Will the last person to leave Pontypridd please turn out
Per capita at least, it's one of the biggest mass migrations of
rugby folk in the modern era, on a par with the Cornish hordes who
descended on Twickenham in 1991 for the County Championship
More than 40 years since their last visit, Pontypridd's
fanatical supporters had identified Jersey as a potential touring
opportunity during the latter stages of last season. Confirmed
promotion at this end, and a favourable British & Irish Cup
draw, meant it was game on.
Within days of the draw being confirmed, coaches had been hired
and days off booked, with hundreds of Ponty fans preparing to
forsake the green, green grass of home for a trip to Jersey.
This is hard-core stuff: the official supporters' coaches are
leaving Sardis Road at 3am on Friday. Ponty's ground has been
nicknamed the House of Pain, which seems about right for anyone
having to get up at two o'clock in the morning. Considerately, the
clubhouse bar was due to open from 9pm on Thursday to cater for
'early arrivals' or those with 'alarm clock issues.'
For Jersey, the B&I is another fresh element in a season
full of new experiences; Pontypridd are however gnarled veterans of
the competition - all three runnings of it. Last season they
reached the quarter-finals before succumbing to a heavy defeat to
Leinster 'A' at Donnybrook, and in 2010/11 they went one better,
despatching old rivals Llanelli 12-10 at the Q-F stage before
losing 25-36 to Bristol at Sardis Road.
Both sides will have a break from league rugby: Jersey will park
a Championship campaign that has delivered no wins and just a
solitary bonus point in six games to date, while Ponty, reigning
champions of the Principality Premiership in Wales, are sitting
pretty this time around, with six wins from six to sit just behind
Llandovery, whose record includes six bonus points to Ponty's
While the Welsh visitors may harbour ambitions of going 'all the
way' this time round (a B&I Cup reference, nothing to do with
meeting new friends in Mimosa later) Jersey hope that home
advantage, and the perception of the RFU Championship as a stronger
league than the Welsh Prem, will enable them to give a good account
News from the Jersey camp
Director of Rugby Ben Harvey is looking to kick-start the season
with a home cup win, and is likely to select a strong squad
featuring little or no rotation of players. Harvey continues to be
encouraged by players returning from injury - lock Paul Rodgers is
in line for his first start, while prop Jon Brennan (above) is
likely to be back in contention having recovered from a serious
knee injury. As an official Jersey Ambassador following the recent
sponsorship deal with Jersey Tourism, we trust 'JB' will say
'welcome to Jersey' before every scrum, and serve a tray of Ferrero
Rocher to the visiting dressing room after the final whistle.
JB, Jersey's longest-serving player, who has spent 10 months on
the sidelines after damaging his knee against Coventry in December;
and Voss, 18, who made four appearances last season and signed a
full-time contract in the summer.
In the starting XV, 37-year-old Player-Coach Ben Evans is rested
against his fellow countrymen, with James Gethings wearing the
number 3 shirt alongside hooker Dave Felton and loose-head Sean
McCarthy. Paul Rodgers makes his first start since returning from
injury, and the dislocated shoulder suffered by Talite Vaioleti in
training this week sees Dave Markham come into the pack.
Nicky Griffiths and Mike Le Bourgeois remain in the half-back
positions, while Ashley Maggs partners Dai Bishop in the centre.
Both Bishop and Griffiths formerly played for the Dragons in Wales,
and will be well-known to the visiting fans along with
ex-Wales and Ospreys full-back Barry Davies.Jersey's
man-of-the-match in last weekend's defeat at Nottingham, Ed Dawson,
starts on the wing along with Ed Tellwright.
Jersey squad, sponsored by Locate Jersey and
Barry Davies, Ed Tellwright, Dai Bishop, Ashley Maggs, Ed
Dawson, Mike Le Bourgeois, Nicky Griffiths; Sean McCarthy, Dave
Felton, James Gethings, Nathan Hannay (Capt), Paul Rodgers, Dave
Markham, Kingsley Lang, Guy Thompson. Replacements:
Richard Barrington, Jon Brennan, Rob Anderson, James Voss, Dave
McCormack, Donovan Sanders, James Copsey.
Ben Evans (pictured above with another famous Welshman, Keith
Jarrett, who visited JRFC last season) is rested for the game with
Ponty, but will be carrying out his coaching duties.
Pontypridd in 2012/13
The 'Valley Commandos', the reigning Principality Premiership
Champions, began their season in fine form with a 28-3 win at Cross
Keys, and then put Bedwas to the sword at Sardis Road, winning
55-27. Carmarthen tested Ponty more than most the following week,
with Ponty winning 24-16 - one of the two dropped bonus points. In
the last three weeks there have been wins over Bridgend (45-35),
Neath (64-15) and Swansea (29-3).
The Ponty 1st team squad is made up almost entirely of
Welsh-born players with an emphasis on youth. The captain is lock
Chris Dicomidis, (above) who has also played for the Cyprus
national team through his paternal grandfather. The Cypriot
national side are called the Moufflons after the horned sheep (also
above) that is a national emblem on the Medierranean island (but
might be considered a bit kinky in Wales).
Out of contention for Pontypridd are winger Owen Jenkins with
ankle ligament damage, centre Gavin Dacey with a fractured hand,
scrum half Gareth James with a hamstring strain and locks Dafydd
Davies and Cory Hill with hamstring and shoulder strains
Full back Adam Thomas and flankerRhys Shellard are away with the
Wales Sevens squad, and scrum half Lewis Jones on senior duty with
Having utilised a policy of squad rotation through the first six
weeks of the season, Ponty again make nine changes from the
starting line up that secured a home bonus point win over Swansea
Powerhouse centre Gary Williams claims a place in the team as
does scrum half Carl Thomas having just returned from honeymoon.
The key back row selection sees Ed Siggery retain the blind side
flanker berth following his most recent man of the match display,
with Wayne O'Connor returning as open side and Jake Thomas taking
over the no8 role.
15.Geraint Walsh. 14.Lewis I Williams. 13.Dafydd Lockyer. 12.Gary
Williams. 11.Owen Williams. 10.Dai Flanagan. 9.Carl Thomas. 1.Scott
Roberts. 2.Huw Dowden. 3.Pat Palmer. 4.Craig Locke. 5.Chris
Dicomidis - cpt. 6.Ed Siggery. 7.Wayne O'Connor. 8.Jake
Replacements: 16.Joel Raikes. 17.Lewis K Williams. 18.Tom
Pascoe. 19.Darran Harris. 20.Dan Godfrey. 21.Keiron Jenkins.
History of Pontypridd
The club was formed in 1876 by a group of young men who had moved
to the area as part of the Industrial Revolution. One of the early
players, Edward Treharne, was named in the first-ever Welsh
international team in 1881.
The club resumed rugby after the Great War with "no ground, no
kit, and not a penny to their name" but developed slowly to become
an established and successful club, albeit one who retained an
'unfashionable' tag and were outside the perceived 'Big Five' in
The unfashionable status didn't stop Ponty having two more Welsh
representatives, Glynn Davies and Russell Robbins, in the decade
after World War Two ended, nor from winning the unofficial Welsh
league in 1962/63, and in 1974 the club moved to its present home
in Sardis Road.
The new ground witnessed considerable success, with Welsh
Championship titles in 1976, 1978 and 1979. There may have been
less to shout about in the 80s, but the 1990s saw an appearance in
the inaugural Heineken Cup in 1995/96, and a first-ever Welsh Cup
triumph the same season, repeated in 2002, 2006, and 2011. In 1997
Ponty won the league title, and this was followed by further league
titles in 2011 and 2012. By this stage there was a Grand Final to
conclude proceedings - Ponty enjoyed mixed fortunes in the
showpiece game, with an 18-24 defeat to Llanelli in 2011 being
followed by a 15-13 win in May of this year.
Famous players of recent years have included Neil Jenkins,
current Head Coach Dale McIntosh, Morgan Stoddart, Gethin Jenkins,
Martyn Williams, Matthew Rees, Ceri Sweeney and Michael Owen,
although the majority earned their honours after leaving Ponty
following the contentious introduction of regional rugby in Wales
in 2003. There was a one-season alliance with Bridgend as the
Celtic Warriors, but this franchise was disbanded in 2004, since
when Ponty has continued as a club side - one of Wales' most
Dale McIntosh has been with Pontypridd since his arrival in
Wales from his native New Zealand in 1989. He made 454 appearances
as a player prior to retiring in 2007, when he became Assistant
Coach under Paul John, graduating to Head Coach in 2010. McIntosh
won two Welsh caps in 1996/97 against South Africa and England.
Tour stories: Pontypridd in Jersey
Ponty are not making their debut appearance at St Peter today, the
club having made three tours to Jersey between 1968 and 1971. The
Welsh team were undefeated in six matches on the Island, but
eye-witness accounts from players involved - several of them will
be here today - testify to some full-blooded encounters,
accompanied by enthusiastic 'après-ski' sessions in the old
In 1968 Jersey's 1st XV, featuring names like Mike Engleman,
Bobby Furness, Bill Lavarack, captain Brian Screen and debutant
Mick Curzons actually led 9-8 at half-time against a Ponty side
containing two of the club's most legendary names: the
four-times-capped Welsh flanker Tommy David, whose other
claim-to-fame was a role in 'that try' by 'that fellow' Gareth
Edwards for the Baa-baa's in 1973. And Bob Penberthy, 'the bionic
elbow', who played an astonishing 877 games for Ponty between 1961
The 1968 game was eventually lost by 9-30, with the home points
through Barry Jones's try and two Peter Burger penalties, and a
year later the Jersey 1st XV competed gamely again before going
down 0-15, with Gareth Rees scoring a hat-trick of tries for Ponty.
Dermot McQuillan came closest to scoring a try for Jersey but was
bundled into a corner flag.
In 1971 the JEP ran the headline 'Welsh Visitors Dazzle - But
Island Side Not Disgraced' above a match report of a 9-34 defeat.
Furness skippered Jersey that day and our President David Lapidus
played in the game, while his predecessor Engleman was referee.
Jersey's points came from Furness with a drop-goal (4), Roger
Thomas's try (3) and Ian Hamilton's conversion (2).
The Saturday warm-up games against Jersey's 'A' XV were
unsurprisingly not as close, to the extent that Jersey's only
points in the three encounters were from a John Langlois try in
1968. However the 'A' games may have played a significant role in
softening up the tourists for Sunday's 1st team encounter.
Many thanks to Richard Evans, the Pontypridd historian, for
unearthing details of these games, and to Brian Screen for
obtaining cuttings from the JEP with full match reports.
Coming to St Peter
Tickets for the match are £15 for adults, £10 for Jersey members
on production of a membership card, £3 for juniors (13 to 16
inclusive) and free to those aged 12 and under. These will be on
sale at the club shop between 10am and 1pm on Friday. Later on
Friday, the Barclays Pavilion will be open for an eve-of-match
reception open to all supporters, with the chance to have a pint,
enjoy some free nibbles and pick up your tickets. Tickets will then
be on sale on the gate from 12noon on Saturday.
If weather conditions permit we hope to be able to allow kids to
come onto the pitch, at half-time only. Please listen for
announcements. But it is forbidden to climb trees.
Supporters are reminded that no food or drink may be brought
into the ground, and also that admittance to the clubhouse will be
restricted immediately after the game to members and those sponsors
and visiting supporters with the appropriate wristbands. This is a
necessary measure to enable the club to keep within the capacity
imposed by the Fire Service.
Following the game
Don't forget that you can keep up-to-speed with news from Jersey v
Ponty through the following channels:
• Preview on BBC Radio Jersey's 'Sportscene' from 6- 7pm on
Friday, and live commentary on Saturday afternoon (available online
and on your transistor-wireless device
• Preview in Friday's JEP, more rugby in Saturday's
Inside Centre pull-out, including plenty of Welsh-related content,
and full match coverage on Monday
• Scoreflashes on @jerseyrfc Twitter and the 'Rolling Maul' rugby
• Match report on Channel 103 soon after the final whistle on
Saturday, plus updates during the match
• Reports and match action on Channel TV online and on Monday
evening at 6.15pm; and on BBC Channel Islands on Monday evening at
The British & Irish Cup this weekend
Ulster A v Bridgend, Pl1, 14:30
Cardiff v Bristol, Pl1, 14:30
Bedwas v Bedford, Pl2, 14:30
Stirling County v Neath, Pl2, 15:00
Swansea v Dundee High, Pl3, 14:30
Newport v Connacht A, Pl4, 14:30
Newcastle v Cross Keys, Pl4, 15:00
Jersey v Pontypridd, Pl5, 15:00
Leinster A v Leeds Carnegie, Pl5, 19:00
Gala v London Scottish, Pl6, 14:30
Moseley v Llanelli, Pl6, 15:00
Abveravon v Rotherham, Pl7, 14:30
Plymouth Albion v Munster A, Pl7, 15:00
Doncaster v Melrose, Pl8, 14:30
Llandovery v Nottingham, Pl8, 15:00
Sunday - Cornish Pirates v Carmarthen Quins, Pl3,
Well done to all the veteran players who survived the Barclays
Super 10's tournament last weekend, having a damned good time in
the process, and to the combined 'Richmond Air Force' team for
winning it, just pipping St Agnes in the final.
This weekend there are two curtain-raisers in Jersey on
Saturday. LQ Lydian Lions play St Jacques of Guernsey in a
Hampshire Cup game at 11.30 at LQ, while at the same time the JRA
game sees Jersey Athletic take on Banks at their Grainville
Quote of the week: Tom David talking about fellow Pontypridd
legend Bob Penberthy: "Bob taught me a lot - mainly how to drink!
He broke my nose three times and we were playing for the same team.
If it wasn't for him, I'd have kept my film star looks."
Enjoy your weekend's rugby
31 Mar 2023
Five games remain to define Championship season