'Evs' still loves his time with the Pembrokeshire All Blacks

Steve EvansThe name of Steve Evans has become synonymous with Neyland Rugby because he played in the centre for The All Blacks for many years and has done some yeoman work as a coach with the youth team - and more recently with the first XV in conjunction with his old pal Graham ‘Gaga’ Richards.
In his early days, Steve, known to all as ‘Evs’, played for a very good STP School that was coached by great teachers like Ronnie and Gelly James and with players of the calibre of Andrew Sargeant, Andrew Thicker, Dave Duly and Mark Hamer they didn’t lose a game for over four years.
“Then I played for the school’s first XV and the games against Tasker Millard were monumental - and I can remember playing in one match at Haverfordwest RFC where it was estimated that about 2,000 spectators were watching what turned out to be a real battle.

Early start at county school level – and a ‘silly boy’ in youth rugby!

“From the age of I1  I played for the county after starting out as a big scrum half, who thought he was the next Terry Holmes, but then moved to the centre in a team that included Welsh international prop John Davies and outside half Martin Phillips, who became the WRU’s top man - and I was also chosen as a centre with the Dyfed Schools’ side.
“In our youth team at Neyland we were coached by Billy Hire and John Edwards, who often called me a ‘silly boy’ and gave me a gentle flick around the ear-hole as a reminder to listen - and it must have worked because we reached two Griffiths Cup Finals and two Youth Cup Finals but lost to Tenby and Whitland, where Alan ‘Santa’ Reynolds dominated the games.


First-team call up and real delight about it


Steve and his children Iestyn, Cerys and Owain“I finished youth rugby a year early because I was drafted in to the first team at 18 and was really looked after well by Sean Bellerby, who was the most under-rated Neyland player I have ever come across. I was so pleased to be picked that I actually ran all the way home to Hazelbeach to tell my parents!
“I made my first-team debut against Pembroke and came up against Rod Cadogan, who I still think was one of the most naturally hard players I ever came across on the field, with a fantastic hand-off that hit you like sledge hammer - and the ability to shrug out of tackles.
“Since then I have played all my rugby for Neyland, other than a few games for Milford Haven, and really enjoyed playing  alongside characters like John Greggain, Matthew and Andrew ‘Bob’ Williams, Dai and Richard Easton - and learned so much from club stalwarts like Rod Chamberlain and Robert Johns.”

Family matters

‘Evs’  family involvement at The Athletic Ground is continued by his children  Iestyn, Owain and Cerys, because all have played rugby for the ‘Pembrokeshire All Blacks’, with both boys heavily involved in the current team as respective second and back rows who really create an influence ‘up front’.
Cerys also played until the pandemic and is also involved with the boys as she has taken on the role of ‘water girl’ and is doing a good job. She is off to university in Cheltenham in September, studying Design, but is sure to maintain her interest because she is another Evans who is a committed ‘All Black’.


Steve in his hey dayOther sports

Steve has also taken part in other sports and at under 16 level he was a member of Crundale FC, who was coached by Dai Davies, whose brother Adrian was in a team that won the age-group league and cup double as other useful players included Marco Siso, John Regan and Sam Evans were all there.
He also played cricket from a young age as a left-arm fast bowler and big hitter who admits he was ‘a bit of a ‘hoiker’ and liked to score runs or get out to let someone else have a bash.
“From the age of 15 I was captain of the club’s second team for a few years because Ken Edwards, who was a great man at the club, saw something in my game that few others did - and then I went into the first team alongside another rugby man in Andrew ‘Bob’ Williams, with top players like Jackie Capon, Phil Sutton and Ian Charles as we won the first division.
“I finished for a while but then had a season with Burton Thirds because Iestyn was there but then he was promoted to the first team and decided it was time to retire - although I still like to watch at Oatfield Park or at the Athletic Ground.”


Steve with other fathers Graham Richards, Mathew Williams  and their sonsFathers and sons X 3

Steve has been coaching for a long time now and took over the first team when he was still playing regularly, and actually had his last full game only two years ago.

“We were short of players for our Welsh Cup game at Penygroes and so we made it a bit of a family event as Graham Richards (coach) played alongside his son Jack; Mathew Williams (club stalwart) joined his boys George and Ben – and I played along with my sons Owain and Iestyn.
“We only lost by a couple of points and I was glad that I was able to play the whole match, otherwise I would have a hell of a lot of ‘stick’ from my boys!
“I have played the odd 20 minutes since then as a replacement but I know when it’s time to finish – and for me now enough is quite enough!”

Coaching involvement began with his sons

Steve began his coaching career after watching his boys play junior rugby at the Athletic Ground and decided to give it a go.

“I had a superb coach at Neyland Junior School called Roger Price and decided I would follow his methods as close as I could – and that was definitely a case of poacher turned gamekeeper because I have to admit that I wasn’t the best at listening to advice when I was a nipper.
So I attended my level one course alongside Peter Hughes, another tough centre, before doing level two with the likes of Steve Barnett and John Summons at Haverfordwest RFC.

“I started out with the club’s under 9s and although we had some useful players we were smashed by Crymych until under 14 level, when things clicked and we won the final three age-group finals by beating Crymych and Narberth with quality players that included Toby Hayman, Jack Richards, Chris Morgan and my son Iestyn.
“We always tried to keep the opposition guessing and one ploy for the finals was to do our warm-up before reaching the venue – and opponents must have thought we had just arrived late and were caught off guard as we started with a bang! We were helped by Johnny Griffiths, who had been a star player in rugby league as well as rugby union, and his competitive approach certainly rubbed off on the players.

Huge early success at senior level

By then Steve was also coaching the senior players and the first XV won back-to-back promotions in the National Leagues that included one campaign where the boasted a 100% record and scored over 1,000 points so were the most successful Welsh club of the season.
“Off the field the late, great Martin ‘Ceefax’ Rees was a tremendous help and on it we were inspired by Mathew Williams, the best all-round player I have seen in Neyland’s all-black colours; joined by another amazing character in Chris Busby; who is still a great example to current youngsters.”

Steve on the burstRespected opponents recalled

Ask Steve about centre opponents he respected and he can reel off a huge list that includes Roy and Martin Davies (Quins), Simon Kiff  (Llangwm), Steve Barnett, Peter Hughes, Gordon Thomas and Kevin Walsh (Haverfordwest), Chris Evans (Tenby), Ioan Dolling (Milford Haven), Frank and Dom Setaro (Whitland), Geraint Richards and Huw Wheeler (St Davids), Robert Vaughan (Cardigan/Fishguard) and Roland Rees-Evans (Aberystwyth) – now that’s an impressive list indeed! Then there are characters like Fishguard’s Jonathan ‘JJ’ Jones, Huw Evans and Romeo Colella, a hard man indeed.
Games he can recall easily are two games he played for Bridgend Ravens alongside Neyland team-mate Dai Easton and representing the County under 23s in the Welsh Counties Cup and in the club’s centenary season against the Pembrokeshire Junior Union team.

And finally . . .

Nearer home he also talks about others who have impressed him at Neyland RFC, some as players and others off the field in Rod Chamberlain, Robert Johns, John Laugharne, Kenny Edwards, John Preece, Billy Hier, John Edwards and , last but not least, Graham Richards and  Peter ‘Jack Davies’, a duo he works well with in coaching the current first-team squad.
“‘Gaga’ has always been ahead of his time as coach and I’ve learned a lot from him, whilst Peter is a great support to us both in getting things done and offering advice to our front row.

“We have a good bunch of players and whatever comes in the future I’ll do as much as I can for Neyland RFC because I am an ‘All Black’ through and through, no what the future holds!”

Steve (back row 2nd right) after winning the league title