PONTYPOOL, South Wales, 31st August 2018 - By the time the referee blows his whistle to signal the start of Ystrad Rhondda RFC versus Pontypool RFC at Tyntyla Road on Saturday 1st September, 19 weeks would have passed since Pooler defeated Narberth RFC 27-20 to lift their second consecutive WRU National Championship title. The victory at the Lloyd-Lewis Ground also ensured that the club became the first side in the six-year history of the National Championship to complete an unbeaten season.
Preparations for the new season began in the thunder and lightning at the Talywain 7s in July. The tournament saw Pooler finish runners-up to Samurai 7s at Emlyn Park. That was followed by pre-season fixtures against Talywain RFC, Aberavon RFC and Neath RFC. The games yielded just one victory against Talywain RFC, but the second-half performance against Neath at The Gnoll, which the visitors won 24-12, would have given the club a timely boost ahead of the new campaign.
"A lot of positives were taken from the club's game against Neath, not the least the second-half performance,." said Pontypool RFC team manager Gareth Rusby-Davies. "Despite that, the boys were disappointed not to win and we had plenty to work on this week in preparation for our opening game against Ystrad Rhondda RFC."
The importance of the new campaign is well documented, with promotion to the Principality Premiership once again a possibility after a three-year ring-fencing period. Pooler has patiently bided its time after narrowly missing out on promotion in 2016, but the club is now ready to redouble its efforts in pursuit of a return to the top division for the first time since 2012.
The club that finishes top of the National Championship - provided that they have applied for and had their 'A' license granted - will play the team that finishes 12th in the Principality Premiership at the end of the season. The one-off game will take place at a neutral venue, with the winners either retaining or gaining their Premiership status.
In pursuit of promotion, the club have bolstered their squad with no fewer than nine new recruits arriving at Pontypool Park.
One of the players who arrived at Pooler this summer is centre, Joel Mahoney. The Garndiffaith product joined the club on a permanent basis after spending the 2017-2018 season on permit at Pontypool Park. The dynamic back will be looking to establish himself in the first team this season after making nine appearances for the side last term.
"I enjoyed my first year at the club, they're a welcoming bunch of boys and I enjoyed playing in a side that looked to play an attractive brand of rugby,” said Mahoney. “I'm now looking to build on the performances I made last season and contribute further to what is set to be an exciting season.
"It's never going to be easy going to a promoted side first up. Ystrad Rhondda play a good brand of rugby and we're expecting a physical encounter.
"We know that as league champions we are a prized scalp, but we are just concentrating on putting into practicse what we have been working on in training and doing ourselves and the badge justice."
There is still time to purchase a season ticket for the new season. Check out our season ticket packages → CLICK HERE