“Spurred on by the setback, the second match saw the Penarth boys play their best hockey...”
Having qualified in fourth place for their South Wales finals, Penarth’s U13 side faced the overall winners from the group stages in their first match of Sunday’s tournament, but started in lacklustre fashion, allowing their Swansea rivals to get the upper hand early on. Although the hosts took the lead with a controversial goal, this was quickly rendered moot as they added two more before the break to take an unassailable lead. A few half-time changes allowed Penarth to stem the flow of goals, with some notably strong defending from Aaron Noor-Mohamed, Gabriel Pryde and Owen Kestle, but the the final score remained 3-0 to put the Bears on the back foot.
Perhaps spurred on by the setback, the second match, against Whitchurch, saw the Penarth boys play their best hockey, complete with more energy and determination. Lewis Ingram, Ross John and Zayn Zaman controlled the midfield, and interlinked superbly to score the first goal of the game, coolly slotted home by John. Iwan Meddins then added a long-range shot from a penalty corner to make it 2-0, but Whitchurch came back strongly, forcing Penarth to hang on in the second half. Although Whitchurch managed to pull a goal back, some great goalkeeping from Kavan Kalsi-Lucas and some desperate defending from Aron McJennett-House saw Penarth home to claim a very important victory.
The final game pitted the Bears against Gwent and, as they had in the Whitchurch game, Penarth started very brightly. Goals from Zaman and John soon established a 2-0 lead but, again, the second half belonged to the opposition, with Gwent beginning to take control of the game, scoring early on and then bringing the tie level to set up a tense finale. Ingram worked tirelessly with Noor-Mohamed and McJennett-House in the Penarth defence to keep the scoreline at 2-2 and, while Max Poddar came close to scoring, there was to be no breakthrough for either side as the Bears clung on to an all-important draw which ensured that they not only finished as runners-up on the day, but also earned a place in the Welsh finals on 6 May.
“It has only been two years since the U11 and U13 teams started competing in the South Wales competitions, so to have achieved what they have in such a short space of time is a hugely to their credit and to the hard work and dedication of their coaches, Michelle Meddins and Graeme Jones,” elated club chairman Nick Pratt commented, “The club is hugely grateful to both Michelle and Graeme and enormously proud of the boys. The club's future with them on board is not only secure but extremely bright.”
While both youth sides now take the next couple of weeks to prepare for their appearance on the national stage, Penarth’s 1st XI move back into the spotlight as they attempt to retain their hold on the Welsh Trophy. Returning to the final for a second consecutive season, the Bears face Cardiff University at the Welsh Institute of Sport (Sophia Gardens) on Sunday 30 April (10am start).
Updated 12:27 - 9 May 2017 by Craig Llewellyn