Thrilling fund-raiser for Owen shows best of county’s rugby fraternity

Iwan and Owen James 

Pembrokeshire 24 - Valero 19


Venue: Bierspool

Ross Grieve, Colin Phillips and Charlie Watts

Referee: Colin Phillips

Assistant Referees: Charlie Watts & Ross Grieve

Lenny Scourfield, Dennis Lloyd and Steven Martin

Man of the Match: Steve Martin

Adjudicators: Gordon Thomas, Fraser Watson & Bill Carne

Lenny Scourfield, Dennis Lloyd and County skipper Jack Mason

The first Pembrokeshire fixture for almost seven years produced an intense and entertaining 80 minutes of rugby as the county side overcame a strong Valero squad at Bierspool – but it was an afternoon where the cause off the field far outweighed the result on it.

The occasion, organised by Gareth Scourfield, raised money for his nephew Owen James, who has Pitt-Hopkins syndrome. And sure enough, a large crowd in Pembroke Dock were there to give the youngster and dad Iwan a standing ovation before kick-off as both sets of players formed a guard of honour.

In another poignant moment before the start, a minute of silence was held for Pembrokeshire players Steve Martin and Mark James, both of whom lost family members during the week.

Bucket collections were held during the game and a raffle and auction took place in the clubhouse afterwards, with the full magnificent amount raised of over £3000!


No such thing as a friendly:

Any notions that this was to be an afternoon of exhibition rugby though were soon dispelled as both sides went hard at each other from kick off.

And after 15 minutes of physical exchanges, it was Pembrokeshire who led when full back Steve Martin cut through from half-way and linked with George Williams, and the centre duly popped the scoring pass to flanker Iestyn Evans to go under the posts. Setaro drop kicked over the conversion.

It was Martin who was doing much of the damage early on and the Milford man then set winger Jordan Asparassa free down the right hand side and he had the pace to outstrip the cover defence and make the corner.

That made it 12-0 and the county then went close to a third try when scrum half Dan McClelland raced clear only to be denied by a superb cover tackle from Valero centre Jack Price.

Valero power back:

And then Valero, who had held training sessions in preparation for the match, got a foothold. Through props Johnny Palmer and in particular Geoff Martin they started making inroads up front and despite one bone crunching tackle in defence from Dom Colman, a period of pressure finally told when hooker Max Hayward forced his way over from close range and captain Jonathan Rogers added the extras.

Pembrokeshire added another five points in similar fashion after another Asparassa run set the platform for prop Jack Davies to drive over from five metres and make it 17-7, and then winger Rhys Morgan went close after hacking a loose ball upfield.

But it was Valero who had the final word of the half when the outstanding Price crossed by the posts, taking two defenders with him, and Rogers again converted.


Dalling dives over out wide:

Valero came out second half with a clear plan to play for territory as Rogers regularly booted them upfield, while in contrast, opposite number Setaro tried to open things up from everywhere as Pembrokeshire looked to attack from deep.

But it was Valero who struck first after Rogers spotted Martin down getting treatment, and intelligently kicked across field for winger Shaun Dalling to gather superbly before keeping his balance to race up the touch line and score in the corner.

Moments later, a Rogers grubber kick was gathered by Price but his pass inside went to ground when a try looked inevitable.

Iestyn Evans races for the opening try

Fight to the finish:

With 15 minutes to go however, Pembrokeshire grabbed the defining try.

Martin was bundled into touch near the corner flag but was deemed to have been high tackled, and from the penalty skipper Jack Mason opted for a close range scrum. After several resets the crucial try came as McClelland picked up and burst for the line, and when he was halted by opposite number Jake Griffiths flanker Owain Evans was on hand to take a pop pass and dive over.

Setaro converted to make it 24-19, but still Valero weren’t done as coaches Nathan Williams, Chris James, and Scourfield himself entered the fray but after a series of carries in the 22, it was Colman who jackled effectively enough to win Pembrokeshire a crucial penalty.

And then it was the county who finished on the front foot after Price was penalised for a thunderous tackle on opposite number Josh Thomas, and from the penalty Setaro tapped quickly and put a grubber kick into the corner which forced a close range attacking lineout.

However, that proved the final play as referee Phillips blew the final whistle the signal the end of an absorbing contest.

Gareth gives thanks:

In the post-match presentations Scourfield, who had worked tirelessly to get everything in place for the fixture, thanked everyone involved.

“I really appreciate the efforts of Valero to set this game up and the players of both sides for making this possible,” he said.

“A lot of money has been raised and it’s all to help Owen have a better life. The turnout today has been great and I hope this is a fixture can take place again.”

His sentiments were echoed on the microphone by Bill Carne who also praised the players, coaches, and officials and then after the trophy was presented to Jack Mason by Dennis Lloyd and Lenny Scourfield, he announced Steve Martin as the man of the match.

Owen’s parents Iwan James and Jemma Scourfield were present throughout and Iwan himself added: “As a family we are so grateful for today. It has meant a lot to us and we can’t thank everyone enough.”

Jonathan Rogers clears the danger

Time to restore tradition:

Chat has long been rife that local rugby is diminishing. But we should also talk it up when it’s warranted.

Yesterday’s occasion shouldn’t be lost on the powers that be. Players (on both teams) who have long been rivals had a rare chance to be teammates - and the pride at stake in the latter stages when the result was on the line was clear. And of course, the obvious camaraderie in all corners of the Bierspool clubhouse afterwards, with people from across the county, was exactly the sort of social scene the local game has long craved.

Scourfield has said there are provisional plans to discuss Pembrokeshire playing further fixtures and the idea has mileage. The selection format would still need to ensure a range of clubs were represented but the interest around this fixture, and the original team selection, has proved there is an appetite for a county side. Pembrokeshire cricket and football have one, and while the league structure makes it easier in those sports local rugby players should have the opportunity to strive for representative honours too – and it might even motivate some to get back playing.

And if such fixtures can help worthy causes and brave individuals like young Owen James, then all the better.......

Pembrokeshire: Steve Martin, Jordan Asparassa, George Williams, Josh Thomas, Rhys Morgan, Nico Setaro, Daniel McClelland, Jack Davies, Rhys Price, Michael Ryan, Dom Colman, Scott Powell, Owain Evans, Iestyn Evans, Jack Mason. Replacements (all used): Ryan McVeigh, Chris Shousha, Wyndham Williams, Steff Harries, Mark James, Mark Davies, Fraser Watson. Coaches: Randal Williams, John Davies, Carwyn Jones, Freeman Brawn (team manager), Mike Scourfield (first aid).

Valero squad (listed): Geoff Martin, Johnny Palmer, Dean Wilcox, George Bellmaine, Max Hayward, Will Scriven, Mark Boswell, Craig Lewis, Loz Britts, Darren Potter, Mike Davies, Harry Owen, Will Swales, Alex Pearce, Harry Dawe, Jake Griffiths, Jason Scarfe, Jonathan Rogers (capt), Jack Price, Lewis Davies, Shaun Dalling, Simon Hooper, Adam Cawley, Ben Hathaway, Paul Miller, Jordan Gwilliam. Coaches: Gareth Scourfield, Lee Scourfield, Nathan Williams, Chris James, Huw Baker (first aid).

Referee: Colin Phillips.

Assistants: Charlie Watts and Ross Grieve.