Mid District Bowl Final Abercwmboi RFC v Aberdare RFC

Ben Miller of Aberdare goes over for an Aberdare try. Pic: Mike Jones/Replay Images.

Aberdare New Boy Rhys Shellard Goes Back To Ponty . . . And Makes It A House Of Pain For Abercwmboi

By Carl Field

Rhys Shellard enjoyed a triumphant return to Sardis Road as his Aberdare side edged out Dafydd Lockyer’s Abercwmboi on try count (3-1) after a 19-19 draw to lift the Worthington’s Mid District Bowl for only the second time.

Neither Shellard or Lockyer need much of an introduction at the House of Pain, where they both enjoyed glittering trophy-laden careers with Pontypridd before taking up player coach roles with their own respective local clubs.

For flanker Shellard, this was his first time stepping back out on his old stomping ground, a year after bringing the curtain down on his illustrious playing career with Pontypridd, for whom he made 264 appearances over almost two decades, either side of a short spell away.

Powerhouse centre Lockyer became an iconic figure during an 18-year period and 381 games for Pontypridd before saying his own goodbyes in 2021.

Mid District Bowl Final Abercwmboi RFC v Aberdare RFC Rhys Shellard of Aberdare. Pic: Mike Jones/Replay Images

Lockyer of course returned 12 months ago to lead Abercwmboi to an historic Mid District Bowl triumph over Abercynon on this ground to lift the trophy for the first time in the club’s history.

The Village were hoping to retain it against another of their Cynon Valley rivals but would ultimately miss out in agonising fashion as Aberdare came from behind to bag the Bowl, six years on from their own inaugural success in 2017, which was also at Sardis Road.

Centre Shaun Davies booted Abercwmboi 6-0 to the good at the turnaround.

He added another two penalties in the second half, but a try brace from full-back Matthew Davies, the first converted by outside half Matthew Lloyd, and one right at the death from wing Ben Miller – converted by centre Jarrad Rees – won it for the Snakes.

There was still time for replacement Aaron Bolitho to score a last-gasp try for Abercwmboi in a frantic finale with Shaun Davies adding the extras but, with the scoreboard level, Aberdare celebrated getting the better of their near neighbours once again, having already beaten them twice in the league this term.

“They’re a good team Abercwmboi,” said Shellard afterwards.

“Local derbies are never pretty and last time we played them up there we scored with the last play of the game to win, so we knew they were going to be a tough outfit,”

Mid District Bowl Final Abercwmboi RFC v Aberdare RFC Aberdare RFC Celebrate winning the Bowl Final after beating Abercwmboi at Sardis Road, Pontypridd. Pic: Mike Jones/Replay Images

With Aberdare taking the ‘home’ dressing room, it was back to familiar surroundings for Shellard, who took up his old perch as if he’d never been away!

“It was a bit surreal coming through the gates,” he admitted.

“Me and Locks [Lockyer] spoke about it; I think it must be the first time in around 15 years since we’ve played down here against each other.

“But no it’s always a pleasure to play at Pontypridd and it was good to be back.”

It was the final act in what has been a remarkable season for Aberdare, who will be playing Division One rugby next season after earning promotion from Two East Central. They also reached the Principality Stadium in the Division Two Cup final but were denied glory by Morrison.

“To be honest we couldn’t have asked any more from the boys,” said Shellard, who added he is relishing his player coach role and says he plans to carry on lacing up his boots for at least one more season!

“We’ve got a good young bunch of boys here and I’ve loved every minute of it. I’ve played nearly every game, I didn’t really expect that!”

Meanwhile despite just falling short here, it has still been an historic campaign for Abercwmboi, who will themselves be playing Division One rugby for the first time in their history next term after securing promotion alongside Abercynon and Aberdare.

The Village wrap up their league campaign with a scheduled home fixture against Cowbridge on Saturday.


Aberdare: Tries: Matthew Davies (2), Ben Miller; Cons: Matthew Lloyd, Jarrad Rees.
Abercomboi: Try: Aaron Bolitho, Con: Shaun Davies; Pens: Shaun Davies (4).

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