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Raiders and Tigers join Cougars in expanded league

16th March 2015, 07:14

Raiders and Tigers join Cougars in expanded league

Valley Cougars begin the defence of their RFL Conference South title on Saturday as they travel to Llanelli to face new West Wales side, The Raiders RL.

Valley Cougars begin the defence of their RFL Conference South title on Saturday as they travel to Llanelli to face new West Wales side, The Raiders RL.

 

It’s an expanded League this year with four new teams - two from Wales and two from England, bringing the number up to ten.

 

The third side in the League from Wales is Torfaen Tigers, the 2013 Welsh Conference champions who have made the step up for 2015. They face a tough trip to last season’s fourth placed side Leicester Storm on the opening day.

 

The Cougars v Raiders encounter takes place at the historic Stebonheath Park in Llanelli (kick-off 2.30pm), a ground that celebrates its 80th anniversary of Rugby League involvement this year. Wales beat France 41-7 in front of 30,000 at the venue in 1935, still a record home Wales Rugby League crowd outside of the Millennium Stadium.

 

Valley Cougars, based at Treharris RFC for 2015, beat Sheffield Hallam Eagles 19-10 in last season’s Final in a shock win that ended the 2013 champions’ 33-game winning streak.

 

That win enabled them to qualify for the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup where they beat divisional rivals Leciester Storm in the first round but losing away at Northern Conference Premier side Oulton Raiders in the second.

 

Cougars’ coach Paul Emanuelli said: “Pre-season has gone pretty well. Being involved in the Challenge Cup has meant we didn’t need to have any actual friendlies.

 

“We have trained alongside the Scorpions a few times and now we’re looking forward to taking on the newly formed Raiders. I know that their coach Jon Ellis will have them well prepared and they will be structured so I’m expecting a tough start.

 

“I think we will have another good season. Now we are champions, there is a lot more pressure on us and we are there to be shot down. We had a poor start to the 2014 season so we need to do better than last year. We will hope to make the play-offs again and from there anything can happen as last year proved.”

 

The Raiders played a friendly match at Aberystwyth University last month and won 72-8 against a more experienced side.

 

With eight of last year’s South Wales Scorpions under 19 academy side in their line-up, they will be more than capable of taking on the Cougars and will hope to down the Champions in the opening game.

 

Raiders’ director Andrew Thorne said: “With the inclusion of eight South Wales Scorpions Academy under 19s in Shane Lee, Daniel Maiden, Harry Boots, Morgan Jefferies, Alex King, Joe Symmons, Joe Festa and Josh Taylor and led by Rugby League veteran and former South Wales scorpion Alan Pope, we are confident we can compete at this level.

 

“We’re all looking forward to this season. We have managed to recruit a lot of core players that play Rugby League as their main sport. The squad has been training hard and are under no illusions that they need to perform consistently to succeed this year.

 

“We have received great support from the community and hope they will come and join us at Stebonheath Park on Saturday to watch this fantastic sport and help build the game in West Wales.”

 

Torfaen Tigers have had a busy few months following their successful application in December to join the Conference League South.

 

The club has recruited well on the field, with a raft of new players from both codes. Jordan Thomas and Rhys Finney have signed from the South Wales Scorpions Academy while the Tigers have also signed former Wales RL under 16s internationals Jon Stark and Matt Cummins from local rugby union.

 

Newcomers to the sport Scott Copsey, Nathan Byrne and  Kurtis Haile have all joined the club from local rugby union after head coach Jamie Williams identified they had the right skill sets to succeed in the game. Amongst the new signings there will be some familiar faces returning in the form of centre Rhys Mason, a former Tigers’ junior and 2013 Championship winning captain Gareth Rusby-Davies both having re-signed for the club.

 

Last Wednesday they warmed up for their 2015 campaign by beating Welsh Conference side Cardiff City RL 44-14 at Cwmbran RFC, the Tigers’ permanent home.

 

Williams said: “I’m excited for the Conference South season and following last Wednesday’s win, we can’t wait for it to get underway. We’ve put the emphasis on quality not quantity in our recruitment this off season as we’ve retained the core of our squad from the last two seasons.

 

“The new signings add both depth and genuine competition for places to what was already a very strong side. All the lads have been training hard since January and I see no reason why we can’t compete for the title this year.”

 

The other matches see experienced clubs Bristol Sonics and Nottingham Panthers face off, last season’s league runners Sheffield Eagles take on newly promoted Coventry Bears A, while Gloucestershire Warriors host Oxford Cavaliers. The last three sides mentioned are all official feeders to Kingstone Press League 1 sides – all of South Wales Scorpions’ rivals in 2015.

 

Full details of the RFL Conference South can be found at www.walesrugbyleague.co.uk while the Welsh clubs are all featured in full in the fixture section at www.scorpionsrl.com.

 

Saturday 21st March

Bristol Sonics vs. Nottingham Outlaws (Dings Crusaders RFC, Bristol), 2.30pm

Gloucestershire Warriors vs. Oxford Cavaliers (Oxstalls Sports Park, Gloucester), 2.30pm

Leicester Storm vs. Torfaen Tigers (Victoria Park, Leicester), 2pm

Sheffield Hallam Eagles vs. Coventry Bears (Sheffield Hallam Universities Sports Park , Sheffield), 2.30pm

The Raiders RL vs. Valley Cougars (Stebonheath Park, Llanelli), 2.30pm