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Hughes refocuses ahead of a trip to the capital

Friday 29th March 2019

The club's National Cup quarter-final at home to Bridgend Ravens last Saturday was a brilliant occasion and showcased what club rugby in Wales can still bring to the table. To play in front of a crowd of over 1,200 spectators is something you don't get to experience too often as a semi-professional rugby player and it was a real privilege to be involved as Pooler claimed a memorable 21-11 victory after extra time.

We were expecting a tough encounter and so it proved, but I don't think anyone would have anticipated it going the full 100 minutes. To play extra time against quality opposition like Bridgend and still come out on top is testament to the squad. We work extremely hard at the club and that performance is credit to the boys, but also the coaches and conditioning staff.

The club has been drawn to face Merthyr at Eugene Cross Park in the semi-finals, but we know we must now refocus and prepare for a vitally important league fixture away to Cardiff Met this weekend. If results go our way on Saturday, we will seal the National Championship title for a third consecutive season and it's something we are all desperate to achieve.

Leighton has emphasised what a formidable challenge Met will pose and you only have to think back to our hard fought 26-14 victory over the Students in November, to know he is spot on. I know it will sound like a cliche, but we really do take every game as it comes at the club and this week has all been about how we can go to Cardiff and win.

I made my debut for the club in the reverse fixture against Met and I have thoroughly enjoyed my first four months at Pontypool Park. I have been welcomed by everyone and I am enjoying playing in front of some of the best supporters in club rugby. It's a great environment to be a part of when everyone is pulling in the same direction and there is a real sense of excitement about what can be achieved between now and the end of the season, if we keep working hard.

The club will, fingers crossed, achieve promotion back to the Principality Premiership this season. However, I have seen how playing in the Championship has benefited the club and its continued growth. Playing against the likes of Maesteg Harlequins, Narberth and Beddau has helped to develop us as a squad. They are all fiercely competitive and passionate clubs and we have had to learn how to win in different types of environments, something I don't believe the Premiership offers in quite the same way.

Darren Hughes was speaking to Andrew Deering.


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