Cardiff U18 are set for a champion’s welcome at Ystrad Mynach on Sunday as the Women’s U18 Regional competition draws to a close.
The young Blue and Blacks side have claimed top spot for a second season running after maintaining their 100 per cent record from the three games to date.
A bonus point win over Dragons on the opening weekend at Cardiff Arms Park put Darren Bool’s side on their way to silverware, followed by further victories over RGC and Ospreys.
The side have been lauded for their thrilling brand of attacking rugby, with the likes of Seren Lockwood, Shanelle Williams and Nia Fajeyisan amongst those impressing over the course of the campaign.
Another who received rave reviews was flanker Katie Sims, who took over the captaincy this season and built on an impressive campaign for club and country in 2022.
And while the Wales U18 international is proud of her side’s title-worthy performances, she’s determined to sign off with a win on the final weekend against Scarlets (KO 1pm).
“We won the competition last year, so it’s been great to do it again this year with a completely different team,” said Sims.
“We lost a lot of good players from last year but we’ve been fortunate to have a new crop who have stepped up and showed the excitement to be involved.
“The team just continues to grow as a group and I think that will continue over the next few years and we’ll keep seeing improvements.
“We focused and worked really hard in training throughout, and that really paid off in the matches and played a big part in our wins.
“As we go on, it’s clear to see how the group are continually learning, gaining an understanding and those lessons into matchday.
“We’ve been really proud of our attack this season. We like to play a good brand of rugby and that shows in games. But we’ve worked incredibly hard on our defence and you could see those improvements being made from week to week, which is just as pleasing.
“We’d love to make sure that we’re undefeated this season so Sunday will be a big task for us and I really believe that we can do it.
“So despite winning the title, it would be great to beat the Scarlets as we did last year.
“It’s also worth remembering that we had a lot of Year 11s playing for Cardiff this season, and they will have another two years at this level.
“They’re just going to keep improving season on season and that’s really exciting for the club.”
Sims took over the captaincy role from fellow back row Gwennan Hopkins, who has been a member of Wales’ senior Development XV in recent weeks.
On an individual basis, the captain says it’s been an honour to captain the Blue and Blacks and sets her eyes on further international honours this season.
“It’s the last year that I’ll be involved in this year group and it’s been a really good experience again this year.
“It’s been a dream to represent Cardiff. I’ve grown up supporting the men’s first team and being able to represent the club, as a woman, has been amazing.
“I’d love it if there was a senior team back at Cardiff in the future, as would the other girls. It gives us the opportunity to carry on playing the sport that we love. We love playing for our clubs, but it’s extra special to be playing for Cardiff.
“Gwennan led a really example for us last year, so it was amazing to be given the opportunity to captain the side and take over from her this season.
“I’ve really enjoyed leading this team and trying to encourage them. It’s been a really enjoyable experience.
“The group have worked really hard and anyone that makes it into the Wales U18 squad later in the season will have fully deserved it. I’m sure the work done over this block will benefit us all for our future in rugby.”
The squad were also present at Cardiff Arms Park for the senior men’s team’s bonus point win over Newcastle Falcons last month, with a further plans for the group to return to parade the trophy at a future match.
But Sims believes the opportunity to bond away from the training ground played a crucial role in the squad chemistry on game day.
“There was a big group of us who came down and it was great to have some team bonding outside of training,” explained the flanker.
“It gave us a chance to get to know each other on a different level and it was a good experience. That’s really helped us during the matches.
“We loved being down at the Arms Park as a group to watch the men’s team playing.”
Cardiff U18: Rhianna Bryant; Madison Isgrove, Nia Fajeyisan, Raylee Caviell, Lowri Davies; Macy Banwell, Seren Lockwood; Libby Edwards, Shanelle Williams, Niamh Padmore, Meg Morris, Maisy Wiggins, Ella Fry, Riley Stanger (capt.), Izabel Wing
Replacements: Freya Inkpen, Sophia Foscolo, Sophie Southgate, Imogen Boon, Seren Thomas, Brook Bevan, Rachel Thomas-Evans, Manon Blackford, Katie Sims, Lili Griffiths, Fern Cumine, Tilly Vucaj, Efa Williams, Elin Berry, Rhoswen James, Nia Powell, Crystal James