Starting a team from scratch is arguably the toughest ask in rugby, so Chris Jones, coach of Pencoed Phoenix, was venturing into turbulent waters when he put out feelers for a new women’s side in the local press last May.
A handful of initial respondents swelled via word of mouth, the group trained twice a week last summer, learning two laws a session, and then Jones unleashed Phoenix – who include two bouncers, a kick-boxer and a cage fighter – on the unsuspecting South Wales scene.
As a long-time Ospreys age-grade coach, it takes a lot to surprise Jones but he’s been gobsmacked by results. A stream of victories, including those over Nantyfyllon (26-10), Uni of Wales Lampeter (117-0) and Cardiff University (26-10), have seen Phoenix fast-tracked from a development league to Division One West midway through the season. “To see something created from nothing is an unbelievable feeling,” says Jones, whose sidekicks include indefatigable team manager Michelle Halse. “The way they’ve conducted themselves does them immense credit.”
The team, born to fill a void for women’s rugby in the Bridgend area, is led by Marina Newth and includes Katie Murphy and Robyn Wilkes, who’ve since played for Osprey U18s.
Key backs Louise Jones, Sarah Hughes and Jo Poupon also play for Bridgend Hockey Club while hooker/fitness instructor Natalie O’Shea travels 30 miles from Aberdere to be part of a success story set to grow and grow. “The players, the coaches, the structure is in place,” Jones says. “Now we must push on by adding an U15s to our seniors and U18s.”
Phoenix are our November Team of the Month, and so win 22 kitbags from Canterbury.
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We’re now seeking our December Team of the Month, an award aimed at junior clubs in Europe. To enter, email firstname.lastname@example.org, including a photo.