Rugby club sides bounced back after early-season setbacks

First published in Sport

AFTER Barry Rugby Club 1st XV finished their 2013/14 Swalec National League Division 4 South East programme with three successive wins, management and supporters will hope the momentum can be maintained next season.

Falling agonisingly short of promotion on the last day of the previous season, the side had high hopes for 2013/14 but, unfortunately, hampered by a long injury list early on in the campaign, the signs were not good.

It was October before the side picked up their first win - a narrow victory over then fellow strugglers Llandaff North.

With hard work being put in on the training ground, the youthful Barry side responded to the challenge laid on by their opponents, and put on a decent run of form just before Christmas, finally finding a way to win close games at the death, most notably with a last gasp try at Bryncethin.

With captain Hywel Jones returning to the fore at the end of the calendar year, Barry headed into 2014 in high spirits, and this was soon reflected on the pitch.

Under the coaching and guidance of head coach Darren Gibbon, forwards coach Dai Griffith and manager Stuart Lock, the side put together an impressive run of form after the turn of the year.

A big derby victory over local rivals Llantwit Major saw the beginning of a winning run of six games, with the height of success being a victory over champions-elect St Josephs under the Cardiff Arms Park lights.

Barry finished with three straight victories as the spring sunshine unfolded, and the final game of the season - a 56-10 victory over Tonyrefail - was a fitting tribute to the hard work and dedication put in by the set of players.

Head coach, Darren Gibbon; forwards coach, Dai Griffith; manager, Stuart Lock; captain, Hywel Jones; most tries, Dave Provis (eight); most points, Einan Scott (79); player of the year, Dave Provis; most improved, Owain Poole.

The 2nd XV were once again under the guidance of Rhidian Scott and he was joined by Ken Chow, who was promoted from the 3rd XV. As with the 1st XV, there were high hopes for the side to do well in both league and cup.

The large number of players unavailable for the 1st XV at the start of the season saw their troubles filter down, and it was no surprise that it was a struggle to get a side together in the autumn, never mind gathering any momentum.

The side were staring at the possibility of relegation in December, with no wins from six, little consistency in selection, and with seemingly no light at the end of the tunnel.

To the huge credit of the players, they turned it round in 80 minutes on a bitterly cold afternoon at St Peters as they came from behind to win 27-22 with a threadbare squad with numerous debutants.

From then on the side kicked on. Using a blend of youth and experience, and being able to welcome back several key players, Barry went undefeated from December to April, winning seven out of eight games to see them banish any thoughts of potential relegation.

Their form saw them finish the season on a high, hammering St Peters 69-17 in their final league fixture, and also appearing in the East District Cup final, where they were beaten by a very strong Cardiff Met side.

The 2nd XV will surely draw on this momentum to make a sustained challenge in the league campaign next season.

Coach, Rhidian Scott; manager, Ken Chow; captain, Nick Rolfe; most tries, Brad White (nine); most points, Adam Lee (74); player of the year, Sion Vidal; most improved, Brad White.

The 3rd XV made their bow in the Cardiff & District League as they aimed to complete a league season for the first time in recent memory.

With player-manager Chris Prosser in charge, aided by numerous caretaker managers throughout the season, the side got off to a flying start, brushing aside Whitchurch in the opening weekend and winning 105-0.

The side continued their good form, also beating Cardiff Quins (home) and St Peters (away), but there were also, ultimately, some difficult times when the 3rd XV struggled to get a side together.

To the full credit of the players and management staff, the side carried on and, unlike in previous seasons where player numbers would drop off, the interest in participation actually increased as the year went on.

Barry finished the season with an away victory at Llanishen, and have shown that they could easily hold their own in a league full of more experienced second and third teams.

The 3rd XV will hope to consolidate their position in their division next season, and to produce more opportunities for players who want to enjoy social rugby.

Player/manager, Chris Prosser; caretaker managers, Andy Moffat and Ken Chow; captain, Lloyd Jones; most tries, Michael Avaient (eight); most points, Ryan Corrigan (48); player of the year, Michael Avaient; most improved, Gareth Hall.

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