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McIntosh leads Blues North to first final

9th March 2007

As a player at Sardis Road he was a cult hero. As an international, he was unfortunate. As a coach, Dale McIntosh is proving himself to be one of Welsh rugby's bright young things.

Tonight, at Cardiff Arms Park (7.15), McIntosh leads his Blues North under 16s into battle against the Ospreys in the final WRU Reebok Regional Championship final of the season.

The Ospreys and Blues have won the under 18s and under 20s respectively, leaving McIntosh with the opportunity of rounding off a wonderful season for his region.

But what makes the region's appearance in tonight's final even more remarkable is that in the first two seasons of Reebok regional rugby, the North won just five of their 16 games.

In the first season, they managed a single victory from eight matches, whilst last season, they achieved a 50 per cent success rate.

It was a record which led to some serious questions and subsequently, some changes in terms of approach, personnel and preparation.

However, there was a constant. Whilst others might have dispensed with the head coach and swept the floor clean with a new broom, Blues high performance manager Gafyn Cooper had no such plans.

Now, the faith shown in 'The Chief' and one of his able assistants Darren Bool has been vindicated. They go into tonight's game with eight straight qualifying victories behind them and with a side which, on paper, looks capable of making that nine.

Cooper said, "It was difficult in the first season in particular and our results made for pretty poor reading.

"Having said that, we could see that certain things were developing well and with a slight change in personnel, we have turned the corner.

"We head-hunted coaches to join Dale and Darren and we ended up with a great team in Sophie Bennett, Dai Cambourne and Steve Goddard. Together they have done a wonderful job in turning things around and guiding us to the final. It would be just rewards for them if we could finish with a victory."

But as Cooper admits, there is so little between the sides - the North won the pool matches 8-7 and 17-8 - than nothing will be taken for granted.

"I am sure they will come flying at us, but we have a decent set of boys and will be up for it too. It should be a third excellent final of the season and further confirmation that the competition is going from strength to strength."

Final Score: Blues North 18 - Ospreys 22