27 April 2022 / Club News

Penallta and the Plate: A Fairytale after Dark Times

We are reaching at the end of another brilliant season of rugby and what a thrilling climax it will be for everyone associated with Penallta Rugby Club.


On Thursday night Penallta 2nd XV will play their semi-final in the Ivor Williams Cup against Merthyr RFC. The ‘Troopers’ hope to add more silverware to their run of titles over recent years, and they travel up the A470 with a strong squad in a bid to reach yet another final. Coach Dale Powell and his team have played excellent rugby this season and have done a great job blending a core of older boys with a lot of younger players, some of whom were forced to jump from their second season of youth straight into the senior rugby. The young bucks have trained hard and haven’t disappointed, sticking together to create a formidable squad. Let’s hope the boys do the business against Merthyr – we’ll be there to support them.


Then on Saturday the Penallta faithful will once again gather together to witness the big one. At the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, the Penallta Pitmen face Treorchy in the final of the WRU National Plate. It will be the rugby club’s eighth visit to the national stadium in 21 years, a remarkable achievement for our extraordinarily successful village club. If Jack Condy’s team bring home the trophy it will be Penallta’s third Plate triumph in ten years.


The 1st team have played scintillating rugby this season, beating teams out of sight with an entertaining style that opposition sides have found difficult to cope with. When Jack took over the head coaching role he encouraged the players to adopt his ‘high fitness-high skill-high reward’ approach and the result has seen the side has been raining tries since Christmas. Penallta sit atop the Division 1 East table, having scored 60 tries in eight league games.

Jack Condy is only 27 years old but for a young man his contribution has been exceptional. Jack is no stranger to success. He won the Welsh Youth Title as Penallta captain in 2014 and along with coaches Steven Cribb and Gareth Bisp he has distilled his love and experience of the club into a wonderful playing culture, one we are all proud to watch. Success is all about a good environment and this season’s training sessions have seen higher attendance than ever, with the players commenting that the standard is top-notch, each of the boys absolutely bouncing into the fray. Come the weekends, the results are evident.


In the final, Treorchy will prove a tough test. Treorchy are unbeaten in Division 1 East Central and in Andrew Bishop, also have an ex-professional player coaching them. Treorchy have been tricky opponents for Penallta down the years so given the fantastic form of both sides, the final is very nicely poised. It should be a great game of rugby between two outstanding community clubs.


Sadly, there tends to be a lot of misery surrounding Welsh rugby. Whether it’s international fans lamenting the demise of Team Wales since Gatland’s departure or regional fans despairing at years of underachievement, negativity abounds. But emerging from the challenges of the covid era, Penallta are as strong as ever. The rugby club celebrated its 70th anniversary last month, and both on and off the field the club is buoyant, planning for the future with optimism. Penallta continues to serve at the heart of the community, providing boys and girls from Ystrad Mynach and surrounding villages with a wonderful hub in which to participate in rugby union. Just this weekend the Under 13s won a mini-tournament, winning every single game without conceding a point. Over the past few weekends a hundred or so families have been off on rugby tours with their respective Penallta age-groups. The Penallta clubhouse fills each matchday with players and supporters, with families and community members, all enjoying the atmosphere. And on this Saturday 10 full supporters coaches will descend on the Principality Stadium, while the trains will be carriage-to-carriage blue and gold. The club officials work as hard as ever to create a strong environment for rugby players of all ages, and it’s rewarding to know that the club currently has more active players than at any time in its history, particularly among the age groups, where participation is positively thriving. 25 of the 28 players in Saturday’s squad played age-grade rugby for Penallta, a feather in the cap for the wonderful development structure the club has in place.


Of course, the covid era proved tough for our communities, and clubs like ours lost much-loved members along the way. But the club and the community lives on, and after a protracted period of anxiety and loss for local people it was fantastic to see so many smiling faces at the Gnoll when the boys overcame Newcastle Emlyn in the Plate semi-final. For those misery-mongers who think that rugby clubs no longer play a positive, happy and rewarding role in village communities throughout Wales, they clearly don’t get out much. Rugby does a great deal for communities throughout Wales. And community clubs do a great deal for Welsh rugby. To remain a beacon of positivity in a former mining village means a lot to us, and to share these big cup final days with local people makes them extra special.


It will be a privilege to once again see captain Rhys Stephens lead the boys out on to the national stadium, to once again see the blue and gold of Penallta grace the historic turf. Win or lose the players will do the club and the community proud, and will honour the members we sadly lost during the past two dark years. So from all of us involved in Penallta it is a massive ALL THE BEST BOYS, both to the Troopers in their semi-final and the Pitmen at the stadium, go and enjoy the best times of your lives. We are all super proud of you.

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