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Hopkins brace leads Cardiff to convincing opening day win

Pathway | 9th January 2023

A Gwennan Hopkins brace led Cardiff Under-18 to a convincing win over Dragons RFC in the opening clash of their Regional Age Grade Championship campaign.

The Blue and Blacks secured an early lead at Cardiff Arms Park, as the talismanic number eight opened the scoring with a momentous run from 25 meters out, beating the final defender with a perfectly sold dummy.

Cardiff continued to apply pressure on the Dragons defence, with outside half Rachel Thomas-Evans exposing space in the backfield. Wales under-18 international, Hopkins, was on hand to chase, closing down the covering defender before producing a jackal and a powerful carry in one movement to cross for her second of the afternoon.

Scrum half, Seren Lockwood, added a third, darting over the whitewash to give the hosts a 15-point lead, with the young Blue and Blacks side comfortably in control with half time approaching.

Perhaps the finest score of the afternoon came courtesy of Shanelle Williams. The hooker beat a number of defenders to run in for a sensational solo effort from 35 meters, securing the bonus point before the break.

Cardiff continued to dominate territory in the second half, threatning the Dragons’ try line throughout but were denied any further scores by the visitors’ dogged defence, who were fierce at the breakdown.

Madison Isgrove came closest to a breakthrough, but the referee ruled out the wing’s score for a knock on as she attempted to dot down in the corner.

Academy manager, Gruff Rees, said: “It was a thoroughly enjoyable game to kick off the campaign. It’s been amazing to see a Cardiff side playing such enterprising rugby at our ground, expressing themselves and really staying true to the club’s DNA.

“All credit goes to the coaching team for their messages, both in the build up and on the day itself. Kristian Parker, who adds a lot of value as a talented young coach and captain of Pontypridd, delivered plenty of detail that really supports quality development. 

“Kristian, alongside the likes of Darren Bool, Jonathan Hooper and Gavin Gallagher, really encourage the girls to play an attractive and open brand of rugby, where they can not only flourish but also take a great deal of enjoyment out of the game.”

The Blue and Blacks, who topped the pile last season, face a bye next week before returning to action at Parc Eirias on January 29, where they will take on hosts RGC.

Report: Josie Edwards

Round 1 (Cardiff Arms Park) - Sunday, 8 January

Cardiff 20 v Dragons 0 (11.15am)

RGC 29 v Ospreys 8 (12.45pm)

Round 2 (Llandovery) - Sunday, 15 January

Scarlets v Ospreys (12pm)

RGC v Dragons (2.30pm)

Round 3 (Parc Eirias) - Sunday, 29 January

Scarlets v Dragons (1pm)

RGC v Cardiff (3pm)

Round 4 (The Gnoll, Neath) - Sunday, 5 February

Ospreys v Cardiff (11am)

RGC v Scarlets (3pm)

Round 5 (Ystrad Mynach) - Sunday, 19 February

Cardiff v Scarlets (1pm)

Dragons v Ospreys (4pm)