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WRU Regional Championship - Blues Age Grade Round-up

22nd December 2004

With the dust having settled on the first phase of the WRU Regional Championships, the Blues can celebrate the New Year in the knowledge that their four sides are more than holding their own.

The games have provided a level of competition to our elite young players which is a step-up from schools and youth rugby and the matches have produced a high standard of rugby, and attractive to boot. The competition is a springboard for age grade international rugby with the various campaigns kicking in after Christmas, starting with Wales U18 v Italy on January 6 (Neath RFC). Players are giving the national selectors a welcome headache by putting their hands up for places in the Wales Under 16, Under 18, Under 19 and Under 21 national teams.

Whilst the level of competition remains intense and a healthy will to win is strong amongst the players, the region’s players follow a development programme which focuses on the player as a whole. Weekly sessions include dietary advice, physical training, video analysis and match preparation and District Directors of Rugby ensure the players do not ‘overplay’.

From a performance point of view, the Under 16s South are possibly the pick of the Blues sides with the likes of Ben Warburton and Phil Williams shining, but the under 18s and under 20s have both performed well in their respective games to date.

The Under 16 South team enjoyed a winning start, 10-8 against the Ospreys at Pentyrch thanks to a late penalty from outside half and captain Williams although it was not such a good start for the North who went down 27-15 to Llanelli Scarlets at Aberdare.

The South then lost 14-3 at the Scarlets, but they were back on track a week later – they beat the Dragons 8-7 at Rhymney and followed up this month with a 22-12 victory over Blues North. Unfortunately, for the North, they were also beaten 20-8 by the Ospreys which leaves them without a win after three games.

The Under 18s kicked off with a 38-16 defeat against the Dragons before hitting back with a 14-8 victory over the Ospreys courtesy of tries from Rhydyfelin’s Lee Scarf and Jonathan Gough of Ynysybwl.

They then lost out 26-18 to the Scarlets in a cracker at Sardis Road whilst the under 20s kicked off with a comprehensive 24-7 against the Dragons at Eugene Cross Park.

Lloyd Ryland of Bridgend Athletic, Pontypridd's Chris Clayton and Dai Flannagan and flanker Alex Murphy scored tries.

They lost out 32-28 to the Ospreys at Sarids Road the following week, but they sprung something of a surprise when they defeated the Scarlets 17-16 in a thrilling game at Llandovery.

The Blues were in control for long periods of their game thanks to tries from Adam Powell and Rhys Gill and seven points from the boot of outside half Dai Flanagan.

The Scarlets struck back, after trailing 17-3 at one stage, but were unable to salvage anything from a tough contest.

Aled Thomas kicked three penalties and converted a try from full back Craig Evans.

All in all it has been a decent start for the region with District Director of Rugby Gafyn Cooper admitting “This competition has given a massive amount of focus and identity to our new Region which is important. It has proven to be a higher level of competition than any of the games our players get for their clubs or schools, particularly at Under 16 and Under 18 level.

“I am also delighted with the cooperation we have received from both Cardiff and Pontypridd rugby clubs with regard to our Under 20s players. It is important for the players’ development and the profile of the competition that we field our best team in these matches.”