Steve is still going strong after 50-year association with The Mariners!

Steve Holmes

When our 'Spotlight' series of articles started out as 'Sports Folio' over 30 years ago the first ever sportsman to feature was Steve Holmes, who was then a tough and mobile second row in a very good Milford Haven rugby team who was also a regular in the Pembroke County RFC team which played against a number of the top Welsh clubs of that time.

After playing his first match for 'The Mariners' as long ago as 1964 Steve is still heavily involved as club chairman at a very exciting time at their Observatory Ground where their development includes the first 3G rugby pitch in the county which they will share with their local primary school, a surrounding fence to keep out dogs and a much-refurbished clubhouse.

Just a short time away from the county

The only time that Steve wasn't involved at The Obs came when he was at college in Birmingham and then taught for a while in Devon and enjoyed a three-year stint in the Royal Navy, plus a short time with Felinfoel Youth, Llanelli & District, plus Llanelli, where he played 12 first-team games alongside the likes of John Leleu, Norman and Byron Gale.

"I was in Devon in 1970, teaching in Exmouth at a school where we were delighted to have the likes of Mike Slemen, Jeff Squires and John Scott, all of whom became highly respected international players. 

"At that time I represented Devon and then when I was brought home for our first KO Cup final against a strong Whitland outfit that included tough forwards like Don Howells, Brian and Derek Morgan - but we lost 9-3.

"When I served as an Instructor/Lieutenant for three years in the Navy I was stationed in Barnstable, where I played for the town's team in the Devon Cup Final. It was a really physical encounter where we lost 12-9 - and in the St Luke's College team was John Scott, who went on to play No 8 for England."

Back to successful time with The Mariners

Steve returned to his home town of Milford Haven in 1975 to take up a Maths’ teaching post and immediately returned to a Mariners' outfit that had Barry Kingston as his second row partner - and The Mariners won the Pembrokeshire League in 1977/8 with the likes of Paul and Keith Fletcher, Peter Mitchell, Peter O'Shea, Bob Prior and Peter Griffiths alongside some other very useful players.

We won our first Knock Out Cup Final against a really strong Narberth outfit that included Geraint Bowen, John Owen and a back row that included Roger Price, Peter Griffiths and Richard Jones, after drawing the first tussle but winning the replay as Mitchell scored all our points in a 9-3 success.

"Around that time we also lost in the KO Cup Final to a Haverfordwest side that included Billy Martin, Keith Fleming, Brian Davies, Anthony Lawrence and Peter Griffiths; just one of many great battles we had with The Blues."

But the most memorable matches were surely in the Welsh Cup games against top side Ebbw Vale where they lost 16-3 away to a club that had Welsh internationals Clive Burgess (back row) and Arthur Lewis in their squad.

"The following season saw us become the first Welsh junior club to reach the quarter finals and again we drew Ebbw Vale, who had Andy Grey in their line-up and they were rattled when we took the early lead but held their nerved to move into the semi-finals.

"It was a wonderful time for the club and we had huge crowds cheering us on for top games."

County player – and selector too!

Steve is also rightly proud of the fact that he represented Pembrokeshire over 20 times against top clubs like Llanelli, Neath, Swansea, Newbridge, South Wales Police and Glamorgan Wanderers, all playing at the time in the Merit Table, the best 12 teams in Wales.

"We also had a good team in the Welsh Counties' Cup that included real characters like Lenny Scourfield and Ossie Boswell (Quins), Geraint Bowen and Roger Price, Don Howells and Mr Kingston.

"When Tony Philpin stepped down as a selector I was roped in to fill the role and so couldn't really be involved as a player any more - and during my team choosing the team alongside lovely characters like Garth Parker and Tony Davies we won the Counties' Cup three times, with Brian Williams and Alan Reynolds as first class players eager to help out."

Sent off just once – just two weeks after initial article

"I played for Milford's first XV until I was well past 40 and then enjoyed a few veterans’ games and helped out the youngsters in the seconds - and when I was involved in my 'Sports Folio' write-up I was proud of the fact that I had never been sent off.

"But just two weeks later someone deliberately sliced my knee open with a wild kick and the referee spotted my retaliation to such pain and gave me my marching orders whilst my opponent stayed on the pitch!"

And finally . . .

Steve first served on the committee at The Observatory Field as players' representative and since then has been fixture secretary, membership secretary, and vice chairman to John Dyble but stepped down for a short time when his son Rhys was involved with sailing for Wales.

"But then I returned as chairman six years ago and I am delighted to see the club grow, with a more than useful first team, a revived interest in second team rugby and, most importantly for the future, a thriving youth section.

"Our new development in conjunction with Pembrokeshire County Council will ensure that rugby is available in excellent conditions for future generations.

"We missed out on promotion last season after being in the running throughout the campaign and with excellent coaches and several new players alongside our talented squad then we are hopeful of going one step further as reward for the terrific work of so many volunteers."

It is typical of Steve Holmes that the only person he doesn't mention at Milford Haven RFC is himself but there is no doubt that he is a Mariner through and through - and the club is in very safe hands with people of his calibre at the helm!