more special memories in the Cup this weekend as the league action in the WRU Championship takes a break.

The former Scarlets hooker is looking forward to a raucous atmosphere at the Lewis Lloyd Ground, which he hopes will spur on his young side on, as they aim to overturn Championship Cup favourites Pontypool.

Pooler are the in-form side in the Championship, having taken maximum points from their four games this season. But as it always says in the corniest voiceovers, the magic of the Cup means anything can happen on the day.

Having played in four finals for Llanelli when part of that great side in the 1980s,  the Welsh Cup is a special competition for Gale, who also tasted success as a coach at Llanelli in 2005.

The first round of the more recently introduced WRU Championship Cup may not yet have that history and mystique, but every player will be wanting to write new history for their club – especially as a possible trip to Cardiff for Finals Day is the incentive.

“Pontypool always bring their supporters down in good numbers and we are a very well supported club also, so it should be a great day,” says Gale.

“It’s a Cup game, there will be an incredible atmosphere with a full house, and the place will be rocking.

“There is an excitement in the squad, but they don’t fear anybody. A lot of the boys haven’t played Championship rugby before, so they can just go out and express themselves.

“We are looking forward to it. Pontypool are coming to us and if we get everything right on the day, who knows, anything could happen.

“It is an opportunity to play at the Principality Stadium and Cup matches are always special for clubs in Wales. For the players and the coaches, it is a huge opportunity and it can help bring the clubs and the community closer together, too.

“I was lucky enough to help take Llanelli to the Cup Final back in 2005 with Scott Quinnell and Neil Boobyer, when we beat Pontypridd. It was a very proud day.

“The Cup is always a great occasion and having played and coached in the Cup competitions, it is very special to me.

“It is obviously a big ask up against Pontypool, though, who are an excellent side. They have recruited very well this year, so it is definitely going to be a tough challenge for us.”

Meanwhile, Cross Keys host Cardiff Met in an even-looking game at Pandy Park.

Keys have won three of their five games in the Championship season, whereas the Archers have two wins from five.

Cardiff Met started the season well, but have fallen off in recent weeks, having lost three in a row.

Glamorgan Wanderers face Championship strugglers Trebanos at the Memorial Ground.

The Wanderers have had an inconsistent season so far, with two wins from five and Martyn Fowler will be hoping his side can use the Cup to create some momentum.

Banws have struggled so far this season, and while there has been encouraging signs from their young squad, it will be a difficult away trip to Ely in Cardiff for last year’s Championship Plate winners.

Last year’s Championship Cup runners-up Bargoed will welcome Tata Steel to Bargoed Park.

The Bulls will be looking to continue their fine form in recent weeks, during which they have won four games on the bounce.

Meanwhile. Tata have struggled to complete their fixtures, during a difficult period for the club. They have lost both games they have completed so far this season.

Beddau travel to Ystalyfera in what will be an exciting game at the Ynysdarren Ground.

It has been an astonishing journey over the past few years for the Swansea Valleys hosts who will hope they can continue their incredible rise under Gareth James.

James’ links to Ystalyfera run as deep as you can imagine. Following in the footsteps of his father, who made 500 appearances for ‘The Fera’, James made his debut for the club at the age of 16.

Gareth became the club’s top points-scorer, beating his father’s club record, scoring 2,004 points.

He also turned out for the likes of Bonymaen, Neath, Llandovery and Ebbw Vale in an excellent career.

Since arriving in coaching, James and his hometown club have been on a remarkable run, which has seen the club rise up the Welsh leagues, from Division Four South-West to consolidating themselves in the Championship.  

In 2017, Ystalyfera drew 17-17 against Penallta in the Plate Final but lost on try count.

Regardless of the result, the club enjoyed their experience at the home of Welsh rugby and will be looking to get back there once again, at the expense of Beddau.

“We have had some great days in the Cup, including going to the Principality Stadium in recent years, which was a fantastic experience for the club, and hopefully we can go on a similar run again,” says James.  

“Beddau are a tough team. They have a big pack, and we are aware of what is coming.

“We have to front up, first and foremost, and then, hopefully, we can open up and play with some width.

“The chance to play at the Stadium is huge for these young boys. It seems far away now, but it is only a few steps away.

“We want the younger boys to experience these big games, so hopefully we can help them along the way.”

Elsewhere, Bedwas travel to Maesteg Harlequins this weekend, and the visitors – last year’s Championship Plate runners-up – will be looking for another good Cup run again this year.

Bedwas have enjoyed a good start to the season, albeit under the radar. They sit in fifth in the Championship and have three wins from five games.

For Maesteg, the Cup presents a chance to refresh and start again.

With three losses from four games in the league, the Quins need to hit some form, with games coming up thick and fast.

October 15, 2022

Bargoed v Tata Steel

Cross Keys v Cardiff Met

Glamorgan Wanderers v Trebanos

Maesteg Quins v Bedwas

Narberth v Pontypool

Ystalyfera v Beddau

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