Coleg Y Cymoedd director of rugby Lee Davies has admitted even he had given up on his side retaining their Welsh Schools & Colleges league title.
Davies saw his team fall nine points behind Coleg Sir Gar in Tuesday night’s final at Sardis Road before Lloyd Wilkins came off the replacements bench to turn the game around as Cymoedd hit back to win 28-19.
“With 10 minutes to go I was a bit worried and I didn’t think we would do it,” conceded Davies.
“But the way they fought back just showed the character of this team. They put in a great shift in the second half and they showed their huge desire to defend.
“We have only lost one game all season and we managed to come back to win the final and hold onto our title.
“Sir Gar are a very well coached team that is full of talent. They made it difficult for us and we saw two teams who wanted to express themselves and made it a great final.”
Wilkins transformed the game with a try, penalty and then cross-kick for the third and decisive try for the reigning champions as they hit back from a nine point deficit. To add the final seal of approval, he also converted that final score from another replacement, wing Will Clapham.
Congratulations to @ColegyCymoedd @CymoeddSport #rugby team for winning the Welsh Schools & Colleges League Final for the second year on the run after beating worthy finalists @ColegSirGar 28-19. Well done to players, staff and coaches for all their hard work again this year pic.twitter.com/fodJu8NGDk
— Coleg y Cymoedd (@ColegyCymoedd) January 9, 2019
Sir Gar came into the game having lost the last three games to their biggest rivals, including a 17-14 reverse at the same venue on 27 November.They proved any scars from that close shave had been put to bed by opening the scoring after only six minutes with a driving line-out try from their outstanding hooker Rhodri King which Bradley Roderick converted.
The Cymoedd reply was swift as they worked dangerman Cavan Davies over in the left corner three minutes later.
Back row powerhouse Lloyd Gregory carved a huge hole in the Sir Gar defence as he trucked the ball up to the posts and then good hands from outside half Tyler Morris gave Davies the chance to trick his way past his opposite number.
Morris added the extras and kicked a penalty to take the lead before Sir Gar struck again nine minutes before half-time. A Dai Jones box kick from his 22 was dutifully chased by Harrison Button and the wing managed to jump high to regain possession to set up another attacking platform.
Outside half Jack Tregoning chipped delicately over the top of the Cymoedd defensive line and a kind bounce allowed Roderick to break clear. He raced up to the 22 before releasing fellow centre Ilan Phillips on a straight run to the line.
Roderick added the conversion to make it 14-10 to the west Walians at the break. The lead grew five minutes into the second half when Sir Gar made the most of a lucky break.
Another box kick from scrum half Jones from a ruck just outside his 22 seemed regulation enough for Cavan Davies to deal with near the touchline on half-way. But just as it seemed the Cymoedd wing had dealt with the danger, the ball dropped out of his grasp and straight into the arms of the rapidly advancing King.
The Sir Gar hooker gratefully accepted his offering, sped up the touchline, committed the final defender and then simply popped up a pass off the floor to the supporting Callum Williams for a sucker try. Roderick failed to convert this team, but the lead was now nine points.
Well done to both sets of players from @ColegyCymoedd @CymoeddSport and @RYGBICSG @ColegSirGar in the @WelshRugbyUnion Schools / College final last night. Congratulations to Cymoedd and thanks to coaches and staff from both teams for your hard work. pic.twitter.com/YsfypG7y3f
— Geraint John (@geraintrugby) January 9, 2019
Cymoedd had to keep their cool, which they did, and they applied more and more pressure through their aggressive defence and their brilliant back row trio, superbly led by acting skipper Ieuan Pring. Ethan Fackrell made a number of turn-overs at the break down and 18 unanswered points when the chips were down showed how worthy Cymoedd were of making it back-to-back titles.
Morris kicked a penalty before Wilkins entered the game for the final 25 minutes and made all the difference. One of his first contributions after slotting in at No 10 was to set-up a try for himself.
A Sir Gar strike at a scrum came back off one of their props feet and gave Cymoedd a free ball near half-way. Wilkins kick-passed to the right for Iwan Price-Thomas and that allowed the wing to gallop into the 22.
When he was confronted by full back Dean James he threw the ball inside, where it bounced safely into the arms of the supporting Wilkins. That cut the gap to a single point and six minutes later Wilkins punished an obstruction in attack by Sir Gar prop Zak Giannini with a 35 metre penalty that gave Cymoedd the lead for the first time in half-an-hour.
Wilkins proved he is only human by pushing a 42 metre penalty attempt wide of the posts, but he wasn’t finished yet. Replacement lock Rhys Anstey won a line-out 30 metres out, the Cymoedd pack drove it deep into the Sir Gar 22 and referee Dai Cambourne indicated a penalty to the attacking side.
Wilkins knew he had a shot to nothing when the ball came back to him and he hoisted another cross field kick from left to right. It bounced in the in-goal area where Button did his best to defend the Sir Gar line against the twin threat of Bailey Roberts and Clapham.
— Christy (@christyanha85) January 8, 2019
None of the three caught the ball, but the bounce favoured the tallest of the trio, Clapham, and he jumped to gather it and score. Wilkins added the extras and the title belonged to Cymoedd.
Coleg Y Cymoedd: Bailey Roberts; Cavan Davies, Macauley Rowley, Iwan Sheppard, Iwan Price-Thomas; Tyler Morris, Ethan Lloyd; Harrison Chapman, Mitch Savage, Rhys Lewis, Cai James, Mitchel Barnard, Lloyd Gregory, Ethan Fackrell, Ieuan Pring (captain)
Reps: Arwel Hughes, Travis Green, Iestyn Haskins, Rhys Anstey, Alex Mann, Rhys Howells, Lloyd Wilkins, Will Clapham
Coleg Sir Gâr: Dean James; Callum Williams, Ilan Phillips, Bradley Roderick, Harrison Button; Jack Tregoning, Dai Jones; Keelan Jewell, Rhodri King, Zak Giannini, Joe Scott, Ryan Evans, Leon Samuel, Caine Rees-Jones, Sam Williams (captain)
Reps: Morgan Thomas, Nikki Frampton, Sean Janes, Elliot Briskham, Sam Richards, Lewis Clayton, Jac Howells, Liam Cox
Welsh Schools & Colleges League Finals
2010/11: Coleg Sir Gar 20, Coleg Gwent 19
2011/12: Coleg Sir Gar 16, Coleg Gwent 17
2012/13: Coleg Sir Gar 18, Coleg Morgannwg 16
2013/14: Coleg Sir Gar 25, Coleg Y Cymoedd (formerly Morgannwg) 22,
2014/15: Coleg Y Cymoedd 13, Coleg Sir Gar 3
2015/16: Coleg Y Cymoedd 44, Coleg Sir Gar 24
2016/17: Coleg Sir Gar 27, Coleg Y Cymoedd 23
2017/18: Coleg Y Cymoedd 29, Coleg Sir Gar 10
2018/19: Coleg Y Cymoedd 28, Coleg Sir Gar 19