IT was a case of fifth time lucky for Pontypool Schools Under-11s and coach Dawson Jones after lifting the prestigious DC Thomas Cup at the Principality Stadium, writes Carl Field.

The district side battled back from behind twice to beat their counterparts from Llwchwr Schools 15-10 in the final and win the famous old competition.

In what was a thrilling game that went one way and then the other, tries for Llwchwr in the first half from captain Lewis Edwards and Emrys Jones were cancelled out by Cai Gibbs and Aneurin Evans for Pooler.

With the match perfectly poised at 10-10 going into the second half, Danny Hutchinson got what proved to be the decisive third try for Pooler who then held on.

It’s a first-ever victory in the DC Thomas Cup for Pontypool since its inception back in 1970 having been runners-up in 1987, 1999, 2011 and 2012.

Team chief Jones, who was awarded an MBE back in 2013 for services to schools rugby, has overseen all of those.

The win over Llwchwr, appearing in their first final, follows up on victories over Cynon Valley, Pontypridd, Carmarthen and Neath in the earlier rounds.

“It’s a very special day,” said Jones after watching his side lift the cup. “I’m absolutely thrilled and this is reward for the all the hard work and commitment they’ve put in.

“We played Llwchwr Schools earlier on in the season and lost six tries to five, so we knew it was going to be very close, but the boys dug in and kept fighting.

“There is a tremendous amount of commitment in this side and that came through today.

“Both sides played very well and the game I think was a reflection of the standard of Under-11s primary schools rugby.”

It was an extra special day on a personal note for ex-Abertillery prop Jones with his grandson Max Woodward captaining the side in the final.

“The last time he walked out here he was a mascot for the team that lost,” continued Jones. “So there was a determination to win today and I’m thrilled to bits for him.”

The class of 2018 join Pooler’s glowing famous DC Thomas alumni which includes Taulupe Faletau and Mako and Billy Vunipola while, more recently Dragons prospects Dan Babos, Taine Basham and Will Griffiths have all passed through.

“You look at the boys who have come through the system; this will live with the forever,” added Jones. “Very few ever get the chance to step out here at this stadium, it’s the pinnacle.

“It’s something they’ll never forget, it’s a great competition and long may it continue.”

Pontypool Schools Under-11 final squad against Llwchwr: Cameron Stewart, Max Woodward (captain), James Talami, Ryan Jones, Tiehi Chatham, Alex James, Teddy Smith Milne, Cameron Tovey, Rhys Bollen, Aneurin Evans, Luke Daniels, Morgan Carter, Cai Gibbs, Wayne Thomas, Will Morgan, Danny Hutchinson, Iwan Woodward.