With just a week to go until the WRU Finals at the Principality Stadium, we caught up with one half of the Lawrence Miller Bowl finalists, Neath Schools ahead of their game.
Neath Schools compete in the Welsh Schools National Dewar Shield, which is the oldest school boy’s competition in World rugby. The young side have earned themselves a place in the Lawrence Miller Bowl final on Thursday 2nd May in the Principality Stadium, where they face fellow Ospreylians Aberavon Schools.
Speaking ahead of the Ospreys derby, Head Coach of the side Michael Owen said: “It feels really special for us, both as a squad and the community of Neath. When I started coaching Neath District I was on my own more than less. I had some boys involved that played rugby and perhaps struggled with certain areas of their game. Probably down to the lack of game time and playing in such a small area, where we only have three schools to choose from.”
“I tried to focus on the boys we had that needed the extra work, and all credit to them, they worked and worked and worked at it. Then we had the luxury of the WRU apprentice Rhodri Davies come on board to help me out and he’s done a fantastic job with the team. It’s just built on from there and been absolutely fantastic.”
Over the course of the season, Neath schools have picked up six wins and only the one loss which secured them a spot joint top of the table on 18 points with Ceredigion. Along the way they soared to a 38-0 victory over Merthyr and a 27-17 win away to Cardiff A. Their only loss of the campaign came from a tough Ceredigion side.
Owen commented: “We’ve had a brilliant season, it’s been fantastic. We were unbeaten until we went up to Ceredigion at the beginning of March. It was a tough game and Ceredigion’s defence was tight. It still believe had we gone up there and played well, we would’ve beaten them, but everyone’s allowed an up and down game and that happened to be ours.”
Despite picking up a loss, the young side re-grouped for a semi-final match, and triumphed to a 19-17 win over South Powys to earn themselves a place in the finals.
“I don’t think it has sunk in with the boys just yet. I really don’t think the scale of the day has hit them. There’s been boys who’ve played rugby all their lives and never had the opportunity to play on the Principality field, so it really is a huge achievement for the boys. When the day comes and they take to the field, I’m sure it’ll really hit them then.”
Speaking about their Finals day opponents, Aberavon Schools, Owen said “They’re a very good side, they’re very well supported throughout the union and they have some Ospreys helping them out, which is great for the kids and the club.”
Despite already picking up a win against Aberavon Schools this season, Owen added: “We always take each game as it comes, we prepare similar each week and make sure we don’t do anything different. If we’d done anything different throughout the season, perhaps results may not have gone our way. Obviously in the build up to next week, we’re training with a bit more intensity. It’s tough having the finals straight after half-term with some of the boys being away over the Easter holidays, but that’s the same for both sides. We’re just really looking forward to getting out there in a weeks’ time.”
Catch the squad in action on Thursday 2nd May, at the Principality Stadium, K.O 1:15pm.