A Super Saturday of matches in South Wales sees the Ironmen in action as well as three games from the WRL Premier League and a junior encounter.
South Wales Ironmen face on high flying Oxford in a Kingstone Press League 1 match at The Wern in Merthyr Tydfil (kick-off 3pm).
The match has been rearranged from Sunday due to Merthyr rugby union’s involvement in the Welsh Premiership Final and the club are hoping to welcome both fans of the rugby union and football clubs for their big match.
A number of Merthyr Town FC and Merthyr RFC fans are already regular attenders and it’s expected that many more will turn out for Ironmen v Oxford as there is no fixture for either side that day.
Ironmen coach Phil Carleton has almost a full squad to select from. Only Chris Vitalini is injured and Lewis Hughes is unavailable. The club have seen three departures since the start of the season in Lewis Reece who transferred to Gloucestershire All Golds, Izaac Duffy who has left for family reasons and Chris Davies who went back to rugby union.
But with no reserve game this week, Carleton has around 50 club players to select from.
He said: “Everyone is fit and fresh and will give it a go. It’s been a tough couple of weeks with the Cumbrian trips so it’ll be good to get back home.
“Oxford have played really well in the last couple of weeks. They competed well in Toronto and then did a job on Hunslet last week. This isn’t an easy game, we need to be at our best.
“It’ll be great to see fans of the Merthyr football and rugby union clubs there. I know that both sets have been enthusiastic so far and I expect we’ll see an increase in numbers this week.”
It’s a big day for Rhondda Outlaws as they host Valley Cougars in the first competitive game of Rugby League to be held at Sardis Road in Pontypridd since 2009. Kick-off for Premier League encounter is 2pm.
Eight years ago, Wales beat Ireland in a European Championship Rugby League match at the famous old ground, a muddy encounter that was screened live on TV.
However there will be no chance of mud this time around, as Pontypridd installed a 4G pitch late last year, and Outlaws’ coach James Allen, a former Cougars player, says that his lads can’t wait to get going for the home opener.
He said: “For the Outlaws, a brand new club at this level, to face a side that I love and I’ve played for is a fantastic start. We’ve had a lot of players in training this week and they can’t wait to go.
“We’re going to field an inexperienced side but it will be full of good rugby players. Only four or five have played League before, some coming through Outlaws’ junior ranks. It’ll be a tough start for us, but we’ll give it a good go.
“Everyone’s interested in playing at Sardis Road and we’ve had a lot of potential players wanting to join the club. We’re going to grow as the summer goes on and we’ll get stronger.”
Cougars’ coach Dafydd Hellard said: “We won’t take this game lightly at all. I know James will have his players trained well and they’ll want to win their first home game. We’re coming into this off the back of a tough win over Torfaen last week and we know that this year there are no easy games.”
Bridgend Blue Bulls host West Wales Raiders at Pyle RFC (kick-off 2pm) with both sides looking for their first Premier League win.
Raiders’ game against the Outlaws last week was postponed, while Bridgend were beaten away at Cardiff Blue Dragons.
Bridgend team manager Stephen Smith said: “Cardiff away last week always a potential banana skin for us. Take nothing away from Cardiff though, they were the better side on the day.
“Now our focus turn to training and getting a first win of the season. West Wales Raiders were a Conference League South side last season so they and others will be tough opponents in this new WRL Premier League where there are lots of quality opponents.
“We have an under 13 match between the two clubs as a curtain raiser and they’ve been training and playing well, they could even put some open age players to shame!”
Raiders’ coach Jon Ellis said: “After a frustrating couple of weeks with no fixtures, it will be good to give our boys some game time. This weekend, we will be giving some new players a run out and hoping we can now get some cohesion with regards to fixture and game time for players for the rest of the season.
“I’m looking forward to the day with the Blue Bulls being very proactive and allowing us to play our 13s as an opener at their ground.”
In the final Premier League game, Torfaen Tigers will host a buoyant Cardiff Blue Dragons at Cwmbran RFC (kick-off 2.30pm).
Cardiff chairman Alf Harvey said: “After a great start to the season with wins for all ages, this weekend’s visit to Torfaen is going to be equally as challenging.
“Our senior squad are looking forward to the opportunity to show their improvement can be sustained and Torfaen coming back to the Welsh Premier from the CLS gives us a great opportunity to do that.
“We anticipate the junior games on Sunday in Cwmbran will be as entertaining as the senior fixture, with our under 13s Torfaen for the first time and our under 17 locking horns with their old nemesis.
“The under 17 players from both sides have travelled the same road through the players to leaders programme and now the South Wales Ironmen under 17 development. These lads know each other well so should be a great advert for youth rugby.”
Sunday also sees North Wales Crusaders entertain London Skolars at Queensway Stadium in Wrexham in a Kingstone Press League 1 encounter (kick-off 2.30pm) whilst Bridgend Blue Bulls entertain SW Rabbitohs in a local derby at under 17 level in Pyle (kick-off 12.30pm).
Mike Grady’s Crusaders side will be looking to bounce back from a close defeat at Gloucestershire All Golds last week as they prepare for their League 1 Cup Final match against Barrow Raiders on Saturday 27th May.
Grady said: “Sunday is a massive league game for us after our recent two performances where I believe we sold ourselves short. No shirts are guaranteed for the final in Blackpool, Sunday’s game is a chance for boys to put things right but also claim a place. I expect a good 80 minute performance due to that and a welcome headache next week when selecting the side.”
KINGSTONE PRESS LEAGUE 1 FIXTURES
South Wales Ironmen v Oxford – Saturday – Merthyr RFC – 3pm
North Wales Crusaders v London Skolars – Sunday – Queensway, Wrexham – 2.30pm
PREMIER LEAGUE – WEEK 2 FIXTURES
Bridgend Blue Bulls v West Wales Raiders – Saturday – Pyle RFC – 2pm
Rhondda Outlaws v Valley Cougars – Saturday – Sardis Road, Pontypridd – 2pm
Torfaen Tigers v Cardiff Blue Dragons – Saturday – Cwmbran RFC – 2.30pm
Under 13 – Torfaen Tigers v Cardiff Blue Dragons (Sunday 11am, Cwmbran), Bridgend Blue Bulls v West Wales Raiders (Saturday 12pm, Pyle)
Under 17 – Torfaen Tigers v Cardiff Blue Dragons (Sunday 12.15pm, Cwmbran), Bridgend Blue Bulls v SW Rabbitohs (Sunday 12.30pm, Pyle)
Can YOU Help?… we have a small favour to ask. More people are reading the West Wales Chronicle than ever but advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. And unlike many news organisations, we haven’t put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as open as we can. So you can see why we need to ask for your help. The West Wales Chronicle’s independent, investigative journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce. But we do it because we believe our perspective matters – because it might well be your perspective, too.
If everyone who reads our reporting, who likes it, helps fund it, our future would be much more secure. For as little as £1, you can support the Chronicle – and it only takes a minute. Thank you.