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WRU National Men’s Cup Finals: 22nd April 2023

WRU National Division 1 Cup Final (1.00pm): Nant Conwy v Newbridge

WRU National Championship Cup Final (3.15pm): Ystrad Rhondda v Pontypool

WRU National Premiership Cup Final (5.35pm): Cardiff v Newport

WRU National Premiership Cup Final (5.35pm): Cardiff v Newport

Cardiff versus Newport is not just one of the world’s greatest rugby fixtures – it’s also responsible for one of the greatest quotes.

The two clubs meet at the Principality Stadium on Sunday in the WRU National Premiership Cup Final, the final game in the triple header that makes up National Men’s Cup Finals day.

But when Cardiff and Newport clashed in years gone by it was a fixture played four times every season.

So former Wales and Newport captain Brian Price used to say: “During my playing days for Newport I’d be asked which games I’d be looking forward to most. My answer would be Cardiff, Cardiff, Cardiff and Cardiff.”

In the 1950s the match attracted a then-record 48,000-crowd for a club match in 1951.

There may not be as many in attendance on Sunday but it will still mean much to players, management and supporters of the two clubs.

The last time the pair clashed in a Welsh Cup final was at the old National Stadium in 1986 with Wales wing Adrian Hadley getting a hat-trick of tries and Newport outside-half Paul Turner producing some spell-binding magic. Cardiff won a cracker 28-21.

Now, they meet again with Newport team manager Mark Workman, who was a forward with the Black and Ambers, saying: “Having people like Gareth Evans [ex-Wales and Lions back] and Brian ‘BJ’ Jones [former Wales centre], who is the club president, around highlights the importance of the fixture.

“Hearing them talk about the history when I was a relatively young player was why I fell in love with Newport RFC.

“I would like to think there will be a big crowd for Newport v Cardiff, Pontypool in the Championship final and Newbridge in the Division One final, three Gwent clubs with proud histories.

“Hopefully, it will be a special day for us. We had a poor start to the season but turned it around. We are in quite a good place and we are the Cup holders. We will have a good crack at Cardiff.”

Newport players to watch include outside-half or centre Matt O’Brien, No.8 Ben Roach, second row Ryan Woodman and his Wales U20 teammate, centre Harri Ackerman, who is just 18 and the Black and Ambers vice-captain.

“We have played Cardiff twice this season. We won at the Arms Park and they did in Newport,” said Workman.

“Morgan Allen is a big ball-carrier in their back-row and Nathan Hudd, whose brother Craig is a second row for us, is a very good seven while I think their wing Dewi Cross is the leading try-scorer in the Premiership. They have quality throughout so we will have to be at our best.”

Cardiff coach Steve Law said: “There’s a huge rivalry between the clubs and we are both desperate to win something this season.

The Blue and Blacks have a promising hooker in 21-year-old Efan Daniel, who packs down between seasoned campaigners Mark Thomas and Wales international Scott Andrews.

“Evans’ work-rate, energy, attitude and appetite for the game is second to none,” said Law.

“And Nathan Hudd is, I think, the best semi-professional openside flanker in the league. If he was given an opportunity, he could play professional rugby.

“Dewi Cross is still only 21. He came to us from the Ospreys and is a very exciting player who scores lots of tries. He’s got an attitude about him, which is good.

“Newport have a plethora of riches and have caused us a lot of problems. It’s two teams with ability in different areas. It has all the makings of being a very close game between two competitive teams.

“If both teams play to their potential, which I hope happens, it should be special, high-performance game and a great advert for the Premiership.”

WRU National Championship Cup Final (3.15pm): Ystrad Rhondda v Pontypool

Shaun Connor will bend an ear from France towards Cardiff on Sunday – hoping to hear the roar that says Pontypool have won the Cup.

The second final of the National Men’s Cup Final day sees Pooler battle Ystrad Rhondda in the WRU National Championship Cup Final.

Connor – the former Ospreys and Dragons outside-half – will be in Grenoble as Wales face France in the Women’s Six Nations.

He joined head coach Ioan Cunningham’s women’s set-up earlier this season, having been a coach at the Dragons Academy and backs coach with unbeaten Championship team Pontypool.

Connor has been combining his Wales and Pontypool roles and, but with their matches kicking off at almost the same time on Sunday, he won’t be able to watch both.

But he hopes to be kept informed of the result of Pontypool’s clash with Ystrad Rhondda as the latest round of community finals are held at the Principality Stadium.

“To be fair to the club, Pontypool have been excellent since I was appointed to the Wales Women’s team.

“I would have liked to have been at the Championship final but clearly can’t as I’m employed by the WRU. I will try to keep an eye on it but it will be difficult,” said Connor.

“I’m enjoying both my roles, with Wales and Pontypool. I see them as complementing each other. Being part of the women’s management has been quite refreshing. With the women, there’s more space on the field and it’s a good game to watch.

“Coaching is similar, whether it’s women or men. I’ve been able to do both because the women train in the morning and Pontypool in the evening.

“The style of play is not really that different although there’s probably a little less kicking in the women’s game. We try to encourage them to find space.”

A perfect weekend for Connor would be Wales upsetting the French and Pontypool lifting the Championship Cup.

But, as he says, nothing can be taken for granted.

Ystrad Rhondda player-coach Alex Webber has vowed his boys will give ‘it a crack.’

“All the pressure is on them at the weekend – we literally have no pressure on us whatsoever,” he said.

“We are firmly the underdogs – we nearly caught them cold up at their place at the beginning of the season.

“They beat us in the last play of the game with a penalty try so I think they know they will be in for a game as well. We have literally got a free hit at them.”

The former Wales Sevens flier is in his first season as a player coach and is enjoying the new experience.

“We’ve got some really good talent that’s come through Coleg y Cymoedd so there are bones to a good squad there.

“We’ve got some really talented backs, some of whom are going to play Prem next year. It’s been quite easy for me to come in and take over really – it’s been good.”

Webber’s try scoring ability could be a real threat to Pooler but he plays down his own role in the semi-final against Cross Keys where his two tries proved crucial.

“I scored a couple of tries which was nice but it’s just a massive thing for the club really – the last time they got there was 2015 so they don’t come round very often especially as a Championship Cup now – it was the Bowl back in the day so we’re in a much higher division now so as a local club to be competing with your Pontypools, your Neaths and your Bargoeds who are ex Premiership is pleasing,” added Webber.

With seven buses going from Ystrad, his side won’t lack for support and Webber believes there are several threats in his side which could cause Pooler a few headaches.

“Kelly Jones at No 8 is a young lad, 6ft 4in, big man for his age while Jarrad Llewellyn, our openside flanker can be a real nuisance everywhere he goes.

“In the backs we have inside centre Cole Morgan – another 19-year-old boy. His dad Craig used to play for Cardiff – he is going to be a quality player in the future.”

WRU National Division 1 Cup Final (1.00pm): Nant Conwy v Newbridge

It has been 57 years since Newbridge have won any silverware, but there’s a pot waiting at the end of the rainbow on Sunday.

It won’t be full of gold, but it will still feel priceless for the likes of Paul Turner if his old club can beat  Nant Conwy in the WRU National Division One Cup final at the Principality Stadium – the opener in the triple header of National Men’s Cup Finals day.

Both clubs are heading their respective leagues in Division One – Newbridge in the east and Nant Conwy in the north – so something has to give.

Turner will be supporting the clubs at which he starred and captained, Newbridge and Newport, during Sunday’s latest community rugby finals.

The former Wales outside-half, who is coach of mid-table English Championship club Ampthill, plans on being a passenger on one of the eight buses carrying Newbridge supporters to Cardiff.

Newbridge was his home club and where he made his name while he also had successful stints with Newport during a mercurial career which also saw him shine for London Welsh and Sale.

Turner was the face and orchestrator of Newbridge sides that challenged for titles in the 1980s and early 1990s.

They came close to silverware but never touched it and the Newbridge trophy cabinet has been sparsely populated with their only major success being the Welsh Clubs’ Unofficial Championship in 1964-65 with an 81.08 winning percentage.

Bridgend were runners-up with Neath third and Newport fourth.

Brothers Arthur and Dennis Hughes combined with Ken Braddock to score 55 tries from the back-row. Dennis Hughes and Braddock were both capped by Wales.

Statistically, it’s the best season Newbridge have had but they are playing a few levels below that which Turner, Hemi Taylor, Terry Shaw, Ken Waters and company occupied at the top table of Welsh rugby.

“What they have done is a great achievement and Newbridge is always the first result I look for. It’s my hometown and when I drive past the ground I see nothing has changed,” said Turner, who lives in Stratford Upon Avon.

“The pitch still looks good, it’s got a grandstand and a lovely clubhouse. There’s a leisure centre next door. A lot of clubs playing at a high level in England would love to have those facilities.

“I’m looking forward to being on the bus to Cardiff, having a reunion with old teammates and cheering the lads on. It should be a special day.”

It’s Nant Conwy’s latest visit to the home of Welsh rugby. They were the first north Wales club to reach a final at the Principality Stadium, losing 21-15 to Penallta 11 years ago.

A bus load of supporters and an army of cars will make the trip south to Cardiff, with others travelling by train.

Nant Conwy coach Elgan Metcalfe said: “We are very proud of the players’ hard work and determination to reach the final once again. It’s a great occasion for everybody involved, players, coaches, managers and countless volunteers and supporters. We might be fewer in numbers than our opponents but I’m sure the Nant Conwy support will make their voices heard.

“Newbridge are a very well established and prestigious club with a wealth of history and are currently flying high. The final will be a huge and proud occasion for them also. They have a powerful brand of rugby with some tough men among their ranks.

“We like to play an expansive and, hopefully, attractive type of rugby. But we also know that we need to perform at the coal face.”

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