MMD chasing history in Dewar Shield final

Rob LloydAcademy News, News

Mynydd Mawr & Dinefwr Schools will be hoping to add their name to the list of teams who have won the longest running schools competition in Wales when they meet Bridgend in what will be their district’s first Dewar Shield final since 1949.

It is only the third final in the Dewar Shield competition that the West Wales side has reached, and their reward is a big day out in the opening final in the WRU’s ‘Road to Principality 2024 programme’. The game is the first of three finals at Principality Stadium on Wednesday, 6 December (Kick-off 3pm)

Seventy-four years ago they beat Neath, Llanelli and Aberavon on way to the final before running into a star-studded Cardiff team that was chasing a post-war hat-trick of titles. They boasted a future Wales captain at scrum-half in Lloyd Williams, a wing who would turn into one of the all-time greats in rugby league in Billy Boston and a future British heavyweight boxing champion in Joe Erskine.

The 1949 final was played at The Gnoll, Neath, and ended in an 8-3 win for the holders, who had taken Pontypool’s unbeaten record in the semi-finals in a game that attracted a 10,000 crowd to the Arms Park. Mynydd Mawr went all the way to the semi-finals the next season, before going down to Aberavon.

Since then it has been slim pickings, despite the area spawning international players such as Des Jones, Peter Rees, Carwyn James, Handel Greville, D Ken Jones, Gareth Davies, Barry John, Jonathan ‘Jiffy’ Davies and current Wales and Scarlets stars Kieran Hardy, Tom Rogers and Wyn Jones.

That side held two reunions to mark reaching the final, in 1989 and 1999, and now the target for the ‘Class of 23’ is to come up with an even bigger reason to celebrate in the years ahead. It has been a case of ‘so far, so good’ this season with six wins out of six.

Warren Leech, the former Wales age-grade international and Scarlets player, heads up the MMD rugby academy, combining that with his job as a teacher at Maes y Dderwen Comprehensive School. A former Scarlets U20 and U18 assistant coach, and head coach at Newcastle Emlyn, he says this season’s success is all down to the hard work put in by his players.

“We only have four schools to pick from and while this area has always been a rich talent pool, the numbers work against us. We’ve tried to become more professional in our outlook and offering and we try to make the players feel special,” said Leech.

“We’ve been doing a lot of video analysis, working hard on core skills in training and turning all our games into ‘David v Goliath’ occasions. So far, the boys have risen magnificently to the challenges and we’ve got one more huge one to come against Bridgend.

“We’ve studied them and know all about the power of their pack. But I’ve told the boys it’s not about the opposition, it’s all about them concentrating on what they’ve done well all season, putting into practice what they’ve learned and make the most of a wonderful opportunity.

“We want to give Bridgend a test and we know we can do that if we turn up and play like we can.”

The amalgamated Mynydd Mawr and Dinefwr regions will be 20 years old next year and Leech would love to mark the anniversary with a title. That, however, is not the major goal of the programme he runs.

“We’re here as coaches and administrators to give the boys the chance to be the best they can be. We offer them the chance to step up and represent their area,” said Leech.

“Very few go on to become fully fledged international players, although we did have a certain Jac Morgan sitting on our replacements bench a few years ago. Math Jones played for us two seasons ago and he is now at Gordons School, in Surrey, linked to the Harlequins, and in the Wales U18 training squad.”