CHAMPIONS HAVING A BUSY TIME OF IT
IT’S one down, two to go for treblechasing Ystalyfera.
The celebrations were under way at the Ynysydarren Ground on Saturday evening after the club were crowned champions of One West Central with two games to spare — without even taking to the field.
That is after Bonymaen’s slim hopes of overhauling them ended with their 21-14 reverse at Maesteg Celtic in their final league match of the season.
“We’re very proud that we’ve managed to finish on top,” said Ystalyfera vice-chairman David Carter.
“It’s been hard work and a long season; there are good sides in division one and it has been a contest all the way through.
“We have every respect for Bonymaen, who we know well. They are a very good side and one of only three sides to have beaten us this season in any competition.
“For us, as we’ve been going along it has only been about the next game, rather than the bigger picture, and we’ve done it our way.”
The Fera can now look forward to a two-legged play-off against One West champions Felinfoel when at stake will be promotion to next season’s WRU National Championship.
In addition, the Swansea Valley side are also in two cup finals.
They will defend the West Wales Cup against fellow One West Central outfit Glynneath, while they also have a High Motive Glamorgan County Silver Ball final showdown with Nantyffyllon at Bridgend’s Brewery Field on May 18.
Ystalyfera made the final of the Silver Ball after defeating Nant’s fellow Two West Central title challengers Birchgrove 30-15 in their semi-final clash at Glynneath last week.
Ryan James, Luc Caines, Ben Williams, Jesse Patton and a penalty try were on the scoresheet for the Fera. Steff Castle also sent over a penalty.
Lewis Cox and Nathanial Llewellyn got the Birch tries, with Jamie Sturgess adding five points from the tee.
Ystalyfera have already recorded a win over Nantyffyllon in a cup competition this season, defeating them 49-14 in the first round of the WRU National Plate at the end of September.
The Fera last met Felinfoel at the end of last season, defeating them 27-6 at Loughor to lift the West Wales Cup.
Should they prevail in the play-off, the club would then have a big decision to make about whether or not to take promotion to the Championship.
“That decision would be entirely up to our players,” said Carter.
“They would get together and decide, as it’s them who have got to go out on to that field. It would be a big challenge and obviously the Championship is a very hard division.”
Going up would not frighten the club, though, says Carter, considering where they’ve come from.
He continued: “Over the years we’ve come out from the old division eight way back, that’s where we started in the National League.
“We’ve worked our way up and we’ve done it gradually and steadily.
“We’ve sort of jumped into divisions, managed to hang on for a couple of seasons and then we’ve got our heads together, rose to the top of the division and won promotion.
“I remember when we were champions of division three (in 2013-14) we were, thanks to a league reorganisation at the time, put into division one.
“People were saying then that it was a hell of a jump, that it would be torture and we were going to get hammered every game.
“But it didn’t work like that.
“Yes, we lost a few games and were overwhelmed by certain sides, but we hung in there and we won enough games to keep us there.
“We’ve steadied ourselves in division one, just avoided relegation twice, but then we crept up into midtable, last season we finished second and this year we’ve finished top.”
Ystalyfera have two games left, both at home. They welcome Skewen on Saturday before entertaining Ammanford a week tomorrow (May 2).
They have won 16 of their 18 games in the league, losing only at Glynneath and Bonymaen. Their only other defeat so far was at the hands of Treorchy 27-26 in the second round of the National Plate.
A date and venue for the West Wales Cup final with Glynneath has yet to be confirmed.
The West Wales Bowl final between Penclawdd and Loughor will be staged at Dunvant on May 9 (7pm), while Tycroes will host the West Wales Plate final between Nantgaredig and Trimsaran on May 24 (also 7pm).
Pontardawe’s Mike Hodge (in black shirt) and Pantyffynnon’s Harri Criddle challenge for a high ball, while right, Pontardawe’s Aaron Davies races in for a try.